United Match Preview | Waste Not, Want Not

It will be United's third match in eight days when Toronto FC visit RFK tomorrow night in a top of the conference clash. A win for United will guarantee that they remain atop the East by at least a two point margin, heady stuff for a club expected to struggle to make the playoffs. Let's get started with a quick look at the team news...

Team News & Notes
  • Injuries: TFC has defender Serioux and midfielder Cronin, both of whom had been starting prior to their current injuries, listed as questionable. Cronin looks likely to go at this point, with Serioux being more of a doubt. United's own questionable contingent consists of Ben Olsen and the man who would likely replace him in the event of an injury, Andrew Jacobson.
  • Midweek Matches: Both clubs played matches on Wednesday night, and while United rested a few starters, TFC fielded what looks like a full-strength (excepting injuries) lineup in their bid to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions' League.
  • Recent Form: TFC is unbeaten in their last three league encounters (win-win-draw), while United are riding a five-game unbeaten streak (draw-win-win-win-draw).

Tactical Concerns

In many ways, TFC and DC United entered the season in similar shape: strong attacks and midfields, questions at the back. My immediate thought when addressing how to go after TFC would be to exploit that weak defense, but scanning over the stats reveals that they've given up only 10, the same number we have, over the first 8 games. That said, it would be a stretch to say that United's defense has stifling.

Still, from what I've seen of TFC (and admittedly, it's mostly been highlights), they've given up plenty of chances, only to be rescued by a combination of wasteful finishing and Stefan Frei. Hmmm. Wasteful finishing? Where have I seen that before? Oh, you mean the kind that we've been treated to in the last couple of home matches? Ruht-roh!

While TFC have their fair share of guys that can get the ball down and play, most of what I've seen in the form of attacking highlights for them have come via direct play. And make no mistake. They've got dangermen who can create and take half-chances, even if they do start Chad Barrett. DeRo and Wynne can be threats on the flank, necessitating a solid defensive effort from the wide men in our five-man midfield.

Where we might find space could be those very same wings. Their fullbacks tend to get forward on overlapping runs, as opposed to what we saw from KC. Assuming they don't bunker, having our forwards pull into wide areas to start the counter might be a potentially way to exploit this space.

Line 'Em Up!

I'll take it as given that we're in the 3-5-2 again. With that in mind, I'm going to make the following leap of faith: Benny will be healthy enough to give it a go from the start. I'm also assuming that Tino's new fatherhood (and subsequent absence from practice today) keeps him from starting. Therefore...


Bold choices, eh? ;-)

Let's break that down a bit.
  • At this point, given what we've seen of Gomez, I'd rather start Quaranta behind the forwards have have he and Jaime interchanging. But assuming Quaranta starts on the bench, I think you've got to say that Gomez is still a better option than Barklage.
  • Yes, yes, I'm aware that we're working the rooks to the bone, and I'd be tempted to give Fred a run out in place of Wallace, given that Pontius took a half off in KC, but it would be hard to sit them down at this point, particularly since I think Wallace's physical ability might prove a more effective counter against Wynne on our left. Maybe Khumalo could spell Pontius at right mid, and I'd be tempted there as well, but, at this point, I'd say we stick with the horse that got us here.
  • In defense, I'm still of the opinion that Jakovic is a more complete player than Janicki, particularly when it comes to possession, which we'll be looking to dominate at home. As for the Burch/John contest on the left, I think John's giving up silly free kicks through overly physical play is pretty much a wash with Burch's defensive shortcomings. Assuming that we'll be attacking more than defending, I'll give Burch the nod.
So that's my look ahead. My daughter's sixth birthday party is tomorrow afternoon, so any attention I give the blog during the day will be sporadic at best. Still, feel free to leave your comments, corrections, selections, et cetera, as I may pop in from time to time. Who gets on your team sheet? Any particular concerns about TFC's attack? Any areas you think we can exploit? Have your say...

1 comment:

  1. From what I've seen of Toronto, Guevara has also played pretty well. If he and DeRo ever figure out how to work together, that could be an effective combination up front. Thank heaven they keep trying to setup Barret (guy would strike out even in T-ball.)

    I'm betting the left flank will be Burch and Fred. Jakovic will get to play against his Canadian brethren and we will see some combination of Pontius and Quaranta as attacking mid and right mid with Gomez coming off the bench. Maybe Khumalo comes off the bench but this might be an opportunity to use N'Silu up front for Jaime if he is healthy. McTavish might have to play defensive mid if Ben or Jacobsen aren't ready to go.