September 11th. A tragic anniversary of something so terrible that it changed the world. Sure, things weren't perfect, but there was a comforting familiarity to things, until the events of that day changed everything. Different factions of society that had co-existed uneasily side by side turned to open conflict, some protesting, others protesting the protesters. Uncomfortable decisions have been made, regimes toppled, proud and powerful men humbled. Events were set in motion, the reactions and counter-reactions to which are still being felt by people from all around the world to this very day as there seems to be no sign of an end to the struggle.
So it's only fitting that TFC's pre game events for today's game take a sombre note and recognise those that have fought so valiantly. Many of them may not have wanted to be there or disagreed with what they were being asked to do, and many have ended their time of service disgruntled or disillusioned. The success and even legitimacy of their mission can be questioned, but when they pulled on that uniform and it's Maple Leaf, they represented us all and fought for us.
Therefore we will all be honoured to share the stands with those brave warriors and skilled marksmen who have fought since that fateful September 11th in 2010 - that truly awful game against a woeful DC United side, the dagger blow from Julius James no less, that was the last action of the Mo Johnston and Preki era, fully setting in motion the tailspin from which TFC still shows no signs of escaping. So stand up, take a bow, then take a generously donated seat, you multitude of heroes. Martin Saric, Jacob Peterson, Danleigh Borman, Freddy Hall, even you Max Urruti, there's been too many to mention, and YOU honour and humble US with your presence.
Wait, what? Oh, I see. Well that's an embarrassing misunderstanding.
Yes it is instead that other September 11th that MLSE is in no way cynically latching on to, and the actual military and troops from the Canadian Forces that are being 'honoured' (Flyovers, military vehicle displays, 'special opening ceremonies' (tfc's website heavily suggest bagpipes, ugh) and get there early and receive a 'Support the troops' wristband, I kid you not.). If you're a season ticket holder, you'll have no doubt received the emails asking you to donate any unused seats, thus 'creating an unforgettable experience for the Canadian Armed Forces'. By letting them watch a TFC game! LOL, and might I add, ROFL. If the pre game fireworks don't trigger flashbacks and PTSD, the massacre that's bound to follow on the pitch probably will.
Can that massacre be avoided, TFC finally putting the craziness of the last week behind them and getting back to the solid if uncreative, difficult to beat side they've been for most of the season? Well, let's hope so, and one reason for hope is the return of the 4 players (well, 3 +Kyle Bekker is probably a better way of saying it.) who went off to represent Canada, which will bring some selection questions that are a bit more interesting than usual now given what happened to Kevin Payne's boy Max Urruti.
Jonas Elmer, Alvaro Rey and Gale Agbossoumonde. All Payne signings that Ryan Nelsen hasn't really seemed all that keen on playing so far this season. If they find themselves immediately back on the bench in favour of Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry and Jonathan Osorio, all back after playing for Canada on Sunday, then flying across the Atlantic, then that might tell us something about their future with the now Nelsen led club. If they can swallow the terrible optics of trading Urruti so soon after his signing, then I imagine Nelsen and Leiweke would have no qualms about letting anyone go at the end of the season. Or perhaps even earlier, the roster freeze happens this Friday but Nelsen has been musing about further moves being made before then.
Though I wouldn't put anything past this club right now, I'm perhaps just being paranoid and reading way too much into things. Ashtone Morgan had had a few games where he looked better, still an adventure defensively, but as if his attacking verve and confidence is returning, so it'd be harsh to see him lose his place due to going off to represent his country, it's not like Elmer was spectacular in Portland anyway. I'd say the same for Doneil Henry, his game has been up and down this year but definitely seems to be developing in the right direction. Yes he has the odd brain fart still, but Gale Agbossoumonde didn't make the case for himself as a safe pair of hands with that gaffe for the Timbers second goal.
Jonathan Osorio should of course be an automatic choice to come back in. He'll join Jeremy Hall and, though I don't understand it, I'm getting used to it, Reggie Lambe in midfield. The 4th member of the midfield is very much up for grabs though. Will Darel Russell keep his position with Osorio returning to the wide right position? Or will Osorio slot in alongside Hall, leaving Rey and Bobby Convey fighting for the other attacking role. Nelsen hasn't seemed all that keen on giving Rey playing time since his arrival, though he did get in the Portland game ahead of Convey. Convey was reportedly injured but, returning to the 'nothing about this club would surprise me' paranoia, he seemed to be clearly a Kevin Payne player, formerly with DC, famously staying in Payne's basement at one point and given there was reportedly an incident after the previous home game against New England, I'm prepared to take that injury with a grain of salt. Both are taking up roughly $200,000 of cap space which Leiweke and Nelsen obviously covet as they get prepared to go for it in 2014, so if either of those players doesn't make the lineup, then they might well be advised to get ready for another spin through the revolving door, to join the ever increasing list of TFC veterans no longer with us.
Up front, It's unlikely we'll see Bright Dike starting though hopefully he can get some minutes and work his way to that starting lineup, actually having a big man up front (that, you know, isn't Justin Braun) would make all the long balls and hopeful crosses we regularly fire at the forwards make a bit more sense.
That's really where the interest for this game comes from, seeing who's in and who's out of favour after the shakeup and wondering what it might mean for the future. The game itself? The result? Well it matters for Chicago, they'll be looking at the two games they have left against TFC as 6 undroppable points if they're serious about getting back into the playoffs. For TFC, well they've dropped 3 points behind Chivas in the race for 17th so it'd be good to make that up. Also, 3 points would take TFC to 25 points, thus beating last year's totals, and that's about it really. Since Leiweke asked us to wait until January and see if they impress us, they've got their arses kicked in Portland and then given up on the guy they chased for however many months and who was supposed to be a star for years to come. Not exactly an auspicious start.
But hey, don't pay attention to all that. Look! Troops!