Reds Look To Rally Against Royals

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Stick To The Plan

Toronto is in Sandy, Utah Saturday night to face Real Salt Lake (GOLTV Canada, 9 p.m. ET), hoping to secure its first points of the 2012 MLS season.

Head coach and technical director Aron Winter earlier this week said he refused to panic despite the winless start to the league and he will stick to his vision - an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation - to see Toronto out of its losing mire. However, Winter will have to do without two key pieces to his frontline in Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma. The Dutch duo are nursing groin and hamstring injuries, respectively, and Winter confirmed that the pair will not be in Utah.

The Target Man

An acute striker shortage means Ryan Johnson will once again be the centre forward for Toronto. The Jamaica international said he is indifferent about where he is placed on the pitch, explaining  "wherever I play I'm happy, wherever I can influence the game and help my team win, doesn't matter to me."

The attack received a welcome-boost last week when winger Reggie Lambe struck with a rocket from distance (that was criminally denied MLS Goal of the Week honours) and then added an opportunistic second goal to his name. Toronto will need Lambe to pressure the Royals' fullbacks, who have looked vulnerable this season and are known to allow crosses into the box. Heading into their midweek 1-1 draw in Dallas, Salt Lake conceded six of eight goals redirected from crosses or corner kicks. Their ninth goal against came from a penalty, but only after defender Tony Beltran handled following a set-piece.

Back To The Middle

Winter further revealed that Torsten Frings, who returned from injury to play a sweeper role last week against Chicago, will "probably" feature at midfield on Saturday.

Should Frings be at the middle of the park, it could set up an intriguing showdown with Salt Lake catalyst Kyle Beckerman. The two team captains share a similar style. They are both a reliable distributor of the ball and can be counted on to destroy opposition momentum. In Dallas, Beckerman showed his patience on the ball before threading a perfect pass to Will Johnson, who then relayed to Emiliano Bonfigli for the equalizer. In a battle of the midfields, Frings will likely get help from any combination of Julian de Guzman, Terry Dunfield, Eric Avila or Efrain Burgos during the match. Dunfield knows that getting a point on the road from the Royals won't be easy, though veterans like him are ready to "dig in" and "put things right."

A New Partnership?

With Frings possibly back at midfield, there were hints at training late this week that Toronto could partner Logan Emory with Adrian Cann at central defence.

Emory last saw action in Montreal, where he was dismissed near the three quarter mark. The 24-year old will inject some pace into the middle of Toronto's backline and Emory's aerial ability doesn't hurt his case for what appears to be an available spot next to Cann. The Reds have carouseled Ty Harden, Miguel Aceval and Doneil Henry in that spot this season and Dicoy Williams is recovering from double ACL/LCL surgeries to also potentially compete for the Cann partnership. Emory is aware that with a strong showing Saturday he could get a jump on the competition.

The Opposition

The Officials

Silviu Petrescu will lead the officials on Saturday night. His assistant are Daniel Belleau and Kevin Duliba. The fourth official is David Gantar.

In his 43 MLS games in charge, Petrescu has called 27.5 fouls and handed out 3.7 yellow cards per game. The referee has ejected eight players and called just six penalties in that time.