The Goodwill Of Others – TFC v RSL Pre Game
It is hard enough when you have only yourself to count on when you have a hard task to fulfill. Having to rely upon many others to help you is often that much more difficult. And in MLS right now TFC is facing the reality that they now must rely upon others to get into the playoffs. There are some clubs, like LA, Columbus, RSL, Dallas and New York that TFC simply will not be able to overtake and worrying about them (other then of course when TFC plays them) is a waste of breath.
However Seattle, New England, Kansas City, San Jose, Colorado, Chicago and Houston are all fighting with Toronto for the remaining four playoff spots. It is these guys that have to start losing for the picture to start looking better for TFC. This weekend for example there are four games that TFC needs to keep an eye on. A TFC victory tomorrow along with a New England loss, a Wizards loss, a San Jose loss and draws for Colorado v Houston and Seattle v Chicago gives the Reds a chance to gain ground on just about everybody they need to catch to get into the playoffs.
The game tomorrow evening will of course be a huge challenge for Toronto. And dropped points makes the playoff hunt that much more difficult. And not dropping points tomorrow will be tough task. As I regularly do each Friday here are some facts I feel may influence the outcome tomorrow.
* Baldomero Toledo, while better than the CONCACAF official TFC were stuck with in Panama on Tuesday, always seems to find a way to work himself into the narrative of games he officiates. I would not be surprised if that is the case once again tomorrow. For his sake I hope he does not do anything too egregious considering how surly the TFC faithful will certainly be with officiating in general after Tuesday. TFC fans may be surprised to learn that overall the Reds have not lost a match Toledo has officiated since back in 2008. Three wins and two draws in games he has officiated since then is not too shabby a record all things considered.
* RSL are a respectable 3-4-3 on the road this season and have scored ten times, conceding the same amount of goals. Last week aside, TFC has been a good home side only losing once. Toronto has never lost to RSL at home in three previous meetings.
* Salt Lake have also just come off a Central American adventure of their own losing 5-4 to Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday evening in Mexico City. It was raining so hard on Wednesday that deep puddles formed on the pitch in the torrential downpour and animals outside the stadium could be found marching two by two in the parking lot. RSL will of course be less rested then TFC is considering TFC played Tuesday evening and subsequently has an additional day of rest.
* Recent RSL addition Álvaro Saborío out of Costa Rica has been a wonderful addition to the club, scoring eight times and adding four assists in sixteen games with Salt Lake City. He definitely is a player to look out for tomorrow. How the centre back combination of Adrian Cann and the replacement for suspended Nana Attakora handle him will of course be critical.
* Speaking of the Cann/Attakora partnership, TFC has only won once this season when Cann and Attakora have not been partnered in central defence. Dan Gargan, Nick Garcia or either of the Latvian or the Mad Russian will be pressed into this role tomorrow. Far and away how this works for TFC will determine how the game goes. And Preki should be looking to develop something of a “semi” permanent solution for centre back as Attakora will not be available for the two road games after tomorrow due to call up to the Canadian national team. I personally would consider Dan Gargan the best of a number of less than ideal options to partner with Cann. Garcia is accident prone and slow, Usanov is better at fullback and Hscanovics (due respect to him) I think out of his depth. Ty Harden played in Panama with Attakora for the full 90 and he may be a surprise starter according to Preki. I have not seen enough of him frankly to pass any realistic judgement on if he is an answer.
* Barrett, Maicon Santos and Amadou Sanyang are still in sick bay. Barrett told assembled media at practice today that he thinks he is still a few games away. Preki reported that there is no change in the status of Maicon or Sanyang.
So a huge game awaits. No matter what happens tomorrow, either at BMO Field or elsewhere in Major League Soccer, the playoffs are not out of Toronto’s grasp as of yet. However anything less than a win makes the probabilities look less and less likely. But as I have stated all week in this space the post season (or for that matter the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League) is not out of the realm of possibility. And a win tomorrow also throws down the gauntlet in the Champions league as well. TFC of course has to play RSL two more times in the coming weeks in the CCL and some sharp tackling, some incisive play and most importantly a win definitely sends a message of what is possible.
I got it so very wrong last week but yet again I am fearlessly calling for a 2-1 TFC win on a late goal from Mista. See you all in the south stands tomorrow and on my post game video blog on Sunday. Cheers.