If Toronto FC are to come out of their first post-season match successful much of it will have to do with limiting the at times lethal Montreal Impact attack and the always lethal Didier Drogba. Since arriving to MLS Drogba has continued to do what he's done his entire career, score big goals for his club when they need him the most. Drogba has 11 goals in 11 matches (nine starts) in only 870 minutes of play. That's a goals per 90 minutes ratio of 1.14, far and away the best rate in the league. Is the TFC back line capable of stopping a player of Drogba's caliber?
Toronto FC started the season with a defensive line that consisted of Justin Morrow, Damien Perquis, Steven Caldwell and Warren Creavalle with Joe Bendik behind them in goal. Caldwell retired after only 135 minutes played this season and Creavalle was traded as soon as possible. Joe Bendik, the goalkeeper that was deemed good enough to determine fan favourite and standout keeper Stefan Frei expendable, was replaced with a career backup.
On Sunday the only defender that remained from opening day was Justin Morrow. Josh Williams was cut by the expansion New York City FC before he arrived in Toronto and already seemed to have surpassed Ahmed Kantari on the depth chart. Kantari himself was added mid-season to shore up the defense but obviously hasn't. Jackson was deployed at right-back and Chris Konopka in goal.
How does a defensive unit that has been in flux all season come together at the most critical time of the season? Getting a healthy Damien Perquis back in the lineup would be a big help but who plays next to him, Williams or Kantari? No matter who it is the chemistry desired between the two will not be there and neither one showed that they could do the job this past weekend.
What about the right-back position? Mark Bloom never showed up this season and it's been a carousel since day one. Creavalle saw time at right-back but so did fellow midfielders Marco Delgado and Jackson, who both are more attack minded players. Defenders were played out of position at right-back as well. Remember the Nick Hagglund experiment in Dallas? Justin Morrow also saw time there and was the most consistent at the position this season even though he offered less going forward as he was on his off foot.
Konopka has taken over from Bendik at first it was due to injury but since then due to the Bendik's form. The bearded one has had his moments this season but has also shown why he's been the #2 more often than not during his career. It's unlikely that a switch happens at keeper in the biggest game of the year but Konopka won't be expected to steal the show.
TFC showed some solidity this season when Morgan and Morrow were deployed at left and right-back. If Perquis is healthy he must go into the lineup as he's been the closest thing to a defensive stalwart the Reds have had in 2015. Next to him is the biggest question but Josh Williams has been the most consistent centre back besides Perquis and has experience in MLS playoffs.
What could be the biggest issue for the TFC defense is that no matter what the back line looks like the experience of playing together as a unit will be lacking. A slip up or a half chance here or there may be all that Drogba needs to end TFC's season.