Redemption time for TFC

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

It's time to get busy.

Toronto FC starts a stretch of four games in 11 days Wednesday with its Canadian championship opener, playing host to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Left red-faced by its performance in the inaugural year of the competition, TFC expects bigger and better things from its Canadian championship campaign this time around.

Before last year's competition started, onlookers and those around these parts assumed TFC would steamroll over its USL-1 Canadian brethren, leaving the Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact in its dust on its way to a run in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Obviously, that didn't happen and the Impact was the beneficiary, becoming Canada's premier club soccer team -- at least for the time being.

With the strong marketing arm and MLS brand behind TFC, there undoubtedly is pressure within the club to set the record straight -- TFC is Canada's team.

Now that the preconceived and misdirected notion that USL-1 teams are inferior to those in MLS has been erased, TFC's will be better prepared for the task at hand.

The question still is in the air as to what kind of team head coach Chris Cummins will field against Vancouver this week

Cummins has stuck to his guns, fielding the same starting lineup that has gone undefeated over its past three.

But with the team looking fatigued Saturday and some nagging injury concerns along with a hectic schedule, it should be in Cummins, and the side's best interest, to change things up Wednesday.

Quite frankly, his regulars need a rest.

Saturday against Columbus, TFC was second best all over the field. It wasn't a matter of effort; it was tired legs.

If TFC plans on competing well into the season, and more importantly this autumn, it needs to show its depth now.

So far the strength of the squad's depth hasn't become apparent. Not because of personnel, but because of lack of opportunity. It was a question heading into the campaign and more than a month later, it still is a question.

Any good team is made up of more than just 12 or 13 regular players -- and there's plenty of quality on the bench craving a new lease on life under Cummins.

Rohan Ricketts has played only sparingly after starting the first three games of the season. Cummins has brought Ricketts on as a late-game substitute, but the crafty English player unquestionably has something to prove: A return to his form of last season. Ricketts has the ability, and may have been a victim of a foundering system under the former head coach than anything else.

Fuad Ibrahim looks to be in line for another start after showing well in his two starts. Ibrahim, although still raw, gave the side some added width and looked dangerous on attack before his spot in the lineup was sacrificed with the change to the 4-3-3 formation.

With Ibrahim being more of a natural outside player, and the same with Ricketts, if both are included in the side Wednesday, Cummins may revert back to a 4-4-2, giving the likes of an ailing Danny Dichio some time to heal.

Kevin Harmse is another candidate to rejoin the starting lineup, shifting back to his natural position as a defensive midfielder. For all the effort and commitment Carl Robinson brought to the side, it makes sense to start the Welshman on the bench.

REST NEEDED

At the back, Nana Attakora needs to see time on the field. The staff raves about his potential but needs games to grow. Although naturally more a fit as a centre-back, Cummins may elect to give Jim Brennan a breather, after taking a knock Saturday.

The Canadian championships is also a chance to give ousted starting goalkeeper Greg Sutton some work. There is no substitute for game action, and the veteran Canadian backstop needs work to stay sharp.

If Cummins does decide to give some of his depth players a chance to perform in the Canadian championship, it's in the best interest of the team long term and no disrespect to the competition. The priority for the club has to be the league this year.


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