Kansas City Here We Come… TFC Goes On The Road To The Wizards
Tomorrow evening’s match against the Kansas City Wizards will hopefully be the last MLS match Toronto FC will ever have to play on a baseball diamond in Missouri. And that is fine with me. Kansas City will of course be another MLS club moving into a new soccer specific facility next season and then only the San Jose Earthquakes will be playing in a baseball park.
It will also be a game for Toronto that, on paper at least, looks to be one of the more winnable league road matches on the horizon until at least September. Next month TFC makes stops away to New York and in early September in Dallas before heading to the Windy City to play the Fire.
So with one eye towards the potential for flying bags of urine in Honduras, Preki of course needs to find some way to get the valuable three points out of the Wizards. And with recent roster changes, the upcoming trip to Honduras, plus of course Toronto’s recent goal scoring woes he definitely has his hands full.
Taking a look at some of the numbers going into tomorrow’s game there were a few things that jumped out at me that I thought I should share with you to set the table.
- Kansas City is in 15th place in league scoring but in 1st place in shots on goal. They have been absolutely woeful up front this season. Striker Kei Kamara leads the Wizards attack with six goals and is third in MLS in shot attempts. He also leads the club in fouls committed with 29 (four more than TFC hard man Martin Saric if you can believe it, and 4th in the league overall). Me thinks he is going to be someone that Toronto is going to not like playing against tomorrow.
- KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen (I still think he looks like Brigitte Nielsen) and TFC’s Stefan Frei have almost exact statistical results to date this season. Each has six clean sheets to their names. Nielsen has a 71% save percentage and Frei is just behind at 70%. Frei has made 58 saves to Brigitte… er’… I mean Jimmy’s 51. To me there looks like little to choose between goalkeepers tomorrow.
- Toronto is first in the league in conceding corner kicks and last in the league in earning them. KC gives away the league average and earns just slightly more than TFC does on average. If there is ever a statistic that screams out “… WE NEED A TRUE WINGER!!!…” then it is TFC’s abysmal record in earning corner kicks. On a smaller than normal playing surface tomorrow corner kicks, or the lack thereof, may be a crucial statistic. And interestingly Kansas City has been the league leader so far in offsides committed. That narrow pitch looks like it is going to get real crowded down the middle tomorrow.
- The Wizards have given up a slightly over third of their goals in the last fifteen minutes of games. Toronto has scored almost a third of their goal tally this season in the last fifteen minutes of games.
- Getting to Kansas City early is the obvious key to beating them. I know this is usually the case with any club TFC is going to play in this league, but the trend is much more pronounced with KC. The Wizards have been scored on first by their opponents nine times this season. In those nine games they have lost eight of them and only been able to come back and salvage a draw once (against Chicago on May 15th). Put another way, KC has only been able to secure less than 4% of the points on offer when they fall behind so far this season.
- Kansas City did something this week that the MLS All Stars could not do, and that was beat Manchester United in a friendly. Despite being down a man, KC won the game last Sunday 2-1. Yes it was against the Man U scrubs but it was still a win that might engender some significant confidence in a club that sorely needs it.
- Abiodun Okulaja is apparently the official assigned to the match by MLS. TFC has yet to lose when he officiates. TFC drew a game in 2007 and another in 2008 that he officiated. Recently he was the official in TFC’s only road win this season, away to San Jose Earthquakes.
- Weather wise the US National Weather Service is calling tomorrow for a humid partly cloudy evening with temperatures in the high twenties with next to no chance for rain.
- In one goal games TFC has a record of three wins and two defeats. KC has a two win and four defeat record in the one goal matches they have been involved in.
So we have two teams that play narrow soccer, on a narrow pitch. We have two teams that have struggled to score goals (KC significantly more so than TFC). We have two fairly evenly matched goalkeepers. And we have a club in KC that is prone to late defensive lapses (very reminiscent of the 2009 version of Toronto FC). I know it is the easy pick to perhaps make but a 1-0 TFC win looks like a strong possibility in my eyes. If TFC scores early (Maicon Santos is my guess) then based on current form it should be a relatively easy three points for Toronto, as far as road games go. And it is “Preki Figurine” Day tomorrow in Kansas City. Preki of course was a standout striker for KC back in the day. Hopefully the TFC players, especially up top, take inspiration from his example.
Finally, I hope that Mista gets some significant minutes on the field tomorrow as I really want to see what he is able to bring to the table in a MLS context. In the limited time I have seen him play in Toronto he has shown his obvious quality. He especially looks good paired up with new striker Maicon Santos and with former teammate Julian De Guzman. Will that quality translate into the physical style of Major League Soccer remains to be seen.
I will of course be posting another video blog after the game on Sunday. And for those of you residing in Ontario have a safe and fun long holiday weekend.
Comments are always welcome and appreciated.