Winning Streaks Set To Clash At BMO

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
The Partnership

A meeting of two teams on a three-game winning streak takes place on Saturday when Toronto FC hosts Houston Dynamo at BMO Field (GOLTV Canada at 4:30 p.m. ET).

The Reds made a big mid-season acquisition in forward Eric Hassli to replace a void left by the season-ending ACL tear to top goalscorer Danny Koevermans. Hassli comes in with a slight knock to the ankle that he picked up earlier this month with Vancouver and will be a matchday decision according to head coach Paul Mariner. The boss may have to wait to pair up the Frenchman with Ryan Johnson in Toronto's attack, but the anticipation in the TFC dressing room is evident.

"He's great," Johnson said of his new strike partner. "I remember him when he first came into the league, I always thought he was one of the best forwards in (MLS)." The Jamaica international believes with Hassli's help Toronto can make strides up the league table. "The hungrier he is, the better for us."

Growth Process

Whether Hassli is in on Saturday or not, Toronto will look to Luis Silva for an offensive spark. In Koevermans' absence in the last outing Silva played second striker and set up both goals in a 2-1 win over Colorado. Prior to that he had scored in two consecutive matches. With Houston arriving unbeaten in six games, Reds will require Silva to shine.

"It doesn't really matter where I play," Silva told Toronto FC TV on Friday, "as long as I get to play." The rookie has taken to Mariner's 4-4-2 formation with ease. Be it as the midfield catalyst or playing higher up alongside Johnson, Silva has looked every bit as dangerous as initially thought when he made a sensational debut in the CONCACAF Champions League on March 7, before a period of adjustment and struggle. "(I'm) a little more dedicated to this sport." Silva said of his recent form. "Obviously I've been through a rough time and I think that's helped me a lot to grow as a player and as a person."

Gaining Confidence

Last time Houston and Toronto met the Reds surprised the Dynamo at their new stadium with 1-0 and 3-1 leads. The home side roared back inside the final 20 minutes with a pair of Will Bruin goals, the equalizer coming at the end of regulation time to rob Toronto of three points.

Reds have become more assertive since that June 20 draw, showing resolve in finishing a 1-0 win over New England and registering comeback victories against Vancouver and Colorado during the current winning streak. For goalkeeper Milos Kocic, Reds can erase the disappointement of the 3-3 Houston draw with a result on Saturday. "We have much more confidence than when we (last) played Houston," Kocic said. "I think now it's a totally different situation. The team looks better, much more confident. We're looking forward to it."

Dynamo Surging

Kocic admitted that although Toronto is bold, Houston is a side that can beat any team in MLS. His sentiment was echoed by teammates and head coach Paul Mariner, who has known Houston coach Dominic Kinnear for a very long time.

"He always has his teams incredibly prepared," Mariner said of his Saturday counterpart Kinnear. "Our biggest worry to be perfectly frank is Brad Davis. His service from set-pieces is phenomenal." From his first day in charge, Mariner has stressed the importance of not conceding set-piece chances in MLS. Saturday will provide a test against arguably MLS' best left-footed delivery man in Davis. "On paper it's an extremely strong Houston team," Mariner added, noting his Toronto side can't afford any gaffes against the talented visitors. 

The Opposition

The Officials

Drew Fischer is in charge on Saturday, in what will be just his second MLS match as the lead referee. In his first outing the official called 29 fouls and handed out three yellow cards. Daniel Belleau and Claudio Badea will serve as Fischer's assistant, with Sorin Stoica as the fourth official. Fischer last officiated a Toronto match in the first leg of the Canadian Championship in Vancouver.