Short-handed Reds host Timbers

Adrian Cann looks set to return to Toronto FC's starting 11 for the first time since mid-July when...

Adrian Cann looks set to return to Toronto FC's starting 11 for the first time since mid-July when the Reds take on the visiting Portland Timbers Wednesday night at BMO Field. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:25 PM ET

TORONTO - Paul Mariner "expects a lot of fireworks" when the Portland Timbers' Kris Boyd and TFC's Adrian Cann come together at BMO Field tonight.

But while TFC's bench boss had nothing but praise for the player he called "a fantastic centre forward" Friday, set for his first match in over a month, his injury-plagued centre back appeared full of confidence ahead of his first test since mid-July.

"I've heard of this guy Boyd up top," a nonchalant Cann said. "He used to play at Rangers."

That's one way of describing Portland's Designated Player.

The 28-year-old Scottish international also scored a league-record 164 goals in the Scottish Premier League from 2001-2010.

But who's counting?

"I like the little projects I have to tend to," Cann said of Boyd. "That's what I like -- a responsibility I have to take care of ... I've got to do what I've got to do."

DUTY CALLS

The Reds will have to do it without the services of five regular contributors tonight after a spell of untimely injuries, ejections and international call-ups have forced Mariner's hand.

Along with Logan Emory, who will miss out due to a red card he received in Chicago, five players -- Darren O'Dea, Dicoy Williams, Doneil Henry, Ryan Johnson and Terry Dunfield -- are away with their national teams.

Add to that injuries to Jeremy Hall and Matt Stinson and Mariner will be hard pressed to fill out his bench.

"Hindsight in football is a wonderful thing," said Mariner, when asked to explain letting players join their national teams with an MLS fixture on the same day. "The reason I let Doneil go is because I thought Jeremy Hall would be back."

But after agreeing to abandon last Saturday's match in Columbus following Crew midfielder Kirk Urso's death, Emory's suspension was pushed back a game, leaving Mariner little choice but to bring Cann and Ty Harden back into the fold.

"There's no easy games, especially when you lose six of your players with international callups and suspensions," Mariner said. "The events of last weekend, nobody can foresee that. We took the right option for me but it does hurt us a little bit ... You just get on with it."

CH-CH-CHANGES

Rookie Aaron Maund will likely fill Dunfield's midfield void while Harden will replace Henry on the right side of defence. Look for Luis Silva to leave his spot on the left side of midfield and join Eric Hassli up front.

As Mariner described it Friday, it's a chance for players to show they belong in the absence of TFC's regulars -- and begin growing into the players the Englishman believes they can be.

"I think what (Maund) has got with his physical attributes, with his pace, with his height, he can protect that back four in front," Mariner said of the decision to move Maund out of defence and next to Torsten Frings.

"I want him to play two-touch. I don't want him to think he's got to be something that he's not."

A point behind Portland for second to last in the league, it would seem hardly the right time to experiment. Tonight kicks off a stretch of five games in 13 days, ending with a massive Champions league fixture on Aug. 28 against Santos Laguna.

Already out of playoff contention, a home loss to this year's Mexican Clausura winners in Toronto will see TFC's season all but end.

"I think these guys do better when they're under the gun," Mariner said of TFC's hectic end to August.

With all the absences, the Reds will certainly be under it tonight.

KICKOFF : PORTLAND @ TFC - 730ET ON TSN

MARQUEE MATCHUP

JACK JEWSBURY VS. AARON MAUND

As he approaches 250 league appearances, Jack Jewsbury's decade of experience towers over Aaron Maund's MLS resume. The first-year pro won't like what he sees when he looks across the BMO Field half-line before first kick. A hard-as-nails, box-to-box midfielder, Jewsbury, 31, will be licking his lips with the 21-year-old looking to tidy the space in front of TFC's back four. On paper, this one's as lopsided as ever. But if TFC's first-round pick can put in a clean performance, he'll turn a few heads around a typically overcritical Toronto fan base.

TFC KEYS

ORGANIZATION: With Ty Harden and Adrian Cann returning to the lineup, two of TFC's starting defenders will be coming off lengthy injuries. Add to that the fact Richard Eckersley continues to play out of position and tonight's back four could resemble a Chinese fire drill.

SILVA-HASSLI COMBO: The pairing Paul Mariner describes as "catch and grab" must produce if the Reds are to get anything out of this match. Although he was involved in good combination play in Chicago, Eric Hassli needs to be more influential in front of goal. Danny Koevermans' replacement isn't a threat to score at the moment.

PROBABLE XI

Kocic, Morgan, Cann, Eckersley, Harden, Avila, Maund, Frings, Lambe, Silva, Hassli


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