After the TFC - Union match I was on the East Side Stand Up podcast and talk naturally turned to the upcoming Voyageurs Cup games. And the question came up - what do TFC do this year? Should they throw the first team into the competition and do everything possible to bring it home, or should they let those that are languishing (and not even on the bench) or unable to get off the bench give it a go?
The V's Cup has been kind of a talisman for Reds' supporters throughout the past few years - sure our team may suck but hey, at least they've won the Voyageurs Cup! This has served not to just give us something to cheer about, but has also been a handy ace in our pocket, generally used to taunt the Impact and the Whitecaps. And while that has been a continual source of much fun and not a little pride; is it what the team should be focused on?
Four in a row - that's our battle cry - four in a row. Should TFC even try to make it five? I say (a qualified) no - now hold on, don't get all fired up, no need to tear up my 'fan' card or burn my natty plaid scarf in effigy. I am in no way suggesting that they lay down and don't try; what I am saying is that perhaps they don't need to go umm, balls to the wall shall we say? This season is the beginning of yet another restart for our Reds and thus far appear to be punching ever so slightly above their weight.
With TFC still unable to stay mentally tough for 90 minutes and points seemingly being thrown away at the end of almost every game; Reds' supporters are looking for something, anything, to bolster what could very well be another season without silverware. And by that I mean without the Voyageurs Cup, because there is slim to no chance of this team making the playoffs (that's another discussion altogether, but really, it's OK (it is, really and truly!). Let's get a stable, cohesive team out there first; but I digress).
The Reds played arguably their most complete game this past Saturday against Houston; buoying hopes with noticeable improvement, at least until second half injury time when they made yet another simple error that cost them the game and perhaps more importantly, lost yet another defender when Logan Emory went out injured.
Which begs the question, is this really the right time to be further wearing out the starters? Toronto has just begun a difficult stretch of games with 6 games to play in two and a half weeks. And while they've shown a lot of resilience and the depth is markedly improved over last year, injuries are already starting to impact the team and coach Nelsen's ability to field his strongest XI during league games.
Aside from that argument though, even if all of the usual suspects were fully fit and added minutes and travel wasn't in any way going to impact their ability to perform in league play, I'd still be calling for for a less experienced TFC to take the reins for the Voyageurs Cup.
What I'm driving at is let the kids play - you know, the ones that we picked up in the draft, signed to short-term loan deals and so forth - the ones that aren't getting any minutes or even any bench time. With so few games for the likes of Ashton Bennett, Taylor Morgan and of course Stefan Frei to play in, why not let them take the Voyageurs Cup games?
Throw in (so far) little used Kyle Bekker, Emery Welshman, Andrew Wiedeman and some of the lesser used subs and add a couple of the vets - hello Danny Califf - and not only do you have a somewhat competitive squad but you get valuable minutes to players that are languishing. And with only the reserve league to play in for a number of these players any extra minutes can only help. Not only in their development but also allow potential suitors to see what some of these players are capable of should Kevin Payne & Co. wish to dangle some of them as future trade bait.
And on top of all of that - the need to rest some of the regular starters, for lesser used players and rookies to get playing time and in game minutes to develop their skills - you get a starting side of players itching to prove that they're MLS caliber players deserving of spots in the starting team should one of their teammates fall. And who knows, if they rise above to become more than the sum of their parts that's a lot of extra games to further hone their skills and of course cement themselves in the supporters' hearts.
One last thing - Let me just state that I love cup play; the teams certainly get up for these games and the vibe at the games are different than league games. And I will be there for every Voyageurs Cup home game cheering on whoever happens to be on the pitch. I just hope it's a bunch of guys that we haven't seen yet. See you Wednesday.