OK, I feel that I can offer up a bit of a match preview considering that I did one for the matchup of these two teams just a couple weeks ago. When RSL faced Toronto at BMO field last month it ended with a 0-0 draw but a lot has changed for both clubs, and what happens on Wednesday at "Castle Real" could be very different than their last match-up.
Perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on the match than Toronto's decision to break their ties with both Mo Johnston and Preki. I feel bad for Preki who was stuck with Trader Mo really being in control of the team, but now both are gone and taking over as coach will be Nick Dasovic, who was an assistant with the club but has coaching experience with the Canadian National U-23 team. It is clear that the team was in a state of chaos and their lost on Saturday to DC United and Preki's rant against the schedule, fans, players, and everything else didn't sit well with anyone but these moves were expect by many who follow TFC on a regular basis.
For Real Salt Lake the changes will come due to injuries as Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola will be out for the match, both played in the previous match between the two sides. There is also a question about Alavro Saborio's ability to play as he has picked up a slight injury and with the heavy schedule the next couple weeks it may be a move to rest him. In that case you can expect Pablo Campos and Robbie Findley to start but RSL fans might get a chance to see their most recent addition to the roster Paulo Araujo Jr. who was picked up via a loan from USL side Miami FC. Jason Kreis has shown in both of RSL's last two CCL matches that he is playing these to win and is willing to put out a very top level lineup.
after the jump, Key Match-ups, Wildcards and my prediction:
Jason Kreis vs Nick Dasovic-
The 0-0 draw last week at Seattle denied Jason the chance to notch his 40th MLS career win, which would have allowed him to have a winning record as a coach. He sits at 39-39-32, but CCL and other matches aren't included in those numbers but it shows the experience factor that will clearly play a role in tonight's match. The other side is Nick Dasovic, who has spent 3 years with TFC before being appointed as the "interim" head coach for the team.
Dasovic spent 5 years with the Canadian National Team as as assistant to both the senior and U-20 teams, including being on staffs that coached RSL midfielder Will Johnson who has nothing put praise for the man who will take over in Toronto. He takes over a team with 2 DP's and a player who is a constant All Star and MVP candidate, Dwayne De Rosario, but the question for most who have watched TFC over the last couple years hasn't been talent, but getting the players to work hard and play as a team. It appears that Preki was trying to build that, but some players didn't seem to like that approach (click here to read details).
We have seen that some teams respond with high energy and emotion when they have major changes like this, we saw it when Jason took over, and we are starting to see it with even Ben Olsen in DC, but with just hours to prepare for a match is a supreme challenge of facing Real Salt Lake at "Castle Real" where the home side hasn't lost in 26 matches. I give Jason and his staff the upper hand as emotion won't be enough for a Toronto side trying to recover from the weeks chaos.
Kyle Beckerman vs. Dwayne De Rosario-
Two guys who other teams hate to see on the pitch against them. Kyle the ragamuffin looking defensive midfielder who is one of the very best in Major League Soccer, back to back All Star selections, time with the USMNT, and the fact that opposing fans hate him all prove the point that he is one of the toughest d-mids in the game today.
The opposite of him is the wizard of Toronto, who was the wizard of Houston, and the wizard of San Jose before that. You only need to look at the stars above the crest in the previous two homes of De Ro to understand why Toronto wanted their native son on their roster. His 9 goals and 3 assists this year for TFC, mean that he is involved in over half of the Red's defense, even more when their second leading scorer is out injured.
You can only expect sparks when the two teams meet and these two warriors face off in the middle of the pitch. You have to call this one a draw.
Paulo Araujo Jr.-
I haven't seen the 22 year Brazilian play yet, but when RSL head Jason Kreis says after a couple days at practice with the team that he was the most impressive trialist he had seen since taking over as head coach, well that sets the bar kinda high. With Fabi out as he recovers from his hamstring injury, and rumors of Saborio being iffy with an injury, we could see Paulo get a chance to get into the match and show his new coaches, teammates, and RSL fans that he is the real deal.
I am not sure if I am convinced about Mista as a DP yet, oh I know if you just look at the teams he has played for and the fact that he spent so much time in La Liga, surely he must be able to just walk over the poor MLS defenders. I am sure there are some that expected that but earlier this week Mista admitted that MLS is one of the best leagues in the world when it comes to the organization of the play on the pitch. He still hasn't gotten a goal in MLS play but he did score the game winner against Cruz Azul in TFC's 2-1 win over the Mexican side.
Mauricio Morales (Mex)-
He will be our head official in the RSL vs. TFC match, and RSL fans may not know the name, but they should. Mauricio was the 4th official in the controversy filled 5-4 loss in stoppage time at Cruz Azul. He was also the main official in the US vs Czech Republic match that was part of the US teams series of warmup matches before the World Cup. We can only hope that he will not a wildcard in the match.
OK we have seen based on the frustration of the Arabe match, and the unleashed attack at Cruz Azul (not so much in the collapse at the end), the RSL is taking the Champions league very seriously and I expect that while there are some injury issues impacting their lineup, I still expect to see a very competitive lineup out there. I also expect that a couple players who may have had issues over the last few matches could be looking to turn their fortunes around and putting out great efforts.
Toronto's playoff hopes are slim, real slim as they sit with 28 points from 24 matches and most think it will take at least 42 points to secure a wildcard spot. What makes it almost impossible for me to believe they will make it is their current 1-8-2 record away from BMO field, they have 4 of their last 6 matches on the road and they have only found the back of the net 7 times on the road.
This isn't a MLS match but you have to think that with a new coach that the TFC players will be looking to showcase their skills, but will they play as a team. We know that they have some individual talent on their roster, but RSL plays as a team and is almost impossible to beat at home. Sorry TFC fans this one ends up 3-1 as RSL secure their second win of the group stage.
OFF MY SOAPBOX