Is it too soon to make jokes about Toronto FC catching a lucky break? Not for the Toronto Sun it isn't. The break in question is that TFC gets to face Seattle Sounders when they're dealing with two recent injuries, the first of which of course was suffered by Steve Zakuani, who had his leg broken and season ended in a particularly rough tackle by Colorado's Brian Mullan last week.
Things got worse for the Sounders with the news that former TFC player O'Brian White is out indefinitely due to being on blood thinners after having surgery to remove a blood clot this week. Bad news for White obviously but good news for TFC as, unlike his time in Toronto, he was playing well, looking dangerous and scoring goals for Seattle, so had joined the list of people to improve after leaving TFC, and no doubt would have joined that other long list of former players to score against us.
So with Seattle's two top scorers so far this season out, what adjustments will they be making, and what does it all mean for TFC's chances of getting any kind of result from what is on the face of it a very tough away game?
The most obvious change for Seattle is for Nate Jacqua to get the start up front instead of White which should work well for Toronto as Jacqua's a more physical player which would suit Adrian Cann's style nicely. Fredy Montero will be behind him as the second striker. The real question marks are on the wings, specifically whether Seattle will just plug someone else in to Zakuani's spot, which would probably mean Mike Fucito, or possibly Eric Friberg. The other option is to bring in Alvaro Fernandez, but that would mean changing their style a bit as he's a different style of player, more a deliberate passer than a speedy direct winger like Zakuani. Their defence is at least consistent and still healthy, and having only let in 7 goals in their 7 league game so far will definitely make it tough for TFC.
As well as having to adjust to a new lineup, it should also be interesting to see how they react to what should be an emotional crowd, with a tribute to Zakuani planned at the 11:00 minute mark. If they can feed off the emotion of the crowd and start out in a determined "win one for Steve" kind of mode, it could make things very difficult, so it's more important than ever that TFC don't come out flat early as they have done numerous times already this season.
Who'll be in the TFC team that will hopefully come out ready to play? Well, Stefan Frei will continue in goal, and there should be welcome continuity in defence as well. Richard Eckersley played OK at Right Back against Edmonton, showing the sort of ability to get forward and support the winger that we've been missing on that side all year, I'd be dismayed to see Dan Gargan regain his starting place. Danleigh Borman should continue at Left Back, and I'd expect the only change in the back 4 to be Adrian Cann and his freshly rested ribs to be back at Centre Back, joined by Dicoy Williams who's had a couple of good starts now.
Tony Tchani's supension makes things easier to predict in midfield, and I fully expect Julian de Guzman and Jacob Peterson to occupy the Defensive Midfield position. I have a bit more doubt at Attacking Midfield, but I think the Maicon Santos experiment will continue, hopefully the two goals against Edmonton will kick start some more inspired performances from him. Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso are a very solid midfield pairing for Seattle, so Santos will really have to improve to have an impact.
Up front, Alan Gordon is fast becoming the first outfield name on my hypothetical team sheet, and will hopefully continue his fine recent form, and Javier Martina will get one of the wing positions, though which side is up for debate. He's generally been on the right side, but played very well on the left against Columbus. I'd say it comes down to how impressed Aron Winter was with Joao Plata on Wednesday. He and Eckersley played very well together so Winter may want to continue that pairing. More likely is that Plata will be back on the bench, with Martina on the right and Alen Stevanovic back on the left, and if he's not fit, Mikael Yourrassowsky.
Though I think the absence of Zakuani and White will make it closer than it otherwise might have been, I still think Seattle will have too much for TFC, and will end up with a 1-0 win, a disjointed attack being frustrated before finally breaking through late in the second half.