Reds Reach For Reset Button In KC

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Koef Confident

The international break behind them, Toronto FC returns to action Saturday night away to Sporting Kansas City (GOLTV Canada at 8:30 p.m. ET).

Toronto went into the break on a high, having secured a fourth straight Voyageurs Cup for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League and earning a long-awaited first win of 2012 MLS season. The stoppage in play also brought about a change in management with Paul Mariner replacing Aron Winter as head coach. That may signal a shift in tactics, TFC fans will be hoping forward Danny Koevermans continues unchanged.

"I think we feel confident," Koevermans said this week. The Dutchman has scored in the Reds' last two league games. The more pivotal goal arrived at the 88th minute against Philadelphia in Toronto's previous match, a 1-0 victory that finally put TFC in the MLS win column on its 10th attempt. Koevermans views the string of good outings and new direction as a chance for Toronto to reset the season saying "Saturday it all starts, we'll see how we do against Kansas (City)."

A Quick Adjustment

The coaching shuffle has understandably prompted questions about player formation. Toronto has played variations of the 4-3-3 under its previous regime. Mariner looks set to deploy a more compact 4-4-2 lineup that will redress the shape of Toronto's midfield.

Eric Avila insists the adaptation isn't difficult for him or his teammates. The midfielder said of the change "it's something that everyone adjusts to, everyone is used to in a way." He went on to reveal the new formation "looks sharp in training and everyone is excited." The playmaker missed the Philadelphia match after picking up a knock against Vancouver in the Canadian Championship triumph. He has shown no discomfort since his return to training where he seems buoyed by the commitment of his peers to turning the season around. "Everyone is focused, there is new energy."

Balancing Club & Country

Not everyone had time off during the break. Defender Ashtone Morgan and midfielder Julian de Guzman were away with Canada. In similar fashion, Ryan Johnson was helping Jamaica as both nations chase the three guaranteed CONCACAF places in the 2014 World Cup.

All three players returned unscathed from a busy international calendar. Johnson scored a goal for Jamaica, while de Guzman was singled out for praise in his most recent Canadian performance. Toronto officially moved into the Kia Training Ground at Downsview Park in the trio's absence. Working out with his club for the first time at the new digs, de Guzman was delighted to see Toronto have a permanent training home. "You can see a lot of things finally coming together," the local footballer said with a sense of relief. "Guys are now looking forward to just focusing on what needs to be done on the pitch."

Containing KC

Looking at Toronto's backline, the Reds will be aware of Kansas City attackers that boast some of the fastest legs in the league. The Eastern Conference foe sprinted out to a seven-win start to the season often relying on punishing counter-attacks.

"They are crafty players," centre back Adrian Cann conceded before putting the onus back on the Reds to react, "at the same time we just have to play hard." Toronto holds the dubious distinction of giving up the most goals in the conference with 21. Cann shed some light on how Mariner hopes to improve in this area with better marking and support. "I think the guys know exactly what's going on, especially when we do the shadow play," Cann said. The defender believes Mariner has taken a more direct approach that he hopes will see the Reds concede fewer goals.

The Opposition

The Officials

Paul Ward will be the referee in charge of Kansas City-Toronto on Saturday night. MLSsoccer.com lists Ward to have presided over 33 league matches where he averaged calling 23.2 fouls and dishing out 3.7 yellow cards per game.  Ward has called seven penalties in that time while sending off 11 players. Philippe Briere and Marco Arruda are the assistant referees with fourth official duty falling to Leszek Stalmach.