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Game Thread. Toronto FC v Pumas UNAM

Toronto FC v Pumas UNAM
Bmo Field, 8PM E.D.T
Setanta (or you have to register but it's a free stream)

Here we are then, the latest but hopefully not the last in a long line of Most. Important. Games. Of. The. Season!  The season's on the line, and though it's not quite win or bust (as long as either group C TFC gets just a point this week we're still alive), well let's just say Rita Macneil has been put on notice to come and sing a special live version of Three Little Birds before Saturday's New York game.

This will serve as the game thread, though with a bit more long winded and previewy intro than usual, so it will be updated near game time with team news and such like as well as comments though the game, so join us, Come On You Reds! etc etc, anyway back to the preview.

A point is all that's needed to make sure game 6 in October has relevance, though a win combined with Tauro getting something off Dallas would make things a lot easier in that game.  A point seems achievable right?  Even against a Pumas side that crushed us 4-0 a couple of weeks back, and even with Torsten Frings, Eric Avila and Terry Dunfield suspended (Mikael Yourassowsky too, but, meh to him.) and even with the available players just back from a trip out to LA to get their asses handed to them by Chivas USA?

There's a couple of reasons for hope, though both are very dubious.  First up is the Pumas coach talking about resting a lot of his first team to save them for their next league game.  It might get me excited if he didn't say almost the exact same thing last time before springing the surprise of playing his A team (I imagine his post game press conference consisted of him chewing on a cigar and saying 'Me encanta que los planes salgan bien' which google translate no doubt reliably informs me is spanish for I love it when a plan comes together).  So yeah, excuse me if i don't buy that one, as a win will guarantee them qualification with a game to spare so it makes sense they'll try and finish it off tonight.

The other bit of good news that I'm dubious about is the possibility of a Joao Plata return.  He himself seems eager to come back, but I'm going to put that down to youthful enthusiasm on his part, his initial diagnosis was for 3 weeks which hasn't passed yet, and has him still ruled out.  But then maybe that's also a bit of coaching mind games and subterfuge, and he is ready to go.  It'd be very useful if he can take that Left Wing spot and allow Ryan Johnson to move back and occupy the Attacking Midfield place ahead of Julian de Guzman, if not, well I guess it's Johnson at LW and Peri Marosevic at AM.

With so many midfielders out, deciding on what formation to go with and who'll play is the biggest decision facing Aron Winter and the biggest thing that will affect the result here.  I suggested earlier that it would be wise to go with the extra man at the back, the 5-2-3 that has served Toronto well when they need to keep things tight, and I think the lack of quality midfielders is another good reason to go with that.  If we're going with 3 in midfield, then that probably means either young Matt's Gold or Stinson, or Nathan Sturgis making a sudden reappearance, none of which are really good options for such an important game.  Of course, there aren't really great options for the 3 central defensive roles either.  The best I could come up with is Ty Harden behind Andy Iro and Doneil Henry, and I can't imagine there's anyone inspired by that is there?

Let's hope whatever formation we go with, we manage to keep it reasonably tight, after all, in even the most unbalanced game, a team will usually somehow stumble across at least one decent goalscoring chance.  If that can fall to Danny Koevermans and he can continue his usual lethality, well maybe we'll come up with an unexpected result of some kind.  

I guess I'm pretty much reduced to 'it's a funny old game' 'anything can happen' that's why they play the game' 'you play on the pitch, not on paper' type cliches to provide the hope. If we fail, well we'll still have at least one more day to hope that the other TFC can get the job done against Dallas.