State Of Mind: Waiting for the crash back to earth
Location: Hot, hot, hot supporter's couch
Time for a reality check folks. Tonight our Reds are not playing a tired minnow from El Salvador and are instead back to MLS play and face the Chicago Fire - or Dan Gargan's team if you like. This is not going to be an easy game; regardless of the amount of confidence garnered from Wednesday night's decisive (and oh so fun - you should have been there) CCL win. The Fire are currently clinging to the last playoff spot and not only has TFC not beat them in over a year, they've never won at Toyota Park - not exactly the circumstances to make you think 'oh they've got this' is it?
There are a lot of questions about players for both teams this evening. Of course chief on TFC fans' minds is Eric Hassli who has yet to play a minute in red. He did make the bench on Wednesday night (although that was likely more for presence than anything else) and from all reports is likely to be named to the bench again tonight. But Hassli's availability raises an interesting question - should (or when) he be fit enough to join the starting XI where does that leave the growing partnership of RJ and Silva? The difference between the two games in which they played up top together (Rapids & Aguila) vs. the Dynamo match in which they did not is telling (even over such a small sample). Silva's ability with the ball cannot be understated and his touch and field sense have been stellar in the past few games. He's not only scored a couple of very nice goals but his service on Wednesday was responsible for Reggie Lambe's first goal and as I said; his influence was felt throughout the game.
So whither Hassli upon his return to full fitness? I have to assume that he takes Silva's spot up top and that with Luis playing attacking mid that Eric Avila will never again set foot on the pitch. I'm not discounting strong play from Lambe (on fire of late), Frings is always solid and Dunfield hasn't done anything wrong (and Mariner loves him). But having watched Wiedeman and Amarikwa in the past couple of games not do anything to distinguish themselves, isn't it time for Avi to get a chance? He makes a huge difference in the team's attack when he's on the field and with this game (OK, every game for TFC) being a crucial step in their attempted resurgence wouldn't you expect that more proven players should be out on the field?
On Chicago's side of potential roster changes are newcomers midfielder Alvaro Fernandez and DP striker Sherjill MacDonald. It's unlikely that both (or either) will see time this evening but it does give the Fire more depth - wouldn't it be nice to have bench depth, sigh - not only for tonight's match but down the stretch to the end of the season. For the players that will take to the field the Reds as always need to be cautious of the super speedy and dangerous Dominic Oduro and midfielder Patrick Nyarko. And as newly signed CB "boss" Darren O'Dea (what a difference O'Dea makes?) will not be joining TFC in Chicago (or anytime soon it would seem) we'll continue to see the same backline of Henry, Ecks, Emory and Morgan for the foreseeable future. The Fire will, (like every other team in MLS) look to exploit the Reds defense with set pieces and balls into the box as our Reds have still yet to figure out how to properly defend or man mark in these situations.
It would be fantastic if TFC go into Toyota Park tonight and steal some points; it's just very, very unlikely. As much as I've been living off of the high that Wednesday's night win brought this is not CCL and well, there's a good chance that this is going to be an ugly game. I hope that they can stay tight at the back, that Silva and Lambe continue their outstanding play of late and that our Reds can leave Chicago with a positive performance heading into next Saturday's game against Columbus.
COME ON YOU REDS!
Long Weekend Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online