There will be a lot of unfamiliarity at Bmo Field on Wednesday, as after 10 days off and a bunch of trades, the new look Toronto FC team takes the pitch for the first time against FC Dallas. Probably the one thing that won't change quite yet is the result, for a bunch of reasons. A) Most of the new guys have only just got here, and won't have had much time to practice so it could get quite sloppy and not on the same page out there. B) Richard Eckersley is suspended, so even with the solid addition of Andy Iro, we'll still have Ty Harden, Dan Gargan and Danleigh Borman in defence, so good luck with that Stefan Frei. C) Are Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans going to be fully fit and able to play 90 minutes? I seriously doubt it, and D) Dallas are one of the best teams in the league right now, and are on a great run of form. All those things point to a very tough game, probably a draw at best.
But that's OK though, this game isn't really about the result, for supporters it's about the first chance to see the new players, to try and see signs of hope for the future. For the players it's a first chance to get to know each other, and play for their place in the new lineup. For the coaches, it's a first chance to see how the players work together, what works and doesn't, and what still needs improvement (hint, it's the defence). If that all sounds a bit like it's preseason again, well yes, that's basically where we are, welcome to the official start of #preseason2012.
I'm actually quite looking forward to it, I've got a genuine sense of anticipation for just a regular MLS game for the first time in a while , as much as anything from really not knowing what to expect, both from the new players, and also from Winter, who's he going to try and play where? I'll try and guess what's going to happen there after the jump.
I'll start with the easy bit which is the defence ahead of Stefan Frei. Andy Iro hasn't played in quite a while for Columbus, but I fully expect him to be starting at Centre Back, which is half of a good partnership. For now of course the other half of that partnership will be Ty Harden, so I won't get too excited. Iro's arrival will allow his fellow Englishman Richard Eckersley to move back to Right Back, but that will have to wait for Saturday in Kansas City as he's suspended for this game. That means Dan Gargan at Right Back, and at Left Back, there'll be one of Danleigh Borman or Mikael Yourassowsky, probably Borman. Either way, unless there's even more trading done in time for this game, the defence still clearly needs work.
Where it really gets all new and exciting is in midfield, though injuries will delay it a little bit. Torsten Frings has been in training for a while, fully confirming what I learned in 'An Englishman's Guide To Footballing Stereotypes About Johnny Foreigner 101' by seeming to take this very seriously and is probably very close to being fit to go 90 minutes. I'd expect him to start, and of all the players we've brought in, even though he's the oldest, and the one with the least to prove to anyone after his career so far, he's the one I expect to really make a difference.
According to a Luke Wileman tweet, Terry Dunfield is still recovering from an injury so unlikely to start, which is a shame, as he seems to have a knack of riding to the occasion (Whitecaps home opener, Canada v Ecuador) so I would have bet on him having a good game. His absence will probably allow Nathan Sturgis to retain his spot, as he's been playing fairly well recently at Defensive Midfield. Julian De Guzman should be the third midfielder eventually, but it seems like he's still injured as well. Leandre Griffit fancies himself as an attacking midfielder if you watch his interview on TFC TV, and I hope he can do that well as that's a spot that's yet to be upgraded, but again he's carrying a bit of a knock so probably won't be available, so I guess that means Mikael Yourassowsky. I'd say that would leave us with Sturgis at DM with Frings and Yourassowsky ahead of him.
Up front has plenty of questions as well, starting with who'll be the Centre Forward. If my sterotyping course tells me that Germans are serious, committed and always play above their level, well it also tells me that Dutch players are flighty, enigmatic and moody, so I have much less confidence that Koevermans will work out. I don't know much about Koevermans at all to be honest, so that could be tremendously unfair to him, and I hope it is, but he definitely hasn't been training with TFC as long as Frings, so I seriously doubt he'll be fit and ready to go, I'd expect a 20 or 30 minute substitute appearance from him on Wednesday.
That would bring us to the next question, and that's the health of Maicon Santos. If he's fit and ready to go I'd expect him to get the start, with Ryan Johnson on the left, and either Nick Soolsma or Joao Plata on the right. If he can't go, I'd expect to see Johnson moved into the middle, with Plata on the left and Soolsma on the right.
Lots of questions there, so your guess is as good as mine, but I'll go with this as the starting lineup, with Koevermans waiting to go on the bench.
As for a prediction, well, like I said at the top, I think it'll be a bit of a sloppy game from TFC, and I think Dallas is more than good enough to take advantage of the confusion and then get past our far from the finished product defence. Signs of hope will include some good midfield play at times, Danny Koevermans looking sharp and getting a couple of good shots off, and Ryan Johnson opening his TFC account, with it all ending 2-1 to Dallas. They get the points, we see the potential, everyone's happy.