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Toronto FC vs Sporting Kansas City: We're Off To See The Wizards

Hold on to your hat Dorothy because unfortunately we are going to Kansas. Will Sporting KC play the role of the wicked witch of the (mid) west and drop a house on our Reds?

Ecks is returning just in time to bring back his levitating ball trick!
Ecks is returning just in time to bring back his levitating ball trick!

Well this is going to be lots and lots of fun, right? What a welcome back for our Reds - a road game, against one of the top teams in the league and missing no fewer than 5 players - can you feel the excitement? After a decent June and a typically crazy game against the Montreal Impact last week, the transfer window flew open and the silly season has begun.

In the days since the lastest tilt against the Impact, TFC have traded away Luis Silva, lost Danny Koevermans to injury once again and today announced the retirement of Danny Califf. And that's all just in the past couple of days! Not to mention the ongoing Diego Forlan rumours and the mysterious 3 or 4 new players that expect to be joining the team during the window. Never a dull moment in TFCLand boys and girls.

So with all that there's still - some might say unfortunately - a game to play. In fact Toronto has 3 games to play in the next 8 days - isn't MLS scheduling fun! But let's take them one at a time, Chivas and the Red Bulls will get their turn.

Honestly this game has loss written all over it; Toronto are undermanned and playing a very tough team on the road. Oh and they're a team that's bent on a little revenge for that loss to TFC way back in March - remember that game? Back when the season seemed full of promise? Sigh, those were the days...

Think I'm being too negative? As much as I think this team has improved - and actually are a better team than they were in March - I'm not blind to the challenges that the team is going to face in this match. With 4 players either released, traded or retired in the past month (Dunfield, Emory, Silva, Califf), Koef injured and the Canadian contingent of Morgan, Bekker, Henry and Osorio off at the Gold Cup, this is a woefully thin TFC roster.

While it's true that of those nine players only Silva, Henry and Osorio were/are regular starters; the lack of bench depth and scoring options - what? Koef no matter how rusty is a scoring option, as is Osorio and to a lesser extent so was Silva - has to cause just a little worry in even the most optimistic of souls.

SKC are always a difficult team to play and boast a strong attack that has been bolstered by the return of Graham Zusi from the USMNT and the always dangerous (and irritating) Kei Kamara from his loan to Norwich City, not to mention having Claudio Bieler - you know, that guys that's scored oh, eight goals so far this season? Joyous. Although Bieler's been shut out his last two games, that means TFC will surely cure what ails him, right?

But there are some reasons for hope in this game. Returning from injury are Robert Earnshaw and at long last, Richard Eckersley. Earnshaw, while still not back to his earlier form, is more than capable of putting a goal or two past Jimmy Neilsen and of course was the scorer of both goals in that game back in March. Ecks' return to the lineup is perhaps even more welcome. His presence on the right flank has been sorely missed as his replacement Ryan Richter has been a less than stellar option.

The midfield is another cause for some positivity - even missing Osorio and Silva - the play of Matias Laba (who makes other players around him better) has helped to settle down an oft panicked midfield. His calmness on the ball and ability to get the ball to his teammates has changed the tone of Toronto's game for the better.

And then there's the former player aspect to the game. New TFC winger Bobby Convey will surely be looking to show his former team what they're missing and there's the possibility that the newly signed Michael Thomas could see minutes as well. Regardless of what they say in interviews, former players are always just that little bit more pumped up when playing their old team, we can only hope that ex-Red Jacob Petersen doesn't see the pitch.

This will be a fractious game; the match back in March was not a polite one and emotions ran high more than once. The defense will need to be rock solid for this one with Steven Caldwell and Matias Laba snuffing out the opposition attack. With both Jeremy Brockie and Earnshaw up top there is an opportunity to exploit a SKC team that has not been all that impressive at home this season. Can TFC steal a win in this game? Unlikely. But maybe, just maybe they can steal a point.