By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool begins its 2012-13 campaign and North American Summer Tour in Canada, as the Reds face Toronto F.C. in a friendly.
The two clubs have never met before, but Liverpool isn’t unfamiliar with Toronto. In 2004, when the stadium was still called the SkyDome, the Reds played Porto. Liverpool came up short then, but will be looking to give new manager Brendan Rodgers his first win at the earliest opportunity.Looking at the Liverpool side, it is likely to be a bit lighter of a squad for this match than supporters may be used to. With Luis Suarez, Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy representing their countries in the Olympics, along with a group of other first-teamers who won’t be flying into Boston until after the weekend, Rodgers doesn’t have a significant amount of usual starters to choose from. This shouldn’t be a problem for the manager, as these matches are used more to see which players are ready for first-team contention when the season begins.
For those unfamiliar with pre-season friendlies, expect plenty of substitutions, and many players on limited time. Some may get an increased amount of time as the tour reaches its later stages, but these matches are more about evaluation, than results.
Brad Jones may be Pepe Reina’s back-up for the season, as he and former Hull City loanee Peter Gulacsi were called for the tour. Doni, Reina’s understudy last season, was not asked to join the 34 other players on the trip, which may mean that he is headed for the exit door. In order for Jones to solidify his place, the Australian will have to have some solid performances.
Due to this match’s lack of usual starters, players such as Raheem Sterling, Joe Cole, Alberto Aquilani and Dani Pacheco could see extended minutes. With these four looking to prove a point to Rodgers more than most in the squad, it could lead to some exciting action from these players.
Despite Toronto’s unimpressive record at present, no Liverpool supporter should expect a walk in the park. Major League Soccer sides have a habit of playing up to their non-league opponents, and Toronto is a great example. Even though the club has struggled to make itself known in the league, it just came off of an impressive run to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, before losing to Santos Laguna of Mexico.
Toronto may have a bit of an experimental squad, for a couple of reasons. First off, the team has been marred with injuries throughout the season. The injury bug struck again as talisman Danny Koevermans severely injured his knee earlier in the month, and is out for the season. This is a huge loss for the club, which didn’t need any more bad news.
It is important for fans to remember that Toronto is in mid-season form. This is an extremely valuable thing, but expectations need to be tempered in both directions. Toronto will be fit and ready to play, which Liverpool may be a half-step behind. Since Toronto is in the middle of its season, manager Paul Mariner may look to keep a relatively mixed squad of starters and reserves on the pitch. This could be disappointing for some fans, but this is the way it goes when playing in a friendly with a team that has more important matches on their schedule.
Toronto played as recently as Wednesday, where the team defeated Colorado 2-1 at BMO Field, its usual home ground.
In the United States, you can catch the match on Fox Soccer Channel.
Toronto v Liverpool
When: Saturday, July 21st 1600 EST/2100 GMT
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
League Position: Toronto 10th in Eastern Conference (19 points), Liverpool 8th in EPL 2011-12 (52 points)
Projected Toronto Starting 11:
DEF: Henry, Eckersley, Maund, Morgan
MF: Stinson, Cordon, Frings, Avila, Silva
Subs from: Kocic, Williams, Cann, Harden, Emory, Lambe, Roberts, Dunfield, Johnson
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Enrique, Carragher, Skrtel, Flanagan
MF: Aquilani, Spearing, Cole
FW: Sterling, Adorjan, Pacheco
Subs from: Gulacsi, Ward, Johnson, Agger, Robinson, Wilson, Sama, Smith, Wisdom, Adam, Lucas, Shelvey, Spearing, McLaughlin, Eccleston, Suso, Ibe, Morgan
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.
- Join LFC Boston’s Official Post-Game Party on July 25th (lfcboston.wordpress.com)