Toronto FC waited this long, so what’s another week?
After a lengthy pursuit and countless negotiating sessions, Toronto officially unveiled Julian de Guzman as its first designated player on Friday, having signed the talented Canadian midfielder to a contract that ties him to the Major League Soccer club until the end of the 2012 season.
But chances are very good that de Guzman won’t see any action in Saturday’s crucial home game against the Colorado Rapids (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET).
For one thing, de Guzman, 28, can only take to the field for his new team pending the approval of his international transfer certificate, and Toronto general manager Mo Johnston said Friday he doesn’t expect that to happen by game time.
Second, de Guzman hasn’t played in a competitive match since July, when he turned out for the Canadian national team at the Gold Cup, which means he’s not exactly in game shape — making it unlikely he will see any action even if his paperwork is completed in time.
Do or die time for Toronto
Toronto currently sits 11th overall in the MLS standings, three spots behind the New England Revolution, who occupy the final playoff position. The Reds are involved in a seven-way dogfight for the final four post-season berths but, with just six games left in the season, time is running out.
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"If we don't get a win out of this game, then we're playing catch-up and it's going to be difficult, so we know it’s a must-win game for us," Toronto midfielder Carl Robinson acknowledged.
Coming off a 1-0 loss in Colorado last week and having failed to score a single goal in their last three games (two losses and a draw), Toronto has to come out strong on Saturday against the Rapids and dictate the pace of the game right from the opening kick-off.
"We just have to go out and attack and win the game. I don't think we can sit back," Robinson said. "We've got good attacking players on our team, and if we sit back in a game we need to win, we might be asking for trouble. When you go away from home it's different, you need to cope with the first 20 minutes of the game, but here at home we have to go out and win the game from the first whistle."
Equally important for Toronto will be to shut down Colorado forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, who have combined for 20 goals this season.
"They know the runs each one is going to make and they know how to get it to [Omar] Cummings to use his speed, and they know how to use the height and strength of Conor Casey," Toronto forward Dwayne De Rosario said.
"That combination, when you have the strength and the speed, it's very difficult to mark against. I thought we did pretty well last game, but we just slipped in the box in that one minute and gave up a goal. I'm pretty sure our defence will learn from that mistake and come out ready [Saturday]."
Stopping the league’s best scoring duo won’t be easy for Toronto, especially without defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang and defender Adrian Serioux, both suspended for Saturday’s game.
Creative midfielder Amado Guevara wasn’t expected back in Toronto until Friday night after playing for Honduras in two World Cup qualifying matches earlier in the week, and could be given Saturday off to rest and recuperate.