Wednesday night wasn't exactly pretty, especially compared to the previous game against the New York Red Bulls. However a point on the road, down a man and in crappy weather is nothing to look down at, and honestly is a more than welcome result. Even though I had some critical thoughts about how TFC closed out the game against the Fire, I will never complain about getting results on the road. And somewhat like the game against New York I think it's a testament to our raised expectations for the team that a draw on the road isn't completely satisfying. But I digress, on to the next match!
First up in the three game home stand is DC United, one of the many conference rivals that Toronto FC will face this month. A codependent in awfulness last season, this year has a seen a turnaround for both clubs as their laughingstock status seems to - for the moment at least - have been removed and instead both are in playoff positions and competing week in, week out.
Games between these two clubs are of course laden with history considering the number of players that have played for both teams - not to mention Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen - and both have rabid yet oft undervalued supporters, and of course last year's aforementioned horrific play by both teams. If not for them being conference rivals I'd feel kindly towards them but because they are - all bets are off!
We've already played DCU this season - way back in March when we almost froze and TFC were winning to start the season and Defoe couldn't stop scoring goals. DCU has had a similar type of season results wise but a few more games played and a couple more results has them residing ahead of Toronto for the moment. But recently they've looked a little shaky and unlike last season can't look to the US Open Cup as their sole positive. But hey, who needs the US Open Cup when you're contending for top of the table, right?
Right now however DCU are on a bit of a poor run of form while Toronto hasn't lost a league game is six outings - including two difficult draws on the road since resuming play after the World Cup break. I won't go into the many ins and outs but you can check out James' incredibly thorough breakdown here.
Here's the good news: Fabian Espindola is out - he of the many goals, assists and general all around machine when it comes to goals. As is Jeff Parke (well probably) as he's coming back from injury and also out for DCU is Chris Pontius - long a thorn in TFC's side whenever he comes to town. Also is the good news category is that the (so horribly wrong) red card against Luke Moore from Wednesday night's match against the Chicago Fire has been rescinded. And of course that Michael Bradley is not only back from Brazil but is apparently raring to go and available for selection against DC - what depth issues?
And that brings us to exactly who will Nelsen start? Depending on the health of Doneil Henry we could see a change in the defence, but other than that will Nelsen want to mess with a good thing so to speak? The team has done fairly well in Michael Bradley's absence and he is just back from a gruelling (for him) tournament. Please don't misunderstand - I am ecstatic that Bradley is back with the team - I just don't know that he needs to play, or start, the game against DC. And I say that being one of the proponents for a proper midfield for our Reds. I just think that next week against the Dynamo is soon enough.
However should he insist on playing then that gives way to some interesting combinations for Toronto. After dull, stultifying play in Chicago it would be great to see them play the aggressive, no holds barred style they played in New York as opposed to relying on the counter attack. With key parts of DC's defence and midfield missing this is a great opportunity for them to showcase what we got to see last week.
I still expect to see Dominic Oduro, Collen Warner and Jonathan Osorio feature along with (of course), Jermain Defoe and the now free from MLS jail, Luke Moore. Even though Oso hasn't been at his best of late I don't see Nelsen sitting him for this one. Really it's whether or not Bradley plays that will determine if Jackson sees the pitch -or Dwayne DeRosario for that matter. What many thought of as a possible partner for Defoe without Gilberto or Moore available will like just be a bench player again - although sometimes having a former player hit the pitch against his old team isn't a bad thing.
Which is why Toronto will need to keep an eye on former Red, Luis Silva - Silva's not exactly lighting it up this season but if the past has taught us anything it's that former players will make us pay. But he is one of DC's more viable scoring options in the absence of Espindola and Pontius and as part of a team that is struggling a bit he'll be motivated by that, and Warner, Steven Caldwell and the rest of the back line will need to be mindful of him. Not to mention the oft dangerous Nick DeLeon and the so far underwhelming Eddie Johnson who is still looking for his first goal and will be wanting to make his mark with Espindola out.
As the first home game for Toronto the team should be pumped to play in front of the fans and continue on with their positive play of late. As always I'm not going to say that they WILL win; only that they should win, regardless off DC's position in the table. Toronto have more than enough talent and ability to come away from this game with all three points. Come on you Reds; let's keep this party going - see you at BMO!