Over the last month and a bit, TFC fans have been treated to some of the best soccer we’ve ever seen. Since beating Orlando way back on April 26th, the team has caught fire and Reds have gone an unprecedented 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, finding themselves sitting just one point back of New England for 2nd in the East with 4 games in hand. You’ll have to excuse me, as someone who’s followed the team for years, I’m not used to this.
Largely on the back of Sebastian Giovinco, TFC enters the month of July in an excellent position to make a run at the playoffs. But it just so happens that this summer, the US and Canada will be hosting the CONCACAF Gold Cup and it truly couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Besides the fact that the Reds will only host 1 game at BMO over the span of a month, losing 4 regulars, 2 of which are not only 2 of the most expensive DP’s in the league they’re also 2 of our best players, and that’s the dagger. One can even make the argument that recently, all 4 regulars that will be on international duty have been 4 of our 5 best players.
Of course the 4 I’m referring to are American’s Jozy Altidore and Captain Michael Bradley, and Canadian’s Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan.
Thing’s don’t get any easier when you take a look at exactly who TFC will have to face off against.
Getting things started will be a Saturday night affair against the star studded LA Galaxy, flush with talent and depth, not to mention a certain Liverpool legend by the name of Steven Gerrard. After a transcontinental flight, the Reds will have to take on David Villa and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard at Yankee Stadium for a rematch with NYCFC. After a quick stop over at home to take on the Union, a ridiculous friendly against Sunderland, and some time to do some laundry, the Reds will then travel to Columbus for a derby against the Crew.
With the Gold Cup final set to take place on July 26th, barring any and all injuries, TFC should have a full squad ready to take on New England at Gillette Stadium on August 1st.
I use the Gold Cup final date as a marker because I think it’s safe to pencil the US into it. Using that as a basis, Jozy and Michael will be stuck with the US national team to the bitter end. Canada, on the other hand, who I am predicting will not make it out of their group, will be done by July 16th, hopefully allowing Oso and Morgan to rejoin TFC in time for the home match against Philly.
As upsetting as the Gold Cup is to the momentum and form the Reds have had recently, there’s still a reasonable chance TFC stays in the playoff picture come August 1st. It will be difficult, but it’s certainly possible. If the squad is able to put together anywhere from 4-6 points over this stretch, it should be viewed as a massive success. I don’t think wins against Philly and NYCFC are completely outside the realm of possibility.
This stretch is a huge opportunity for plenty of youngsters and even a few older depth players to make the starting XI selection much tougher decision in the future for coach Greg Vanney.
As we all bore witness to just how dynamic a player Marky Delgado was against Montreal and DC, I believe he will be the player to watch as well as young Canadian Jay Chapman. These 2 young men will most likely be tasked with controlling the midfield and in charge of providing a bit of creativity to replace Michael Bradley and Oso. This month will also be an excellent opportunity for players like Jackson, Robbie Findley and Luke Moore to step up and be a veteran presence for this young team.
As much as we would all like to think that any victory will be a true team effort, we all know the weight of the TFC world will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Atomic Ant, Sebastian Giovinco. We all know what he’s capable of; he’s shown us time and again. That being said, he will be responsible to, in all likelihood, create and score probably all of TFC’s goals until the regulars return…even then, I doubt things change much. He is the key to this team’s success. End of story.
Saturday night in Carson will give us a pretty good indication of just how much TFC will miss their DP’s and homegrown talent. On the bright side, following the finale of the Gold Cup, TFC will play 10 of their final 15 matches of the season at home setting up an exhilarating run at history. The Gold Cup is like a speed bump, annoying to have to deal with, but once you’re over it; it’s time to get back up to speed.