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Battle of the Budgets 2015 - TFC take on LA without Gold Cup stars

The two most free-spending teams in MLS meet for the first time in the Gio-Jozy-Bradley era. Without Jozy or Bradley.

Pictured Above - Playbook for Beating Toronto FC
Pictured Above - Playbook for Beating Toronto FC
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Gerrard has finally made his way to Los Angeles, just in time to not play against TFC. While the Gerrard signing is great for league optics (depending on whom you ask), L.A's penalty conversion rate (depending on whether or not you ask Robbie Keane), and shirt sales, L.A is in fine form without him.

Their most important players have not left for the Gold Cup (though the loss of Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez doesn't hurt TFC's chances), they've scored 5-plus goals in three of their last five games. They're on the back of two losses to local rivals San Jose - one in league play, the other in US Open Cup - and will be eager to get some points on the board back at home on the Fourth of July, with Stevie G set to be unveiled as well. It's going to be a big day.

TFC are missing 4 starters to Gold Cup action, including two Designated Players, L.A are missing 3 starters, including soon to be "Core Player" Omar Gonzalez and starting goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Its a battle of the backup brigade, and nobody is going to argue with the fact that L.A are deeper than most teams in the league.

Match Talking Points

The unveiling of Gerrard might make most headlines, but this game has a number of interesting storylines. How will TFC fare without Ashtone Morgan, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore? How will L.A cope defensively without Omar Gonzales and Penedo? Questions waiting to be answered.

What should excite TFC fans is that some young players are going to get some minutes. Jay Chapman looks set to take Bradley's place at the tip of the diamond, while Marky Delgado should continue in midfield based on his strong play recently. With Luke Moore away for a personal matter, Jordan Hamilton could get minutes in a first-team jersey, something many of us have been eager for since the start of the season.

Toronto FC will need to be very sharp at the back to deal with Robbie Keane and the L.A attack. TFC has been stingy at the back of late, but that seems to have as much to do with opposing tactics as it does with stalwart defending. Then, of course, as it has been for much of this season, we wait and see what Seba does.

TFC Starting XI

football formations

TFC is fortunate to have its backline more or less in tact - especially against the high-scoring Galaxy. Mark Bloom could be available to play at Right Back, while Morrow shifts over to his preferred left side.

Keys to the Game

TFC need to win the midfield battle. Juninho has had 3 goals in his last 3 games, and Robbie Keane will drop deep to find the ball if necessary. Cheyrou and Warner will need to play well defensively and starve L.A's dynamic players of the ball.

Defense is the theme for me in this game - the overlap of Robbie Rogers and the service from Stefan Ishizaki on the flanks will need to be limited as best as TFC knows how.

The game goes at 10:30 E.T, and you can catch it on MLS Live or Sportsnet 360.