Toronto FC are not the winners of the Voyageurs Cup. Yes, you all know this but let's look at this and move on. Can we say that coach Ryan Nelsen didn't go for it on Wednesday? Did he not field pretty close to the strongest team that he had available (underline that last word in your minds) and then some in the last minutes of the match? I'm not saying that there aren't issues - yes, put Gilberto and DeRo out there sooner and don't rely on the last minute throwing of the kitchen sink tactic - but even though they (coaches and management) may not be heartbroken at having lost, I don't think there was no attempt to try and win the away leg. However, it's done - we can gnaw over it all we like for the next several months (and will), but there's still well over two thirds of an MLS season to play for TFC and the San Jose Earthquakes are our last kick at that can before the World Cup break.
Playing the Earthquakes means two things: 1. Sam Cronin; a name that tends to make most TFC fans very angry as one (like Carl Robinson), that never should have gotten away and 2. Steven Lenhart; he of the (not so at the moment) curly mop and villainous ways. You either love or hate him - in my case it's the latter - and a lot of the Earthquakes for the brash, aggressive style. For a team that has some talent it can be easy to overlook considering how they play at times. However as of late Cronin's not played that much as coach Mark Watson has seen fit to let others take his place and Lenhart is only recently back from injury having only played in 5 games. Of note is that he's already received three yellow cards which is a shock to no one, but something for say Doneil Henry to be aware of.
Other ex-TFC players to feature are Ty Harden and Alan Gordon. Good ol Try Harder (or Spork as I always called him), has acquitted himself fairly well with SJE as one of their regular subs after coming off of surgery in the 2013 season and due to absences has been starting of late. Gordon of course is also one to watch for the occasional booking (just ask Will Johnson) and more often than not - a goal against his former club. Remember that time he score against LA when he played with TFC? Ah, memories...However this member of the 'Bash Brothers' (yes of course that's he and Lenhart) has yet to score this season and hasn't been able to regain his form from the 2012 season - which of course doesn't bode well for us as that means he's going to do terrible things to us.
But what about Chris Wondolowski you say? Doesn't Wondo almost always score against us? The answer is that yes, yes he does (7 times!) and raise a glass because he's away with the US National team! Huzzah! Seriously, much like the Crew being without Higuain last weekend - wow, that game seems so long ago now - the Earthquakes without Wondo seem almost ordinary. They've not been playing all that well this season except of course of late as they come to BMO having won their last two games (most recently away to FC Dallas) and three of their last four...joyous. Did I mention that TFC have never beaten the Earthquakes at home?
However all is not lost. Toronto still have their own momentum and positives for this match despite the loss in Montreal on Wednesday. The first and possibly most important being having Collen Warner available for the midfield. I cannot underscore this enough - Toronto is dying to have their midfield back and with Warner unavailable the past two games, Michael Bradley away on World Cup duty and Bradley Orr out injured we've had to rely upon the likes of Jeremy Hall and Kyle Bekker; neither of whom are really capable of getting the job done and honestly shouldn't be (and wouldn't be in most cases) starting games. Having Warner back should bring some more stability and skill to the midfield and hopefully a bit of sorely needed creativity.
And now Nelsen has another new member of the team to utilize and mix things up lineup wise - I'm off course talking of walking hair offender Dominic Oduro who finally joined TFC after speculation for some time. Going the other way was Alvaro Rey which honestly doesn't hurt that much. He was not very effective this season and his need to have just one last touch on the ball (every time!) often killed what momentum there was to the attack. Oduro has not found his form yet this season but long-time TFC fans will remember (more than once) how devastating he can be. He also brings a great deal of speed which supports the current style that TFC are trying to achieve with a fast counter attack and movement to the box. Add Gilberto (who should start today) and Jermain Defoe to the mix and there could be some goals in this one.
This will likely be a scrappy game and Toronto will need to be hyper aware on set pieces which is where SJE will often make opposition teams pay. Will Nelsen start Steven (waving arm) Caldwell in this game or give Hagglund and Henry another chance? With an opportunity to get back above the red line and utilize one of the still many games in hand (SIX over the Dynamo! SIX!), they have on every team in the league expect to see Caldwell for sure alongside Nick Hagglund if Nelsen wants to keep potential disaster in the form of a stupid Henry mistake at bay but also put the fresher legs in Hagglund out there to contend with Lenhart and Co. As they all are this season, this is a winnable game for our Reds - there are plenty of reasons to expect a positive result today - so lets enjoy a rare game in perfect weather. Come on you Reds!