Reds shuffle off to K.C.

Toronto FC players Torsten Frings (L-R), Danny Koevermans, Ryan Jackson, Ty Harden and Andy Iro...

Toronto FC players Torsten Frings (L-R), Danny Koevermans, Ryan Jackson, Ty Harden and Andy Iro block a free kick by FC Dallas defender Jair Benitez (R) during their MLS soccer game Wednesday at BMO Field. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:56 PM ET

Though five new starters made their debuts for Toronto FC against FC Dallas on Wednesday night, it is likely the lineup gets shuffled even more on Saturday.

When the Reds face off against Sporting Kansas City at spectacular new Livestrong Sporting Park, Richard Eckersley surely will return to the starting group from suspension, while Terry Dunfield and Julian de Guzman should be in the opening XI if they are fit to compete.

That means the unfamiliarity that caused so many problems on Wednesday in a 1-0 loss that could have been far worse, likely will rear its ugly head again.

“It’s hard to integrate one player into your team, I can’t imagine what it’s like to try and integrate six new players into a team,” said FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman on Wednesday night.

Unfortunately for the Reds, Kansas City is not a team to come in helter skelter against.

K.C. has added nine games to an unbeaten streak that stood at two after a draw with TFC earlier this season.

Kansas City has yet to taste defeat (two wins, three draws) in league play at its new digs and scored second half goals (the last two after the 90 minute mark) to pull out 1-1 draws in each of its past three contests.

Five SKC players have scored three goals this season and Omar Bravo leads the balanced attack with four.

Its minus-1 goal differential is 19 better than TFC’s league-worst mark.

If those numbers aren’t enough, K.C. had a dominating 24-6 shots advantage against Houston — 8-2 on goal — in its latest 1-1 draw, a season-high.

Forward Ryan Johnson, one of the many new Toronto players is happy the team will get a quick turnaround to forget about Wednesday’s disappointing defeat.

“You don’t want to be thinking about a loss all week, so we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves on Saturday,” Johnson said.

“Going into Kansas City will be a tough game, they have a brand new stadium, but if we stay together I think we’ll be alright.”

Staying together will be key, but is easier said than done given the unfamiliarity the players have with each other.

Besides looking lost defensively, the confused group had trouble stringing more than one — and at times merely one — pass together.

“It took a half to know where we wanted to be,” Johnson conceded.

“It’s going to take time, but hopefully not too long.”

Central defender Andy Iro will not pick up the system overnight, but incumbents Nathan Sturgis and Mikael Yourrasowsky struggled even more, providing terrible service and a host of turnovers.

If de Guzman and Dunfield are able to return, that should improve.

It will have to. Toronto has not scored in four games and has just two strikes in nine games.

Not surprisingly given the lack of finish, TFC has dropped its past three matches and has one win since May 7 (13 games).

The playoffs are long gone, even if the math doesn’t quite say so yet, but Saturday will be about getting on the same page ahead of Wednesday’s crucial CONCACAF Champions League opener against Nicaragua’s Real Esteli at BMO Field.

 KICKOFF

Toronto FC (3-10-9) at Sporting Kansas City (5-6-8)

8:30 p.m. GOLTV

Marquee matchup:

Omar Bravo vs. Torsten Frings

Frings had a nice debut on Wednesday but was one of the many Reds at fault when Dallas’ Brek Shea scored the only goal of the game. Bravo, like Shea, is an extremely dangerous finisher and will have to be watched closely. Bravo leads Sporting Kansas City with four goals this season.

NOTES

* K.C. has picked up points in last 11 games (four of them wins) after dropping five in a row to sink to bottom of standings.

* Teams played to a draw earlier this season.

* If Canadian Terry Dunfield is able to take the field, TFC will have used 34 different players so far this season, just two behind the MLS record, set by the New York Metrostars in 1996.

* Game could mark debut of new K.C. designated player Jeferson, a Brazilian midfielder.

TFC KEYS:

* Close the gaps. Dallas was given far too much space on Wednesday and could have humiliated the Reds with better finishing. On a roll, K.C. will do better if it is given the chance.

n*Complete some passes. The service from Toronto’s backline was nothing short of horrendous vs. Dallas. The return from suspension of Richard Eckersley should help and midfielders Dunfield and Julian de Guzman should also be able to get things moving better should they be able to return from injury.

ryan.wolstat@sumedia.ca

 


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