Forget that July was mediocre and that TFC barely maintained their position in the table. Forget that they just got blown out by a lack-lustre, dis-jointed effort in DC. And forget that they've lost two in a row. Dwelling won't solve any of the recent issues in form, it won't change scheduling madness and it won't heal injured players.
No need to tell me about those that don't know their history being doomed to repeat it - this is not the same TFC from the past, regardless of the current run of form. Consider that even with some glaring issues, they've won or drawn games that they would have certainly lost last season; and that they're still in a playoff position with games in hand over those above and below them in the table. Not great, but not quite time for panic; we'll tell you when - just not yet.
This is one of those matches that everyone gets up for; players, fans, coaches and of course pub owners and local businesses as this is also one of those matches in which we Reds fans descend upon Montreal to support our team. While this season won't boast the record setting crowd that we saw last year due to change in locale and well, how often are that many away supporter seats available; there are still a few hundred Reds fans either en route or heading to La Belle Province for this weekend's game. So in addition to table implications, as well as the potential for the outcome to bust one of these teams out of a slump, this game comes with its own built in atmosphere of excitement - which is always a good thing.
Because Toronto FC has been playing the Montreal Impact in the Voyageurs Cup for some time you don't immediately realize that they've only faced one another six times in MLS play. And in those six games they're balanced in terms of record - each with 2 wins and 2 draws. This season of course our Reds have already met and lost the VCup to the Impact (but Vancouver didn't win so that's sort of OK), which may have implications on the Impact lineup tomorrow as they start their CCL journey next week; but this is the first MLS match for the two this year.
Both teams have had a reversal of fortune from last season - Toronto seems to be in the ascendency having rebuilt the team, gutted the front office and (hopefully) changed the culture of the club from toxic and shambolic to (eventually) winning and a place that players want to play. Whereas Montreal have gone from playoffs to firmly mired in the basement, seemingly unable to right their ship.
Just this week they fired long time servant (player, coach, etc) of the Impact, Sporting Director Nick De Santis as bombastic Impact owner Joey Saputo starts making changes in hopes of bringing his club under control. Whereas coach Frank Klopas has been making some personnel changes to try and shake up his team. eels weird to see another club act like TFC doesn't it? With both the loss of De Santis and the CCL on their minds we have to hope for a distracted (and not fired up) Impact side.
Some welcome news for TFC in the form of Doneil Henry who is returning from suspension, to help shore up what has been a leaky backline of late. While still missing captain Steven Caldwell and Mark Bloom to injury, having some kind of veteran presence next to Bradley Orr and Justin Morrow should make things a little less dicey back there. I'd expect Nick Hagglund to fill in at RB instead of Warren Creavalle who had a difficult first match with Toronto.
The big question is who starts up top for Toronto and to me the only answer is Jermain Defoe and Gilberto, with Luke Moore on the bench. I and many others have been calling for this for some time; we need to see the skill of Gilberto paired with Defoe from the beginning of a game - not for ten to twenty minutes, or none at all. While both players are passionate and both want the ball at their feet; they both also are excellent playmakers and have set up their teammates this season. Not to mention that defenders can't help but mark them, leaving others open to nip in and put goals past the keeper. If Ryan Nelsen is unwilling to gamble on his formation (as he's been loathe to do for most of the season), then at least give two of Toronto's most talented players a chance to play together.
On the flip side TFC will still need to be wary of the Impact; it's games like these that are fraught with emotion and rivalry that oft go gangly as they say. Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney are both dangerous players with Di Vaio making Toronto pay more than once in the past, even if he's not on the same form as last season. Doneil and Orr will need to be disciplined when dealing with both of them, but especially Di Vaio who is no stranger to hitting the carpet.
Justin Mapp (a ore recent TFC killer) is always deadly on the wings and is the most likely player to set up goals for Montreal. And then of course there is Issey Nakajima-Farran; he of the infamous #inhumane tweet after his sudden trade. This will be the first game he's been able to play against his old team and while he's not contributed much to the Impact as of yet, we all know how much former players like to come back and haunt Toronto FC.
Lastly Henry and Orr aren't the only players that will need to stay disciplined during this game; both Michael Bradley and Jackson are on four yellow cards and a game filled with expectation and emotion could see either of them suspended for next week's match against the Columbus Crew. Add professional fouler Hassoun Camara to the mix and we could be in for a scrappy affair.
This is a game that Toronto should win - I will not call it a must win as Nelsen did in his post-match presser on Wednesday night - but if TFC don't start to take advantage of the bad teams, their games in hand and the quality they possess, then this season could start to unravel. Having said that - I'm calling for a win. Nous chantons les rouges allez! See you in Montreal.