Well, we went through the highs and the lows with Canada over the last week, but now it's time to return to the insignificant life sucking morass/battle for pride and contracts that is the end of Toronto FC's season. This one has the potential to get even uglier than usual what with injuries and international callups, Paul Mariner here maintaining a straight face as he says it "couldn't have come at a worse time". TFC of course have no moral authority to complain about that given that it was supposed to be played on July 21st, you know, back when we were fleetingly good, and hopefully it won't be used as an excuse should the winless streak get stretched to 8 games tonight.
It's a chance for some players to show what they can do, provide signs of hope for next year, all that sort of thing that we've been talking about for way too long already this year. If it all goes horribly wrong, well at the very least it will serve as a lesson on what not to do in the coming seasons, when games at this time will surely matter again (at some point, they'll matter, right).
As for the Fire, well they're doing really quite well these days, winners of 4 out of 5, though naysayers point to the fact that those wins have all been against poor quality or out of form teams (so, they know how to beat up on lesser teams? Excellent news.). They could become the next team to sweep TFC in a 3 games series, and more importantly could jump to 2nd in the conference with a win.
It should at least be entertaining, Chicago in Toronto almost always is. I wrote the following as my intro to last year's home game:
May 12th 2007. Toronto FC 3:1 Chicago Fire. First win,first goal, first red card, a legend is born.
October 18th 2008. Toronto 3:2 Chicago. Last home game of the season, Ricketts scores twice for the first home win in over 4 months.
May 16th 2009 Toronto 0:2 Chicago. Move along, nothing to see here.
May 8th 2010 Toronto 4:1 Chicago. Labrocca's wind assisted goal, Chad Barrett scores twice, more remarkably O'Brian White scores!
That 2011 game ended in a 2-2 tie, a Joao Plata inspired TFC racing into a 2-0 lead that they coughed up in the rain. then of course we had TFC allowing a first minute goal before coming back to actually take the lead for the first time all season, before giving up the equaliser within a minute and going on to lose 3-2.
23 goals in 6 games, 3 5 goal thrillers, 3 TFC wins, it all suggests something wild could happen.
Could it be in TFC's favour? It's plausible, Eric Hassli's due a big game and a spectacular goal, he and Luis Silva will presumably be up front in Ryan Johnson's absence and they've looked quite good together, and Sean Johnson's always an adventure in goal for Chicago.
More than likely though, it'll be Chicago filling their boots. In goal, Freddy Hall's back which presumably means he'll continue his own grand adventure in goal. In defence Logan Emory (who got sent off the last times these teams met) will presumably be in at left back, and Jeremy Hall will continue to unimpress at right back with Richard Eckersley continuing his centre back education, alongside Darren o'Dea. It's goood that we even have o'Dea, but flying to kazakhstan and back with a game in the middle can't be the best preparation.
It's in midfield though where things get really interesting. Paul Mariner obviously likes to play two defensive midfielders to shield the back 4. With no Frings or Dunfield, that'll mean Aaron Maund and A.N.Other. Maybe Matt Stinson, maybe shuffle the defence around (Cann or Harden in at CB, Eckersley to RB, or maybe Harden at RB) and let Jeremy Hall play in midfield instead. Maybe Eric Avila might get a shot, though he doesn't seem the DM type, and besides, it's Eric Avila, and we all know how Paul Mariner feels about that. The fact that Maund, a raw inexperienced recently converted centre back is the one sure to be there is pretty alarming really.
Andrew Wiedeman, Quincy Amarikwa, and Luis Silva will one way or another be the 3 attacking players supporting Eric Hassli up front, maybe this will be one of the rare days that Amarikwa's eccentric and flighty talents come together properly and we're all left in awe at a perfectly executed bicycle kick goal. Maybe.
Whatever really, despite the brave words put out by Mariner of trying to get out of the embarrassing bottom position, it's all very very meaningless, hopefully at the least we can have some fun, see something that makes it all worthwhile. Or, you know, we can just wait until October when the next Canada games come around.