The year was 2009.
It was a rainy night in New Jersey.
All that was needed was a point on the last day of the season.
There was no Thierry Henry. No Bradley Wright-Phillips. No Red Bull Arena.
The faces were different then. The teams remain the same.
The only face featuring tonight that was there that fateful night is Dwayne De Rosario.
The last place Red Bulls laid a 5-0 beating on TFC that broke the already mentally fragile franchise to the point that they’ve never truly recovered. Since then the Reds have been in a steady state of decline with no real end to their playoff drought in sight.
This was the season that was supposed to change it all.
Millions upon millions were spent to bring some respect to the club that had essentially ushered in MLS 2.0. And although a win in tonight’s match will not vault TFC directly into a playoff position, It’s a familiar foe that’s standing in Toronto’s way to achieve the end goal.
The Red Bulls have managed to put themselves in the thick of the Eastern conference playoff picture, largely on the back of their all-star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips who leads MLS with 24 goals, 3 short of the league record.
TFC, having blown a perfect opportunity against a shorthanded and floundering Houston Dynamo side, have heaped all the pressure on themselves in addition to not having destiny in their own hands anymore.
Looking back on the previous match, there didn’t seem to be anything tactically wrong with TFC’s approach. They played a relatively solid match with confidence and skill. What was the most aggravating part was the complete and utter lack of finishing quality.
Jermain Defoe, showing flashes at times throughout, is clearly not himself. Missing a penalty to draw level and a golden opportunity to put the match away from close range, one might not hesitate to think that he was trolling supporters.
Tonight’s match however will be the most meaningful match TFC has played in terms of league implications in a very long time. A win takes the advantage away from the Red Bulls and pulls TFC level on points with Columbus, prior to Columbus taking on Philly. A win for the Reds sets up a showdown with Canadian rivals, Montreal Impact, who have been wallowing near the bottom of the table all season.
It is absolutely imperative for the team to understand this next statement: YOU MUST WIN THIS GAME OR ELSE YOUR SEASON IS OVER.
That’s really it. Just win.
TFC will have their Brazilian DP Gilberto in at least the 18 for tonights match after missing the Wednesday nighter against the Dynamo with a mysterious injury. New York however will be without the services of Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula…two big losses TFC can hopefully capitalize on.
This is not an impossible task. The Reds can win this, regardless of what history would dictate.
A loss, and that’s that.
What better time than now to right the wrongs of history.
(image courtesy of mlssoccer.com)