Back when Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps' Voyageurs Cup game got called off due to lightning and rescheduled for this weekend, immediately after the MLS match between the two sides with Canada day sandwiched in between, I wrote about how great it would be for the rivalry between the two teams. A month or so has passed since that night so emotions have cooled a bit, but that's the beauty of this newly arranged doubleheader. Wednesday's league game, between the two lowest teams in the standings, neither with any real playoff hopes to talk of, now has a whole new subtext to it.
Does either team use the game to try and make a statement and gain some pyschological advantage? Do they rest players for the more important cup game ahead? Do TFC's walking wounded come back for this game, or get an extra few days rest to make sure they're good to go on Saturday? No doubt the losing coach will shrug it off and say it has no effect on the next game. The winning fans will have a couple of days to brag while the losing fans desperately try to come up with reasons why it will be different next time. What happens if someone gets injured? Imagine the outraged conspiracy talk from Whitecaps fans if say, Dan Gargan takes out Eric Hassli. In short, it matters a lot more than it would have otherwise.
Is all this basically just putting off having to write about the prospects of Hassli v Harden and Henry? Well yes, but I suppose I'll get into all that depressing lineup, matchup and on the field stuff after the jump.
The big question for TFC as far as their lineup goes is that of who exactly is fit. Starting with the defence, Doneil Henry, after a couple of decent games, had some bad moments in the game against Real Salt Lake and would probably benefit from a few games back on the bench. But is Nana Attakora ready to play? Normally I'd say that anyone coming back from an injury shouldn't be played tomorrow and instead saved for Saturday's more important game, but if Nana Attakora is ready to go, I'd throw him in there. Since taking over as coach, Tom Soehn has been playing a 4-4-1-1, with Eric Hassli as the Centre Forward with Davide Chiumiento playing as the second striker*. That combination of Hassli's power and striking ability together with Chiumiento's skill sounds way too good for our current central defensive duo. Ideally neither Ty Harden or Doneil Henry would be starting, but if Attakora is fit, I'd keep Harden in there, if only due to his experience. Unfortunately I don't think Attakora will be ready, so we'll see both Harden and Henry, let's hope it goes better than it did against Real Salt Lake.
*late edit. Acoording to Luke Wileman on twitter, Chiumiento is returning to Vancouver with a hamstring injury so won't be playing, which is very good news for TFC. This might see Camilo moved to the second striker spot with someone else, playing on the Left Wing, quite possibly young Canadian star, and TFC academy dropout Russell Teibert.
One way that it WILL be better is the fact that those two up front won't be getting anywhere near the service that the RSL forwards did, as the Whitecaps midfield really isn't all that good. Camilo has been playing on the left wing with Shea Salinas on the right, and I'd expect Richard Eckersley and Danleigh Borman to be able to hold their own there. Terry Dunfield scored a great goal the last time he was in Toronto, and I really like him, but let's face it, overall the quality is a lot lower than the RSL midfield that had so much possession and enabled them to be so dominant, so all that will help take some of the pressure off Harden and Henry
Unless there's some returns from injury, and twitter reports form training suggest Tony Tchani and Julian De Guzman should be able to make it to the bench for this one, TFC's midfield will still be looking pretty bad itself. Nathan Sturgis should continue as the Defensive Midfielder, but who'll be with him. Dan Gargan, Gianluca Zavarise, Matt Stinson and Mikael Yourassowsky all got some action against RSL, without any of them really impressing. Who'll get the start there is anyone's guess, I'll go with Yourassowsky and Zavarise, though there's no real reason I could give you for that.
Up front, well Alan Gordon is proving himself fragile, so even though he's apparently back in training, I hope TFC takes the extra couple of days to absolutley ensure that he's fit and won't have another injury setback. Saturday's game is important enough to take a risk, Wednesday's isn't. Of course that means it will be Maicon Santos again at Centre Forward, so expect 89 minutes of ineffectiveness there, especially against Jay DeMerit. He usually does have one good moment per game though, and he's managed to score twice in two games against the Whitecaps, so hopefully he can make good on the one moment of inspiration he'll have. Joao Plata, Javier Martina and Nick Soolsma will fight for the two wing spots, with none of them making a great case for themselves recently. Given his good game in Vancouver back in May, I'll go with Nick Soolsma at Right Wing and Joao Plata will probably get another chance at Left Wing.
It's been a while since I've seen a full TFC game so maybe they're not actually as bad as I think they are in my head. Reports I've read and highlights I've seen suggest that the current injury riddled squad just isn't good enough. Of course, what could be better for a team looking to get something going than a game against the Whitecaps, who still have just the one away win all season, against Montreal. As for a prediction, I'll go with a scrappy 1-1 tie, no-one getting any kind of advantage or bragging rights ahead of Saturday's game, and Vancouver's rioting delayed for a few days at least.