Toronto FC is coming to the end of their four week road trip and actually have some momentum heading into Kansas; coming in on a two game win streak. That's right - two wins on the road and they're actually scoring some goals too! It's a weird time here in TFC-Land; so weird in fact that this game against Sporting KC doesn't seem as terrifying as it once did a mere four weeks ago. You remember four weeks ago; back when they were limping their way to the end of that homestand? It's amazing how quickly things change.
This is one of those games that feels like a 'big' game - almost like a playoff game. Sporting KC are one of the best teams in the league and yet were it not for a fortuitous goal by (of course) Jacob Peterson then things would have turned out differently. Yes, defensive lapses and a switch in tactics also contributed to that loss, but still - other than that blowout in DC, Toronto has looked pretty solid this past month especially the past two games as they been consistently putting the ball in the net. Scoring goals will be necessary against SKC as they are very stingy at home, even though TFC have already put two past them at home this season.
There is additional hope for Toronto on the goal scoring front; current SKC keeper Andy Gruenebaum is injured and the Wiz have turned to homegrown third string keeper Jon Kempin. Now it's true that Kempin stopped a penalty in SKC's loss against Vancouver, but that doesn't change that he's a young keeper playing in a big game. Also on the plus side is the recent form of Gilberto who has begun scoring on a regular basis and who doesn't love a striker on a hot streak.
Toronto may also be welcoming back a couple of missing players as well this weekend as Bright Dike has been travelling with the team and Jermain Defoe is back from his latest 'emotional renunion' with Spurs and is a possibility for selection as well. However with Luke Moore and Ol Gil working well together and both scoring of late, it's doubtful that either Defoe or Dike would be anything other than a late game sub. Defoe is more likely to feature next weekend when Toronto return home and as for Dike, I doubt we'll see him before September but great to see him back with the team.
As TFC have faced Sporting KC twice already this season, and of course in that dispiriting loss just a month ago, we're all well aware of the dangers that SKC brings to any game. You can read James' excellent piece detailing that exact thing here. But I am forced to add that even though Dom Dwyer hasn't scored in several games he's still near the top of the league and is the leading force behind Sporting's attack.
And Aurelien Collin is always a player that Toronto should be wary of; his physical (often illegal) play causes havoc and disrupts opposition attacks. Plus TFC has more than one player with an occasional short fuse and Collin loves to push buttons - in fact Michael Bradley is still just one more yellow away from suspension - you can bet that Collin knows that. However, enough of the players and on to what the game means.
This game comes at what feels like another turning point for TFC - they're coming up on another lengthy homestand and they've got third in the east well in hand for the moment with games in hand and points on their closest rivals in the Eastern Conference. A win against SKC would be a dramatic statement about the progress that Toronto has made this season - they can't catch the conference leaders but they can join the top tier of teams instead of just being the best of the mid-table teams.
It is odd - yet heartening - to think that our Reds even have a shot at to take away points in this game, such is the change that has come to the team. Are they league leaders? Not yet. But as we've said a number of times this year, this isn't the TFC of old and our expectations are not unwarranted. It's scary but fun most weeks, something we haven't said for the past couple of years - well the fun part at least. Expect a hard fought, scrappy game with goals and TFC to come out on top. Come On You Reds!