Duncan Fletcher, of SB Nation's Toronto FC blog Waking The Red, and I exchanged three questions a piece, ahead of today's Philadelphia Union-TFC game at BMO Field. To read my responses to Fletcher's questions, click the linked text here.
Scott Kessler: Last year saw the Union drop a game because of a silly foul that resulted in a red card for Danny Califf and the resulting freekick, by Dwayne DeRosario, that was fumbled by Chris Seitz into the net for a 2-1 loss (and of course the penalty that Seitz gave up). The other game, in Philly, was a 2-1 win for the Union. What do you see as the result (and why) for tomorrow's game?
Duncan Fletcher: TFC definitely got lucky last year, as for this year, I can't help but think this has got 0-0 written all over it. Philly have been a tough defensive team, and barring something out of the ordinary from someone like Joao Plata, I can't see TFC having the ability to break them down. We've been playing more defensively over the last few games, and it's worked as we've been defensively solid, but that sort of tactic relies on having enough talent up front to make something happen. Plata did that in a couple of games against Houston and Chicago, but has been quiet for a few games now. Since having Julian de Guzman switch to a pure Defensive Midfield position, and Englishman Richard Eckersley fill the problem Right Back slot, the defence has been ok, and with Stefan Frei playing as well as ever, we should be able to extend your scoreless streak away from home.
SK: How have TFC coped with the loss of talisman Dwayne DeRosario?
DF: I can't deny they've struggled. I think it will be for the best in the long run as the team now can't rely on him pulling something out of nothing, so will have to improve, but he was an excellent plan B when things weren't working. The irony is that I think he could fit in very well with the plan A for this team. When everyone's fit, our forwards, including Alan Gordon who probably won't be playing on Saturday, are all better at creating rather than scoring goals. Gordon's ability to hold the ball and pull people out of position, combined with our emphasis on playing down the wings is crying out for an Attacking Midfielder who can make good runs and consistently score goals, which we just don't have at the moment. If all the contract drama could have been sorted out, De Ro would have been very useful in this team.
SK: TFC was predicted to be one of the worst teams in MLS this season, but sit only one win out of third place in the Eastern Conference. What has gone right after such a disappointing opening to the season (a 4-2 loss to Canadian rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps)?
DF: The schedule has gone right. TFC have played more games than almost everyone around us, and this saturday will be our 8th home game out of 13, so that makes us look better off than we actually are. We've only lost once at home, but here's been a lot of ties though, and the 10 points from 7 games really isn't good enough in a league that favours the home team as much as MLS does. Once those imbalances are corrected, I'd expect to seee TFC much further down the table the playoffs as we only have 2 points from the 5 away games so far. Having said that, we have improved recently in defence, and if we can bring in attacking reinforcements, we should improve in the second half, and hey, its MLS so we can hopefully stay close enough to make a playoff run.
Here's my guess at a starting line up, in a 4-1-2-3 lineup:
Richard Eckersley, Dicoy Williams, Adrian Cann, Mikael Yourassowsky
Julian De Guzman
Alen Stevanovic, Tony Tchani
Nick Soolsma, Maionn Santos, Joao Plata.