Which TFC team will show up against Whitecaps?

Philadelphia Union forward Antoine Hoppenot and Toronto FC forward Ryan Johnson chase down the ball...

Philadelphia Union forward Antoine Hoppenot and Toronto FC forward Ryan Johnson chase down the ball at PPL Park in Chester, Penn., July 8, 2012. (DREW HALLOWELL/Getty Images/AFP)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 PM ET

It was as if Toronto FC hadn’t “played together” for a while — or ever? — during Sunday’s 3-0 thrashing in Philadelphia.

“It’s inexcusable, really,” Richard Eckersley said of the loss. “We should have done a lot better. The coaches have given us the platform to go and perform … We just lacked cohesion.”

Not to mention team shape — something that must improve on short notice with the Vancouver Whitecaps in Toronto Wednesday.

“It’s not necessarily the back four,” Eckersley continued. “We need to defend as a team and it starts at the front … It’s the whole team as a unit.”

In its worst 90-minute performance since the San Jose Earthquakes walked away from BMO Field with a resounding 3-0 win in March. Toronto conceded two or more goals for the 11th time in 18 MLS matches on the weekend as Philly’s Freddy Adu cut the club’s Swiss cheese defence to pieces throughout the opening half.

But after witnessing Toronto’s organized and composed performance in Dallas last week, it’s anyone’s best guess as to which side will emerge from the BMO Field tunnel this evening — and what tonight’s all-Canadian rematch has in store.

The Reds won’t have long to dwell on Sunday’s drubbing with the ’Caps returning for the first time since May’s controversial Voyageurs Cup final, a match that ended with the usual accusations and ejections that seem to emerge during each edition of the tournament.

From biblical thunderstorms to multiple red cards, strange things happen when the boys from B.C. roll into BMO Field, where the Reds haven’t lost since May 5.

Even stranger has been the league’s scheduling through the summer, which head coach Paul Mariner and his players were quick to blame for Sunday’s loss. The Reds are finishing up a stretch of a dozen games in just over a month and won’t receive a full week’s rest until the last week in July.

“A lot of the players have logged a lot of minutes,” said Terry Dunfield, who played for Vancouver during its inaugural MLS season. “(Philadelphia was) very good on the day and they were able to pull us out of our shape, which since Paul (Mariner) has taken over has done so well.”

Prior to Sunday’s match, the Reds were on a run of five unbeaten stretching back to a 3-3 draw in Houston last month, and looked to be turning the corner under Mariner’s watch.

“It has been a tough go but we’ll be OK,” Mariner said of Toronto’s busy summer.

It was all he could say after watching his side crumble days earlier at PPL Park.

In terms of difficult schedules, the same can be said for Vancouver. Since embarking on a run of six unbeaten at B.C. Place, the Whitecaps have played away to the Galaxy and Chivas with a trip to Colorado in between, all before a cross-continent flight to Toronto, where they’ve struggled to get results.

Despite already topping their point total from their inaugural (2011) season, the ’Caps haven’t taken full points from the Reds in their last five meetings.

“Every time (the Whitecaps) come to Toronto we obviously get good results,” Eckersley said. “We’ve come off a bad result so we’re trying to prove something as well. We’re trying to prove to the coach that we can do it again and again. It’s consistency and if we can improve that a little bit then we won’t have a problem.”

It would also prove that Sunday’s debacle was a mere blip on the road to recovery after starting strongly under Mariner.

KICKOFF VANCOUVER @ TFC 7 p.m., TSN

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Danny Koevermans vs. Jay DeMerit

The Dutchman’s run of form came to an end in Philadelphia on Sunday as the Reds continue to search for a secondary goal-scorer to post double digits behind Koevermans. Simply put: The Reds continue to rely too heavily on the offensive output of one player. Up against one of the more physical centre-halfs in the league, Koevermans will see his time and space dwindle with freshly named MLS all-star Jay DeMerit up his back. Like Philly before them, if the Whitecaps cancel TFC’s only real threat, a single goal at the opposite end will likely be enough.

TFC KEYS

TEAM SHAPE: Head coach Paul Mariner continues to make excuses for Richard Eckersley, who struggles to read the game when partnering in the middle. The Englishman has yet to figure out what it means to act as a secondary defender when playing off Jeremy Hall – and it cost Toronto on Freddy Adu’s goal on the weekend.

MIDFIELD PLAY: The club is currently playing with a converted midfielder at right back, a fullback at centre back, a former USL centre back and an underclassman out left. As a result, whoever pairs with Torsten Frings must do a better job eliminating penetrating balls into Vancouver’s attackers.

REMEMBER WHEN …

The Canadian Championship ended in controversial fashion when Julian de Guzman put his hands to Jun Davidson’s face, earning the Canadian international a sending off. The controversy came minutes later when Sebastien Le Toux was inexplicably sent off before Reggie Lambe’s late winner.


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