John Carver doesn't scare easily.
But he hopes his Toronto FC players do, when it comes to keeping their starting roles. With a better team this year and a win to build on instead of multiple early season losses, Carver is trying to forge a higher standard.
"If people aren't performing, I want them under threat (of sitting)," the coach said as his team tries for its second consecutive road win in Columbus tomorrow. "And I want those guys on the outside to pressure them and make the decision tougher for me."
Carver came back from the 3-2 opening win against the Kansas City Wizards a week ago, vowing that modest success would not go to the heads of a team picked by many to earn its first playoff berth. The loss of midfielders Amado Guevara (Honduras) and Carl Robinson (Wales) for FIFA duty this weekend -- Guevara had two goals against the Wiz -- snapped the team back to attention, as has the calibre of opponent, the Crew being defending MLS champions.
"I'm not letting the guys get carried away," Carver said. "I've seen it before (his previous gigs in England with Newcastle, Leeds and Luton Town), you win your first game and everyone relaxes."
The coach is being secretive with tomorrow's lineup, as much to keep players on edge as to thwart the prying media. But no shortage of subs want in, such as forward/midfielder Pablo Vitti, who was dropped in favour of unknown Sam Cronin, and all three TFC goalies. Greg Sutton was rested in favour of rookie Stefan Frei in K.C. and sophomore Brian Edwards wants his shot, too.
But Carver won't likely tell anyone who's in or out until a few hours before the 4 p.m. kickoff.
"I'm not going to give too much away, I want them to work for it," he said. "Out of respect for Suts, I had a good conversation with him last Friday and explained his situation. He was fine about it all, a good professional.
"We went to (training camp in) Fort Lauderdale and he was flying, stopping everything. And he just got one on the end of his finger and it dislocated. I was standing right next to him and could actually see that his finger was out.
"Carmelo (Lobue), the physiotherapist, stuck it back in right away and we iced it and it settled down. But he was having one or two issues, a psychological thing, when you're trying to catch (balls) and you drop a few. I saw that and it was the main reason I went with Stefan."
Edwards and Vitti both were told they would be on the sidelines. "I find in my experience that you get your opportunity when you least expect it," he said.