Mike Stobe - Getty Images for New York Red Bu
We exchanged quesitons with Duncan Fletcher, Manager of the Toronto FC blog Waking the Red ahead of the match on Saturday night. Amongst other things, Duncan offered up his insight on Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions league as well as their defense's tendency to allow goals in the last fifteen minutes of a game.
Once a Metro: How will Toronto's midweek fixture in the CONCACAF Champions League affect the approach at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night? Since Toronto is out of the MLS playoff picture, is the match in El Salvador a bigger priority?
Waking the Red: I wouldn't say it was a bigger priority, as to all intents and purposes we're out of the CCL as well, needing a big win against Santos Laguna IN Torreon to get through. We did need a win on Wednesday to even set up that possibility so it was more or less a full strength side we put out there, but again, I don't think that's about priorities, it's more a reflection of the lack of options we have right now. There's a lot of injuries, and what seems to be a very small group of players that Paul Mariner trusts and that are are in with a chance of coming back next year so that's who we played, and that'll be pretty much who we play on Saturday, so there definitely could be some tired bodies out there.
The only two regulars who didn't play are what's our current first choice Centre Back partnership, Richard Eckersley who was subbed off from last Saturday's game with what might be a concussion, and Darren O'Dea who didn't seem to be injure so was just presumably resting. If healthy, they'll both definitely be back in the squad as despite having nothing to play for, I think Mariner will rightly be desperate not to finish the season with a 14 game winless streak so will definitely be trying for a win.
Once a Metro: Pick the one reason that best explains why Toronto FC is at the bottom of the standings this year?
Waking the Red: Just one? Alright, it all comes down to lack of talented depth. Coming out of last season, it seemed like we had a decent first team, with the one glaring lack of a good centre back. We signed Ecuadorian international Geovany Caicedo and Chilean international Miguel Aceval, surely one of them would be good. Nope. Caicedo didn't even make it out of pre season and Aceval was close to useless. So, no good centre back, then Torsten Frings got injured while Danny Koevermans was a bit unfit and also got injured. That's the spine of the team gone, and the backups were a big drop off in quality. Thus we lost a lot under Aron Winter.
When Frings and Koevermans were both fit, at the end of Winter's reign and for the first few games under Paul Mariner, we got some decent results, but then Koevermans was injured for the season, followed shortly by Frings, and Eric Hassli has been injured as often as he hasn't been since arriving, and thus we have the current 10 game winless streak. It's reported that Paul Mariner has been guaranteed to be back next season, and there's a lot made of his MLS experience and contacts, let's hope that talks correct, as he's going to have to do a hell of a job in the off season for TFC to have any chance of getting close to the playoffs next year.
Once a Metro: Up until this last weekend's 4-2 loss against the L.A. Galaxy, in their last eight league matches Toronto either tied or lost by a single goal (a stretch of 0-5-3). The Red Bulls are notorious for giving up early goals this season - is there a similar story line you see playing out time after time in these curiously close matches?
Waking the Red: For TFC, it's all about the late goals. Early in the season it wasn't that much of a problem as we were almost always behind early so teams didn't need to score late. Since Paul Mariner took over, the games have generally been a lot tighter, which does of course mean a lot more late pressure. In the 20 league games since he took over, TFC have let in 11 goals in the last 15 minutes of games, 8 of which have cost us points. A big part of that is the way TFC play, which has a bigger emphasis on the position of the ball as opposed to who has it. 'When in doubt, get it out' seems to be the defensive plan, and that can obviously mean giving up possession and inviting pressure. As mentioned above, our defence isn't the best and it's developed a habit of eventually cracking under that pressure. So, that's the game sorted then, TFC go up early then New York come back late.
Once a Metro (bonus question): What's your lineup and score prediction?
Waking the Red: Regular goalie Milos Kocic will probably be allowed to stay home with his new triplets, so dodgy Bermudan Freddy Hall in goal. Jeremy Hall, Darren O'Dea, Richard Eckersley (unless he is concussed, in which case it'll probably be Logan Emory) and Ashtone Morgan in defence. Rookie (and looks like it) Aaron Maund and recent goal machine Terry Dunfield will be the 2 defensive midfielders, and from there on it gets harder to guess. I'll go with Reggie Lambe and Luis Silva in the attacking midfield spots with Ryan Johnson and Red Bull reject Quincy Amarikwa up front.
I'll predict 3-1 New York.
And there you have it. Thanks to Duncan for sharing his thoughts and prediction. You can also see some of our thoughts on Rafa Marquez, the additions of Tim Cahill and Sebastien Le Toux, and New York's porous defense over at Waking the Red.