First Look: Toronto FC

A week after pulling the rug from under the defending champs, the Revolution head north to BMO Field on Saturday to face this year’s preseason favorites – Toronto FC. Kickoff is set for 1pm.

The matinee match marks the first of three between the conference rivals. Last year, the squads split their head-to-head series right down the middle (1-1-1).

While the Reds have been the talk of the league since netting the likes of Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe, Gilberto and Julio Cesar, the not-nearly-as-glamorous Revolution have quietly moved up the conference ladder, going 3-1-2 in their last six.

Here are a few things to know about the Revolution’s adversary come Saturday:

1. Despite the offseason upgrades, Toronto are surprisingly awful in a few key areas. Yes, you read that right. The club that acquired Michael Bradley is actually ranked dead-last in possession (39.3 percent). But that’s not Bradley’s fault alone; the squad is struggling at the basics. Case in point: their 71.4 percent passing success is the worst in MLS. And if you thought the improvements would bring a beautiful style of play, check out this stat: 228 short passes through six games. Though the Reds may have games in hand, that total is the lowest among all MLS clubs. A famous rapper (not Drake) once told the masses: Don’t believe the hype. Well, Chuck D. might as well have been talking about the 2014 Toronto FC (so far).

2. Toronto may want to change its crest to a red cross. One thing that sure hasn’t aided the Reds’ cause is the litany of injuries picked up by key players. In addition to Bradley, who underwent a “foot procedure” to repair a “nerve issue,” Defoe, Jonathan Osorio, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Dwayne DeRosario and Jeremy Hall have all dealt with early season knocks. Fortunately for the Reds, they’ll head into Saturday’s clash coming off a bye week they undoubtedly used to rest and recuperate.

3. Left side is the best side for Ryan Nelson’s squad. With creative players like Gilberto and Issey Nakajima-Farran at their disposal, Toronto’s made no apologies in its tendency to attack from the left. In fact, only Real Salt Lake (41 percent) use the left flank to attack more than Toronto (40 percent). And with left back Justin Morrow never shy to join the fray in the final third, expect Darrius Barnes and Teal Bunbury (or whoever mans the right-sided midfielder’s spot this week) to have their hands full come Saturday.

Stat of promise from last week: The Revolution only conceded a single shot on target against Sporting Kansas City in last week’s 2-0 win. Note: Kansas City entered the contest tops in MLS with a 5.8 shots on target average.

Early forecast: 57 degrees and overcast, with a 30 percent chance of showers. (Source: weather.com)

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com