So after all the excitement, sense of occasion and just plain winningness of the last couple of weeks with Canada, it's back to the grind, the same old same old and mediocrity that is Toronto FC's MLS season, the 29th game of a season that we all knew was going nowhere even before the first game started, against the Columbus Crew. The fact it's against Columbus does make it a bit easier to get a bit enthused, after all there's the chance for another bit of silverware in the form of the Trillium Cup. Oooooh! Aaaaah! Ohhhhh!
Of course, no-one really gives a crap about that, but Saturday's game does represent a chance to finally get a first win against the Crew, which would be a very nice way to wrap up the 'derby' before Montreal joins the league and we get a proper rival. Tony Tchani's second yellow card for celebrating his only TFC goal contributed to the 12th game without a win over Columbus earlier this season, and for me, until that win finally comes, this game will mean a little bit more, no matter how much we all like to pretend it doesn't.
The other main point of interest is seeing if Toronto can avoid picking up another dubious record. They've got most MLS players used in a season nailed down already, and are an absolute lock to have the most goals conceded and worst goal difference come the end of this season, now they're just competing against themselves. Currently sitting at 49 goals against, they'll have to achieve the preposterously unrealistic feat of two straight clean sheets to avoid beating the 2007 expansion team's record of 49 in 30 games.
What else is there to get the juices flowing for this game, well after new England got a point in midweek, Toronto is now back to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, ahead of only Vancouver overall, whereas Columbus have had a steadily successful season, 40 points good for 6th overall, and ridiculously, 1st in the East, so a top v bottom game, potentially a huge shock. Oh, Jeff 'Bull Durham' Cunningham, now the top all time MLS goalscorer plays for them as well, so there's that I guess.
The last noteworthy thing will be the return of Andy Iro to Columbus. Iro of course has had a bit of a rough start to his TFC career, but hopefully playing against his former team will somehow inspire him to greater heights, though let's face it, it's more likely to trigger an existential crisis as he remembers what it was like to play in the middle of a stable and competent defence as opposed to being asked to be the man to rescue TFC's shambles.
It should be interesting to see how the 2 week break helps out in that whole 'shambles' regard, which is by far the longest time Aron Winter and co have had to work with the team and get some much needed organisation and understanding in the back 4. Hopefully it will be a back 4 and Torsten Frings will be able to move back into the midfield, where he can be much more effective and influential.
What might the rest of the lineup look like? Well I think we'll see the return of Stefan Frei in goal now that he's fit and ready to go again, despite Milos Kocic putting in some good performances as backup. In defence, Richard Eckersley is obvious, and Iro should get the start again, but who'll be with him in the middle? At some point I'd like to see what Dasan Robinson can do, but more than likely it'll be Ty Harden again, and I'll guess at Ashtone Morgan ahead of Danleigh Borman at Left Back.
In midfield, I'd say we've actually got a fairly clear first choice three, with Eric Avila and a suddenly prolific Julian de Guzman playing ahead of Frings, but there could be some interesting choices to be made up front. Dannny Koevermans should be fit and ready to take his place at Centre Forward again, which is a very good thing. After he first arrived, along with all the rest of the summer transfer window new arrivals, TFC suddenly seemed to figure out how to score. Koevermans was doing his bit, and plenty of other players were chipping in as well. When Koevermans was out with injury, those goals suddenly dried up, 14 in 7 changed to 1 in the next 3 1/2. Hopefully his reintroduction will reignite the offence, and give others like Johnson and Marosevic the space to do what they need, while also convincing Joao Plata that he doesn't have to do everything by himself, and that it's ok to pass.
The interesting choice comes with deciding who will play the wing positions, on the left, Plata has had a frustrating few games but remains TFC's potentially most exciting player, whereas Ryan Johnson is more predictable and does offer a good secondary scoring threat alongside Koevermans. On the right, Marosevic hasn't looked great, but has also chipped in with a few goals, and for whatever reason Nick Soolsma seems to be out of favour, so more than likely he'll play there. Putting the right footed Plata on the right wing where he can play as a more conventional winger rather than constantly having to cut in from the left is another option though, it's good to have options. I'll guess at the following, with Plata as a second half impact sub.
As for a prediction, well predicting a win seems just too unlikely, but I think we'll do well enough to get a tie, Columbus scoring fairly late on to equalise, hopefully this time it won't be the goalie.
This will serve as the game thread as well, due to time constraints, and all sorts of real life crap getting in the way, I won't even be able to watch the game live myself (though thankfully my pvr is now working again so I'l be able to record it), so will be following along via my iphone here, or more likely via twitter.
Come on You Reds!