Today, TFC signed two new Designated Players in veteran German midfielder Torsten Frings and experienced Dutch international Danny Koevermans. Unfortunately for Toronto, they won't officially join the roster until the transfer window opens on July 15, which means that neither player will be on the field when Vancouver Whitecaps FC play Toronto FC in Major League Soccer on Wednesday and in the deciding second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) final on Saturday.
The two matches this week between Toronto FC and our Whitecaps FC are, in my mind, the biggest games of the season for both clubs. However, with the congestion of two matches in four days, it will be crucial for all players on the roster to be able to step into the lineup and perform to get results in each game.
Both teams are desperate for points in MLS, but they’re also determined to win the NCC title on Saturday. So trying to do a scouting report on Toronto FC for both matches is like a shot in the dark. Which game is more important to them? Do they put their strongest line-up in the first or second game? Or do you use a balanced line-up to win both matches.
Toronto FC is winless in their last nine league games and have a number of key injuries, especially on defence. TFC head coach Aron Winter said in a recent interview that his squad is so small that he will have to be creative to put a winning team together for Wednesday's game. This means that Whitecaps FC will be kept guessing which players he might pick until the last minute - as will Winter with the Whitecaps FC lineup.
What we do know is TFC's Dutch coach has his team playing a 4-3-3 formation as they try to play a possession-type game, with his defenders playing the ball out from the back. In TFC's 3-1 defeat at Real Salt Lake last weekend, defender Dan Gargan was asked to play in a midfield role. That decision could be called “creative”, but did not work, as The Reds were starved of the ball for long periods of the game.
There are not many options in defence because of a long-term injury to Adrian Cann, while Nana Attakora and Dicoy Williams are also unavailable. So it is likely that 18-year-old Doneil Henry will get another start, which could prove fruitful for our 'Caps forwards. They do have one defender our forwards should look out for and that is Dennis Eckersley, who is a take-no-prisoner type of fullback, who most visiting fans love to hate because of his rugged style.
TFC’s most dangerous player is Maicon Santos. The Brazilian is the club's leading scorer with six goals and has already scored against Whitecaps FC in two games at Empire Field this season. He will be hoping to have Designated Player Julian de Guzman return to the starting line-up in midfield to add a little more creativity. de Guzman has not played a game for The Reds since returning from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with Canada. Up front, Toronto FC will be hoping to get Alan Gordon back from injury for one of these two games. The 'Caps could also see a lot of Nick Soolsma, who gave the Whitecaps FC defence some trouble in the first NCC game in Vancouver, assisting on their equalizing goal.
I believe we will see two very different line-ups for Wednesday's game, which could mean a very open and entertaining game, as both teams go in search of a win. Whitecaps FC know this is a good time to play Toronto FC, and will be smarting from what they know was a poor performance at Sporting Kansas City. This TFC side is short on confidence and Vancouver could look to capitalize on this by pressuring and attacking this young Toronto defence to get a strong grip on the game.
Expect two very enthralling games between these two Canadian rivals, as each will be looking to win both games to create a springboard for the second half of the season.