It wasn't supposed to be like this - Toronto FC were supposed to be heading into the last two months of the season in the driver's seat so to speak. Players were back from injury, Nelsen was finally going to have his first choice starting XI and the team is in what should be a competitive part of the schedule that would allow them to solidify their place in the table if not move up. Instead TFC are going to be missing three starters, have two bench players injured and are coming into this game having let the Fire back into the game last weekend. Did I mention that they'll be missing five more players (another starter included) for the next two games after this one?
There's not much to be positive about right now which makes Bez's comments yesterday about it being 'business time' (Bezness time?), for TFC and that 50 points were acheiveable and then of course playoffs and such. It's good that he's so positive about the future but the majority of us are starting to get a wee bit nervous. As James mentioned in his piece, they've only managed twelve points (out of thirty-six) in their last twelve matches - a point a game pace...joyous.
So injuries to (just returned) captain Steven Caldwell, Justin Morrow (both out for several weeks) and, just announced yesterday, Jermain Defoe is out until possibly the end of September. Add that to Warren Creavalle and Andrew Wiedeman and well, that's not particularly good. Of course most worrisome is the loss of Caldwell and Morrow - what, did you expect me to say Defoe? Toronto has been so shaky defensively these past weeks and Caldwell's presence has obviously been missed and Morrow? Well he's only been TFC's best player on the season; and we've already seen how thin Toronto seems to be for the outside positions at the back. And while Wieds hasn't seen a ton of playing time have Warren C. out again takes away another defensive option for Ryan Nelsen.
OK so good news - yes there is some - is that the Reds haven't lost another five players to the Canadian Men's National Team just yet. Next week (so for both games against the Philadelphia Union), Toronto will be without Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Kyle Bekker, Dwayne De Rosario and Quillan Roberts. Yes that's only one regular starter in Henry but it's bench depth and a possible solution to Morrow's absence being unavailable for two games. Two games that are within days of each other as Toronto FC head into their last week of schedule madness playing three games in the next eight days. Hmm, this was supposed to be the good news bit wasn't it?
Good news is that Gilberto (good Ol Gil) is still scoring goals and that he's formed a nice little partnership with Luke Moore; as evidenced by that lovely goal from last week's game. Also, the team has Bright Dike on the bench as an option at forward and as he's been out pretty much the entire season with the Achilles injury he'll be highly motivated whenever he sets foot on the pitch. The midfield hasn't lost any players (for this game at least) and while shuffling of the back will be required, Mark Bloom will be back with the team after the birth of his daughter (congrats Mark!) and hopefully along with Nick Hagglund and (likely) Bradley Orr can hold the line with whoever ends up playing on the left. Ashtone Morgan, come on down?
Under normal circumstances having to face the New England Revolution in today's game would be not too terrible even given TFC's roster woes. They've been in free-fall for most of the season and haven't really clicked as a team; until just recently that is. Winners of their last two and suddenly finding their footing they've also found themselves winners of the Jermaine Jones lottery (read: blind draw) as Jones returns to MLS. Fantastic, he may not be in game shape and who know if he'll start but it's just one more thing for the Revolution to take as a confidence booster heading into the game. Did I mention that this game makes me nervous?
Toronto needs to get a positive result from this game - I realize that's an obvious statement but as this is the only game in the next week that has them at even close to full strength they've got to go for it. The Rev bleed goals on the road having let in twenty-six of their thirty-six allowed on the season. With the speed on the wings and Gil and Moore in form they need to hit hard and fast before Diego Fagundez or Charlie Davies can make the defence pay. Oh, did I forget to mention that Shalrie Joseph could be back for this game? Sigh.
As has been much of this season for Toronto, tonight's game is one of those tests for the entire team. Do they have the character to get a result in this one? They've got the talent, because even with the injured players this is still a far better team than last year so it's not as though scrubs are playing. Good teams win at home, it's as simple as that. Time for TFC to show that they deserve that designation or risk making this season and their grasp on their first ever playoff position far more down to the wire than it should be. Come On You Reds!