Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, a free email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday.
This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC, and set up their schedule of games for the week.
You'll also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.
So, without further ado...
TFC idle due to the international break
Unbeaten in five games (4-0-1) after Sunday's 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire at home, Toronto FC will now go on a short sabbatical due to the international break. TFC will be off until Oct. 16 when it hosts Atlanta United at BMO Field, giving the Reds some time to recharge and recuperate.
While the bulk of the team will remain in Toronto, six TFC players have been called up by their countries for World Cup qualifying duty: Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, wingback Richie Laryea and Jacob Shaffelburg (Canada), defender Eriq Zavaleta (El Salvador), defender Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) and Yeferson Soteldo (Venezuela).
The Reds are dealing with a litany of injury issues, including midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (lower body injury) who has missed seven games in a row, forwards Jozy Altidore (heel), Jordan Perruzza (back) and Dom Dwyer (lower body), and defender Chris Mavinga (calf). The break offers them a chance to get healthy and give coach Javier Perez more options going into the Atlanta game.
“I think the break comes at a very good time for two reasons. One, because we have some players that need to recover or get in top form for the last stretch of the season. As well, to get some rest. Some players need some rest. We break it down in two weeks,” Perez said.
“The first week, they’re going to have some time off, not a lot, but some time because we think it’s needed. The season is very demanding and we need them 100 per cent for the last stretch. There are a lot of games so they will have a couple of days off and we will be back together to build up the group. Leading into the game against Atlanta, we will have a number of days (training) for that game.”
TFC captain Michael Bradley believes the break offers the team a chance to mentally recharge in order to finish the season strong and win the Canadian Championship.
“Where we are right now, it’s still about us. It’s about trying to step on the field, enjoy playing in our stadium in front of our fans, continue the positive run that we’ve been on over the last stretch, and continue to improve individually and collectively,” Bradley said.
“(We) still understand that there’s pride in playing for this club, even at the end of a year that hasn’t gone the way anybody would have hoped. There’s still a big responsibility there.”
CanMNT vs. Mexico on Thursday
Canada will play its biggest and most important game of the John Herdman era on Thursday when it meets Mexico at Estadio Azteca in a crucial Concacaf World Cup qualifying match.
Canada is No. 51 in the current FIFA world rankings, well behind ninth-ranked Mexico, but Herdman's side gave the Mexicans a very stiff test in the semifinals of this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup before ultimately losing 2-1 in Houston.
With five points from a win and a pair of draws in its opening games, Canada sits in a three-way tie for second place in the table with the United States and Panama, while Mexico tops the group with seven points (two wins and a draw).
The final round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers kicked off last month and runs until next March, with all eight teams facing each other home and away. The top three teams at the end of the group stage automatically qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place team moves on to the intercontinental playoffs with a World Cup berth at stake.
Canada has never defeated Mexico in a World Cup qualifier, and the Mexicans haven't lost at Azteca since 2013, so this will be a huge mountain for the Canadians to climb. The Canadians have won just three times in 36 previous meetings against El Tri.
Canada famously defeated Mexico 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the 2000 Gold Cup en route to winning the competition for the first and only time. That was the Canadians’ last win over the Mexicans. Since then, Canada is winless in nine matches vs. Mexico (with seven losses), and has been outscored 18-5 in that run. The Canadians have never won in Mexico.
Veteran winger Junior Hoillett won’t be able to play vs. Mexico due to health restrictions that deny travel from UK-based players to certain red-list countries.
CanMNT vs. Jamaica on Sunday
After the Mexico game, Canada travels to Jamaica to take on the Reggae Boyz on Sunday in Kingston at Independence Park.
Ranked No. 59 in the world, the Jamaicans sit in last place in the Concacaf table with a single point after their first three games - losses to Mexico and Panama, and a draw against Panama.
John Herdman believes Jamaica is a stronger side than it showed through its first three games in this round, and will benefit from the return of in-form West Ham forward Michail Antonio.
"I don't think you can use (last month's) window as a measuring stick for Jamaica. ... They were the hardest hit of any team by some of the pandemic realities," Herdman said.
"Coming into this one, I've seen their roster (and) that's for me the third-strongest (or) fourth-strongest squad in Concacaf when you look at all positions and where all these players are playing."
These two nations last faced each other in a pair of matches in 2017, with Jamaica earning a 2-1 win in quarter-finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup and Canada notching a 2-0 victory in an international friendly at Toronto's BMO Field.
RELATED READING: TFC Republic newsletter || Feature stories || Match reports || Opinion pieces || Q&As || Video blogs || News
Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Canadian men's team coach John Herdman has assembled an interesting 27-man squad for this month's trio of Concacaf World Cup qualifying games.
Alongside veterans such as Atiba Hutchinson and Milan Borjan, there are also a few relative newcomers in Derek Cornelius (13 caps), forward Charles-Andreas Brym (three caps) and TFC winger Jacob Shaffelburg, who are all first-time call-ups for this World Cup qualifying cycle.
I'll have a feature story with an in-depth breakdown of Herdman's roster this week ahead of Canada's opening game against Mexico.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's match vs. Mexico on Thursday.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's match vs. Jamaica on Sunday.
- I hope to be speaking to former Canadian men's team goalkeeper Craig Forrest this week about his experiences playing in Mexico.
- My column on the current state of affairs at TFC.
- My piece on what to expect from TFC over the last month of the campaign.
- Another edition of the TFC Mailbag.
- The eighth part of a special video blog series looking back at every TFC coach. This week, my memories of Ryan Nelsen.
TFC Republic mailbag
TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.
NOTE: For readers who have signed up for this free weekly newsletter but haven't yet subscribed to TFC Republic, just a reminder you have to purchase a subscription in order to read all of the great content behind the paywall. TFC Republic has very reasonable rates at $8 a month and $50 a year - just click on the subscribe button on the home page.
(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)
The TFC Republic newsletter comes out every Monday, and will be emailed to both paid and free members. All other content at TFC Republic is behind the paywall, and you'll need to be a subscriber to access it. It costs only $8 for a one-month subscription, or $50 for a full year (prices include 13% GST/HST). What a great deal, eh? Don't miss out, and order your TFC Republic subscription today!