When the schedule came out this was supposed to be a marquee game. Someone at Fox suggested the midweek match be on FS1 (4:30 PM Pacific) and there was much rejoicing. Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC, in many ways, represent an era of the league. Eventually they dominated two seasons in a row. Each won a title. Then every player got injured, all of them.
So now the Reds and the Rave Green face off on national TV with a different storyline, both near the bottom of the table (20th and 22nd). Which team will survive and maintain hope for 2018?
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke from Waking the Red answers Three Questions. There was no reverse.
SaH: Did the CCL lead to all these injuries or was that just the final straw after playing soccer for basically two straight years? How many people are broken?
WtR: Literally all the centerbacks are broken (Michael Bradley is playing CB!!), plus Jozy Altidore. And I imagine everyone else is dealing with something, too. It’s hard to tell what exactly the cause is, but I’d have to think it was a combination of travel, game intensity, weather, and field conditions. The first few months of the season have been a real trial by fire for TFC; they started with a game in sub-zero temperatures, at altitude in Colorado. They dealt with more cold, rain, and occasionally snow in all their home games in the CCL (although that may have helped them against Mexican teams, in a way). The BMO Field pitch was absolutely horrible throughout it all, which didn’t help. TFC also traveled down to Mexico for highly competitive games three times within a month. Add in fatigue from an emotionally draining playoff run barely two months before, and it’s all a recipe for injuries. I wouldn’t 100% chalk it up to the CCL, but the past two months have definitely been a perfect storm of circumstances that do a number on players’ muscles. It’s not normal for multiple center-backs to pick up long-term injuries in training.
SaH: Will Vanney rest anyone for the weekend or will he try to take the home game against a weak Seattle team?
WtR: I think Wednesday’s will definitely be the stronger team from Vanney. TFC play in New England on Saturday, which is an away fixture they’ve always struggled with. They’d probably rest a few players because of the turf at Gillette Stadium anyway, especially with all the injuries they already have. With Toronto so far behind in the standings at the moment, they’re definitely looking to pick up as many points as possible quickly, so I doubt they’ll be throwing away any points for squad rotation in the near future. Vanney’s lineup on Wednesday should be the strongest one he has available, probably close to the one he put out on Friday.
SaH: Are Reds fans confident in the team’s ability to climb back over the red line?
WtR: I can’t believe I’m saying this, given the team’s history, but TFC fans are a very confident bunch at the moment. I haven’t encountered a single one of them who thinks they’ll be outside of the playoff picture for long. When TFC are motivated — as they were against Philadelphia, and against Chicago (until fatigue took its toll) — they can beat any team in the league, and fans know that. There’s definitely a pretty heated debate in the community about whether it was right to field a USL squad in mid-CCL games against Colorado and Houston, but nobody is doubting that the team will be okay in the long run. I don’t think anybody expects another Supporters’ Shield, but definitely a playoff spot — and the regular season would still be considered a disappointment if they don’t manage to get a knockout round bye for the playoffs.
Projected Toronto Lineup:
Probably pretty close to the same as Friday, in a kind of 4-2-3-1 where TFC just kind of try to score a lot and hope their defence can get through it.
Alex Bono; Ashtone Morgan, Michael Bradley, Gregory van der Wiel, Auro; Marky Delgado, Ager Aketxe; Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez, Nicolas Hasler; Sebastian Giovinco
Projected Sounders Lineup:
Who even knows?