The Biggest TFC Game Ever
With one day left before what is being billed as the biggest game in front of the biggest crowd in Toronto FC club history I surprisingly find myself all over the place trying to come up with some coherent thoughts or insights that I could stitch together into some sort of blogger-narrative. A sweeping opus is beyond me today as I find my thoughts scattered… Frankly it feels like Christmas Eve, the anticipation is absolutely killing me.
So I am not going to try.
Here instead are some “stream of consciousness” thoughts about the match that I thought worthy of sharing.
- Look for the Reds to play a hybrid of the 4-3-3 style you might be used to seeing tomorrow night. The Galaxy play a fairly conventional 4-4-2 style of play for the most part and in Orlando when anything close to the first team was on the field the TFC formation went from the standard 4-3-3 to a 3-5-3 approach depending on exactly where team Captain Torsten Frings felt he needed to play. Frings would often fall back into “sweeper” mode and speedy fullbacks Eckersley and Morgan at the same instant would try and give the Reds a numerical advantage and width in the midfield. Look for Frings to swing back to add some numbers to the back line when Ecks and Morgan bound forward. But don’t think for a second that he won’t be getting into the forward play either when the opportunity presents itself.
- Ty Harden is nowhere near as poor a defender as he was made out to be by many TFC fans last season. No he is not the new Maldini or anything close but he is a serviceable defender who is not playing across from a pylon anymore. Aron Winter likes him and I think he looked pretty good at times in the limited minutes we saw from him in Orlando. Frankly I would say that (with due respect to a TFC Year one player) I would take him over Andy Boyens who will be filling in the same spot on the roster for the Galaxy. Hopefully Koevermans can muscle him off the ball and get some space to work.
- BMO Field at times has been an intimidating place for opponents to come to over the seasons past (notwithstanding our far from perfect record at home). I remember the Troll named Blanco getting covered in streamers. I remember the Claudio Reyna “Has Been” Poster. I remember Landon Donovan getting the gears on just about every occasion he has come to Toronto. But I don’t think that it’s going to be the same type of support tomorrow. It’s going to be wonderfulyl strong but just different than what many might be used to. First off the supporters section is well away from the field. And a lot of the fans that are coming tomorrow might never have been to a TFC game before and might not be aware of a lot of the chants and songs we as supporters know like the backs of our hands. Some supporters have taken it upon themselves to come up with a cheat sheet of sorts that have details on a lot of the songs and chants we regularly sing. Feel free to share the link: http://bit.ly/TFCDome . I for one am looking forward to hearing how much noise we can make under a roof, and I also hear that there are just about no red or white streamers to be found in any Toronto Dollar Store.
- Jamaican Referee Courtney Campbell is in charge of the game tomorrow. He is a FIFA certified referee who the Reds last saw in 2010 in what could be argued was one of the biggest wins in club history when the Reds defeated Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul 2-1 at BMO Field. He did an excellent job that night in what if you recall was a pretty chippy affair, particularly near the end when Cruz Azul was pushing late for an equalizer. With officials I guess it is always a bit of a roll of the dice what you end up getting, but by CONCACAF standards (such as they are) this is a good official to have in charge of a big game.
- The club is to be commended on getting the stadium sold out. To their credit they listened to the fans and they priced the game right and even with 13 degree weather forecasted for tomorrow they got the venue right. BMO Field would have been too much of a gamble and having 45,000 fans at the game is certain to create much more of a party atmosphere than 22,000 fans would have done at BMO Field. My only concerns are Rogers Centre Security not being on the same page with the supporters the way they are for the most part at BMO Field. And that the way that tickets were sold originally led to a lot of the more choice seats being snapped up by scalpers. Unless they seriously lower prices from what I saw doing some online research today this vaunted sellout might look a little less than full on TV if they are not able to unload many of the more expensive seats scalpers scooped up by the hundreds early on by scalpers. Hope if we get here in the future that the club looks at changing the ticketing process to prevent this kind of thing happening again.
- Ryan Johnson and Joao Plata have been excellent performers in the Champions League so far and I think that will continue tomorrow. I look for any offensive threats for the Reds coming from their collective wide play that will see them throw as much as they can into the box for the poacher that is Danny Koevermans to try and put away.
- TFC will miss Julian de Guzman tomorrow a great deal. Matt Stinson or Luis Silva, who very well could end up deputizing for him tomorrow due to his yellow card suspension, might end up doing a great job but I think that without a doubt his absence will be definitely felt. He has played in big games in big stadiums before and has shown in pre season that he is healthy and strong. At least we will have him back ready to go for the return leg next week in Los Angeles.
- Take it for what it is, a statistic, but the Reds scored sixteen times and conceded only eight goals in pre season play. Their only loss was when the Academy side lost in the finals of the Disney Classic to Vancouver when the first team were already back in Toronto preparing for tomorrow.
- Speaking of stats the overall record head to head in MLS play is two wins for Toronto, three for Los Angeles and five draws. In Toronto the record is deadlocked at one win, one loss and three draws. The last four meetings between these clubs ended in draws, three of them scoreless ones. TFC has only scored three times at home to Los Angeles historically but has scored six times at the Home Depot Centre.
Without a doubt Toronto is the underdog considering that they are playing the MLS Cup Champions that bar the loss of Omar Gonzales to injury are arguably a better squad than the one that lifted the MLS Cup a few months ago. But that does not guarantee success. The better club does not always win and I think that it is truly incumbent on our part as fans (assuming you are going to the game) to make as much of a racket and make the Galaxy as uncomfortable as we can tomorrow.
With only limited pre season play (relative to previous pre-seasons for TFC) it is really hard to get a good grasp on how the team will perform in this game. I think it is up to us as supporters to make the Toronto players to a man realize the scope and importance of this game. We have a decent record historically against the Galaxy and its up to the 40,000+ in attendance tomorrow to remind them of that fact.
On a personal note for a second I want to take a moment and thank all of you who voted for me in the TFC Dream Job contest. Alas they decided to go in another direction and I was not chosen to submit a video for the next round. Garnering over 1,100 votes in the contest was a very humbling experience and I greatly appreciate all of you for showing me your support. Now that they have selected fifteen finalists I hope that whoever is chosen is selected for more than just style, or their looks, but is chosen because they have intelligence, charm, grace and most importantly substance. TFC supporters deserve nothing less from someone who is going to be a face of their club. I for one hope you all support my friend Bobby Brizzo who I think is far and away the most deserving candidate remaining in contention. Look out for his video next week.