Don't you just love the unbalanced schedule MLS has given us this year. After DC United came to Toronto and confirmed the reds' place all alone in the 'worst ever start to a season' line of the record books, Toronto FC get a chance for revenge in their very next league game. Fortunately there was a bye week in the middle, meaning that after a couple more strangely competent performances in the Voyageurs Cup, TFC enter the game on a 2 week unbeaten streak, and hopefully with a little bit of confidence restored. Can they for once carry that form into a league game, or will hearing the MLS anthem as they walk out turn them once again back to the error prone, confidence free and unlucky losers we've seen too many times this season.
Even if they can continue their good form, getting even a point won't be easy at RFK stadium as DC are of course a very good team, coming off a 2-0 midweek win over Colorado and sitting 3rd in the east with 21 points through 13 games (5 more than TFC already. Again, yay for the schedule makers). Dwayne de Rosario of course didn't score in Toronto, and surely we can't keep him and Maicon Santos off the scoresheet again.
Then again, maybe we can, TFC were an injury time Eric Hassli wondergoal away from a second straight clean sheet, both since Adrian Cann and Doneil Henry were paired together. It was universally agreed that the centre back problems were a huge issue with TFC's often comical defending, so it's only fair to give this partnership credit for the suddenly more solid defending. Can they keep it up? Well let's hope so. At the very least they should be nailed on starters for the 3 games before the international break, their skills compliment each other well, and consistency and familiarity can only help with that.
There's been a lot of high scoring games between these teams at RFK, 32 goals over the last 6 games played there, never fewer than 5 goals combined, with 7 scored for one team or the other by De Ro over the last 3 seasons. Can TFC buck that trend, or do we have the weapons to win a shootout?
With that in mind, hopefully the Cann/Henry inspired increased defensive competence will mean that TFC can be a bit more attack minded than they were a couple of weeks ago, a strategy similar to what we saw against Vancouver would be very welcome here. It may well depend on what DC do with De Ro. In the first half, he was more withdrawn and Julian de Guzman was able to mark him out of the game. Pushed further upfront in the 2nd half, he, and DC as a whole, were a lot more effective. If he starts in midfield de Guzman will probably have a similar man marking assignment, which will effect how much he can contribute to the midfield going forward. With Torsten Frings out with continued shoulder-knack, that would just leave Terry Dunfield as the main player charged with getting the ball to the attacking 4, which wouldn't be ideal. Eric Avila should round out the midfield again despite looking quite invisible and ineffective against Vancouver.
Moving back to the defence, I think it will be a back 4, and we'll see almost the same back 4 as against Vancouver, with the exception of Richard Eckersley coming back in at Right Back in place of Jeremy Hall who didn't really show enough to relegate Eckersley to the bench.
Up front is again where there are genuine questions, and again it's the status of Danny Koevermans that will decide much of them. At this stage, I doubt he's ready to start as of yet, so I think we'll see Ryan Johnson once again at Centre Forward. He's looked a little more rejuvenated recently, and appears to be back in goalscoring form, finding the back of the net rather than goalposts, so with Emiliano Dudar still out, he'll hopefully be able to exploit a makeshift DC defence.
That probably means Joao Plata out on the Left Wing again, though my hopes for him finding his form again any time soon are now sadly yet appropriately small. On the Right Wing, well I'd go with Nick Soolsma. It's a bit harsh on Reggie Lambe, and there's no real reason I'd give to justify dropping him, in fact I'd be tempted to try him out on the left instead of Plata, but aside from that missed chance, Soolsma's looked good in his two sub appearances since coming back from injury, so I'd give him a go.
Will that lineup and a rediscovered attacking spirit have enough firepower to overcome the inevitable De Ro goalfest? I have my doubts, but crazier things have happened, maybe the ref will let us score while DC are making a substitution again like last year. That's probably the sort of luck we'll need to avoid a 9th straight loss, but we've got to be due for some good luck at some point right? As for a prediction, I think somehow this 'worst start ever' team, and this 'worst goals against in the league by far' defence will actually manage to put an end to the crazy scorelines in this fixture and TFC will come away with a creditable 1-1 tie, and a point, finally a point.