By Simon Pyne
The second-leg of the Amway Canadian Championship takes place this Wednesday between Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, and gives the Reds a great opportunity to reach the final and up their current form.
Toronto head into Wednesday’s game with a slender one-goal advantage from the first leg of the tie, after a 2-1 win, and will be looking to improve on their recent performances to give a boost to their loyal supporters.
It will also give new signing Jermain Defoe another chance to show why Toronto made such a bold acquisition.
The Reds fans will be hoping the star duo of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley continues to shine, to enable their progression to a place in the final.
Defoe has continued playing in the vein he is remembered for in Britain. He is the 14th highest all time goalscorer in the EPL with 124 goals and has also scored 19 goals for the English National side.
He is known for forming successful partnerships with attacking teammates and it appears him and Bradley are already starting to gel.
His current form will keep him in the limelight though, and Reds fans should be hoping Defoe doesn’t get the call from the England Manager, Roy Hodgson, to join the World Cup squad, as Toronto will need his goals in the coming weeks.
Coach Ryan Nelsen of course knew all about Defoe, from his own time as a player at Tottenham Hotspur where he watched the prolific striker hit the back of the net regularly.
Toronto showed their interest in October 2013 and following negotiations, and a couple of phone calls from Canadian rapper Drake, the deal was completed in January this year.
This was a shrewd buy for Toronto and providing JD stays injury free it will pay dividends in the coming seasons.
(Photo: Jermain Defoe can score goals, but Toronto need to improve defensively)
The new signing of Luke Moore shows further intent of their attacking intentions but scoring one more goal than your opponent is a dangerous tactic and the Reds need to shut up shop in defence and make those goals count.
It’s worth noting that the deal to acquire Luke Moore involved Toronto trading a central defender, in Gale Agbossoumonde to the Colorado Rapids, so the emphasis is clearly on attack.
In their first three games they only let one goal in, but then followed this up by letting five hit the back of the net in their last three games.
The late goal by the Whitecaps at BMO Field in the first leg may yet come back to haunt them in this competition.
Although a place in the final is going to be a confidence boost for The Reds, it is their MLS form they need to turn around.
After a flying start to the season they have now suffered three losses in a row, so the talent within the team must endeavour to turn this form on its head.
They have three to four games in hand over the teams above them and must ensure they make those count, even with the loss of key players to the World Cup.
If they can achieve that turnaround there should be no reason why they can’t then kick on and get into a solid playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Whitecaps may just be the first fly in the ointment however. They are unbeaten in their last four MLS games and will relish the chance of beating Toronto to the final, and gain bragging rights over their rivals.
The winner of the tie will have a chance of silverware and the entry into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Reds then have league games against NY Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, two teams who have been scoring for fun and both will attack the Reds defence at every opportunity.
Ryan Nelsen’s side need to be strong and show they are up for the challenge ahead and prove they can achieve success and honours.
One honour they have already acquired is unfortunately the ubiquitous one of having the most expensive tickets in the Eastern Conference.
There is no doubt Toronto have the talent on the pitch, they now just need to prove to their loyal fans they are worth that extra money.