Toronto FC is on their way to the stadium formerly known as Pizza Hut Park. Nowadays it is just called FC Dallas Stadium but regardless of what you call it TFC fans will always remember it as the place where their Reds defied the odds and ran out 3-0 winners over FC Dallas in a must win match to conclude last years CONCACAF Champions League group stage. It was a night where Joao Plata stole the show on the attack and where Doneil Henry was impressive in shutting down Brek Shea.
Now though, TFC returns with a lot less at stake. This time around it is just a meeting between two teams who find themselves struggling in MLS play as both are holding down the bottom spot in their respective divisions. FC Dallas come into the match without a win in their last eleven MLS matches (12 if you add in USOC) and only four draws during that terrible run. They had started the season well with three wins in their first six matches but since then it has all been down hill.
For Toronto the season has headed in the reverse direction. Things could not have started any worse for the club as they went without a single point in their first nine matches but since then they have begun to slowly turn things around. The Reds have picked up two wins and three draws in their past six matches and have looked good value for points each time out.
Toronto has changed their coach already this season but despite Dallas struggling since the middle of last season their head coach seems to remain untouchable. Schellas Hyndman has been given a very long leash by ownership and a lot of that is due to the fact that his squad has been destroyed by injuries so far this season. That seems set to change though as he expects David Ferreira and Ricardo Villar to be dressed for the game against TFC. It is unlikely that either will make a massive contribution but TFC will not be pleased to have to deal with the added threat of the 2010 MLS MVP in Ferreira.On the TFC side of things it is all going to be about trying to keep feeding the hot hand. That means they will certainly be looking to get the ball to Danny Koevermans as often as possible in this game. The forward is on a scoring streak of late that has seen him score in each of the club's last four matches and notch seven goals over the past seven games. It seems that his slow start is now just a distant memory and he should keep on moving up the MLS scoring charts.
He will most likely be joined in the attack by Ryan Johnson once again. The Jamaican international has proven to be a work horse this year as he has already logged a team leading 1350 minutes in MLS action having gone the distance in all 15 matches. He has had his poor stretches this season but with the team starting to do better it seems that Johnson is regaining his focus and edge. His goal and assist in the game last week against the Montreal Impact was arguably his best performance of the season despite having limited touches. If Toronto gets him rolling and scoring goals they may just finally start to have the kind of attack we were expecting from them before the season.
Behind them it should be more of the same from Paul Mariner. He has already shown that he is not one to mess around with trying to change the lineup all the time so it would not be a surprise if he went with basically an unchanged XI from the group that earned a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls. The one possible change would be bringing Julian de Guzman back into the starting lineup after he apparently missed out on last game due to last minute 'stomach issues' whatever (and whichever direction) that means. His return would likely see Reggie Lambe return to the bench and a midfield of JDG, Torsten Frings, Terry Dunfield, and Eric Avila. That has seemed to be Mariners preferred group so unless he has a trick up his sleeve I don't expect to see much change.
There should be more of the same in the defense as well. In recent games the group of Jeremy Hall, Richard Eckersley, Logan Emory, and Ashtone Morgan have impressed and done an admirable job. The fact that they were on the field together for much of the last two matches and only conceded the 1 goal over 180 minutes should give the coach enough confidence to send them out once again. With Ty Harden and Adrian Cann both still questionable with injuries and Dicoy WIlliams yet to play a single minute that would leave Aaron Maund, Miguel Aceval, and Doneil Henry all available on the bench and hoping to play some part. The most likely to actually press for minutes in any of the coming games is Henry as the other two seem to be nailed to the bench of late.
Mariner will be hoping that by going with a consistent XI he can get another consistent performance from his side. If they can play like they have in recent weeks there is no reason that they can not come away with a big three points on the road against FC Dallas. TFC seems to have a knack for putting in good performances midweek so hopefully they can do that once again and ruin all the fourth of July fun down in Texas.
First challenge though will be to make sure none of the players head off to Texas night clubs this time around. We had enough of that with the "TFC 3" being arrested last time the team was in Texas to play the Houston Dynamo.