Toronto FC vs LAFC: The Battle of the Bradleys, Beita’s Revenge – Here Comes Zombie Chivas
Toronto FC vs LAFC ~ 8pm ET ~ BMO Field ~ TSN1/4
Must win. Must win. Must win. Must win. Must win. As I’ve said before, I could just type this out over and over again and it’d be a valid preview – however I’ll try to come up with a few other things to say. Today’s match has a number of underlying stories; Bradley vs Bradley, the return of Beita and the first ever match between TFC and LAFC – add to that Toronto’s almost evaporated playoff hopes and well, there’s a lot riding on this one.
Bradley vs Bradley: Possibly the most talked about story for today’s game but maybe the least important. Yes it’s a really interesting facet and a rarity in football to have this kind of meeting, and also to have a player of Bradley’s calibre and a coach of the other Bradley’s ability is exciting, but there are more important things happening.
Beita’s return: After being a mainstay on the right side of Toronto’s defense for the 2016 and 2017 seasons – an area that TFC have struggled with for much of its existence (you think the ‘He’s not a right-back’ game was something we just pulled out of thin air?) – Beita was, well cast aside seems a little harsh, but Toronto’s FO let him go after he was displeased with their salary offer for this season. And from all accounts (asking him to take a pay cut when his teammates were getting raises), he had a reason to be upset, so when Zombie Chivas came calling, he accepted. Beitashour’s had a pretty solid season – he’s scored a couple of goals and his team is in third place in the Western Conference. Now that’s not to say that LAFC are a defensive powerhouse, they’re not, but that’s not all on Beita – regardless, you can bet he’s got some extra fire going into this match. Not to mention maybe chuckling just a bit at Toronto’s defensive woes on the right this season…
LAFC’s first visit: So this is the first ever match between Toronto FC and Zombie Chivas, grrr. The new team in town has done well for itself this year, surprising much of the league (a la the AU Guys last year), with their play and success. They’ve been stockpiling midfielders as the season has worn on, giving a home to players that were out of favour with their former teams, such as Lee Nguyen, Christian Ramirez and Benny Feilhaber. Led by the very dangerous Carlos Vela (he’s fun to watch though), they score a lot of goals and they move the ball really well. Sadly (for Canadian footy fans) they’re missing the services of Mark Anthony Kaye (out with a fractured ankle), and we won’t even get to see Quillan Roberts on the bench as he’s likely out for the season with a broken leg.
TFC’s playoff hopes: They are dwindling and dwindling fast, and after Wednesday night’s loss to the Timbers the hole they need to climb out of remains the same; six points out of a playoff spot, one game in hand (does that even count?) against the Impact and a raft of games against Eastern Conference teams in their final eight matches. Fun. Greg Vanney has stated that they need to win their remaining home games in order for them to have any kind of chance to get above the red line, and he’s right. That’s five games over the next seven weeks that they MUST WIN. Add at least one road win and some luck with results in the rest of the conference and their task is approaching Herculean levels. Oh TFC, you never make it easy do you? Well, except for last year – remember last year when it was easy? Le sigh.
- Who’s healthy? Mavinga and Auro continue to be out (our poor defense); Vazquez is being managed on a game to game basis, and both Seba and Oso are carrying knocks. Did I forget anyone? Is van der Wiel still healthy? The team (except for the Canadian Men’s National Team players) have two week’s off after today’s match – hopefully that will be ample time for those carrying minor injuries to heal for the final stretch.
- Seba – Seba’s been looking more like his old self of late, and LAFC are a team that is made to score upon, this match is tailor made for him.
- Oso – Fantastic news that he’s signed back with the team long term and with a very significant raise. We’ve been talking about him since last summer and it’s been wonderful to see his game evolve and grow. But now he’ll have eyes on him waiting for him to slip up (sad but true, there are those that don’t buy the Canadian’s talents – they’re WRONG, but they exist) – expect him to put in a monster effort.
- Altidore – that hat trick in the Voyageurs Cup final was a sight to behold, but he looked a shadow (almost invisible really) of himself Wednesday night in Portland – for this team to succeed they need consistent attacking play from his over the next eight games.
- GK – who’s it going to be? Bono or Irwin? Bono’s been shaky of late and Irwin was quite solid on Wednesday (OK, that one goal is on him and Bradley but still) – will Vanney give Bono another rest and bring him back fresh against the Galaxy, or does the young keeper get the start tonight? If I were a betting woman I’d go with Bono.
- Atmosphere – the south end supporters groups stepped up last weekend and were as loud and demonstrative as ever, will that continue tonight? Here’s hoping – if only to continue to quell the carping on social media.
Don’t expect a clinic tonight, this game has goal fest written all over it. Both teams have highly skilled attacking players, and both have shaky back lines. I’m sticking with my 3-2 TFC win prediction from this week’s podcast. Also – MUST WIN!!!