Friendlies give teams the chance to experiment.
And TFC's coach, Preki, had a bit of the mad scientist in him for Wednesday's 4-3 loss in penalties to Bolton Wanderers, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes.
With many of his regulars rested ahead of Saturday's key league matchup with FC Dallas, Preki went with a slew of trialists and TFC Academy players.
And, with the game on the line, TFC Academy teenager Oscar Cordon had his penalty saved by Bolton's Jussi Jaaskelainen. That save gave Bolton the 4-3 edge in the penalty shootout.
Preki went with what looked to be a 4-2-3-1 setup, the formation made famous by German national team coach Joachim Loew.
And, for the 19,507 in attendance at BMO Field, it was their first chance to see Mista, the Spanish Designated Player who made his debut in a TFC uniform.
Mista is looked to be the difference-maker, the man who can transform a team battling for a playoff spot into a real contender.
The Spaniard was the key man in one of the prettiest goals TFC has ever scored.
Trailing 1-0 as the clock neared halftime, TFC midfielder Jacob Peterson led a counterattack down the right side. Peterson fired a pass across the field to Mista on the left. Mista saw that Maicon Santos -- playing the lone striker role -- was making a run towards the Bolton goal. Mista floated an absolutely perfect cross right on to Maicon Santos' forehead. Jaaskelainen had absolutely no chance.
Mista played a withdrawn role, moving deep into the midfield. He took free kicks and corners -- even though he played as a target man in Spain.
Preki said he isn't sure where Mista will play.
"In different games, there will be different roles for him. Nothing is set right now."
The backbone of the Reds, leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario, five-goal man Chad Barrett, midfielder Julian de Guzman, keeper Stefan Frei and the central defensive pairing of Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora, all had the night off.
Bolton's Stuart Holden, who made the move from MLS to the Premiership in January, admitted he was disappointed that De Rosario, his old Houston Dynamo teammate, wasn't in uniform.
"Dwayne was my mentor in Houston," laughed Holden, who converted his chance in the penalty shootout. "I was looking forward to kicking him about the pitch a bit."
Preki didn't apologize for not dressing many starters.
"We have a game on Saturday that means a lot to us. This game was fun," Preki said.
Bolton's opener displayed the gulf in talent. Fabrice Muamba's backheeled pass pierced the Toronto FC backline. Martin Petrov, who Bolton brought over in the off-season from Manchester City, got the ball into the box and drove in a low pass that went in off the shin of teammate Matt Taylor.
Mista and Maicon Santos were removed at halftime, and more trialists and Academy players were brought in.
The most intriguing of the bunch; midfielder Bas Ent, from the Premier Development League's Dayton Dutch Lions. He's a right-sided midfielder rumoured to be on the radar of the Columbus Crew.
Ent's low cross across the Bolton penalty area should have led to a winner. He drove a ball right into the path of TFC striker O'Brian White. Somehow, the ball went through the legs of White, but went to Academy call-up Nicholas Lindsay. Jaaskelainen stopped Lindsay's low shot.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle said he would love to bring his club back to Toronto.
"I thought the atmosphere was brilliant. I thought the Toronto fans were great. I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said.