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Opposite View: Three questions with James Grossi of Waking The Red

This week we talk to James Grossi of Waking The Red, SB Nation's Toronto FC blog, about the upcoming match between the Philadelphia Union and TFC.

Playoffs? Whaddya mean, playoffs? Playoffs?
Playoffs? Whaddya mean, playoffs? Playoffs?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

tBG) It wasn't quite the "Bloody Big Deal", but Toronto brought in Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, among others. What was the fan reaction to this offseason? Were people excited, or was it more "we've seen this before and know how it ends"?


WTR)
The club went out of their way to not herald the recent round of signings with the same fanfare that surrounded the Bloody Big Deal - there were no painted-buses this time and they even put out a commercial that took subtle jabs at Jermain Defoe and even themselves

As far as the fan reaction goes, it was a little of each. Off-season is always a time for dreaming; one of the reasons to love professional sports is the concept that no matter how bad last season was, there is always another right around the corner. So understandably, fans, they are fanatics after all, entered the season with a certain amount of optimism. Some of it justified, some not.

But, given the number of times this club has seemed to turn the corner, only to find themselves crumbling in both predictable and previously unseen manners, a majority of supporters have guarded their optimism with a protective coating of fatalism.

If MLS were like most other leagues, where the amount of money spent is more-or-less predictive of success, Toronto would have an advantage over other clubs. MLS, with its salary cap, roster rules, and the subsequent limitations that come with spending a third of the budget of three players is a different beast; one that TFC cannot get a handle on.

There is optimism, one must laugh lest they cry, but it is tempered by the failures of the past.

Here's a link to a post Mitchell Tierney did about the commercial (with video)
http://www.wakingthered.com/2015/2/25/8107675/new-toronto-fc-commercial-takes-shot-at-jermain-defoe


tBG) This is the final stop on a brutal road trip. How will it be to finally play a home match, and will BMO Field be done in time?

WTR)
It will be very nice to have a home game. It has been such a strange start to the season. In many ways, it hasn't felt real as of yet, for a couple of reasons, but mostly because without a single home match it has been difficult to really assess the club, or level any proper criticism.

The excuse of spending the opening nine weeks of the season away from home has tempered any reactions to the struggles. Travelling in MLS is a high-risk, low-reward gambit; most teams struggle on the road, and so exactly how much criticism is warranted for a run of losses or what mark should one take as a measure of success are difficult to pinpoint.

Add to that, TFC has already had two bye weeks - they have played just six matches compared to Philadelphia's nine - meaning that as well as enduring a strange road trip, they have had to battle with inconsistency. Teams need a certain amount of predictability, a bit of regularity, as they build into the season. The fitness and sharpness comes from that weekly match, while the ability to respond to a poor outing is short order is an important tool for establishing the proper and needed mentality for a long season.

Not only has TFC not had the ability to soften their struggles with a home match, but having to flit in and out of action has affected their ability to find that needed rhythm. Thus even with the homecoming, May will present difficulties; Toronto will play more matches in one month than they have the previous two with five league games, a two-legged series against Montreal in the Canadian Championships (Voyageurs Cup), and a friendly against Manchester City.

One has to assume that the majority of the renovations at BMO Field will be done on time - it may cost a little extra, but they will do everything possible to get it ready. There may be a few features that are still a little raw and may require an extra lick of paint in between fixtures. To be fair, it was a brutal winter and construction never quite works exactly to schedule - that said, they were rather modest in their designs; opting to spread the upgrades over two seasons, rather than attempt to install the second tier and the roof, sorry, canopy, at the same time.


tBG) Is this the year TFC gets to the playoffs and makes a splash? Why or why not?

WTR)
As the old saying goes, 'Eight times bitten, ninth time shy', so the answer to this question is hauntingly unknown. Having consulted a magic eight ball on the subject, the response was fatefully, 'Better not tell you now', which can damningly be interpreted in a variety of ways; a Delphic oracle indeed.

There are reasons to lean in either direction. It is probably the best and deepest team to ever pull on the TFC strip, but there are still serious gaps, especially at centre-back with just four on the roster, only two of which are recognized starting quality in Damien Perquis and Steven Caldwell.

There is plenty of firepower in Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, but who scores the goals if they go cold is a major concern. Altidore has been inconsistent, either scoring braces or disappearing entirely. Giovinco has been more reliable with three goals and three assists spread over six matches - but despite his quality, he cannot win on his own; though he did nearly draw the match against Dallas single-handedly.

Greg Vanney and Tim Bezbatchenko, the head coach and general manager, respectively, seem to be on the same page. Which is great and something that could not always be said of the TFC front office. Rumours, however, continue to swirl that there will be a new club president brought in and how that chemistry comes together can be just as important as the play on the field.

Furthermore, with Kansas City and Houston moving West, replaced by a pair of expansion sides, and several other Eastern Conference teams still finding themselves, this seems to be the perfect year to surge up the table. But so far, the New York Red Bulls and Columbus appear to have joined New England and DC as the class at the top of the conference, leaving Toronto to battle with the rest for the two remaining spots. 

If there is one thing that has been learned over eight-plus seasons with Toronto FC, it is 'expect the unexpected'. 'Never say never' and 'playoffs?! Playoffs?!!' are a close second and third, respectively.

Predicted lineup:
There is little reason for Vanney to alter the lineup that was successful against Orlando, so expect a very similar, if not identical starting eleven with Joe Bendik in goal; (4-4-2) from right to left - Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Damien Perquis, and Ashtone Morgan along the back-line; Robbie Findley, Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou, and Jackson across the middle; with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco up top.

If there is one alteration, it would be to replace Findley with Jonathan Osorio - that said, neither has really performed thus far this season.

Predicted score:
Toronto has enough to beat Philadelphia, but given their inconsistency, this one has the feeling of ending in a score draw. The Union will be fired up to respond to their defeat in Columbus and TFC may just be caught looking ahead to the home opener, but there will be goals. 2-2

Click here to see our three questions with Waking The Red.