“The playoffs are in sight!” Those are either the most encouraging words to the ears of TFC fans or famous last words. Regardless, Sunday’s match up against New England should have all the characteristics of a playoff match. Not that I know anything about that given where I’m from and whom I write about, but you get the idea.
I don’t want to sound alarmist and start the “must win game” hype train, but for all intents and purposes, it is. Maybe not in terms of the table by a sheer numbers game, but for the sanity of any and all who congregate down at BMO Field on a weekly basis. As a friend put it, it’s a “nice to win” game. But what does that really mean? Allow me to explain.
With 8 games remaining in the 2015 schedule, TFC finds themselves sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference table. With 37 points from 26 games, the Reds currently sit 3 points back of their opponents on Sunday, and a distressing 5 points up on their arch nemesis, the Montreal Drogba’s. If you caught Drogba’s performance last week on top of all the games Montreal has in hand including one against Toronto to finish the season, you’ll understand why only a 5 point cushion is distressing.
Anything but 3 points on Sunday does TFC absolutely no favours. Maybe it’s my just my nerves, completely shot after 9 seasons of whatever you want to call TFC until 2015, but I’m on the edge of my seat and on the edge of losing whatever sanity I have left, borderline hysteria. I’ll just chalk it up to being starved of any kind of success in my home market in any major sport in more or less my entire life.
That’s the downside. If history decides to repeat itself yet again…well I don’t really need to explain what that means.
But for just a moment, let’s take a look at the upside: The upper echelon of the Eastern Conference is extremely tight. That’s either comforting or nerve racking.
Although a loss is always a loss, last weekend in Seattle hurt just a bit more than usual. Missing several starters, the Reds depth players for the most part were able to contain Seattle’s potent attack. If it wasn’t for a few mixed signals that resulted in a late go-ahead-goal for the Sounders, the Reds were on pace to escape Century Link with an unprecedented point under the circumstances. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
The loss to the Sounders proved just how hot and cold TFC’s bench can be. As we’ve seen in other instances against big opponents, they struggle to find cohesion, and in others, they look like a formidable opponent. With several extremely important games coming up down the stretch, you can bet your bottom dollar that players like Clement Simonin, Eriq Zavaleta, and Herculez Gomez will be called on to fill in the blank spaces especially considering TFC plays 3 times in 7 days, 2 at home against New England and Colorado and a midweek meeting at Yankee Stadium against NYCFC.
This weekend’s match up against New England will demonstrate just how ready for the playoffs TFC is. Having more than struggled against the Revs throughout their history, TFC hasn’t beat New England since 2013.
That’s going to have to change.
Some things to consider:
- New England have not been very good on the road. Despite a 6 game unbeaten stretch, they have played 13 matches on the road with a record of 3-2-8. Not exactly a juggernaut.
- On the flip side, TFC has been very good at home. Through 11 matches, the Reds are 7-1-3. This bods well.
- TFC will have all 3 DPs back and available for today’s match, and most important of them is Sebastian Giovinco. At this point in the season, I shouldn’t have to elarborate on that. He is the MLS MVP for 2015.
It may not be must win time in reality just yet, but it’s getting close. In my head it already is though. To stay with the pack, the Reds need this one. A win would be symbolic. Turning the page on a history of failure and running full speed into the playoffs. A loss, although not helpful, wouldn’t totally be the end of the world, but could prove to be a demoralizing gut punch at the worst possible time, and thats just as bad.
Let the home stretch to the season officially begin.