Is it pre-game time again already? It Is? Well alright then, moving forward, I'll forget about being tired, take it one sentence at a time and give 110%, I shouldn't be using fatigue as an excuse this early in the season. I imagine you'll be hearing similar platitudes out of Aron Winter and TFC as they prepare to play their 3rd game in 8 days on Saturday against DC United. The heavy schedule may well have played a part in the decision to leave Alan Gordon and Maicon Santos out of the game against L.A Galaxy. After that game, Aron Winter suggested Gordon will be back on Saturday. I guess we'll have to wait and see how quickly Santos recovers from his illness to see if he also returns to the squad.
After a couple of draws that can be considered good results, TFC should be looking for at least 4 points from the next two games if they are to be satisfied with the points return from their initial stretch of 7 games, 5 of which were at home, and which also included 2 expansion teams, and the two worst teams in the league last year. DC are obviously one of those teams, finishing dead last in 2010, so my gut says this is a game that we really should win, and that DC will be an easier opponent than current Supporter's shield holders L.A. The problem is, that's not necessarily so.
As detailed in the DC edition of How you doin'? United have made a lot of changes from last season's woeful squad, bringing in MLS Veterans like Dax McCarty and Josh Wolff, a high draft pick in 3rd overall Perry Kitchen and continuing to develop homegrown players like Andy Najar. Most importantly, they brought in U.S international Charlie Davies. A promising career had led him to Sochaux of the French first division before a car crash left him badly injured, late in 2009. He's just completing his comeback now, and has so far made three substitute appearance for DC, none longer than 45 minutes. Worryingly for TFC, he's scored 4 times in those 3 appearances. His main weapon, aside from goalscoring ability is speed, and he and United's wingers will really test TFC's backline on the break. They have 5 points from 5 games so far, but have lost both away games they've played so far, so they'll be hoping Davies is ready to go for longer than just a second half subs appearance.
TFC's backline got a boost on Friday, right where it needed it, at Right Back, with the announcement of the signing of Richard Eckersley from English club Burnley. He was with Manchester United's youth teams before moving down the divisions to Burnely and loan spells at Plymouth Argyle, where he must have impressed Paul Mariner, and in the 2010-11 season with League Two sides Bradford City and Bury. I've never really heard of him, so have no idea if he's good or not, but I'm a big fan of League Two so hopefully he'll do me proud.
As shown by his immediate playing of Alen Stevanovic, Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman, Winter isn't afraid to throw someone in without any practice time, so given the other Right Back alternatives, I'd expect to see him playing against United. After a clean sheet against L.A, I think the rest of the back four will stay unchanged.
In Midfield, given that United's Central Midfielders are both quite deep lying, I'd expect something similar to what we saw against L.A, De Guzman on his own in front of the defence, with two players further up to pressure DC's midfield, and with the full backs being a little less adventurous than in the past to cope with DC's wingers.
Who gets those two more advanced midfielders is a very interesting question. Tony Tchani has looked very impressive, but so has Jacob Peterson, he's done nothing to warrant being dropped, and has shown a good ability to send in a dangerous free kick which will be important. The third applicant for the two spots is the Captain Maicon Santos, presuming he's feeling better, Winter will be looking to him to create chances for the forwards.
I'll guess that they go with Peterson and Santos, with Tchani and De Guzman sharing duties in the DM spot, who starts will depend on how fit De Guzman feels, if he's good to start he will, with Tchani coming on as a sub in the second half. Of course, that depends on Alan Gordon being fit as well as Santos, if he isn't then expect Santos to get the Centre Forward spot with Tchani and Peterson both playing.
After Tuesday's game Aron Winter suggested Gordon's injury wasn't too serious so I think he'll be back up front, and Javier Martina and Alen Stevanovic will keep their spots on the Right and Left wings respectively.
What does that all mean, well I haven't got one of these right yet, but this is how I think they'll line up.
Prediction, I'll go with a wide open and kind of sloppy game, TFC winning 2-1, Stevanovic and Martina both scoring, with Josh Wolff scoring for DC
As I mentioned, I've proven particularly bad at this so far, hopefully now the transfer window is closed there'll be no new additions and we'll develop a consistent and obvious starting lineup to make things easier. Anyway, let me know your thoughts, line up and score predictions below. In fact screw it, it's Friday night, I'm kind of buzzed, I'm going to start a prediction league, with two awesome prizes. Details on that to follow.