TFC 2011 | Week#29

New York State of Mind

For the first three months of the season, the New York Red Bulls were looking like they were going to be the team to beat in the MLS. Now, not so much.

The budget busting three Designated Players they acquired have fizzled. The decision to trade league-leading goal scorer, Dwayne De Rosario, seems misguided. And, worse, the glory and might the Red Bulls put on the pitch each week have evaporated. They’ve won two of their past three to hold onto the final MLS playoff spot, but New York’s season since June might best be called a ‘free-fall’.

I’m not a huge fan of schadenfreude. But I’m not above taking some now and again. Watching the Red Bulls come undone has to be counted that way. The grudge started when the basement dwelling New York annihilated TFC from the playoffs in 2009 with a humiliating 5-0 destruction in the final match of the season.

Tonight, Toronto FC have a chance to avenge. NY won’t be a push-over, but the Reds could repay the past favour with a solid performance at BMO.

Stefan Frei is the only one left on the roster who was in New York for that shameful night. So, it’s not likely the team today will be feeling acutely vengeful toward the Red Bulls. The 5 – 0 defeat they suffered at Red Bull Arena earlier this season could raise the stakes. But that also was with a TFC roster before it included Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans.

I guess Toronto FC supporters are the only real storehouse for all that malice and bad blood. The real question tonight is whether the fans at BMO care enough to rev up the home side.

It was a small crowd on Tuesday for the Pumas contest. Yet, it might have been the most energetic night for the south end supporters in many moons. Will the stands be filled with so much energy tonight?

For many fans now, everything is hanging on a Champion’s League victory in Dallas October 18th. For them, the MLS is a write-off. And in their minds, the only right thing to do is rest and rebuild for that night. Tonight, these armchair managers will be questioning Aron Winter’s roster, substitutions and tactics from that perspective.

To do so ignores what Aron Winter has shown us to date. His view is the long one. His interest currently has been in getting his first team playing well together. Getting to know one another, improving their game and winning some matches are important – whatever the competition. Winter is seeking to raise his team’s confidence.

While Champion’s League would extend the 2011 campaign, the main goal seems to be team building and not pursuing the hardware. Sorry armchair managers. Sorry bling hounds.

Nevertheless, it could still work out. Winter’s goals and supporters’ desire for success may come together.

Winter’s strategy bodes well for tonight. It will take a strong first unit to beat NY. Thierry Henry will make his first appearance in Toronto (unless he invokes the ‘Beckham Clause’ and refuses to play here). Putting the past two games’ disappointments behind them will be a must.

It has been quite hard to predict which Toronto FC will show up match to match. Will it be the side that choked down a 3-0 defeat last week to Chivas? Or will it be the team that beat Salt Lake, Colorado and Columbus?

I’m betting on the latter.


Toronto FC  3  –  1  New York Red Bulls

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