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CCL 2011 | TFC 2011

Ready to Rise?

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, Toronto FC was soaring on a six game undefeated streak and what seemed like a strong updraft of confidence.

That flight was was grounded by a 2 – 0 defeat in Chicago last weekend. Luck did not seem to be with the Reds in Toyota Park. And with that loss, to one of the worst sides in the MLS, TFC’s playoffs hopes are all but extinguished for the season.

Tonight’s Champion’s League match is the last realm the Reds can create meaningful competitive success in 2011. While the Mexican side Pumas is generally regarded as the top seed in the group, FC Dallas will be no pushover for the Reds. Disciplined and talented, the Texans are a much better side than the Panamanians Toronto FC defeated last week on the road.

Home advantage may count for something tonight. However, Toronto FC’s improved form and growing self-assurance are probably the bigger variables.

The team’s inability to finish in Chicago over the weekend is a concern. FC Dallas’ defense surely won’t yield many scoring chances.

More troubling still, the Reds second half performance in Panama was very uninspiring. You can footnote that match with as many excuses as you wish – bad officiating, travel logistics, Frings’ suspension etc. The bottom line remains that TFC were fortunate to hold on for victory after playing such a crappy second half.

In the grand scheme of Winter’s reconstruction, the current state of affairs is close to what I expected. TFC were never likely to be contenders for glory this season. There has been so much turnover on the roster that it would be foolish to expect peak performance.

Even so, promising output from the Reds has begun to bring believers back into the tent. With the team’s current form finally finding a positive groove, supporters can be forgiven for ratcheting up the pressure around the Champion’s League. Everyone wants to see their team win something, sometime.

Winter wisely takes a cool and detached view of 2011’s results. He won’t say CCL is more important than the league matches that remain. He understands that finding a winning form and developing a winning attitude are often betrayed by setting unreasonable goals too early on.

Watching Toronto FC find some composure and consistency over the past month has been encouraging. They’re still not playing well enough to inspire dreams of trophies and prestige. But, there’s enough improvement to draw out our fragile hope again. Though the mechanics of Total Football are integral to the Reds rebirth, it will be matters of the heart and head we should watch for tonight.

Toronto FC must continue to play with assertiveness and desire. As a team, these features were in decline through most of the first half of 2011. They have only recently begun to grow again.

A positive performance tonight against FC Dallas would be a real bonus. The visitors have twice defeated TFC by 1-0 scores this season. A victory at home would further buoy the Reds spirit and poise. More valuable than any improbable hardware, that vital emotional boost is what’s genuinely at stake.

 

Prediction:

TFC  1  – FCD 1

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