Everyone knew heading into 2015 that the 8 game extended road trip was going to be tough. Seven league games and a Canadian Championship match shoved into 10 weeks on the road.
It had the ability to be a defining stretch for TFC, a real make or break.
Although things started off magically, they soon took a turn for the worst, dropping 4 in a row in spectacular fashion.
Wins in Orlando and Philly have given new hope that this team has a real chance at getting the giant playoff monkey off their back once and for all. With one final pit stop in Montreal for leg 1 of the Voyageurs Cup (the traditional name of the tournament) Semi-Final to hopefully lay a beat down on the CCL overachieving Impact, TFC is just down the street from what will most definitely be a ruckus home opener in a newly renovated stadium, in front of 30,000 Torontonians dressed in red (and I’m not talking about the seats). In the words of Toronto’s favourite rapper, “just hold on we’re going home.”
TFC fans have been salivating at the opportunity to watch their boys knock the Impact down a few pegs after their fairy tale run to the CONCACAF Champions League final, and tonight they get their chance. The first leg of the Voyageurs Cup kicks off at Stade Saputo as the Canadian arch rivals square off.
The Reds are coming off back to back wins and clean sheets, which is a rarity in itself, while the Impact have not played since being dismantled by a much stronger and overall superior Club America side. Credit where it’s due, it was an impressive run, but for a team that is still winless in their current MLS campaign with several games to make up, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Montreal.
Although it was to be expected, both sides will probably be fielding a substitute and reserve heavy starting XI after news that Altidore, Giovinco, Findley, Caldwell and Bloom did not make the trip to Montreal. Caldwell and Bloom are still injured while the rest are just being rested.
Whenever the Reds face off against Les Bleus, it’s always sure to be a heated match-up. With a spot in the final and Canadian glory on the line, tonight will be no different. It’s just a shame that the management of both sides don’t take the Canadian Championship as seriously as a fair number of avid supporters do.
After tonight’s match, TFC heads home to prepare for their much anticipated homecoming on Sunday afternoon against Houston. With BMO Field (phase 1) renovations winding down, final preparations are in order for what is sure to be a spectacle.
TFC has been on the up and up ever since dropping 4 games straight after shocking the Vancouver Whitecaps on opening weekend. If anyone had offered TFC 9 points from their first 7 league games on the road, I’m pretty sure they would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Winning at home is not what defines a playoff team, it’s a team’s ability to win on the road that separates them from the pack. Nine points from 7 games is pretty impressive, and is a welcome change compared to past stretches.
The most noticeable change has clearly been in defence, with the Reds managing back to back clean sheets. What it boils down to is the re-entry of Damien Perquis into the line-up after being kept out with a nagging injury. His leadership and calm under pressure has been the difference. An honourable mention should also go out to Canadian international and TFC homegrown defender Ashtone Morgan, who has not only shown just how valuable he can be on the left side, but has also become the first player in Toronto FC history to reach the 100 game plateau. Impressive stuff from a player who many thought his career was on the brink of failure.
What has also been incredibly encouraging is the chemistry between Altidore and Giovinco with the added calming influence of captain Bradley. After having witnessed just how poorly Gilberto and Defoe linked up last season, this season crop of DPs is a real breath of fresh air, and based on production, it has been money well spent.
On the other hand, the Houston Dynamo have been atrocious in their last 3 games. After allowing SKC to put up a 4-spot on them and steal a point in the dying moments, they went on to lose 4-1 against rival FC Dallas, then 1-0 against San Jose, a team coached by former bench boss Dominic Kinnear. Luck certainly hasn’t been on Houston’s side, winning just 2 of their opening 10 matches, however I’m sure it is their intention to spoil the party in Toronto.
Tonight and Sunday have the opportunity to be defining moments for Toronto. A win away at Montreal will set up a return leg at BMO Field quite nicely, while a win on Sunday will put TFC at .500 and vault them over Columbus into 4th spot in the East with games in hand. Things have been nicely set up, it’s now Toronto’s time to deliver.
(image courtesy of ESPN/Getty Images)