TFC 2010 | Week#4

Reds v Union

Toronto FC

The Bottom Line

The first goal tonight will be pivotal. Toronto FC will drive hard from the opening whistle in an attempt to net an early one, firmly rooting the fans behind them and setting a more desperate tone for the visitors. Scoring first, the Reds will then have to shut the Union down in the midfield and own possession. If this scenario plays out, I forecast a victory – let’s call it Toronto FC 2 – Philly Union 1.

Should the Union score first tonight, the scenario will turn ugly. The crowd will have to show its own fortitude and character to stay in the game, and the Union will likely stay compact and play for the counter-attacks to extend that lead. If the Reds give up a weak goal on another mental breakdown, it could lead to another slide into disgrace as the defense caves under the pressure of its own failures. Obviously, this is a doomsday scenario. Philly scores first tonight and we’ll be looking at a scoreline more like Union 2 – FC 0.

Philadelphia Union

The Union had the other hat trick over the weekend and earned their club’s first victory by holding off DC United’s drive to even the game. Union fans are basting in the glory of a home opening win and Sebastien Le Toux’s scoring frenzy, and most see tonight as a victory in the making. Toronto FC, in their eyes, is now fielding one of the worst defenses in the league and they are salivating at the possibility of taking a road win against the hapless Reds. They have a strong case for achieving that upset if Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno can repeat their offensive performance from the DC game.

The Union know our achilles heel; Le Toux and Moreno will be hammering at the centre of our back line all night. We’re going to need a strength, confidence and competence back there that has been lacking to date. With Arrieta and Torres running on the Union’s right side, Raivis Hscanovics is going to be tested again on the left side of our defense. He performed well Saturday in the first half against New England, but definitely had lapses that opened up the game for the Revolution’s offense in the second. Count on the Union’s game plan to test his consistency tonight as well.

Only comparing Philly’s offense to our defense, the visitors definitely have an edge with their confidence surging and our defenders intensely aware of their weaknesses. Fortunately, Philly have their own issues as well. The Brazilian, Fred, formerly of DC United, is the veteran of the midfield and his strong showing against DC last week was also part of the successful formula in their victory. The remainder are promising players, and bring youthful energy and physicality. Union bloggers are calling it an even match up in the midfield, but I think this underestimates the potential of Toronto FC’s deepest resources. The Reds’ key to surviving tonight will be tying up the Union in the middle of the park and using their own physicality and passing finesse to control play.

On the back line, Philly looks reasonably good. Their centre backs are tough and will be making life rough for White and/or Barrett. We may not see many scoring chances in front of goal, so we’ll desperately need our finishing to be on the mark. Arrieta is strong defender, who also offers good attacking form, and we should expect him to be tough presence on the Union’s right flank. The greatest weakness in the Union’s defense may be their goalkeeper, who has had some shaky moments in their first two outings and has let in 4 goals in those two games.

Toronto FC

Toronto FC acquired two new defenders this week, in Adrian Cann and Maksim Usanov, and it’s possible we may finally see some new blood in the central defense. Don’t count on Preki sitting Nick Garcia now, but we’ll probably see at least one of these newcomers take the field today as a substitute. It’s simple. The buck stops here, and the team must come together tonight and find that backbone and consistency that will allow us to win some games. Hopefully, the crowd will provide that 12th man advantage, something that unnerved the Union when they played in Seattle in week #1, but this is a seminal moment for our season and we have to hope the squad shows up ready to give it everything they’ve got.

Our midfield performed fairly well in both directions during the first half of the Revolution game on Saturday. We will win this match if we can find that form again and keep it up for 90+ minutes. I’m guessing we’ll see a 4-4-2 line up to tonight, though its possible Preki will put some faith into the 4-3-3 to open up the scoring early in the game. DeRosario and de Guzman need to step it up tonight, for sure, but Saric and LaBrocca will be doing a lot of work in support and strong outings from these two could be a deciding factor in the game as well. The team as a whole will have to perform better against set pieces, and the Union bring some height and ability into this realm of the game.

Our front line has not been very lively yet. White and Barrett can muster the work ethic to justify a place on the roster, but they both need to show some extra desire and touch when it comes playmaking and finishing. DeRo may start again as a forward, which hasn’t been working that well in my opinion. He did get the goal over the weekend, but it could easily have been him making the same play from his attacking midfielder position. Fans aren’t convinced at all about Toronto FC’s strikers and a strong showing tonight might make some of us reconsider that position. A goal tonight from either White or Barrett could prove to be a big boost for these guys going forward.

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