Two Regulars Return For Red Bulls Match

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Back In The Lineup

Coming off a 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League win over CD Aguila, Toronto FC takes on New York Red Bulls Saturday night in Harrison, New Jersey (GOLTV Canada at 7 p.m. ET) with a couple of regulars returning to the lineup.

Reds took to the pitch on Tuesday in El Salvador without Darren O'Dea and Richard Eckersley. The centre back pairing was held out of the match for precautionary reasons, giving their bruised bodies some rest ahead of a difficult task against the Red Bulls, a club that boasts attacking players such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

Ireland international O'Dea was asked about the 2010 World Cup Qualification incident where Henry handled the ball on way to a France goal that eliminated the Irish. "If you ask Irish people, I don't think we'll ever forget," O'Dea said, "but certainly my opinion is I never would've blamed him, I would've done the same thing." The defender was rightly more concerned with the future than the past, saying in Henry and Cahill Toronto will be facing "two top quality players ... in (Henry's) case probably one of the best players to have ever played."

Spot Of Confidence

Backline boosted, going forward Reds are still relying on a handful of options with top strikers sidelined. Quincy Amarikwa impressed head coach Paul Mariner last Saturday in Los Angeles and scored the opening goal against Aguila on Tuesday. He could be in line for a second straight start Saturday. "It's nice to get a win, you like to take that confidence from a win and hopefully it will carry over," Amarikwa told Toronto FC TV. "We don't want to just lay down and let (New York) think it's going to be an easy game."

Mariner confirmed after training Friday that Eric Hassli is still out of the picture with a badly injured ankle. The boss hinted that the Frenchman, who received treatment at the Kia Training Ground during Friday's session, is unlikely to return anytime soon. Should Hassli be out for the season, he will join a long list of top players - Stefan Frei, Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans - sidelined for the remainder of 2012.

Kitchen Sink, etc.

The absence of Koevermans and Hassli has caused Toronto to seek goals elsewhere. Rookie Luis Silva has contributed, he notched his fifth goal and assist of the season in the 4-2 loss to LA Galaxy last weekend. Ryan Johnson set-up two goals on Tuesday and a formerly unexpected source, central midfielder Terry Dunfield has popped in timely tallies for Toronto during the current 10-game MLS winless streak.

"I read (Thursday) Tim Cahill saying he is expecting the kitchen sink to be thrown at them," Dunfield quipped, "let's not disappoint them." Dunfield has scored a few memorable goals this season; a stoppage time winner in July against his old club Vancouver, a late equalizer against Houston in August, and last week stemmed the tide against an LA Galaxy assault by getting one back for Toronto after the Reds fell to a three-goal first half deficit. On Tuesday, Dunfield captained the side and grabbed a brace against Aguila. The Canada international is eager to finish the season on a positive note. "We're also playing for our own pride ... it's no fun being at the bottom of the table."

Squad Decisions

The poor run of form has generated criticism that Mariner calls "fair" given Toronto's place in the standings. "Of course it's fair, we haven't won. There's nobody that wants to win more than we do," the coach asserted on Friday. 

Mariner realizes player availability issues and logistics can sound like excuses but it has been an unfortunate reality for the team with a large percentage of Toronto's payroll on the treatment table. "We've constantly been hampered by injury, we've constantly been hampered by not much training because of the travel schedule," Mariner continued, saying it has been difficult to get the team set up with great regularity. Over the 10-game MLS stretch, Toronto has three draws and seven losses, five of those by a single goal. Despite the setbacks, "we've still got a lot of fight in us," Mariner said.

Toronto will have to fight Saturday without goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who remains in Toronto with a personal matter, making Freddy Hall the likely starter in goal against the Red Bulls.

The Opposition