In another inter-conference duel, TFC head to Rio Tinto to face RSL after an ill-timed bye week. With international absences and injuries, the game is tighter than history would indicate. Check in with the RSL side of things in "Know Your Enemy", and stick with me as we break down the match-to-be.
Match Talking Points
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so the saying goes. TFC fans are about to get a Gold Cup preview - no Bradley, no Altidore - with injuries to boot. Caldwell and Bloom are out, with Perquis being listed as 'probable'. Throw in a Justin Morrow suspension of dubious correctness, and TFC are looking a little thin. RSL are without starters Nick Rimando, Luis Gil, and Alvaro Saborio as well, which balances the scales - if only a little.
The loss to Columbus was (hopefully) not an example of the type of game we can expect on a regular basis from Greg Vanney's team. We very well could see the same thing on display at RSL, however. With Morales and Beckerman, Salt Lake have two excellent passers who will help use possession as weapon against TFC. With our best ball-winner away with the USA, the midfield battle could be a little lopsided. Or a lot. Too early to tell.
While this might not be the game to see it, TFC has to create some offense. Although the red card changed the game against Columbus, the offense wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders beforehand either. It will be interesting to see who starts for TFC and what the plan of attack is.
It will be interesting to see if TFC brass announce the signing of Clement SImonin to an MLS contract to fill the gaps should Caldwell's injury last much longer. All along Simonin has been touted as the most MLS-ready, and last week's TFC II game showed he has some promise.
Projected TFC Starting XI
Look for TFC to try and utilize the speed of Findley against his former club. Olave and Schuler aren't exactly fleet-of-foot, and that could be TFC's best avenue for getting on the scoresheet.
Keys to the Match
Managing possession will be key against RSL's new look 4-3-3. If they get possession and can run at our depleted backline, bad things will happen. Collen Warner needs to step up and have an excellent game putting out fires in midfield if TFC are going to have a chance at success.
Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman are the keys to RSL's success going forward. Morales is dangerous from set pieces (and having Jamieson Olave and Chris Schuler to aim at isn't bad either), and from the run of play he creates chances with great passing. TFC's only saving grace may be the finishing of Sandoval and Jaime versus Saborio.
TFC's bench must stand up and be the men Michael Bradley has always wanted them to be. Warner, Morgan, and Moore must have good games, and the players further down the roster - Dike, Chapman et al - must be ready when called upon.
After a correct prediction in the Columbus game, I'm going for another one here:
Bold but Useless prediction: Collen Warner leads TFC in nutmegs attempted.
The game is Sunday, March 29 at 7PM. You can catch it on Sportsnet 1, Fox Sports 1 in the USA, or MLS Live.