TFC struggling, 'Caps improving

Whitecaps Alain Rochat celebrates his goal against the Union last week with teammates Camilo (left)...

Whitecaps Alain Rochat celebrates his goal against the Union last week with teammates Camilo (left) and Eric Hassli (right). (BEN NELMS/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:20 PM ET

TORONTO - The Vancouver Whitecaps might have fewer points than Toronto FC, but make no mistake, TFC is the worst squad in Major League Soccer.

Aron Winter’s rebuilding, injury-plagued group is not as good as its Canadian expansion cousins who invade BMO Field Wednesday night.

At full strength, things might be different, but maybe not.

The Reds have grabbed 15 points through 18 games off of two wins, Vancouver has 14 points in 17 games, also from a pair of wins.

But while TFC is winless in its last nine league matches, Vancouver has actually come on of late, grabbing a win and two ties out of its previous five games.

The Whitecaps have also conceded five fewer goals and scored two more than Toronto.

Toronto has managed one goal in its past three games and just three in its past six.

Meanwhile, Vancouver has scored four times in its past three games and is coming around following a 15-game winless skid.

Unlike Toronto, the Whitecaps have kept games close, losing just three games by two goals and none by more than that. The Reds have lost five games by at least two goals — one by four and two by three and were whipped by Real Salt Lake 3-1 on Saturday in a game that could have been worse if not for the usual one or two great saves from Stefan Frei.

While Vancouver replaced its coach, TFC is staying the course, allowing Winter to implement his system with a group of players that likely will be almost completely shuffled in the off-season.

The current group has differed from game-to-game thanks largely to a devastating string of injuries. The good news for Winter is he expects midfielders Julian de Guzman and Tony Tchani to be able to return to the bench, though it is unclear if they will play.

Defenders Nana Attakora, Dicoy Williams, midfielder Jacob Peterson and big forward Alan Gordon remain sidelined.

The Reds have looked competent when Gordon plays, much less so when he does not.

The absences of Attakora, Williams and Adrian Cann have forced the green Henry into the centre back slot, one of the most important positions on the pitch.

“It makes it difficult,” Winter told torontofc.ca of all the absences.

“What we have in the back, most of them are injured, and what we have now, some of them are very young, making some good games, but also some less than good games.”

Winter still thinks his side can pick up some points.

“If you’ve got everybody fit then you should get another result and we should also get more points. Even when it is rebuilding I want to win because I’m a bad loser.”

Winter said some of the injured players who don’t return on Wednesday night will be back when the teams meet again to decide the Nutrilite Canadian Championship on Saturday afternoon in Toronto.

TFC expects to be active on the transfer market, but no reinforcements have arrived yet and the Whitecaps will look to continue a recent solid run against the league’s biggest minnow.

Toronto has let down its home fans all season, but a loss in the first MLS meeting of two Canadian clubs in Toronto would be a new low.

That said, the wrath of the faithful would be unleashed in even fuller force should the Reds fail to win a third-straight Voyageurs Cup on Saturday.

- - -

Kickoff

Vancouver Whitecaps (2-7-8 ) at Toronto FC (2-7-9 )

7:30 p.m. TSN

Marquee matchup:

Eric Hassli vs. Doneil Henry

Henry had a rough go of it last week in Utah, leaving dynamic striker Alvaro Saborio unattended.

Hassli is a different challenge, big and strong vs. slight and speedy and dominated the Reds early in the season. Hassli also has the MLS goal of the year to his credit.

Points of interest:

- Teams will meet again in final of Canadian Championship on Saturday at BMO Field.

- Vancouver midfielder Davide Chiumiento is expected to be out with a hamstring injury.

- Reds winless in nine including a 6-2 loss to Philadelphia, while Vancouver surprised Philadelphia 1-0 earlier this month.

- Vancouver pounded Toronto 4-2 in Vancouver to open the season.

- Toronto has just one win all-time vs. Vancouver and four draws in eight meetings,

TFC keys:

- Don’t get lost. Far too often against Real Salt Lake Toronto defenders failed to mark opponents.

The result was a number of goals or wide open shots against keeper Stefan Frei.

The defence needs to improve.

- Don’t give Hassli space. The big man has shown an ability to finish (six goals this season) and doesn’t need much room to get off a shot.

- Seize the opportunity. Vancouver isn’t terrible, but it is one of the weaker teams in Major League Soccer. Could be Toronto’s best chance at a win for a while.


Videos

Photos