May 8, 2009 MLS DC United vs Toronto FC pregame (from MLSnet.com)
Reds face latest strong side in D.C. United
By Mark Polishuk / MLSnet.com Staff
TORONTO -- Two of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer meet on Saturday at RFK Stadium in what is just the latest in a string of matches for Toronto FC against a league power. The Reds' hot streak, however, has coincided with his stretch against top competition, leaving the club confident that it will be able to get a good result against Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United.
"Every week we seem to be playing the top of the table, it's weird," said midfielder Carl Robinson. "We're going in confident after [Wednesday's] performance and hopefully it'll be a good game and the best team will come out on top."
TFC's Wednesday night victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the first game of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship extended Toronto's unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1). It began on April 22 with a win against MLS leaders Chivas USA, and continued on April 26 with another 1-0 result over the then East-leading Kansas City Wizards.
After a draw last Saturday against the struggling but defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew, the Reds picked up another win over a good side on Wednesday in topping Whitecaps. The Vancouver side entered the game in second place in the USL First Division and riding the momentum from a win at BMO Field in last year's Canadian Championship, but in the end, they were another victim of TFC's current run of good form against quality opposition.
Saturday's game could prove to be the toughest test yet for the Reds. Not only are D.C. United on an even bigger roll right now (a 3-0-2 record over their last five games), but the Black-and-Red have historically dominated Toronto at RFK Stadium. After three trips to Washington, TFC has an 0-3 record and have been outscored 11-4.
These past results, in the mind of defender Adrian Serioux, are ancient history.
"We're going out there for one result and that's to win," Serioux said. "They're looking for the same thing. It's going to be one of those battles ... from what I've heard it's tough for Toronto to win in D.C. So we're going to go in there with a new game plan, a new face and hopefully come out of there with something to smile about."
Serioux will be smiling if he finds a place in the starting XI. The veteran defender is the only major question mark, fitness-wise, for an overall healthy Reds side. Serioux has been battling a stiff neck and back as the result of a hard header in the Columbus match, and was kept out of Wednesday's game with Vancouver.
The scratch meant that Scarborough native Serioux missed his first chance to play in his national championship, but with TFC in the middle of a stretch of five games in 15 days, the defender said he needed to be as healthy as possible for the long run.
"You want to play in every game but your health comes first," Serioux said. "My body's not as young as it used to be, so any little nicks and dings I get here I've got to make sure I'm ready to go 100 percent."
If Serioux is ready to play, he still might not get the chance given the strong performance of Nana Attakora-Gyan in Serioux's center back position on Wednesday. Toronto interim head coach Chris Cummins praised Attakora-Gyan and said on Thursday that a decision hadn't yet been made over who will be in the middle of the Reds back line against United.
Sam Cronin, who was also a scratch on Wednesday due to general stiffness, is probable for Saturday. Cummins said the rookie midfielder trained on Thursday with no problems and told the coach that he could play if called upon. Cummins noted that Cronin could have played against Vancouver, but didn't want to take the chance of overexerting the young player.
"He just got a little bit tight through the week and what I won't do is risk any of the players where I might lose them for three or four weeks," Cummins said. "I've got no issues with Sammy and if he's fit, there's a fair chance that he'll start on the weekend."
It is worth noting that TFC's unbeaten run has come at the friendly confines of BMO Field, where the Reds are traditionally very strong, and since the Reds switched to a three-striker formation up front. While the venue will change on the weekend, Cummins didn't want to give any hints about his formation other than to say that he feels an aggressive style of play works on any field.
"[It remains to be seen] whether we play a 4-5-1 to counter, whether we go 4-2-2 or whether we stay in the 4-3-3 and keep attacking," Cummins said. "The best form of defense is go on attack. You'll have to see on Saturday."
Both Toronto and D.C. have had to deal with a congested fixture list as of late. Like the Reds, United will also be playing their third game in an eight-day span following a 1-1 draw in Kansas City on Wednesday night. D.C. stars Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez didn't start that game, as a nod to the busy schedule, but did come into the match in the second half.
The duo are expected to start on Saturday, along with TFC nemesis Jaime Moreno. The all-time MLS scoring leader has made the Reds a significant part of his record, with four goals in six games against Toronto.
"He's a fantastic player. He likes to pull players out of positions," Robinson said. "Obviously he doesn't have the best of legs as he did a couple of years ago, but he's got a very clever footballing brain. His teammates compliment him because he's got Emilio up top who's very quick."
The tie with the Wizards put the Black-and-Red atop the Eastern Conference with 13 points, one ahead of TFC. A Toronto victory on Saturday would once again put the Reds at the top of the Eastern standings.
"They drew, so that's the best result we could've hoped for," Cummins said. "We had a very good win [Wednesday] night and we've got a full squad.
"It's a top-of-the-table clash and it looks like it's going to be a decent game."
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