First of all, in the last 48 hours no one has been let go from TFC. Seriously - I have been watching twitter non-stop and so far we're good. No coaches have been fired, players traded or management types moving on to other challenges. So if we can for a minute look past the drama of the past few days there are still actual games to be played and a playoff spot to secure.
Of course the drama is hard to ignore completely with thoughts that the players may have quit on Nelsen, that we've again got a new inexperienced coach at the helm, (along with a Prez that is keen to make his mark on the team and fast) and a star striker who may or may not want to be part of the team. If this were any other club we'd be surprised right folks? But this is TFC and this is a typical day at the office.
It is difficult to look at this home and home series against the Philadelphia Union and not think that they're two of the more important games that Toronto FC will play this season. They're going to be statement games for latest Toronto coach Greg Vanney and his staff as well as Tim Bezbatchenko - can they right was is being touted as a sinking ship? But also for the players; not only to secure points to solidify their place in the mushy middle of the table but also to prove that this collection of talent (best to ever wear a TFC kit) is capable of more than they've shown. But no pressure everyone, really.
Taking on the Union right now is a defining point in Toronto's season - one of many this season - in that if they win, they stay in a good place for playoffs and can stave off their nearest competitors attempts to overtake them in the standings. Lose even one of these two games and it starts to get awfully murky between the five teams that make up the middle of the pack (Revolution, Crew, Red Bulls, Union and TFC). DCU and SKC should be solid where they are and Houston and Chicago seem unlikely to make a move and Montreal; well they've got the CCL to keep them warm. But for Toronto, what seemed like a certainty mere weeks ago now has a question mark looming large; will they make the playoffs?
This was always going to be a tough week for TFC off field drama or no - it is a week packed with games (three in eight days), for a team that is carrying a lot of injured players and until recently was going to be missing up to five perfectly healthy players due to the upcoming Canadian Men's National Team (buy your tickets!) friendly against Jamaica. Some good news in that regard as the CSA has released Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan back to TFC and is not requiring them in camp. For a team that has been heavily hit by injuries to the backline this is a huge positive. Doneil's playing time is almost a given but this does pose an interesting question for Ashtone Morgan - seemingly the forgotten man this season I fully expect Vanney to start him at left back both tonight and Saturday (depending on tonight's performance). If not then we all really can just wave good-bye to Morgan at the end of the season and wish him well.
However Vanney's promised 'new faces' on the field for tonight's game so along with Morgan - seriously I will be shocked if he does not play - can we expect Dan Lovitz or maybe Bright Dike out under the bright lights of PPL Park? Lovitz has done some nice things in games this season and skill mixed with youthful exuberance can be a good thing, whereas who doesn't want to see Dike do well this season? Coming off his annual injury and exhibiting his trademark speedy healing powers he is a viable option up top to compliment Gil (or Jermain Defoe when/if he returns) as the more physical target man.
Toronto has never won a game in Philadelphia (well, Chester actually) so that's exciting. But what is a positive is that the Union are not exactly strong at the back - not only have they had some injuries (and some rebuilding this season too), but they're also missing a few players to upcoming international friendlies, which hopefully bodes well for Gilberto and Luke Moore as their partnership continues to grow - but also for other potential goal scorers and playmakers on TFC. While the Union aren't bleeding goals at home they're still no where near the league leaders in stinginess and worse than our Reds about taking care of business at home.
No the real worry - other than can the team put these past few days behind them - comes in the form of Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux and former Red (there's always at least one), Maurice Edu. While Casey hasn't been scoring goals he is always in the mix and likes to push at opposition players; Doneil will need to keep a tight rein on his temper when going up against him. Le Toux and Edu are by far and away the most dangerous threats that Toronto fill face in terms of the Philly attack. With a potential for a new backline all of Toronto's defensive players will need to be on the same page tonight if they hope to keep them off the scoresheet.
This is not going to be an easy game and honestly if they win I'll be very surprised. All I'm really hoping for is a competent draw from our Reds tonight. Seems bleak you say? I call it being cautiously optimistic - and yes, I'm viewing a draw as optimistic at this point. Really I just don't want to see the same thing we saw on Saturday, a team that played to lose. Come On You Reds!