State of Mind: I'm in a CCL state of mind - which means hyper and optimistic
Location: Fidgety supporter couch
Weather: No towrads in sight
It's time for the second biggest game of the season for TFC (the first being waaaay back in March) before we have to return to the mundane reality of MLS play. Was it really only a few short weeks ago that we (and by we I mean the 10 or 15 of us that went) got to watch our Reds lay a smackdown on poor CD Aguila. I said it then and I'll keep saying it; CCL games are different. If you've never gone to one I cannot stress enough what you are missing - don't believe me? Come join us!
Besides, this is the one that you want to come to. This is the revenge game. Revenge for what you say? (Seriously, you do follow this team right? Just checking). Revenge for that drubbing that Santos laid on us last spring in Torreon; for that punch that Quintero threw at Ashtone Morgon and for every insufferable word out of Hercules Gomez's mouth. Sorry, got a little worked up there; they are after all our biggest continental rivals outside of MLS and since CCL is what we're playing for these days, they get my ire up like no other.
This game is going to be much different than the CD Aguila one a few weeks ago. For one thing Santos are a much better team; actually that's pretty much it. They're a much better team - they are the team to beat in our group - win against them and we continue; don't and we're done. And given all that has transpired not just this season but in the past few weeks there isn't much left for our Reds to play for that is meaningful. Yes respect and a stable team are both very meaningful and if they approach the former and show glimmers of the latter by the end of the season I will be well not pleased exactly but much less inclined to let my cynicism run rampant. But I mean meaningful in the 'hey we're still competing for something, we're not going to lay down this entire season' (OK, not the CCL season anyway) and show the fans that their support hasn't been entirely in vain. Lose and any vestiges of hope that are left from the beginning of the season will be gone and along with it (barring an unlikely winning streak or even a full 90 minute effort streak) more of the already dwindling fanbase.
I'm not saying the entire season hangs in the balance because of tonight's game; but it's close in the minds of many. If TFC don't advance in the CCL will that change my support, will it cause me to not renew my season tickets? Not one bit - I'll still be there for every home game and I'll still be watching every away game, but wouldn't it be great to have some of that hope back again? Remember how it felt when they won in Dallas last fall? And how that feeling carried us through the off season? I want that again. And if we can't have it in MLS play (6 years and counting, I'm not holding my breath) then why not CCL?
Mariner rested several players on Saturday so on paper TFC will have the strongest team possible for their starting XI tonight. Which with this team isn't saying a lot given depth issues and injuries (they'll definitely be missing Reggie Lambe tonight). But with Eric "The Red Card" Hassli back there will be some toughness up front and Torsten back (and hopefully on form) bossing the midfield we'll see our Reds taking the game to Santos. And with new backline boss man Darren O'Dea already showing why he was signed to hold the defense together I have hope that we'll see a strong backline tonight.
More than anything I just want to have some fun tonight; that's all. I realize that's a simple request and may seem odd - whoever said football was fun? I did. Because I know that it can be; both in watching and playing. The game against CDA was one of the best nights I've had at BMO this season and helped remind me why I love my team and what it feels like to be joyful at a match. Why am I so bubbly and optimistic? Something about CCL games bring it out of me; maybe because it's not the oft depressing grind of MLS games; whatever the reason I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and seeing my team - is there a better way to spend a night? Not many; see you there?
Los Links: Your usual pre-game suspects - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, John and James) and Red Nation Online.