Toronto Drops In On D.C. Saturday

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Positive Direction

Toronto FC hopes to get its first points of the 2012 MLS season on Saturday night, when the Reds visit RFK Stadium to face D.C. United (TSN 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET).

Forward Ryan Johnson has played every minute in 2012 for Toronto. The Jamaica international says he feels fine physically, and for his club where he has seen a marked improvement in the last two matches, both coming in the Amway Canadian Championship against MLS rivals Montreal and Vancouver. "We're defending well and we're creating a lot of opportunities," Johnson said on Friday before players, coaches & staff left for Washington. Toronto beat Montreal 2-0 at BMO Field before taking the away leg advantage in the Voyageurs Cup Final against Vancouver in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday. "Things have been turning in a positive direction," Johnson - the midweek goalscorer - is convinced.

Points Overdue

Johnson isn't the only one feeling the positive aftereffects of two quality cup matches. Goalkeeper Milos Kocic noted that he has faced fewer clear opposition chances in the last two games and he credits Toronto's attacking game for this change.

"Obviously as you can see, my job is much easier,"
the keeper joked with the media on Friday. Vancouver had a greater share of possession Wednesday but Toronto had more attempts on goal and better scoring opportunities in the second half. Kocic lauded the recent success."It's the same group of guys, but just a totally different way we play on the field, the way we pressure the ball."

Another member of the group, fullback Richard Eckersley, could see a return to the squad on Saturday. Eckersley was suspended for the Vancouver match after picking up a red card versus Montreal. For Kocic, there can only be one outcome Saturday against a D.C. team that beat them 2-0 two weeks earlier. "I think we're overdue," the keeper said.
 

Koef Can Go The Limit

Eckersley is on the D.C. trip and so is returning forward Danny Koevermans who made a second half appearance in Vancouver after a month on the trainer's table with a groin injury.

Asked about his fitness, the candid Dutchman said "I felt bad because we gave away the victory (in Vancouver), but considering my body I feel fine." His inclusion allowed head coach Aron Winter to switch Ryan Johnson wide, from where he created several chances including a pass that should have resulted in a Nick Soolsma goal, but for Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon making a timely run off his line. His return raises the question will Toronto continue to bring Koevermans off the bench against tired defenders or will Winter select a team similar to the one that finished in Vancouver? Back to his fitness, Koevermans said "I hope (I can go the full 90). We'll see, I don't know what the coach's intentions are."

Positive Football Planned

The coach didn't say if he'll start Johnson, Koevermans or both against D.C. but Winter signaled his intentions when Toronto takes to the pitch in the U.S. capital.

"We want to get the points, of course," Winter made it known before revealing that the Reds will play positive football against D.C., something they didn't do enough of until late in the loss to United at BMO Field. Since that difficult defeat Winter made a change in the coaching staff, promoting Bob de Klerk upstairs as technical manager and adding club legend Jim Brennan as an assistant. Whatever happened in the aftermath seems to be working and Winter doesn't see any reason to abandon the current formula. "The last two games we didn't lose and that is a good sign. We are going to play the same way."

Playing the same way also means, unfortunately, having to do without the services of captain Torsten Frings and set-piece dynamo Miguel Aceval. Both missed the last game due to injuries and will not be in the lineup on Saturday.

The Opposition

The Officials

Referee Geoff Gamble will lead the officiating crew on Saturday. His assistants will be James Conlee and Eric Proctor. The fourth official will be John McCloskey. In 11 career MLS games Gamble has averaged 22.9 fouls and 3.1 yellow cards per game according to MLSsoccer.com. The same source confirms Gamble has sent off two players in that time, and called nine penalties.