So, after the excitement, and genuine quality of the Canada game, it's back to the frustration and mediocrity that is Toronto FC. Where were we? Oh right, we just lost 6-2, and then lost our two starting Centre Backs. Hmm, not promising, do Kansas City have any good forwards? What's that? DP and Mexican international Omar Bravo, as well as 'integrity challenged but undoubtedly talented and bound to be fired up by all the booing' Teal Bunbury? Excellent, this should be fun then.
Of course there are reasons for hope, Gold Cup callups will hurt Kansas City as well, and they are of course right at the end of a huge 10 game road trip to start the season before their new stadium, PED Park opens up. That's led them to struggle so far, bottom of the table with only 5 points from 9 games. Also after the last time TFC hit bottom, against Seattle, they bounced back with one of their two wins of the MLS season against Houston, hopefully they'll have a similar reaction tomorrow.As I mentioned above, TFC's defence is going to be the big question mark for tomorrow's game, with only Right Back Richard Eckersley a definite and uncontroversial starter. Having said that, though I'm not entirely happy with the rest of the defence, it seems fairly easy to predict. Danleigh Borman's two assist outing last week, combined with Dan Gargan's rough outing should mean that Borman will get the start at Left Back.
With Adrian Cann injured and Dicoy Williams off playing in the Gold Cup, both Centre Back spots need filling. Ty Harden really really didn't cover himself in glory last week, but I think given the circumstances he'll be out there again. Some people are suggesting that academy graduate Doneil Henry should get a start, but I can't see that happening, mainly due to the precedent set when Borman and Mikael Yourassowsky were out and Ashtone Morgan didn't get a sniff at Left Back, Aron Winter preferring Dan Gargan.
Who'll join Harden? Well everyone's been joking about Winter coming up with some way to keep Nana Attakora out of the starting lineup, and for an hour or two this morning it looked like he'd done it in a surprisingly preposterous way. Rumours were flying that Attakora was about to sign with Shrewsbury Town of League Two in England. Much like when Gerry Dobson broke that he had been traded a month or so ago, It was shot down pretty quickly, but I wouldn't be surprised to see more rumours keep popping up and for him to eventually leave some time in the summer.
Reports suggest the big sticking point in the contract dispute is related to the length of deal that TFC want him to sign, with Attakora not wanting to tie himself to TFC for too long at this stage in his career, and Aron Winter apparently refusing to settle for a shorter committment. It definitely seems there's a pattern emerging with Winter stubbornly sticking to his guns, and TFC suffering the consequences. Adrian Cann blinked and is still with the club, but Dwayne De Rosario ended up leaving. Three academy kids, including top prospect Kevin Aleman ended up released for not making the longer term committment deemed necessary. Attakora has been frozen out, and is more than likely on the way out.
Winter has made comments about wanting players who are fully committed to TFC, and that sounds like a noble goal, but surely there has to be a compromise, especially with younger players. MLS is what it is, which is not a top level league, for now at least it's a developmental league, one that skilled young players with stars in their eyes will quite rightly want to rise above. That's a reality TFC are going to have to work with, but that Winter doesn't seem to want to deal with, much like the fact that right now at least the squad he has doesn't seem comfortable with the system he wants to play. MLS is a league that demands compromises and adaptations in many ways, and that's something that Aron Winter still hasn't really shown an inclination to do.
Early interviews after his hiring gave the impression of a bit of an arrogance about him, as if he thought he'll be able to come in and just do things his way, and that seems to be what's happening. It's a dangerous game to play, one that will require some early success to insulate him against criticism and potential enemies. Preki was equally stubborn and made enough enemies that when his team started to struggle, he was turfed out at the first opportunity, but not before players like Carl Robinson and Sam Cronin were lost to other teams. So far, there's no-one out there calling for Winter's head, which is a good thing, but there's only so many times that contractual disputes don't get resolved and players leave before fans will start voicing their disgruntlement, especially if the team remains at the bottom end of the league. Hopefully things won't get that far and Winter can make the necessary adaptations to be able to move forward before dresssing room issues similar to last year start cropping up.
Anyway, I digress, Nana Attakora is still here, and I'd expect him to get a run in the starting lineup over the next few weeks, at least until Williams returns from his Jamaican duties. Another player missing for the Gold Cup is Julian de Guzman and his replacment is the only change I can see from the midfield and forward lineup that started against Philadelphia, if only for a lack of real options. Nathan Sturgis filled in effectively for De Guzman against Colorado, so I'd expect to see him given another chance in De Guzman's Defensive midfield spot. With Jacob Peterson unlikely to be fit, I think we'll see Tony Tchani and Mikael Yourassowsky as the other two midfielders.
Up front, Joao Plata is available, rather than with Ecuador, so i'd expect him to keep going at Left Wing, and with Alan Gordon not yet fit, I think it will be Maicon Santos at Centre Forward, with Nick Soolsma continuing at Right Wing.
Kansas City have their own selection problems, with Gold cup callups leaving their defence and midfield a bit undermanned, with first choice left back Roger Espinoza the biggest loss for this match. Up front though, they've recently welcomed a couple of players back from injury, Ryan Smith, and most importantly Omar Bravo. They'll both probably be playing on the wings, and with Kei Kamara away playing for Sierra Leone, it will probably be Teal Bunbury as the Centre Forward.
He'll obviously be a big story in this game, facing fans wrath for his decision to play for the U.S rather than Canada. In a similar situation in Vancouver, he scored twice in a 3-3 tie, so that sort of thing seems to inspire him rather than put him off, so I could easily see him making everyone even angrier by scoring at least once.
As a prediction, I'll say it will be a high scoring game, with TFC coming away with a 3-2 win.