The weekend is almost here, and that means Chivas USA's next game is almost here. Considering the team is coming off a win, spirits are flying high at the moment. But what about their opponent this week, Toronto FC? Fortunately, we have Duncan Fletcher from SB Nation Toronto FC blog Waking the Red to fill us in on the happenings north of the border. Thanks very much to Duncan for his time in answering my questions this week!
Before I get started, I also want to point out that another writer for Waking the Red, James Grossi, offers an extensive and remarkably accurate scouting report on Chivas on that site - so their staff puts out good work and doesn't offer a "They're terrible...next!" scouting report.
Ok, back to the questions...
The Goat Parade asks Waking the Red
1. Toronto FC has had a rocky start to the MLS season. With their CCL run ended and a rivalry match behind them, do you expect TFC to rebound against Chivas this week and demonstrate the improvement many have predicted for them heading into the season? Or are the issues deeper than fixture congestion and related distractions?
Do TFC need to rebound against Chivas? Absolutely, the season's already getting away from us and we're barely a month in. Do I expect them to? Well, let's just say I'm running very low on optimism right now. Fixture congestion and distraction are factors, but yes the issues are a lot lot deeper. Right now, until a couple of injuries fully clear up we don't have a squad capable of consistently playing the 4-3-3 that Aron Winter would prefer. The main problem last year was in defence, and so we signed 2 international Centre Backs in the off season to fix that problem. Unfortunately, Ecuadorian Geovanny Caicedo didn't make it through pre-season before leaving by 'mutual consent' and Chilean Miguel Aceval has slowly and clumsily played himself back to the bench. That leaves the defence in pretty much the same shape it ended last season in, except without Torsten Frings to bring a bit of calm and order. There's talk of Frings coming back, but I'd be very surprised to see him in this game, and with Logan Emory suspended that probably means you will see Aceval back with Ty Harden in the middle of defence. If you've got any speedy forwards, they should enjoy themselves with that pairing.
To help the defence out, we've had to go with a very defensively focused midfield, which tends to leave the forwards a bit stranded, which means they've also been struggling. Danny Koevermans did finally get off the mark last week so hopefully that's a sign of good things to come. Eventually we will improve, but probably not to the point that some people expected before the season started, and I very much doubt it will happen this weekend.
2. It seems Ryan Johnson has been a bright spot so far for Toronto. What does he bring to the TFC attack, and do you think this will be a breakout season for him? Also, is there another player who has acquitted himself well so far?
The other new player who has been really good so far is Oswaldo Minda, a midfielder from Ecuador signed in the offseason. Don't be surprised if you grow to hate Minda over the course of the match Saturday - he seems like a holding midfielder who plays the "pest" role very well. Minda's still adjusting to the league, but his ballwinning skills have been excellent, and he has been able to dictate the play in the midfield with his physicality. He already has three yellow cards, so he plays on the edge of smart and reckless play, but the best teams in the league have a player who does what Minda's done so far. It seems like a very smart signing thus far.
Meanwhile, I think Jazic has been excellent so far this season, continuing the form of his career year in 2011. In fact, I wrote following the last match that I thought he was the only Chivas player who played consistently well for a full 90 minutes, and he was the best defender in the first half, when the rest of the backline looked very shaky. I think Jazic's form means he should definitely be in the mix for the national team in this next round of World Cup qualifying. There's no reason why Canada shouldn't make use of the Indian summer of Jazic's career.