They're baack! It's TFC First Kick people! TFC 2.0! TFC: The Next Chapter! TFC: A New Hope (ooh Star Wars), TFC 2: Electric Boogaloo! Whatever you want to call it, Season 8 is a new beginning for our beleaguered club. Hardly any members of the previous regimes remain (wave for the camera JB), money has been thrown around, high profile talent that is actually in their prime has been purchased and the prodigal son has come home. Forget everything else; it's TFC 2.0: The Redemption.
It's as good theme as any for this season as Toronto FC strives to regain the faith of its beleaguered fanbase, remove the laughingstock of the league tag and again be a place that opposition teams fear to visit (assuming it ever was). At the very least the Tims and Nelsen have worked hard to start the club on a new path this off season - they've not been shy about throwing around money, attracting high profile players that are actually in their prime and upgrading some positions with some decent MLS veterans.
But we know all these things right? Everyone's aware that as much as this is the new TFC, it's only just barely covering over the old TFC - once again Toronto is heading into First Kick with an unproven starting XI, battling injuries, uncertainty up top and without a rightback. Sooo, basically the same team but with shinier names and fancy new onyx kits. That's the bare bones, we still can't have nice things, why do we have to go into our first game like this again, TFC experience. And of course our first game has to not only be on the road - not that anyone would want to be at BMO right now - but against you know, a decent team that has a tendency to put the hurt on the Reds. Whee First Kick fun!
I could be wrong, Toronto could go into CenturyLink Field and come away with a result other than a loss - it's just very, very unlikely. What's more likely is that we'll see some decent individual performances be overwhelmed by a Sounders team that right now is quite frankly better than where Toronto is at this moment.
Not to be forgotten in this contest is all of the lovely underlying subtext and drama. You've got Stefan Frei and Chad Barrett both getting new life (especially Frei) in the emerald city. Former Tottenham teammates in Jermain Defoe vs Clint Dempsey! Current USMNT teammates in Michael Bradley vs Dempsey! Turf vs grass! I could go on but I'm out of dramatic storylines to underscore. But really - aren't those enough to get you pumped up? No?
Even if Toronto fields its strongest starting XI, they are realistically down two strikers (Gilberto and Bright Dike), two RBs (Mark Bloom and Bradley Orr), and a winger (Alvaro Rey). And that's assuming that Defoe starts and doesn't just come off the bench later on in the game. Which means that Andrew Wiedeman gets the start (actually he gets it either way) and is either the lone striker - shudder - or is paired with DeRo if not Defoe. Feel the power!
Then you have unproven Nick Hagglund lining up next to Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry and Justin Morrow (could be Ashtone Morgan) in front of Julio Cesar - Beware the Ides of March! -, with Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Jackson and Jeremy Hall in the midfield. On paper that is admittedly a stronger starting XI then just about any from last season, though still not TFC's strongest XI - however it's still an XI that hasn't played much together and that's where the Sounders will be able to exploit them. That uncertainty amid the various parts of the team as they look to link up and push the game forward will be akin to catnip to the Xboxes.
However Toronto isn't without weapons of its own; just having Bradley and Defoe (and likely DeRo) on the pitch, along with a sold defence is nothing to make light of. Couple that with a number of players (and a coaching staff) that know how to best exploit the weaknesses in Frei's game and they could make a game of it. And they'll need every advantage coming into the raucous environs of CenturyLink and dealing with the unfamiliar turf (oh that turf) at the same time. And then they only have to deal with the likes of Obafemi Martins and Marco Pappa coming at the defence while trying to get past the likes of Chad Marshall at the other end of the pitch.
No this is not going to be an easy first kick for our Reds, which does not mean panic. Remember that; DON'T PANIC. Even if they get blown out (as they likely will), there's still no reason to panic. I'm not saying don't watch this game with a critical eye; you should - we've got a lot of expectations this season as a fanbase - but also recognize that this team will look different next week and likely the week after that and that the bye week didn't give them as much help as we could have hoped. So see you in the comments thread, on twitter, at the pub etc - let's get set to start anew fellow fans. Hopefully it's not deja vu.