Toronto FC will travel to Salt Lake on Monday night, hoping to steal three points from the same ground they took their first ever away win last season.
Winless in nine matches (including friendlies and Canadian Championship results), Toronto are in danger of seeing the wheels come off their playoff dreams. Last year, a 2-1 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Independence Day was enough to give hope to the Reds, but poor away form through the rest of the campaign doomed the Canadian club to last place in the league.
Dismal road form has been a thorn in the side of John Carver’s men in 2008 once again, having claimed just one win from seven trips. That performance, a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles in April, gave rise to hopes that Toronto may have turned around their away jinx, but recent results have shown that a huge gap remains between the club’s away performances and their play with BMO Field’s notoriously loyal fans behind them.
Real Salt Lake are flying high in just their fourth season, sitting atop the Western Conference, although the split table can be deceiving given the relative poor play of the sides from the West this season. RSL sit just two points up from Toronto in the overall standings with two games in hand, but the Reds are mired in fourth in the East and hovering around the playoff zone.
Carver will miss Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne, both a part of the United States’ Olympic team (along with RSL’s Chris Seitz) in China. Rumours persist that American striker Chad Barrett will join the club from Chicago as part of the deal that sees Toronto give up their right to acquire veteran hitman Brian McBride, but the forward is unlikely to join up with the squad until after the RSL trip.
Todd Dunivant has been placed on the season-ending injury list in a move that will free up salary cap space for Barrett. Fan favourite Danny Dichio is still out with a concussion; while Kevin Harmse, one of Wynne’s natural replacements at right back, may be unable to reach fitness with a knee problem. Youngster Nana-Attakora Gyan or centerback Marco Vélez may fill in on the right side of defense.
Olivier Tébily is listed as questionable for tonight’s game with an ankle injury, but rumours on fan sites persist that the French defender has returned to Europe, citing an inability to settle in Toronto. Whether he appears on the bench with the Reds in Salt Lake may be telling.
Countryman Laurent Robert, a friend of Tébily who helped him to adjust to life in Canada, is likely to start in Utah but will have to be wary of his discipline. One more yellow card will see the left winger miss TFC’s next match.