TFC can't go through the motions

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

The regular readers of this column -- hi Mom -- know by now how much I hate friendlies that MLS clubs load onto themselves during the course of the regular season. After all, how boring was that Chelsea/L.A. Galaxy friendly this past weekend? Dullsville.

I know, I know, there's marketing value in bringing top-flight Euro teams in to face MLS clubs in mid-season form, but the Galaxy's mid-season form is only slightly better than egregious. And how quickly will fans be turned off by halfhearted games with EPL clubs going through the motions?

But, TFC's date tonight with Aston Villa should offer a little bit more than a disinterested MLS side playing a mid-table Premiership club that's ticking the dates off its pre-season fixture list.

Why? Because TFC has to use this game to try and rediscover its form. Over the last two games, TFC, despite brandishing a totally revamped lineup, has reverted to its form from April, when the team not only couldn't score, it didn't ever look that threatening.

Sunday's 2-0 loss to Columbus was troubling in many ways; striker Jeff Cunningham's injury problems resurfaced, Andrea Lombardo looked like he is still struggling with the blows his confidence received in Canada's three pastings at the U-20 World Cup, and Danny Dichio, TFC's top scorer and cult hero, has been reduced to a fringe role.

That loss followed a 0-0 draw with the defending champion Houston Dynamo in which a 10-man TFC fought gamely. But, make no mistake, the only reason TFC didn't lose to Houston -- or even get blown out -- was because the Dynamo missed several open scoring chances and a series of decent shots found the woodwork and not the back of the net.

TFC coach Mo Johnston has continually tinkered with the lineup; the starting 11 Sunday against Columbus featured only three players -- Jim Brennan, Andrew Boyens and Carl Robinson -- who started in the team's season opener against Chivas USA.

For the last two games, though, TFC has looked unsettled. With the changes in defence, Brennan has moved from fullback back to his natural wing position; ironically, he hasn't looked settled playing in the spot he should be used to. Striker Collin Samuel, brought in from the Scottish Premiership, has been on the wing, where he seems out of place. Really, in the last two games, only Marvell Wynne -- my choice for the team's MVP so far this season, thanks to his tireless running and willingness to win the ball away from opponents -- has looked composed.

With the majority of the schedule filled with home games, TFC needs to rediscover its form, quickly. A goal against Aston Villa -- even if some of the regular Villans aren't playing -- would be a needed boost before TFC hosts Chicago in a key divisional battle this weekend.

Unlike Benfica, who left many regulars at home when it came to Toronto, Aston Villa's tour squad includes stars like Bulgarian star Stiliyan Petrov, Gareth Barry and Luke Moore -- the latter emerging as one of the best young talents in the English game. Maybe the most interesting figure is teenage Hungarian striker Zoltan Stieber, who is looking to impress the new bosses and some Villa fans are hailing as maybe the new teenage sensation of English soccer.

24 hours sports editor Steven Sandor has written about the Beautiful Game for numerous publications around the globe. 


Videos

Photos