As the Major League Soccer regular season draws closer to the end, the importance of Toronto FC’s matches also grows greater as each minute is played. This Saturday's match is by far the most anticipated league game of the season with Designated Player Julian de Guzman set to make his debut with the club.
A battle of the Designated Players with David Beckham on one side of the pitch at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California and de Guzman on the other.
It’s not the first time these two players have met at the club level; in fact de Guzman’s only goal in La Liga came against Real Madrid while Becks was still with the club. People have been asking the same questions all week of the former Player of the Year at Deportivo: How will Chris Cummins play the Canadian International? Will he play him in his more traditional role as a holding midfielder as he played at Deportivo? Or will he be able to push forward and try to create more scoring opportunities? A role in which Stephen Hart has him play with Canada scoring four goals in 40 appearances and named the 2007 Gold Cup MVP.
Whatever role he ends up playing and for how many minutes remains to be seen, but I am much more interested in the flare and creativity that may be produced in the midfield between De Rosario, de Guzman and Guevara. Chris Cummins stressed today how much he wants this team to pass and keep the ball moving. Well, if these guys are on their game we could see some of the best one-touch passing this club has ever witnessed. Especially when you consider they will be playing on a near perfect grass pitch at the Home Depot Center.
As I watched Julian play this summer at the Gold Cup for Canada he was by far one, two and three steps ahead of the competition. He knew where every player was around him and you could tell he had a pass or run mapped out in his mind well before it actually took place. Those are the football instincts that we sometimes miss in Major League Soccer. It can be a very direct and offensive minded game at times to make up for the lack of talent in the league, but you cannot deny the talent in Toronto FC’s midfield.
It’s where much of that build up play starts and it could all be coming together at the right time. Don’t be surprised if Toronto FC make a New York Red Bulls like run to the play-offs and from there the sky is the limit. Not too many people would have bet on New York making the play-offs last season, let alone reaching MLS Cup Final in 2008. It’s a week in which the stars have flocked to Toronto for the film festival and all the football fans will be watching their big screens at home Saturday night as the red carpet has been rolled out for arguably the best soccer product to come out of Canada, hopefully to a star-studded performance and even better reviews.
Lee Godfrey brings an extensive amount of soccer broadcast experience to GolTV where he is the host of the station’s original Canadian news program Extra Time.