Reds Hope To Leave Winless Streak In LA

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Hassli Halted

Toronto FC visits Carson, California on Saturday for an MLS match against Los Angeles Galaxy (on TSN at 10:30 p.m. ET). Last time Toronto visited the Home Depot Center, the Reds won arguably their most important match in club history, beating LA Galaxy 2-1 (4-3 agg.) to reach the 2011/12 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

The two clubs have been on vastly different paths since that March 14 match. Toronto has struggled in MLS, forcing the Reds to undergo coaching and squad changes at midseason, while the Galaxy look poised to make another MLS Cup run in the playoffs, though they'll likely see their Supporters' Shield title go to a rival at the top of the league points table.

Toronto arrives in Carson with three draws and six losses in its last nine league games, and as confirmed by head coach Paul Mariner, the club will be without the services of forward Eric Hassli, who was the lone goal scorer in the Reds' previous two outings. Hassli limped off the pitch with an ankle injury suffered in a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia in TFC's last match. Five of the six losses in this stretch have come by a single goal. Hassli's absence - along with his ability to finish - makes things more difficult for a squad that has already lost two other designated players in top poacher Danny Koevermans and captain Torsten Frings for the season.

Hometown Help

LA Galaxy is playing host on Saturday but for several Toronto players Califorinia is home and in Carson, they would love to shine in front of family and friends. Luis Silva in particular will carry a big task with Hassli sidelined. The Los Angeles native made a splash in his professional debut, scoring against the Galaxy in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals on March 7 in Toronto.

"Obviously it's going back home for me," Silva said on Toronto FC TV this week. He started at midfield in the last game before moving up to play second striker where he seems to shine with an eye for goal. "For me it doesn't matter (where I play), anywhere the team needs help I'll be willing to do it," the rookie who grew up supporting the Galaxy concluded. He may be joined up front by either Ryan Johnson or Bakersfield, California's Quincy Amarikwa. Another local forward option lies in Bay Area born Andrew Wiedeman, and although not a forward, Eric Avila could be called to boost the attack from midfield, he hails from San Diego.

Irish Reunion

With 50 goals to their MLS cause this season, LA Galaxy is second in the league in that category behind San Jose. Their capable attack is led by Ireland captain Robbie Keane, who has 12 goals this year. Landon Donovan trails his teammate by three and not restricted to merely being a masterful creator, David Beckham is third on the team with seven goals to his name.

One Toronto player quite familiar with Keane's ability is Reds' defender, Darren O'Dea. The Toronto centre back has played alongside Keane for Ireland and at Celtic in the Scottish top flight, O'Dea praised his countryman. "He's been a fantastic person to play with, I've been fortunate to play with him," O'Dea remarked of his national team captain. "He's a fantastic player," Reds' backline leader continued, "it'll be a tough game playing against him."

Back In Action

O'Dea should have additional help at the back trying to contain LA Galaxy with the return of fullback Ashtone Morgan. The Canada international served a one-game suspension for card accumulation in the Philadelphia draw.

"I'm excited to get back to the lineup and help the team out," Morgan said looking ahead to Saturday. "It's a great opportunity for us to express ourselves, we have nothing to lose." Morgan's return could also help Toronto going forward. The fullback leads the team with five assists and isn't shy to use any space available to him up the flanks. The homegrown player touched on the fact that Toronto will continue on the road after Saturday for a Champions League tilt Tuesday in El Salvador. "We have a busy schedule, we're going to give it our all."

The Opposition