Toronto FC may have underestimated the Ottawa Fury last week, turning in an uncharacteristically poor performance against the USL opponent in the first leg of this Canadian Championship tie. This Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves as the second leg kicks off at BMO Field with a spot in the final at stake.
The Reds are in a position they’ll be pretty familiar with, entering the second leg of a knockout matchup down on aggregate. As was the case against Montreal in November, though, TFC did make their mark in the away goals column when they visited Ottawa, meaning they will advance if they can win and keep a clean sheet.
Expect the Fury to come out hard on Wednesday, with all the pressure on TFC for this game. Some of the Ottawa players will be making their first visit to an MLS stadium and after sending their opponent a wake-up call in the first leg, they certainly have nothing to prove. That said, they'll surely be treating this game with a greater sense of occasion than TFC.
Ottawa would love to be the first non-MLS team to reach the final of the Canadian Championship in its current format. They’ve set themselves up pretty well for that too, taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg. As poorly as TFC played last Tuesday at TD Place, credit is due to the Fury for playing so well. They capitalized on a sluggish, disjointed opposing lineup, and used their physical style of play to get a result.
If anything, Ottawa will be even more physical on Wednesday. This is a big game for Paul Dalglish’s side, so they’ll stick with what worked in the first leg. Players like 6’ 5” striker Tucker Hume managed to bully TFC in the 18-yard box, and that’s definitely going to be the strategy again.
The Reds bounced back from that poor performance excellently, though, with an absolute thumping of the Columbus Crew. That’ll likely help as far as confidence goes, especially heading into a game where TFC absolutely need to score, likely multiple times.
Greg Vanney has hinted that he’ll field a much stronger starting XI for this game after sending out a reserve-heavy team last week. We still won’t see a first-choice lineup, especially with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley away with the USMNT anyway, but a few more regulars will likely make it into the team sheet.
Clint Irwin will probably be back in goal after Alex Bono’s clean sheet on Friday. Bono continues to look more and more like Vanney’s No. 1 keeper.
In front of him, I don’t think we’ll see Drew Moor on Wednesday. He played a full 90 on Friday, and as he continues to recover from injury he’ll likely be saved for this Saturday in New England. We may instead see Jason Hernandez slot in with at least one regular starter in Chris Mavinga or Eriq Zavaleta. Ashtone Morgan and Mitch Taintor are also options and though Morgan didn’t look great last time out, he does help to fulfill the Canadian content quota.
TFC’s midfield will probably include some combination of Jay Chapman, Benoit Cheyrou and Marky Delgado. Neither Chapman nor Cheyrou featured at all against Columbus, suggesting Vanney’s intention is to use them against Ottawa. Delgado, too, should be an option since he’ll be ineligible for the weekend game against the Revs due to his red card against the Crew.
At least one of Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour will probably sit. It’s possible the 3-5-2 formation becomes something like a 3-4-3, allowing Jonathan Osorio to play higher up with a potential forward combination of Jordan Hamilton and Ben Spencer.
Finally, it looks like there’s a chance Sebastian Giovinco will be fit for this game. It might be a good opportunity to give him a few minutes to come back from injury, instead of playing him on turf at Gillette Stadium. If he does feature, it’ll probably be late in the game if TFC need a goal.
It looks like it’ll be a rainy night at BMO on Wednesday. This will probably be a chippy, sloppy game. TFC will need a much better performance than last week’s if they want to avoid the one-game play-off for CONCACAF Champions League qualification.