There are no easy games in MLS and so on and so forth, but the fact is that this is a fairly friendly one for Toronto FC to return to after the international break. The Reds face a D.C. United side rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference on Saturday night, with Ben Olsen’s side having collected just four wins to TFC’s eight.
United’s problems of late have been rooted in a complete inability to score goals. They have netted once - from the penalty spot - in their past six MLS games, with the most recent goal from the run of play in the league coming on April 30 at Atlanta United.
D.C. did carve out a win with that solitary goal in Vancouver and drew 0-0 with the LA Galaxy last time out, so they’re not completely out of the playoff picture as a result of their anaemic run. They also found the net against Christos FC in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, winning 4-1, but given Christos are an amateur team that play in a league that does not have a Wikipedia page and United’s second goal did not arrive until the 81st minute, it would be generous to describe that victory as a morale booster.
There are plenty of solid MLS players on Olsen’s roster, but he is lacking that sprinkling of extra quality Greg Vanney has at his disposal. With Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez and Michael Bradley all expected to be in Toronto’s lineup, if the Reds play anywhere near their best Bill Hamid will need to be spectacular to stop them from taking this one.
This will be a rare opportunity for Vanney to get his four best players on the pitch at the same time, but it will be a false dawn as far as the next few weeks are concerned. Toronto will be forced to rotate for tough games against the New England Revolution and FC Dallas that follow the two legs of the Canadian Championship final, with the Revs rematch just 48 hours after the away leg in Montreal - scheduling Bradley labelled a “total joke” at training this week.
Bradley doesn't mince words when asked about #TFC having to play two games in three days next week: "It's a joke."— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) June 16, 2017
After that it’s off to the Gold Cup for Bradley, Altidore and at least three others. If TFC can come through the rest of June and July healthy and still top of the standings, they will be heavy Supporters’ Shield favourites with a relatively interruption-free run of MLS games ahead of them over the final three months of the season.
Kick-off: 8pm ET
Opposition blog: Black & Red United
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 1 & 4 (Canada), NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (USA)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), MLS Live (out of market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto)
Toronto are without Nick Hagglund and Tosaint Ricketts, but it is hoped the Canadian could return before the month is out.
As well as Rob Vincent, Nick DeLeon and Sean Franklin, United are without first-choice striker Patrick Mullins, who was an integral part of their late-season success in 2016.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Mavinga; Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
D.C. United: Hamid; Korb, Birnbaum, Opare, Kemp; Jeffrey, Harkes; Sam, Acosta, Nyarko; Ortiz.