Toronto FC v RSL: Undermanned In Utah – This Isn’t Going To End Well Is It?
Bye Bye Bye Week! Thank goodness that’s over (for the next two weeks). Because the first two weeks of the MLS season are so tiring and there’s no need for bye weeks during international breaks or anything – really MLS, must you MLS so hard? However, grumbling aside,there is still a game to be played so lets turn our attention to that…
Toronto FC head into sexy Sandy Utah (stupid sexy Sandy Utah) this weekend and play the last match of the week on Sunday evening (7pm for those of you that haven’t memorised the schedule as of yet) – oh good, a depleted TFC is the last impression for this weekend in soccer. Joyous. If you’re not even a little bit concerned about this match then you have far more optimism than I. This game is definitely one that should concern TFC fans – not just because of the slew of absences on the squad, but because of how ordinary that squad looks once a few players are missing. Our preferred starting XI is a playoff team; the likely starting XI for this weekend? Not so much. Let’s look at the lows shall we?
TFC have only won once at Rio Tinto; way back in 2007 – ah the halcyon days! Since then it’s been nothing but frustration and a lot of losing for our Reds out in Brigham Young land, having only ever recorded those three points from oh so long ago. That’s correct, not a single draw to be had, and last year? Well last year they suffered a defeat that can only be described as crashing back down to earth after the first two games of last season – remember that? When we were all excited and on top of the world and then TFC ran into Luis Gil and Alvaro Saborio and Co.? A reality check in the form of a 3-0 loss. Good times.
OK it’s true that this time around RSL are missing both Gil and Saborio, along with goal keeping stalwart Nick Rimando, all away on international duty. Missing those three very key players will certainly hamper Real Salt Lake’s attack and defence; but before you start to get too excited about running riot at inexperienced keeper Jeff Attinella or having no attacking threats to worry about, you’ve got to remember that RSL still have Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler at the back, not to mention the dreaded wonder Kyle Beckerman in midfield along with Javier Morales – hence my lack of confidence that TFC can just stroll in and take points away from this team. It’s true that they’ve changed their style of play this season abandoning their diamond midfield for a 4-3-3 that is still a work in progress, but they look far more comfortable with their new system than TFC do so far.
Really the scary part (other than TFC on the road and so forth) is how the many absences on Toronto’s squad will affect their play. The most glaring of course is the paper thin defence as Toronto are missing Steven Caldwell, Mark Bloom (injured since preseason?)Justin Morrow and Eriq Zavaleta; Three of what were the presumptive starting back four for this season as well as one of the backups. Instead we’ll likely have Ashtone Morgan, Damien Perquis (and they left it late before he was declared fit), Nick Hagglund and Warren Creavalle. Excited? Yeah, me neither.
Although there is a small chance that the latest member of TFC Clement Simonin may get the call, he’s more likely to be the bench’s only natural defender. However it is interesting that he’s been signed – is Caldwell more injured than they’re letting on? He’s been highly spoken of since the draft (where nobody knew his name) and I’m not surprised to see him get the call up, just at the timing. Regardless, Toronto have a very exploitable backline based on their play so far this season – they’re clearly still learning the style that Greg Vanney wants them to play and now there are new players being asked to do what older and more experienced players have yet to do effectively. Fun!
Toronto are also missing Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Marky Delgado to international duty. Chris Manella and Quillan Roberts are also away with the Canadian team but that affects TFC II more than the first team. Still, that’s nine players all together off the roster for this weekend; leaving barely enough to fill the subs bench. Of course this is a perfect storm of circumstance some of which lay at MLS’ doorstep for poor scheduling, but still to have that great a drop off in talent and experience is a bit frightening. Expect to see Collen Warner (or perhaps Jay Chapman if Vanney feels adventurous) out with Benoit Cheyrou and I’m guessing Luke Moore as opposed to Bright Dike to compliment Sebastian Giovinco.
This game does present an opportunity for Seba to be more aggressive, to take a bit more of the goal scoring responsibility on his shoulders with Altidore away, and possibly take advantage of a keeper that will have a fair amount of rust. He’s been more resilient in challenges than I expected so he may do better against Olave and Schuler in getting in close. I’m more concerned about TFC defending against RSL’s attack as the dropping of the diamond means they come down the flanks far more and that has been an easy area to break Toronto down so far this season. Given a somewhat cobbled together line-up and the potential for miscommunication at the back I fear we’ll see a lot of Creavalle and Morgan being outmatched and Moore and Seba getting frustrated by Beckerman before they even get to Olave or Attinella.
Of course anything is possible and this XI may rise up to be more than the sum of their parts and get some kind of positive result. However it is highly unlikely – I am not being doom and gloom, just recognizing that this is not the away fixture in which we should look for a lot of hope. Instead, all I want is for them to come away with no more injured players and to not get completely dominated; anything else I’ll consider extra. But still – Come On You Reds!! (I’m not completely without hope!)