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TFC 2010 | Week#18

Days of Reckoning

Barrett celebrates goal against Motagua

Barrett celebrates goal against Motagua

Kansas City Wizards

This weekend’s game on the road in KC is a significant test for the Toronto FC. Two weeks ago, a mediocre game in Philadelphia that looked sure to be a draw was squandered as a loss in extra time. Last week, Toronto FC scored against a well-organized Dallas team and then coughed up a late goal to the visitors and almost one or two more. Both results squandered points the Reds had in hand, and put the team on a narrowing and ever-steeper path for playoff qualification.

A road win in KC would be a big accomplishment. They stole a tie from us in their visit to BMO Field, after Nick Garcia was ejected (a lame call) early in the game. It would be nice to see us return the favour with a bit compounding goal interest. That said, TFC’s road performances tend toward the defensive, so any points added from this contest will be a relief.

If there’s a time to pick up the pace, it’s now. Some hunger for that playoff run needs to show up on the pitch.

Playoff Hunt Begins

The Wizards just beat Manchester United in a friendly and have been surging lately in pursuit of Chicago’s fourth place spot in the East. Toronto FC have looked surprisingly good through May, June and early July. An eight game unbeaten streak had people believing in the magic of BMO again. Then the past few weeks have shown the Reds to be vulnerable. Late goals have been conceded. Mistakes and breakdowns have caught them short.

Stefan Frei can only do so much in keeping the Reds competitive. Those looking for strategic angles will take some comfort in that Toronto has a relatively easy schedule through the final half of the season. Easier than what the Red Bulls face, so the prospect of passing NY for second place is still a possibility. Columbus, however, also have a softer schedule through the final half and they will be harder to catch or pass.

The games now, home and away, against teams sitting lower in the table are the litmus tests for this year’s team. To advance into the playoffs they need to get wins, especially on the road. The next few weeks will be a good trial by fire for the Reds two new attackers. Mista and Santos have both made an impact in their limited playing time so far, and the extra depth in striking options will surely help Preki’s roster rotations. The big question remains: “who can/will score the goals?”

CONCACAF Champion’s League

With the playoff race overlapping with the Champion’s League competition, the Reds now also have to pace their League play with these extra matches. This week’s win against Motagua at home was a positive step towards qualifying for the Group stage. Next week’s match in Tegucigalpa, however, will be a tougher contest for the Reds. They will have to score at least one to put the Hondurans against the ropes, because their 1-0 victory isn’t much of a cushion in a home and home series.

The Reds looked like the better team this week. They will have to come out strongly and play with discipline on Tuesday. The added stress/exhaustion of traveling to Honduras for an extra midweek contest will be a factor, especially with their opponents currently idling in pre-season. Dwayne De Rosario’s goal-scoring performance in Wednesday’s All-Star game has some fearing fatigue issues for him this week, but Tuesday’s game against Motagua was his best for some time.

Designated Players

Both the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls are on track to filling out their quotas of three designated players this season. There’s reason to be happy with the quality of talent and high profile of these new additions to the MLS. It seems like this may bring other high profile players to the MLS, and that’s great. Across the League, the pressure is mounting to make these kinds of signings. It’s an arms race, after all, and the stakes are getting higher.

Of course, as the playoff race heats up, with the usual tilt favoring the Western Conference in wildcard spots, some people are still expecting Toronto FC to make some moves in this direction too. As one of the more financially successful franchises in the League, it is a plausible fantasy. Mista’s signing for just one season, and not as a designated player, leaves the door wide open. Mo Johnston has mentioned he’s interested in a winger to play along with Mista, and some names are floating around, but no real news has come of it. The coming weeks will tell.

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