Those who despise Major League Soccer's insistence on continuing to play league matches during international breaks have more fuel for their fire. When Toronto FC take on the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday in a crucial match they will likely be without all three of their designated players.
Sebastian Giovinco's absence for this match was already known. He will be with the Italian National team for their match against Norway on October 13 and therefore won't be in the lineup the next day for Toronto FC. This was a necessary evil: these will be the Atomic Ant's first national team minutes since joining TFC.
It was always known that Michael Bradley, and potentially Jozy Altidore depending upon form, would be called up to the American national team for the CONCACAF Cup. With a chance to play in the Confederation's Cup on the line, this was a crucial match for Jurgen Klinsmann and there was no way he would be leaving his top players behind.
What was less known is whether or not Toronto FC could recall Altidore and Bradley after the match against Mexico on October 10, and before the US national team's friendly with Costa Rica on October 13 at Red Bull Arena. According to a tweet from Kurt Larson of the Toronto Sun, it's unlikely that Toronto get these two player back before Wednesday.
This means if Toronto FC want to clinch a playoff spot on Wednesday, they will have to do so without their top three players. Luckily for them, Jonathan Osorio was not called up for the Canadian men's national team meaning the midfield can mostly stay together.
Where Toronto will have the most space to fill, evidently, is up top where Altidore and Giovinco have combined for an impressive 33 goals so far this season.
This is where the acquisition of someone like Herculez Gomez becomes crucial. Toronto FC have rarely used the MLS veteran so far this season, he only has one start, but now could be his chance to show that he is still a dangerous attacker in this league ahead of the playoffs.
The opponent Toronto FC will face without their three designated players could not be more difficult either. With a win yesterday the New York Red Bulls clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are currently leading the supporter's shield standings by three points.
Getting any sort of points out of the Red Bulls would be a difficult ask for Toronto FC, but something they will fancy themselves doing at home. If nothing else, this match will give them a definitive chance before the playoffs to show that they are more than just a couple of big name signings, something they have struggled to do all season.