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Mailbag: Toronto FC’s potential USMNT problem

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We answer your questions... which got a little off topic this week.

Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qualifier-Costa Rica at USA Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Hold your applause until we’ve remembered to do this for a month from now, but for the second straight week Waking the Red has a mailbag! Every week we will be taking your questions on Twitter, Facebook or via email (

A new Waking the Red staffer will be on the mailbag each week, so hopefully you will get different perspectives on the questions you ask.

With the regular season winding down for Toronto FC, this week’s questions have a lot to do with the future of the club. We also delve into the Canadian men’s national team and the question you’ve always wanted answered about Toronto FC’s media contingent.

Paul asks: “Can you talk about what happens if the U.S. needs to play into World Cup qualification?”

The most important game remaining in Toronto FC’s regular season comes on October 6, and they aren’t even involved.

Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement. But if the United States fails to beat Panama at home in World Cup qualifying, there could be some real complications for TFC. That’s because, as Paul is alluding to, if the United States lose that match their only hope of making next summer’s World Cup finals will be to win a play-off game against the fifth-place finisher out of Asia.

The big problem with this? The Eastern and Western Conference semi-final second legs are currently scheduled for November 5. The first round of the CONCACAF-AFC playoff? November 6. (Editor’s Note: Although apparently this date isn’t set in stone).

No matter where that game is being played, it is impossible to expect players like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore to play in both. It is worth noting that, while it would be the worst scenario by far, this isn’t just a U.S. international problem: if Panama, say, is in that play-off, then TFC would face the same issue with Armando Cooper. If it’s Honduras, the Houston Dynamo are screwed.

It doesn’t seem likely that FIFA will budge too much on their game dates. So if the U.S. does lose to Panama, or otherwise fails to pass them in the Hex standings, MLS is probably going to need to re-schedule the entire first part of the playoffs. The schedule itself is “subject to change” for this very reason.

The other, far less ideal, option is for the league to just continue as planned. But a major playoff game missing so many players would be a PR nightmare.

Best case, evidently, is the U.S. taking care of business (which I still expect them to do) and all of this remains hypothetical. If it does happen, maybe the league will reconsider scheduling its playoffs around a disruptive international break. How can they manage this? That question is well above my pay grade.

From Dante: “Going into the CONCACAF Champions League next year, do you feel comfortable with Delgado being the third man in the midfield (alongside Vazquez and Bradley) or do you feel we should be looking for someone else to step into that role? That is my biggest worry right now. Is TFC's current roster CCL ready?”

I think there is an argument to be made that Toronto FC’s current roster is the most “CCL ready” team there has ever been in league history. At basically every position, with the notable exception of holding midfielder now that Benoit Cheyrou is injured, Toronto has a quality player in reserve. That is exactly what a team needs when balancing domestic and continental competition and isn’t easy to do under the salary cap. Depth of talent has always been the biggest advantage for Liga MX teams over MLS teams within the competition.

The problem is that I think Toronto will be losing some players this offseason who could have really helped in CCL next year. Specifically, I would be surprised if Cheyrou, Clint Irwin and Armando Cooper (who seems built for CCL) are still around. Even with Tim Bezbatchenko’s magic, these are not easy players to replace.

MLS: Toronto FC at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of the midfield, I would be more worried about Michael Bradley getting worn out (as crazy as that may sound) with all the fixtures the team will play next year than anything else. Toronto doesn’t have a replacement for him. Delgado, for me, is more than capable in the role he is asked to play of just balancing out the midfield and transitioning the ball from Bradley to Vazquez (or others).

Marky isn’t flashy, and he is certainly capable of a stinker every so often. But, no, in CCL I wouldn’t be too worried about him. With that being said, I do think that if Jonathan Osorio can continue to play the way he has, that he brings a few more elements than Delgado. But ultimately, Delgado has proven to be a better fit between Vazquez and Bradley.

On email: “What are the chances that Ballou Tabla suits up for the Canadian men’s national team?

Based on everything I’ve been hearing - and keep in mind none of this in inside information by any means - it sounds like he is leaning towards Ivory Coast. I think that Canada are actively recruiting him - in fact, I’m not sure what level of interest Ivory Coast has expressed, but there must have been some. It seems that Tabla’s family would very much like him to play for Ivory Coast, which is understandable.

With that being said, cracking the Ivory Coast team will not be easy by any means. It would likely take a move to Europe and a quality showing over there to get any sort of significant run with that team. You never want to be “second choice” but it certainly hasn’t hurt Canada in the case of Scott Arfield.

The good news for Canada, perhaps, is the success of Alphonso Davies. In Davies’ success, Tabla can see himself and what could have been if he had pulled on the red and white this summer. I also feel that Octavio Zambrano, publicly at least, has handled this situation well. He’s made his position clear, while also not appearing too desperate.

Now to the important questions. Joshua Kloke asks: “Who has the best beard in the BMO Field press box?”

Disclaimer: We apologize for any beards we may have missed in our long and highly scientific process.

Correction: A previous version of this answer failed to acknowledge the high-quality beard game of TFC Pitchside producer Amil Delic. We would like to sincerely apologize for this error.

Of all the questions in this week’s mailbag, this might be the most difficult, which is why Oliver Platt so elegantly dodged it last week. Why is it such a tough question? Because pretty much every male TFC media member has some sort of facial hair. We are probably the worst site to judge this, because we have like four collective facial hairs between our entire staff, but we are going to do it anyway.

The process has been made significantly easier by the fact that Dan Riccio has eliminated himself by moving to Vancouver. As far as honourable mentions go, we would like to commend the following reporters on their beards in no particular order: Kurt Larson, John Molinaro, James “touch of grey” Grossi, Eric Giacometti, Gareth Wheeler, Anthony Totera and Michael Leach. Also, it doesn’t really fit the criteria but Dick Howard’s mustache is iconic. Any of these fine gentlemen wishing to pick up their participation ribbons, come find us in the third row of the press box.

Now the Mount Rushmore of best TFC media beards (don’t worry, we will still pick a winner, but this would have been a good way to get around it).

First off, perhaps because he sits so close to the Waking the Red contingent and we get jealous, Leonardo Molinelli of Corriere Canadese. Because he asked this important question, and because we still owe him for the horrors he was forced to face while playing in net for our charity tournament team, Joshua Kloke gets a special shoutout as well. That’s a beard worthy of keeping behind a paywall. The dark horse in this competition is Aron Papernick, a newer TFC media member with a gorgeous grey goatee.

There can only be one winner, however, and that has to be Toronto FC media relations manager Mike Masaro. No, this has nothing to do with the fact that he has control over our access to the club we cover.

Remind us in November and we will do a mustache-related mailbag response (Dick Howard already won).

Finally, Ben asks: “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?”

Easy, one horse-sized duck. It would be easier to focus all of your attention on one attacker versus the swarm of duck-sized horses. Plus, if I learned anything from watching the Mighty Ducks growing up, it is that when ducks don’t “fly together” bad things happen. Just ask Charlie Conway about his first game of JV hockey at Eden Hall Academy, when he tried to win the game with a solo effort to impress a girl in the stands (I watched those movies way too many times).

Plus, once I beat it in combat and earn its respect, I can fly around on it like some kind of Pegasus.