Have you managed to erase Saturday from memory yet? Yeah me either - I'm still having gnat (sorry, apparently they were midges?) related nightmares - note to self: bring bug spray, and mosquito netting and let's have some more smoke bombs! Anything to keep those damn bugs away - gods that made a disappointing game 1000 times worse, didn't it? But I digress - on to the Cup!
Yes this is often a TFC supporter's favourite time of year - it's usually our one shot at glory and gives us all the chance to enjoy the ongoing hilarity of Vancouver never winning. Now whether or not Toronto should actually try to go for it this season is a matter of some debate and Duncan lays it all out for you here; leaving us free to discuss who should/could/might/will likely play and you know, whether or not they've got a chance in hell of winning.
Toronto is limping right now and you can almost see the confidence slowing draining from each player as the losses pile up and the team continues to struggle to gel and find consistent form. So what better medicine than to play for some shiny silverware! The Voyageurs Cup actually comes at a great time for TFC; they've got several players coming off of injuries who haven't played in weeks and they need minutes to get back to match fitness. View the next two games as a mini-camp for the injured, but also for the players that haven't seen many minutes but will be called upon in late May and throughout June (looking at you Joe Bendik).
Chief among the recently healed is Jermain Defoe, who looked ordinary on Saturday afternoon. Clearly he needs more match minutes after being off for almost a month, as does Alvaro Rey (although he looked fair during his sub minutes) and I would have added Jonathan Osorio to that list had he not been re-injured on Saturday. Also still struggling is DeRo and even Michael Bradley looked a step off the pace on the weekend - if any of them are going to get back to where they were in Seattle then minutes are what they need.
These games will also (hopefully) be useful in helping players like Doneil Henry and Justin Morrow regroup after disastrous moments in the last game - for Morrow perhaps not as much as Henry, but neither covered themselves in glory on Saturday and will be looking to wipe out those mistakes.
And of course this gives Gilberto a non-league situation in which to try to pot his first goal. Consider it a lowered expectations kind of game situation for him to break through. Because VCup games are different - even though this is an MLS team they're playing, the vibe and the play in the these games is not the same as your standard MLS game. And for TFC more often than not this tournament and these games end up with our Reds doing things that we can only dream of in league play - they score lots of goals and they win!
So who is Nelsen going to play? Well he's already stated in interviews that Bendik will be the keeper - this was expected all along as Cesar is in good form and Bendik will be playing in his absence and needs the minutes. But what is the mix of vets, stars and kids going to be? For the home leg it sounds as though they're going to 'go for it' so expect a team fairly close to the usual first choice XI out there.
This will be a closely contested match as our Reds are playing the Whitecaps in the opening round and well, there's a certain amount of animosity between the two teams but there's also former Red, now head coach Carl Robinson and (lamented by many) midfielder Matias Laba as part of the mix to make things that much more personal for the teams and the fans. Robinson has brought some of the less used players and has is going to be starting some very young players - most notably 17yr old keeper Marco Carducci - while not waving the white flag for this match he's giving the kids a chance to play while likely saving the big guns for the home leg next week.
Not to mention that Vancouver do not have a bye in MLS play this week so will need their starters on Saturday. Especially considering the Whitecaps are coming off of an improbable comeback against RSL and then a win over San Jose that wasn't as close as the 3-2 scoreline suggested (say, did you know the Whitecaps are 40? ish, sorta. kinda.) - they'll want to carry that momentum in league play so playing the kids and the lesser lights makes sense. But what it also means is that TFC have a golden opportunity to win this home leg - if they can't put up a good performance against the Caps kids then well really you have to question the mental makeup of this team - because the talent level will be tipped heavily in Toronto's favour for this game.
Now unlike last week I'm not going to go so far as to say that they must win or will win etc.; I'm only going to say that they should win. That's all, no jinxing things here...*innocent whistling*. One more thing: annoying bugs aside, you really should go to the game - Voyageurs Cup games are ridiculous fun and that little extra edge at playing to say you're the best in Canada? Super fun. Really. So, see you there?