Coming off a bye week, a well-rested United travel north of the border to face busy TFC, who play their third home match in eight days. The previous two have ended in victories for the expansion side so the sure-to-be raucous crowd may now have an air of expectancy around it.
Assuming that United sticks with its narrow 4-4-2 diamond formation, the matchups should be similar to the Wednesday night match between Toronto and Houston, though Houston plays with a bit more width. I expect that Toronto will come out with all guns blazing and try to jump out to the early lead so they can bunker against the possession United is sure to try and monopolize.
The keys for United defensively will be containing Welsh and O'Brien on the wings, and keeping an eye on Edu pushing forward from midfield. The four-man back line still has shaky moments, but is able to compensate better for lapses in judgement. Gros has had another two weeks to work on his positioning and reading of the game from the back, so we'll hope for a bit of improvement over the late lapses against Chivas.
I expect Namoff will be be able to handle Welsh with just a little help from the midfielder in front of him, while Gros on the left will need more midfield help against O'Brien, though if the Chicago game is any indication, O'Brien will tend to drift inside. This could be dangerous if it draws Carroll/Simms out of position and allows Edu to make runs into the vacant spaces.
Offensively, it will be interesting to see what combination Soehn fields up top. Kpene has been a revelation over the previous two games, but has he done enough to supplant either Moreno or Emilio? If the Houston game is any indication, United should have their chances, particularly if the game stays level or they get the lead. TFC is full of confidence after two victories and the fans will demand goals, so that should leave gaps to exploit as they push forward.
The key will be to exploit the gaps quickly and not allow Toronto a chance to get back and pack the box full of red shirts. DC was lethal on the three-man counter last year, but can they rediscover that type of form to punish Toronto?
Prediction: United 2:1 Toronto
Natural inclinations to pessimism aside, I think that United wins a tough match by exploiting TFC's defensive liabilities and manages to contain the wide play. A couple of clinical finishes from a handful of chances allow them to edge one out in front of the snarling Canadian hordes. The crystal ball says United scores early, Toronto roars back to equalize, but tired legs catch up to the home side late and United eke out the victory, getting out of Dodge before the stadium comes crashing down about (a-boot?) their ears.