Whee they won!! OK, I know that was last week but never hurts to start on a positive note, right? We need all the positives that we can get these days. Besides that win needs to be mentioned as a wee beacon of (shining) light for TFC and its fans; a hope that the team can build off of that win and carry some confidence into the not so hospitable confines of BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Dynamo are one of those teams that for some reason can bring out the best in our Reds with the all-time record between the two teams being fairly even (3-4-7). Not too shabby considering the Dynamo are generally one of the league leaders and have made it to the MLS Cup Final the past two seasons - only of course to be beaten by *that* team from California. Nonetheless, regardless of locale, drunken nights on the town or blinding orange kits our Reds have as good a chance against the Dynamo as they do any other team. Strange but true!
Toronto is, well I hesitate to call it a good run of form or a streak, but they're playing better - yes that's damning with very faint praise but we have to start somewhere. There are some signs that this version of the team is starting to gel - have they turned the corner yet? No, I don't think so but maybe they can actually see the corner up ahead; maybe. OK, probably not but stranger things have happened.
The focal point for the improvement is the midfield and more specifically Matias Laba and Jonathan Osorio. Osorio has been in the spotlight a lot of late with his recent call up to the Men's National team and his energetic performances for the Reds. Now firmly a member of the starting XI, he's maturing in front of our eyes and looks to be cementing his place as part of a youthful core that TFC can build on going forward.
But the real revelation (if you hadn't noticed already) has been Matias Laba. The young Argentinian DP has been getting better with each passing game, and was the best player for TFC last Saturday against DC United. I realize that being the best player against a team that is actually worse than our Reds doesn't sound like much but his control of the midfield and passing rate cannot be overlooked. Laba is the real deal and like Osorio should be one of the main blocks upon which the future of this club is built.
If our Reds are to have any hope against the Dynamo it will fall on Laba and midfield partner Jeremy Hall to break up forward runs from Will Bruin, Brad Davis and Co. And the backline will need to be rock solid on set pieces so as to not suffer the same indignity as the last time the two teams met.
Now for the really not so positive - the ongoing inability of Toronto to create and finish chances. They managed to score two goals on one shot last week; that's right, one shot on goal. This is not the stuff from which points and wins come from. We can all hope that Earnshaw has regained his sharpness and nose for goal after putting that awkward header past Hamid - sometimes that is all it takes for a striker to go on another streak.
What is clear is that Earnshaw needs a partner up top and thus far Luis Silva is not that partner. Silva has shown the occasional flash of brilliance, but for the most part has been anemic out on the field with his contributions few and far between. Certainly Jeremy Brockie is an option (notice I'm not mentioning Braun or Wiedeman as options), but as he will be leaving in less than two months it doesn't really make sense to do anything other than bring him on as a late game burst of energy.
What is also clear is the need for better service for Earnshaw and whoever partners him. As the midfield improves the service from the wings hasn't yet materialized at all consistently. Although perhaps somewhat surprisingly (or not) captain Darren O'Dea - who seems to be set at LB for now - put in a couple of nice crosses that Earnshaw was unable to capitalize on.
So what's the answer? Other than the obvious in that they still need better players - is Danny Koevermans going to be the game changer that TFC need to get this season to even approach respectability? He's fit and on paper would be a great partner for Earnshaw playing the big/little game. Also not to be discounted is Koef's ability to hold the ball and find little pockets of space.
He's been held back thus far due to playing surface but this is not the case in Houston. And coach Ryan Nelsen has made mention of needing to just throw him out there eventually - and that's exactly it; he's a pro, he's healed, he should play at some point and not in a 4 minute PR stunt either - in an actual meaningful game. I by no means expect him to be the saviour that some view him as, but a fit Koef can score goals and when you're TFC you need to score as many goals as possible if you hope to put points on the board.
So back to the Dynamo who are looking to right a 5 game losing streak. While still one of the league leaders in points they've been on a very poor run of form and will unfortunately be looking at Toronto to cure what ails them. For a truly comprehensive look at the Dynamo you should check out James' "Know Your Enemy" for all the ins and outs of the orange team.
But if you want the mini version here's what you need to know. The always dangerous Brad Davis is back, they're pretty stingy on defense, oh and they've scored 8 of their 19 goals in the final fifteen minutes of games. Just what you want to hear for a team that can't finish and is known for suffering defensive lapses just about every game. I think the only thing that you can be sure of about this trip to Houston is that no one is allowed to even say the name 'Club Esco...you know what? Why jinx things. I won't go so far as to say this is a winnable game, but I think there's a not entirely unreasonable hope for a point.