Stade Saputo will host Toronto FC as the Reds will try to eliminate the Montreal Impact from the Canadian Championship for the 3rd consecutive year. I have a talk with John Leung from Waking The Red, the SBNation Toronto FC site.
Read my answers to John's excellent questions right here.
(Sofiane Benzaza) SB: Would Toronto FC trade a win in the Amway Canadian Championship for 3 points in MLS? With so many lost points in the last minutes of games, is there some frustration that is transferring itself from one competition to another?
(John Leung) JL: I will use a bit of Italian, and that would be "siamo confusi". Supporters know that this is going to be a frustrating year, and well...with it being Montreal and Vancouver, they would dearly love to pull yet another one over the Impact and the Whitecaps. However, like the Impact, injuries are piling up, and we are relying on a younger squad. You've probably seen how Luis Silva and Doneil Henry did their job against Montreal in the first leg, but there is an underlying worry about them getting hurt. So I think it's a hung jury as to what the fans want. Ryan Nelsen though, I am sure definitely wouldn't mind having a trophy in his first year as coach...but at what cost?
As for the late concessions, it didn't happen in the first leg, but that threat is always there. The young squad still needs to learn to close matches down, and I think that frustration will be present and prominent throughout this year. It may translate, and may provide some hope for the home faithful, but...well, you never know.
SB : Is the Anglo-Saxon mentality of Ryan Nelsen putting more emphasis on the Voyageurs Cup over any other previous TFC head coach? Or is Ryan Nelsen going through a process of implementing a winning mentality no matter what?
JL: I think Kevin Payne and Nelsen realize fully that the supporters are craving success. The Canadian Championship, while nice and has brought us silverware four years running (oh, I'm hoping I'm not rubbing salt into a wound there...), is rather undervalued given how little we've gotten out of the CONCACAF Champions League afterward. The CCL has cost us quite a measure of grief, even if it was a fun little distraction from our league woes...but I don't know if Nelsen is putting more emphasis on the Voyageurs' Cup than maybe say a Paul Mariner or an Aron Winter -- all he wants is to win, and set a new mindset.
SB: Do you feel that Robert Earnshaw is underrated around town and around the league? I ask as I really enjoy what he brings to the table and is a catalyst for the team with experience and performances?
JL: Absolutely not! TFC fans have fallen in love with Earnshaw, but like any goal scorer, runs hot and cold...and at the moment, he is running cold as the Ungava Peninsula in January. He's scored many of his goals so far by capitalizing on defensive errors, and have brought things back from the brink for TFC when many a time before, it would have meant a loss. He's going to be key for a while, and I think many defenders are noticing that too...they're tighter in their defence while Earnshaw is around, and they know that any little mistake they concede can and will be punished by the Welshman. He might be slightly underrated for now, but if he hits his stride again...watch out!
SB: With Matias Laba on his way, how shocked are you with Kevin Payne's quick turnaround to bring in big names? With Kevin Davies almost coming this summer and more names being linked to TFC, is the Payne train going to fast for the Toronto media?
JL: Absolutely not! I am absolutely not shocked at all that Payne is trying hard to get some big names...and that is likely to continue with the appointment of former AEG head honcho Tim Leiweke to the head of MLSE. Both of these men know the MLS, and they know past handlers have, to put it lightly, strangled the golden goose within an inch of its life. They are bold, and they have a track record of success with DC and LA, respectively. While they haven't turned any major successes in Toronto just yet, I am sure they are working hard to bring it.
Turn that local sign to an express, because the Payne Train is at full speed...and I for one am loving it!
SB: What do you think will be the projected lineup?
JL: With injuries and what not, here is how I'm predicting it:
Stefan Frei; Ryan Richter, Gale Agbossoumonde, Danny Califf, Ashtone Morgan; Kyle Bekker, Luis Silva, Jeremy Hall, Reggie Lambe; Emery Welshman, Robert Earnshaw.
SB: And how about a score prediction?
JL: I think it'll be a case of too little, too late for Montreal. I will second your prediction of 2-1 TFC.