It's been an interesting 10 days or so for Toronto FC. From the highs and potential promise of signing 2 DP's, followed by the satisfaction of beating Vancouver twice, and the glory and fun of winning the Voyageurs Cup, to the realism and gloominess of another 5-0 loss in New Jersey. All of that doesn't really tell us all that much about TFC though. They're slightly better then the worst team in MLS, and nowhere near as good as the best teams in MLS. This Saturday, we get a realistically winnable game against Houston to see if the progress that seemed visible against Vancouver was real, or if it's just that the Whitecaps were terrible.
Those 2 DP's are still unavailable, but there will hopefully be reinforcements on the way in Houston. Alan Gordon has been on the bench two games running now, and as his health wisely wasn't risked in a lost cause against New York, he'll hopefully be ready to go. If not, we'll probably have to go with the 3 wingers up front, with a combined 3 goals in 38 starts between them (not including penalties), and that would pretty much guarantee we'd have to keep a clean sheet to get anything from the game. Who thinks our defence is capable of that?
It's unlikely there'll be any changes to the defence that lapsed so often against New York, so we'll just have to hope that the drop off in quality from New York's forwards to Houston's will allow them to be a bit more comfortable. Brian Ching has been one of the best forwards in MLS over the last few years, and midfielder Brad Davis is still the assist leader for the season, so there's plenty of danger to be faced, even if not quite the same level as the Red Bulls.
The midfield will be where there's some interesting decisions to be made. Julian de Guzman didn't go to New Jersey, and was confirmed on Friday as not in Houston either. Of those that played, Tony Tchani had probably his worst game as a Red, Mikael Yourassowsky didn't do much either, and subs Gianluca Zavarise and Matt Stinson didn't really do anything to suggest they'd be upgrades. Jacob Peterson made it as far as the bench so hopefully can come back to take one of the Attacking Midfielder spots, ahead of Nathan Sturgis, who's been playing well enough to keep his spot as Defensive Midfielder.
This is the last game of what is roughly the first half of the season for TFC. They don't play again until the 20th, which is of course when Torsten frings and Danny Koevermans are available to make their debuts, and hopefully there'll be some other players returning from injury, or brought in once the transfer window opens. It's difficult to really judge the progress made with this particular bunch of players, due to the injuries, especially in Central Defence and at Centre Forward, if Adrian Cann and Alan Gordon had stayed fit the whole season, would we have won a few extra games, been closer to a plyoff spot? Who knows?
This will definitely be a good measuring stick though, the home game against Houston was one of the 3 league wins TFC has all season, it was the game where Joao Plata really burst on to the MLS scene, and part of a decent run in May, before injuries started taking their toll. TFC also won last year in Houston, Dwayne de Rosario with 2 free kick goals. The heat of Texas in July will make it difficult, but Houston are very much a mediocre, beatable team. If TFC has any pretensions of making the playoffs, they're going to have to pick up plenty of points on the road, and Houston's the type of team they will have to be able to beat. Will they? Well I doubt it, I'll go with a 1-0 Houston win.