Well. I guess that wasn’t totally unexpected.
After stringing together back to back wins against Chivas and Portland, the Reds headed into last Saturdays match against the seemingly invincible Galaxy in Carson, California, hoping to get something out of the match besides a lopsided beating. Unfortunately it was a beating that they got nonetheless.
TFC fell to the Galaxy 3-0; 2 goals from Robbie Keane and one from former TFC striker Alan Gordon, put TFC in a difficult position heading into the final four matches of the season.
Tonight’s match has been officially called a “must-win” by coach Vanney…but we all knew that anyways. With New York picking up a win last weekend, and Columbus remaining stagnant after falling to New England, the playoff picture is still as tight as it has ever been.
Sitting in 4th place is the Red Bulls with 44 points, followed by Columbus in 5th with 43 points. Sitting just below that thin red line, separating success from failure, is TFC in 6th place with 40 points.
A win tonight over Dominic Kinnear and his Houston Dynamo would make a world of difference in keeping Toronto’s playoff hopes alive.
On the bright side for TFC, Houston will be without the services of two of their Honduran players, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido, who are both on national team duty for upcoming friendly matches.
Losing both those players will hurt Houston, but it does not turn this match into an easy one by any stretch. Houston’s talisman Will Bruin, who leads the Dynamo in scoring with 10 goals, and midfielder Brad Davis are more than capable of picking up the slack.
The last time these two teams met was a 2-2 draw in Houston on July 17th. Historically, they have shared the points in their previous 17 matches, each team with 4 wins, 4 losses and 9 draws.
For Toronto to be successful, there are plenty of things they will need to change, but here are a few that immediately come to mind:
Firstly, the Reds will need to curb a trend that has been plaguing them for the better part of the season – giving up the first goal. With Toronto’s record of sloppy defending, this is no small task.
Next, TFC will need to maintain possession and prevent sloppy passing and giveaways. The longer you’re able to hold onto the ball as a team, the less time your opponent has to build their own attack. That’s a fairly obvious stat, but it’s something the Reds seem to struggle with.
Lastly, and most importantly, TFC players need to have confidence in themselves and in each other. Confidence is something this team has lacked for a long, long time. Regardless of how much talent this team has, they have never been able to walk around with a “swagger” and are seemingly much more comfortable in the roll of underdog. Playing as if the world is against you isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but playing with that added pressure game in and game out starts to weigh you down.
What I’m looking to see most tonight is a dominant Michael Bradley in the midfield. The Michael Bradley who wins every ball and sends crisp 30 yard passes to streaking wingers, not the Michael Bradley who capable of drifting in and out matches. Those are his specialties, and tonight is when they will be needed most.
An interesting side note: in both of their previous 2 meetings this season, Dominic Oduro has scored in added time at the end of the first half.
Jermain Defoe will likely get the call into the starting XI and will hopefully have an instant impact on the team from the first kick. Amid the uncertainty that was this season’s transfer deadline, one could only hope that Defoe will be the professional he claims to be, seeing out the season with a string of strong performances.
Tonight’s match is a must win in every sense of the phrase. A full three points is absolutely crucial and will leave everything to play for this weekend when TFC faces off against the Red Bulls in New Jersey. Back to back wins could push TFC into that coveted 5th spot they’ve been so desperate for, but a slip up tonight could end that dream. Tune in at 7:30pm Eastern to witness it as it unfolds.
(image courtesy of mlssoccer.com)