Big thanks to James and the WtR crew for kickin' it around with us this week! Be sure to check out the "reverse fixture" on their site, where our fearless leader answers four queries about New York City!
Hudson River Blue: So, more Garber Bux! MLS's new "targeted allocation money" announcement is as exciting as it is devastatingly convoluted, further enhancing the Rube Goldberg machine that is the MLS roster apparatus. Given that it affords more cap flexibility to teams currently flush with DP's, what should Toronto attempt to accomplish with this extra $500k?
Waking the Red: Oh allocation monies, how will the public ever understand.
In seriousness, MLS' attempts at being more open about how the various mechanisms work – at least this one was announced before it was used, unlike the retention funds that emerged with the Matt Besler signing – one gets the sense this back-and-forth over transparency, or the lack thereof, will go on for some time.
There is no hard and fast rule book, which has its advantages for a growing league, but the 'convenience' of some changes are grating.
That aside, what Toronto should do with this gift is a more serious matter. There have been several ideas floated already for how the windfall should be direction.
Some have suggested that TFC should look into the potential of using the additional funds to somehow bring back Brazilian striker Gilberto, who was forced out the door with the winter additions of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Just how that would function is another matter entirely, none of those players are within range of having their number paid down to an acceptable level (unless TFC has a few million in allocation money sitting unused in a dark corner).
Another possible outlay would be to bring back Irish centre-back Darren O'Dea, who departed midway through 2013, released so he could transfer to Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk. O'Dea was a very solid defender for a struggling Toronto side, but was signed on a generous non-DP contract (thanks to allocation money) at the time, precipitating his exit – he was too expensive – but could perhaps return on a more comfortable figure.
No one is quite sure where TFC stands in terms of the cap, whether they would have room for such an addition – even with the league's generous offer, but that they need some defensive reinforcement is a fact upon which all can agree.
Damien Perquis has turned into a solid centre-back, Eriq Zavaleta has impressed, despite the odd miss-step, and Nick Hagglund has found his minutes few and far between, but that another quality, experienced defender, either in the middle or out wide, would be beneficial is clear. Justin Morrow and the resurgence of Ashtone Morgan leaves them with two starting quality left-backs, but the slow return from injury of right-back Mark Bloom has left that side vulnerable.
Further complicating the matter is that Steven Caldwell has been injured since half-time of the second match of the season. It is unclear whether he will ever return; he was stripped of the captaincy in the off-season, passing it on to Michael Bradley in a controversial decision, that many foresaw as an indication that his time at the club was coming to an end.
There have been a few rumours circulating, involving the likes of Hugo Campagnaro, most recently of FC Internazionale Milano and Cicinho, who spent last season on loan from Sevilla FC to CD Numancia in the Segunda. Recent trialist Daniele Galloppa is another name in the mix, though that interest seems to have waned and FC Sion defender Beg Ferati has also been mentioned.
All that considered, the club has stated that they have no interest in making short-term decisions, preferring to move for a target that will be in place for "eighteen months to two years" rather than being reactive.
HRB: In direct opposition to that of the StubHub Center, in which Toronto got screamed on by L.A., the pitch at Yankee Stadium is basically MLS's dark night of the soul. In terms of tactics or style, what can TFC do to take advantage of the cramped dimensions?
WtR: It will be quite a contrast, transitioning from the vast expanse of the pitch in LA to that cozy little patch at Yankee Stadium.
There are two ways the small pitch could come into play on Sunday; one benefits Toronto, while the other plays more into NYC FC's hand.
Beginning with the latter, the lack of space will be advantageous for New York's defensive structure, as play will be compressed, allowing better coverage of Toronto's various threats. TFC has not really relied much on width this season – it has helped, but has not been essential – but any time there are more players in a certain area, passage through becomes a lot more difficult.
New York will undoubtedly provide the same tenaciously defensive performance, but given this meeting is at home, it is hard to imagine them bunkering single-mindedly, especially against a depleted Toronto eleven. The smaller pitch plays into that hand by giving Sebastian Giovinco less space to scamper – he will still find his moments.
On the plus side for Toronto, the LA pitch was just a little too big for comfort.
This TFC side is not the most athletic of teams – not meant in a bad way necessarily – in terms of speed and size, so having a little less acreage to concern themselves with at the back will make it easier to defend. The way the Galaxy were able to run at Toronto, capitalizing on the lane-ways that opened in the reconfigured midfield and back-line was devastating, hence the 4-0 score-line.
Playing on a tight pitch will make that spacing and communication better, that experience in LA will have been instructional.
In the end, it's a bit of a wash; both teams play on the same pitch after all. New York will have the advantage of familiarity, but Toronto will be fine.
HRB: The Gold Cup is a cruel thing-- how does this team plan to create goals without Michael Bradley? Can Luke Moore draw any pressure away from the Atomic Ant the way Jozy Altidore (occasionally) does?
WtR: Based on the outing in LA, the plural 'goals' may be a bit generous, but lost in the fog of the Gold Cup absences was that Moore was also unavailable due to a family bereavement. He will be back in the fold for Sunday.
While Moore cuts a divisive figure amongst the fan base – most disapprove of his lack of perceived effort – a few see glimpses of real quality on occasion. He has the ability to be a useful foil for the play of Giovinco.
Moore is an underrated passer – he has three assists this season, as many as Bradley - and understands the game. He sees those runs that Giovinco is trying to make and is capable of dropping off the line to collect and hold up play when needed; he can also finish when presented with the opportunity.
Much of the pressure however will fall on the shoulders of Benoit Cheyrou, who is second to Giovinco in assists with four. He moved into an attacking midfield role – Bradley's spot – against LA and looked pretty good before the penalty kick spoiled a strong start.
He is fantastic in tight spaces, so the pitch and the NYC pressure, should not bother him; his Gallic flair and West Paris (the mean side - born and raised) toughness will serve him well in what is expected to be a fierce midfield contest on Sunday.
Aside from those two, Toronto really needs Robbie Findley to find the form that had him in the US National Team and earned him a venture, albeit brief, over in England. He scored on opening day in Vancouver, but has not since; he needs to produce.
Also Bright Dike has returned from his loan to San Antonio, so he could be a factor as well. Earning a place in the hearts of Toronto fans with his physical play upon joining at a bleak moment in 2013, Dike's tenure has been difficult, marred by injuries that have limited him to 39 minutes over the past two seasons.
Another possibility is that Jordan Hamilton, a highly-considered homegrown striker could see some minutes, but he is more a prospect for the future at the moment.
While the Gold Cup will definitely be a trying time for Toronto FC, robbed of many of their essential attackers, be forewarned: Giovinco can score goals on his own.
HRB: What is Damien Perquis going to complain about this time? Is he going to whine about Lampard using performance-enhancing pies? About all the confetti everywhere from the World Cup parade? Surely he still has it out for Andrew Jacobson, but he ought to be careful about swearing when there's kids around-- new NYCFC fullback Angelino is supposedly 18, but the kid looks like one of those meme photos where someone Photoshops a baby's face onto an adult's head.
WtR: Not sure how he feels about Baseball, Pizzas, Parades, or Bodegas – let's assume he's against – but there will definitely be an encounter or two when the teams meet on Sunday.
Toronto liked neither losing to New York City in the first encounter, nor the manner in which it was allowed to take place, and will thus be eager to even out the series ahead of September's match.
The heavy defeat in LA will have only served to accentuate that ire, but whether without a healthy chunk of the first-choice eleven they can muster a proper challenge remains to be seen.
Perquis has been very feisty in recent weeks, picking up a third fine of the season against DC the week after the incident with Jacobson – both he and Jacobson were perhaps lucky to escape with fines after their step-to. But he will have learned through this process that he is close to the line, so should show the required restraint; unless, of course, things boil over again.
Don't worry too much about the kids, Angelino included – baby-faced indeed; past experience leads one to believe that after spending a few days in New York, he (and they) will have already heard all the varieties of language they ever would from the mouth of a fired-up French/Polish defender.
Where does one find these performance-enhancing pies? Asking for a friend.