Scouting report: What to expect in the second meeting of the season against Toronto

Struggling Reds look to escape Eastern Conference basement

 

The general consensus was that Toronto FC might be turning things around in 2013.

The team was 1-2-2 through five games, with a great win against Sporting Kansas City and a couple of draws against solid teams like Dallas and Los Angeles.

Since then, the wheels have come off in typical Toronto fashion.

The team has gone 1-6-1 in all competitions since the 1-1 draw at PPL Park in April. That includes a 6-0 thrashing in Montreal that knocked Ryan Nelsen's club out of the Canadian Championship.

This Toronto team is not without talent, but it gives away ghastly, cheap goals in the dying stages of matches. It's the main reason the club is just 1-7-4, with seven points and a ninth place standing in the Eastern Conference.

All-time Philadelphia's record against Toronto now stands at 3-2-3. The Union is 1-2-1 in four total matches played at BMO Field.

Toronto Attack

Here's the statistic: Toronto's offense scored just one goal in five total games in the month of May.

Striker Robert Earnshaw started the season on fire, but he's cooled off significantly in recent weeks. The Welshman hasn't scored since April 13, yet still leads Toronto with five goals this season. He's been paired primarily with Luis Silva and Justin Braun this season, the latter of whom is questionable this weekend with an ankle injury.

There's speculation about the return of Danny Koevermans, who's coming off of ACL surgery. Koevermans was earlier considered a possible substitute in this game, though it's now being reported that the Dutch striker suffered a setback in practice this week. Canadian media outlets describe the injury as a "tweak" to his other knee, so it doesn't look like his surgically repaired knee was affected. He might be a gametime decision.

There are a few new faces in this TFC squad, starting with Bobby Convey. The former USMNT winger was traded to Toronto after failing to establish himself in Kansas City this season.

Matias Laba is a 21-year old young designated player. He's an Argentine midfielder with plenty of upside and intrigue. Look for him to play centrally with Jeremy Hall.

Winger/Forward hybrid Jeremy Brockie is a New Zealand international (as was Nelsen). He started on the left side of the formation in the recent 2-0 loss at New England.

The knee injury to Terry Dunfield hurts the club's midfield depth. There have been some positive signs from rookies Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker, but their minutes have been limited in 2013.

Toronto Defense

Going along with the theme: Toronto's defense conceded 12 goals in five games during the month of May.

It's been a mess along the Reds' backline.

For starters, right back Richard Eckersley is out injured. He's always been a "motor" guy for Toronto and his blue collar work ethic is noticeably missing.

Another right back option, Darel Russell, is also sidelined through injury. That means Ryan Richter, a former Union guy, is finally getting some significant professional minutes. He's now started 6 games straight since making his MLS debut at PPL Park back in April.

On the left side, Ashtone Morgan has struggled enough to get himself benched, with Darren O'Dea sliding over to fill the position. Problem is, O'Dea is a center back and hasn't exactly made a smooth transition over to the left side.

Centrally, you'll see another new face. Nelsen brought in Scottish defender Stephen Caldwell on-loan from Birmingham City. The 32 year old has been thrown into the mix right away, pairing with youngster Doneil Henry last weekend. Fellow center back Logan Emory is injured, and Danny Califf hasn't played since early in the season.

The only constant in the TFC defense is Joe Bendik, who has played very well in goal this year.

Possible Starting XI: Bendik (GK), Richter, Caldwell, Henry, O'Dea, Lambe, Laba, Hall, Brockie, Silva, Earnshaw

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com