Finally! That was an exhausting two weeks of not getting to see TFC play wasn't it? Bye weeks are wearing, especially this early in the season - but lucky for us it's pretty much non-stop for the next six weeks and then we'll have the World Cup to distract us from the lack of TFC - but for now, back to our Reds.
After six games that almost felt like an extended pre-season for Toronto, highlighted by numerous injuries, a tough schedule and the preferred starting XI only playing once, it's time for our TFC to really show us what they're made of; you know before we lose 2 (or 3) of our best players for a month or so. Basically the team needs to move past the first six games and focus on this next section of the season.
There's good news and bad news for this weekend's match; but let's focus on the good first, shall we? For the first time in over a month the preferred first team is healthy and available to play. As previously mentioned this has barely happened during the season thus far and with a spate of home games in the lead up to losing players to World Cup squads, this XI not only should get results, they have to get results.
Because this is pretty much a must win game for TFC; no really it is. I realize that it may seem early in the season to say such things but if Toronto wants to not only head into the World Cup break in a good position but also show that they are a truly improved club, then this is must win. They've had two weeks off, the missing stars are back and they're playing at home against a team that has struggled away so far this season. Unlike teams of the past, this TFC is expected to consistently win at home - especially with a full strength starting XI.
A loss against the Revs wouldn't be the end times but it would signal that there are some deeper issues other than injuries and unfamiliarity hindering the squad. But I expect three points for Toronto in this game; the team (although beaten up a bit) cannot be pleased with how they performed against FC Dallas two weeks ago - 16 corners...16! - and will be looking to once again prove themselves not just to we the fans, but to each other.
One thing we can hope to see is a very motivated Jermain Defoe - after starting the season with a splash he's not scored since Toronto's home opener and after a 4 week layoff will be looking to reassert himself. If not for the club, then to bolster what remaining chance he has at making England's World Cup squad. We will also have Michael Bradley (hopefully) back at full strength after a mild injury and a bye week foot 'procedure' - having he and Jonathan Osorio back (and healthy) makes a tremendous difference in the midfield and should allow Alvaro Rey and Jackson much more freedom to link up with Gilberto and Defoe.
And we should also see a backline that features Doneil Henry (and not Bradley Orr) next to Steven Caldwell which eases my mind a great deal and should hopefully help put an end to the confusion we've seen in the box the past few games. This will allow Caldwell to play where he's supposed to (on the right) and gets Henry's athleticism back in the lineup to deal with the not inconsequential attack of the Revolution.
Speaking of the Revs, it's time for the bad news - sorry, but I can't be all sunshine and rainbows. The Revolution are coming to BMO on a three game unbeaten streak and a 2-0 win over Sporting KC last weekend after struggling to find balance at the beginning of the season. Oh good, we get to play them as they're gelling...fantastic. They've got some decent players - OK, they've got some pretty good players - most notably Diego Fagundez and Lee Ngyuen. Oh and that defender we could have (should have?) drafted Andrew Farrell - he's pretty good too. I could keep going but it would just make you unhappy (esp. if you're a Canadian national team fan).
Fagundez has not been his dominant self this season and has yet to score a goal but that has just meant that Ngyuen has stepped in to fill the void. Oh and Jerry Bengtson seems to be getting into form, joyous! But there are holes in the Revs attack (and defence) for TFC to exploit - they've been terrible at scoring on the road netting only 3 goals away from Gillette Stadium (and allowing 9, -6 goal difference in 4 games!). And they'll be missing captain and defensive rock Jose Goncalves for this game as he's still dealing with an injury - with Toronto playing a fast counter-attack this season any uncertainty in the opposition backline is a good thing.
What we need to hope is that we see the team that looked completely disorganized and unfocussed against Chicago two weeks ago and not the team that beat SKC. The other thing to consider is that the Revs have never won at BMO (yes I realize that I just jinxed it) and that this is not the TFC of old. Or at least we hope they're not - results in this game are required - in fact as I said before they need to win this game. A draw will feel very close to a loss and a loss would be a very unpleasant bit of business heading into such a favourable May schedule. However I'm calling a 2-0 win for our Reds - I'll take any win actually - as long as they come away with all three. Otherwise? Off with their heads!