For the casual sports fan in Toronto I guess the story tonight at BMO Field is going to be the appearance of David Beckham in a competitive match in Toronto for what I guess might likely be the first and only time (his MLS All Star Game appearance excluded). That is what you would believe if you picked up the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Globe & Mail or even the Toronto Sun today. In the press availability for Beckham yesterday ahead of tonight’s match there were as many “journalists” present from outlets like Entertainment Tonight Canada and E-Talk as there were from legitimate sports outlets like The Score or TSN for example. I have been to a lot of TFC games and a few press conferences there and I can tell you that I have never seen Ben Mulroney anywhere near BMO Field before. But I digress.

TFC v LA 2010To me this Beckham circus is just noise that might end up being a good thing  for TFC as they prepare for what will likely be a tough match. Now don’t get me wrong I am personally a little excited to see him play again in person. I remember the 2008 All Star Game at BMO Field where from a vantage point high up in 114 I spent a lot of time trying to focus on what Becks was doing on the pitch, particularly off the ball, which you often do not see much of when watching players with his pedigree when they play on television. I recollect how he looked like he never ran very hard but yet he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to either collect a pass from a team mate or to make excellent use of his crossing/passing skills to get the ball into a scoring position. It’ll be great to see that kind of skill again tonight in person… but enough about him…

TFC is undefeated in three matches in case you have forgotten, and the club is coming off a solid away performance against a good side from San Jose. This is also the start of a tight three game home stand that see the Reds not only play the Galaxy but also play a resurgent DC United and the side we love to hate from Columbus before heading off to Edmonton to start the defense of the Voyageurs Cup.

Our companion site over at have once again posted a comprehensive pre-game analysis that goes into a lot of the stats, X’s and O’s and what the deal is with the assigned MLS Official Terry Vaughn and what kind of refereeing performance from him we might expect this evening.

The pre game link is here:

For me I am going to be looking at three specific things this evening.

Squad Rotation

The last two matches in particular have seen TFC start the same starting XI for both games. Nana Attakora, who struggled mightily in both matches was subbed off at the half in both cases for Julian de Guzman. It will be interesting to see if Nana holds onto his starting spot tonight especially considering how poor he was in both these matches. For his part de Guzman does not expect to be fully match fit until the end of the month. Me thinks he won’t be starting until the Columbus or Edmonton games at the earliest.

I mentioned earlier that this game is the second of six matches TFC plays over a 22 day period. Without a doubt there will be some significant squad rotation taking place over this time as Coach Winter tries to be both competitive in MLS and of course tries to make sure that he gets TFC to the Voyageurs Cup Final. With this in mind I think it is quite possible that we might see the likes of Youraswowsky, Zavarise or even Plata, who have either recently started or were in game substitutes in recent matches. I feel that Dicoy Williams might get another long look soon as well over this homestand. Whether Winter starts this rotation tonight or not we will have to wait and see.

Stefanovic – The Key?

In the last couple of games in particular newcomer Alen Stevanovic has to me looked a cut above just about everyone else on the pitch for Toronto FC. He is fast, has a soccer brain on his young shoulders and he has been the catalyst for most of the offensive chances TFC has earned over the past few games. Tonight he will be facing off against arguably one of the top clubs in MLS and I will be looking closely at Alen to see if his play rises to the higher level of competition he will see against the Galaxy. As this season goes on I think that if this kid is as good as he has appeared to be in the limited minutes we have had to observe him so far he will be perhaps the key offensive player for this club all season long. Tonight against a very good team we will start seeing if this promise we have seen in him so far can translate into results against a good side.

“The System” versus “Pragmatism”

Whether you like to call it 4-3-3, “Total-Football” “Cruyff-Ball” or even “The Barcelona Way” there has been of course a lot of talk so far this season about the new way of business TFC is following on the field with their new formation and tactical approach. One of the things I noticed last weekend in San Jose was that under some unique circumstances (a small narrow pitch at Buck Shaw Stadium with little room down the flanks to maneuver) that there was somewhat of a more pragmatically direct approach that TFC took against the Earthquakes, particularly in the second half.

Personally one of my worries about this new approach that Coach Winter has been brought in to establish and implement here was if the club would be “ideological” or rigid with its implementation on the field.Without a doubt there will be times when wedding oneself to a specific tactic will not be the correct answer to the specific problem one is facing. Last weekend in San Jose I saw the Reds play a slightly more direct approach than one might expect and they earned a precious away point. Tonight might very well be one of those matches as well. Los Angeles will be playing without Landon Donovan this evening as he is at home injured. With him out of the mix Beckham moves into the centre from the flank and this could possible create some opportunities for speedier TFC midfielders to attack LA up the middle in a more direct style rather than TFC relying upon their fullbacks to push up the pitch and get involved in the offense. TFC killer Juan Pablo Angel is likely to play and a motivated Chad Barrett might feature as well so perhaps it might be wiser to keep the fullbacks nearer to home tonight then the 4-3-3 approach usually calls for.


What do you think? Your comments are always welcome and of course always appreciated.


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