Once again, fixture congestion will give Preki serious pause for thought.
Toronto FC's coach has to steer his game through four games over the next couple of weeks, starting with Wednesday's Nutrilite Canadian Championship tilt in Montreal. Then, it's off to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy this Saturday, then in Vancouver Wednesday for another NCC match-up, then next Saturday back at home to face the New England Revolution.
Two weeks ago, facing another clogged calendar of games, Preki decided to give regulars Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman the first half off in Real Salt Lake. It was a failed experiment, the coach admitted. Real Salt Lake was the third game TFC had in less than a week. At altitude. And the coach decided to sit some of his best warhorses.
But, despite the failure in Utah, he should give it another try.
Why? TFC should make clinching the Canadian championship as quickly as possible the priority. A win against the Impact Wednesday mathematically eliminates Montreal. Wins against both Montreal and Vancouver gives TFC the title, making their final NCC game at home to the Whitecaps, nothing more than a friendly.
Meanwhile, starting the best 11 against the Galaxy will likely result in a loss.
Heck, the way the Galaxy is going at the moment, you could put together an all-star side from the other 15 teams in the league and the Galaxy would still win going away. Yes, that's a pessimistic view. But it's a realistic one.
Parity has been the watch word in MLS, but the Galaxy is out the destroy that model. Los Angeles is running away with the league. It is undefeated in eight games. It has given up all of two goals this season. Heck, Landon Donovan's one goal, three-assist performance in Seattle was so devastating, it has Sounders' brass issuing refunds to their season-ticket holders as a way of saying sorry for putting them through the trauma.
That's right. Seattle on the road. And the Galaxy transformed it into a blowout.
The Galaxy faced the Houston Dynamo, another of the West's elite, and didn't allow a shot on target. It beat MLS champs Real Salt Lake. The Galaxy won in Colorado, a place where road teams go to die in the thin air.
So, if TFC's best lineup will more than likely be yet another victim of the Galaxy steamroller, why sacrifice two entirely winnable NCC games for it? After Los Angeles, TFC still has 22 more games on the MLS schedule, more than enough time for Preki to get the team straightened out.
That L.A. date will be the day to play with squad rotation. Put together a scrappy starting XI and hope for the best. If some of the better players are rested, it takes the pressure off the side.
Maybe something special happens.
But, scuffling through the NCC would be devastating for the team. Supporters want this Canadian title. They want a chance to see their team in the CONCACAF Champions League.
After the Vancouver game, Preki won't have too many options for the May 22 game against the Revs; Canada will be preparing for a friendly in Argentina so de Guzman, De Rosario and even defender Nana Attakora will likely be unavailable for selection.
After seeing Montreal and Vancouver draw 1-1 in an uninspiring game last week, TFC has to feel that if it plays to its abilities, with its best lineup out there, it should be able to get the points needed to win the Canadian title by next Wednesday.
The Reds need to seal the deal.