Time for the first test of Ryan Nelsen's midweek gamble. Resting some players in the first leg against Montreal was obviously done with an eye on today's game, the league given a higher priority. It's been argued that it was a good decision, or a wasted opportunity, and we'll only really know the answer with hindsight, from seeing what Nelsen does today and in the return leg, and just what results it gets him on both days.
TFC are helped out today by the return from injury of Jackson and Jonathan Osorio (hopefully he is fully fit, we really don't need continued re-aggravating of his hamstring issues.) to give a few more options in midfield and hopefully restore a bit of life to a generally moribund attack. Jermain Defoe will of course be back out there, but exactly who's alongside him is more up for debate then ever as Gilberto continues to struggle. Personally I'd start him, then sub Luke Moore in at the first sign of Gilberto getting dispirited, going by the last few games, if he hasn't scored I'd guess at that happening at roughly the hour mark.
The defence's job will be made easier by the absence of Federico Higuain of course, though the uncertainty about just what kind of lineup and tactics Gregg Berhalter will go with in his absence might bring a temporary advantage to the Crew.
Win today, and TFC might just sneak back into the playoff spots. Tie today, and the record would be 4-4-2 which would add a certain wry amusement to the frustration of this spluttering start to the season.
For further pre game reading, you can check out the usual articles, know your enemy, how you doin'? smarter than Mariner, game preview, and the vocal minority podcast, all that stuff, by clicking right here for our storystream.
We'll have team news when it hits twitter and commentary throughout the game. Join us here and let's hope it ends with a hilariously over the top and pointless trophy presentation.
Come on You Reds!