TORONTO - First, the good news.
"(I'm) looking forward to stepping on the field and getting a result that we need," said Adrian Cann, who's set to earn his first start in just under a year when winless Toronto FC plays host to Chivas USA at BMO Field Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Aron Winter announced Friday the club's 2010 MVP is expected to make his first MLS start since tearing knee ligaments last May.
"Adrian is a good defender and we were waiting so long," said Winter, when asked if the Canadian was eligible for selection heading into today. "He has played a couple of games with the reserves and has done it very well."
As for the bad?
"I feel good, but it's not my decision," said club captain Torsten Frings, who confirmed he would miss Saturday's match with a hamstring injury. "It's the doctor's decision. He said the risk is too high to play tomorrow. I think next week against Chicago I'll be ready."
With Logan Emory suspended and Ty Harden playing his way off the field, after insisting he'd make changes following a deflating loss in Montreal, Friday's training indicated Toronto's bench boss will follow through with last Saturday's post-game remarks, most notably through the potential exclusion of Julian de Guzman.
Toronto's high-priced midfielder trained opposite the club's first team Friday, making way for Luis Silva and Ryan Johnson to join Terry Dunfield in the middle of the park.
"We're all on the same page and tomorrow we want to get the first victory," Winter said. "I've got all the faith and confidence. If you watched all the games that we've played -- the four games in the league -- (we've had) bad luck and we've given (goals) away."
Coming off a nightmarish Champions League performance last week, Miguel Aceval will likely start alongside the returning Canadian, who addressed the challenge of starting an MLS match next to a defensive partner he's unfamiliar with.
"It will be a challenge to learn (Miguel's) tendencies," Cann said. "I know how he plays, but ultimately it's building that kind of relationship. I think it should be a good game."
Additionally, with Nick Soolsma set to miss Saturday's game with a hamstring issue, a positive performance in Wednesday's reserve match should see Reggie Lambe start opposite Joao Plata on the right wing.
Failing to impress in a handful of appearances, the Bermudian's speed could be an advantage over aging Canadian left back Ante Jazic on the flank.
"They've got a good team," Winter said. "At this moment it's important for us to think about ourselves. We know (Chivas') strengths and the weaknesses that we have to take care of, but we want to play our own game."
A loss to Chivas would make 2012 TFC's worst start to a season.
And for the first time this year, the feeling around the club is that this match is as close to a must-win as you can get two months into the season.
"I've been saying every week it's a must, but it really is," Milos Kocic said of the need for three points. "I don't want to say much because I'm repeating (myself). Until we get the first three points, there's not much to say. We all see what's going on."
Lose and the Reds would become just the fourth club in league history to begin with five consecutive losses, a record no club has ever recovered from to earn a post-season berth.
Luis Silva v. Nick LaBrocca
It's the promising prospect against the former Red. Sent to Chivas for Alan Gordon last July, LaBrocca returns to BMO Field looking to quiet one of TFC's most creative attackers. With de Guzman appearing to be the odd man out, should Silva and Ryan Johnson strand Terry Dunfield in the defensive end, LaBrocca and Ben Zemanski have the quality to punish Toronto on the counter. Although deadly around the box, there are questions as to whether Silva is well-rounded enough to compete at both ends of the pitch. Without two holding players sitting behind him, Silva will have more responsibility than usual.
KEEP IT TIDY
With options at the back limited, Miguel Aceval looks set to return from a benching to pair with Adrian Cann, a player who hasn't completed a full match since last May. Untested and unsteady, if the unfamiliar duo fails to alter course, it will be more of the same for a club that has conceded the second most number of goals within the league.
Despite only scoring twice through four league games, head coach Aron Winter insists the Reds are creating chances in front of goal -- a comment the stats simply don't back up. Through its first four matches, the Reds have averaged just three attempts on frame -- worrisome considering all the scrutiny directed at the club's back line. Based on Friday's training, Winter looks set to deploy an attack-minded lineup that must create 6-to-8 quality opportunities if it's to earn its first three points.
* Since 2007, Chivas has owned the series with Toronto. The Rojiblancos are 7-2-1 in 10 all-time meetings with the Reds.
* Winless at home, Chivas sports a pair of away wins at Salt Lake and Portland this season -- two of the more difficult MLS venues.
* The Reds parted ways with pool 'keeper Brain Rowe this week after signing academy product Quillan Roberts to a first team deal. The 17-year-old Brampton native will be the club's No. 2 today.