After the excitement of the Voyageurs Cup win, it's back to the MLS grindstone for Toronto FC, with a game against the New York Red Bulls. Suffice it to say, that's going to be a lot tougher than Vancouver at home, especially if there aren't reinforcements from players returning from injury at both ends of the pitch. Though it ended very well against the Whitecaps, we really don't need to be playing too much time with a Midfielder and Right Back playing at Centre Back and three wingers up front with no Centre Forward.
This game of course was supposed to be the first time that TFC faced up against Dwayne De Rosario, but his transfer to D.C means we've escaped that drama-fest for a while at least. Team branding exercise still have plenty of talent up front though, hands up who's looking forward to seeing Dan Gargan go up against Dane Richards for example, or Eckersley v Agudelo, maybe Tchani against Rodgers, or perhaps some hot Henry on Henry action?
Doesn't really sound promising does it? The good news is that New York is pretty poor defensively, with a bit of a goalkeeping crisis as Bouna Coundoul and Greg Sutton have both had their problems, which has seen them concede 2 or more 6 times in their last 11 games.
So, bunker down to try and contain their forwards, hope Stefan Frei can make a crucial save or two and get a clean sheet, and try to get something on the break, or go for broke and try to take advantage of their weak defence, get into a high scoring shootout and hope Stefan Frei can keep the score down and give us a chance of some points?
Option A. Bunker down, that's going to rely on a solid defence which quite frankly is where that plan falls apart. Danleigh Borman and Dan Gargan both looked pretty good twice against Vancouver, as did emergency Centre Back Richard Eckersley. Those three will be there again, but there's a big step up in quality that they'll be facing, so I'm not really optimistic there. But that's only three of the back four, which still leaves another Centre Back spot to be decided.
Ty Harden celebrated the Voyageurs Cup win on crutches after leaving the game with an injury, Midfielder Tony Tchani filled in fairly well for him, but the space that Eric Hassli got towards the end of the game doesn't suggest he's a reliable long term replacement, and Doneil Henry, well it was his frailty that led to the Eckersley and Tchani experiments in the first place. Whichever of those three ends up partnering Eckersley, and as Harden's injury seemed pretty serious, I'm going to hazard a guess at Tchani, I don't think sitting back and inviting pressure is really the answer here, so instead let's look at how option B might work.
Option B. Go for broke, which will oddly enough rely mainly on a good Defensive Midfielder to allow the Attacking Midfielders and full backs to get forward to support the front three. Nathan Sturgis has been doing well there so should continue, and if Tony Tchani is in defence, that would mean Julian De Guzman and Mikael Yourassowsky as the Attacking Midfielders again. De Guzman had a good game against Vancouver, and Yourassowsky scored, and with Rafa Marquez out injured, they can hopefully keep their positive momentum going on Wednesday, though Dax McCarty will no doubt be eager to make a good impression in his first home game for the Red Bulls.
On the wings, Joao plata had his best game in a while against the Whitecaps and Nick Soolsma's been a fairly reliable choice at Right Wing, so I'd expect both of them to be out there to create as much as they can for the Centre Forward. Centre Forward is where the going for broke strategy could fall down, depending on who's fit. Maicon Santos left Saturday's game with what looked like a pulled hamstring, and was still limping for the lap of honour. Alan Gordon was apparently ready to come on in the second half of that game, so with a few more days practice, he'll hopefully be ready to go. Even if he can't play the full 90 minutes, I'd give him the start ahead of Javier Martina, as it's always good to have people who can score on the team and Gordon brings so much more on top of his goalscoring ability.
I doubt Gordon will be able to go the full 90 minutes, and if we have to go with the three wingers up front, well that probably won't end up well. I think being positive would definitely have a better chance of working than just focussing on trying to shut down the Red Bulls though. They've had a lot of high scoring games recently, and have only 1 wins in their last 11 league games, so they're clearly vulnerable. How will it end up? Well I'd like to say I'm confident it won't be 5-0 again like in 2009, or 4-1 like in Toronto last year, but really anything could happen here, I'll go with a 2-2 tie.