“…There is no pressure at the top. The pressure’s being second or third..”
Will it end up being yet another scalp for a resurgent TFC side after a huge Champions League victory or will it be a home game letdown for Toronto FC tomorrow afternoon against the New York Red Bulls?
Will Mista continue to look the great player like he did on Wednesday or will Thierry Henry break out and give New York a needed three points?
Can TFC continue their hunt for the playoffs with yet another home win?
For that matter, what will be the crowd reaction to Henry be? For a lot of fans I think it will be something like this:
For me, it’ll be somewhat different. You see I have been an Arsenal fan for a long time and I have thought long and hard about how I would try and reconcile my personal admiration for Henry as arguably the best Arsenal player ever with the fact that I am a huge Toronto FC fan. I decided that I would not wear my Henry Arsenal kit tomorrow but that I will wear an Arsenal scarf as a way to at least acknowledge his presence yet also show that Toronto FC is the team I support above all others. Luckily for me the scarf is red.
Now onto the match itself.
- Under MLS official Jair Marrufo, TFC has had a very good record. Four wins, three draws and only one defeat (way back in 2007 against Chicago) have marred that record. Marrufo officiated the two scoreless draws TFC earned this season with league leading Los Angeles Galaxy.
- An interesting fact is that Henry, in four MLS games, has not scored but has earned three assists tying him for first on the club.
- TFC and NYRB have scored 21 times each in league play and have conceded 19 and 20 respectively. New York has played one extra game than Toronto has.
- New York has only scored three times and been shut out four times over the past six league matches, including at home last weekend to the Galaxy.
- TFC will of course be without Julian De Guzman who is suspended for yellow card accumulation. With the absence to injury of Amadou Sanyang it is likely that Martin Saric will have the unenviable task of trying to contain Angel and Henry in front of TFC’s centre back pairing of Cann/Attakora.
- TFC’s Stefan Frei is second in MLS with 67 saves. Where TFC would be without him is anyone’s guess. New York keeper Bouna Coundoul leads all of MLS with 72 saves. Coundoul has recorded one more shut out than Frei with seven to Frei’s total of six.
- No team in MLS has been called offside this season more than the Red Bulls. Juan Pablo Angel has been called offside himself a staggering 36 times to date this season.
There are only four home games for Toronto remaining on the MLS schedule, with Columbus, Salt Lake City and a resurgent San Jose side on the way. Only DC United, languishing at the bottom of the league looks like a soft touch at this point. Toronto has remained in the playoff hunt based firmly on their excellent home record of ten games undefeated. However in that stretch were four draws and eight precious points dropped.
A draw tomorrow is not something that Toronto FC can even think about at this point. Three points are mandatory. The fullback positions (that Hscanovics and Usanov played so well against Cruz Azul) will probably be the key to the match tomorrow. Can TFC find some way to negate the speed up top of Henry, Angel and speed burner Macoumba Kandji (who ran rings around TFC in the second half in New Jersey last week)? In my eyes that is the key to the match, whoever Preki decides to use at fullback. With De Guzman out of the picture in his customary holding role it is going to fall on the shoulders of players like Saric, Gargan and Cann/Attakora to not only hold up the Red Bull attackers but also find a way to get the ball to DeRosario, LaBrocca and Mista.
So tomorrow I get to go to the CNE, I get to see Thierry Henry, and most importantly I get to see Toronto FC continue its unprecedented home winning streak. I am fearlessly calling for a 3-1 TFC victory, and the Arsenal fan in me sees Henry potting one.
See you in the South Stands and on my video blog on Sunday.