It's time for leg two of our Canadian Tour! The Colorado Rapids are headed to BMO Field on Saturday for a match against suddenly scary Toronto FC. Even though TFC has almost always been a lower side on the table, they boast an 6-0-0 record against the Rapids at home, and it won't get any easier with the new upstart version of the Reds that we've seen this year.
To get a good look at the injury situation in Toronto along with how well their defense has played and what we might see on Saturday, we've had a chat with Duncan from the fabulous TFC blog Waking The Red. Here's what he had to say about the Reds...
BW: From what I've heard from national media folks, TFC is in quite a bit of injury trouble, with all sorts of players getting thrown out as 'potentially questionable', including Defoe and Bradley. Since you probably know better than the national guys, can we get a rundown of which players you think will play and not play Saturday?
WtR: You vastly overestimate my 'in the know'-ness, stupid job stopping me from doing this right. I'm basically going by what the beat reporters put out on twitter, which is the same info as the national writers are probably going by. TFC seem to be very sneaky and vague with their injury updates so far this season, seemingly trying to give out as little actual info as they can get away with, I'm half expecting 'upper body injury' and 'lower body injury' to start making appearances. All that is to say, I haven't a bloody clue, but if I was to guess, I'd guess Bradley will be fine to go, dude seems like a machine. Ryan Nelsen was talking about fatigue related stuff after the US midweek game (he wasn't a fan of that game at all) so I think Bradley just needs a day or two of rest and he'll be fine. Defoe obviously missed the last game so did have a genuine injury, if forced to guess I'd say he'd be on the bench at best.
Dwayne De Rosario left the last game injured, and trying to read between the lines from press coverage I'd say he, Doneil Henry and Jonathan Osorio will probably be out. Others were left out of training earlier as well so this could get interesting. TFC did well without several regulars, but having to go 90 minutes without Bradley would be a whole other question to ask of them.
BW: I figured that Jermain Defoe would score some goals and Michael Bradley would boss the midfield, but how has the TFC defense been this year?
WtR: It's been very good so far, for a few reasons. First up is the tactics TFC have used so far, they've been very solid and playing a counter attacking game so they're very rarely undermanned at the back. Then you have Michael Bradley swallowing up anything that comes through the middle, it's remarkable how good he looks out there. That's forced teams to try and bypass him, which plays right into the defences hands. They upgraded at left back by bringing in Justin Morrow from San Jose who's looked very good at both ends of the pitch, and Mark Bloom who broke into the first team last year at right back has also excelled. There's been plenty of crosses coming into the middle, but both full backs have stopped anything really dangerous happening from out wide.
All those things mean that the centre backs have rarely had to deal with players coming at them and again, that plays right into their hands as the first choice pairing, Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry are both big physical imposing defenders, especially Henry who put on a lot of muscle to his tall frame and looks set for a breakout year in this team which, so far at least, appears perfectly set up to allow him to shine. Balls played over Bradley, they'll win most of those headers, crosses flung in the box, they'll win most of those headers. Even when they missed the last game, their replacements Bradley Orr a converted right back and rookie Nick Hagglund making his first pro start looked very comfortable, mainly due to the team play that neutralised Federico Higuain and just let the Crew go wide and throw crosses in.
And oh yeah, if the defence fails, then there's Brazil's world cup goalie behind them, which is nice.
BW: Before the season, there were predictions all over the map for this TFC team. Now that there are actually games in the books, where do the expectations stand among the fans?
WtR: I've used the analogy a few times of TFC fans being like a kid in a candy store with a nut allergy. It all looks great but history tells us that if we get too enthusiastic, it's only going to lead to pain and suffering. So there was definitely trepidation to be had. So far, TFC have generally proven to full of nut free goodness in many ways. Defoe started like a house on fire and Michael Bradley has been magnificent, most TFC fans knew his history but hadn't seen much of his play so there were sceptics, but he's blown away expectations so far. Doneil Henry's centre back spot was one of the few that looked to be unupgraded, but he's looked a much improved player so far. Depth beyond the first team was a concern, but last week, missing Defoe, Jonathan Osorio and both centre backs, they went into Columbus and got a win, so those fears are also soothed somewhat as well.
There are still concerns out there, TFC are being massively outpossessed in every game so far and I can't see the results continuing at the current pace if that keeps up, different teams or game situations will require different tactics (it was pretty much suicide against Real Salt Lake for example) so it'd be good to see that Ryan Nelsen has more tricks up his sleeve when needed. . Right now though expectations are pretty high, I genuinely think it'd be a surprise if TFC disappoint us all once again.
BW: Lineup and formation prediction?
WtR: Formation will be 4-4-2, with 2 central midfielders, nominally defensive but getting forward when necessary, especially if Bradley is playing and 2 wingers. I'll guess at the following, going from right to left: Julio Cesar; Mark Bloom, Steven Caldwell, Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow; Alvaro Rey, Michael Bradley, Kyle Bekker, Jackson; Gilberto, Andrew Wiedeman.
Thanks again to Duncan. Head over to Waking The Red for all you need about our opposition this weekend!