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It’s not yet vacation time for the TFC veterans as the Reds head to Florida

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Coach says not yet time to play the kids

Author of the article:

Steve Buffery

Publishing date:

Oct 19, 2021  •  October 19, 2021  •  4 minute read  •  Join the conversation Toronto FC interim coach Javier Perez (right) is congratulated by midfielder Nick DeLeon after defeating the New England Revolution.Toronto FC interim coach Javier Perez (right) is congratulated by midfielder Nick DeLeon after defeating the New England Revolution. Photo by AP Photo /AP Photo

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Toronto FC coach Javier Perez says it is “business as usual” heading into Wednesday night’s clash in south Florida against Inter Miami, meaning that he’s not going to throw in a bunch of young kids into the starting XI.

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Social media is ringing with TFC fans demanding Perez start playing as many young players as possible in the final five MLS regular season games of the season with the Reds now out of playoff contention. Development, not wins, should be the priority, or so the argument goes.

However, Perez doesn’t see it that way … yet. Toronto’s No.1 priority at this point of the season is the Canadian Championship and the game everyone at the club is gearing up for is the semi-final of that tournament on Nov. 3 at BMO Field against Pacific FC. With the MLS playoffs out of the picture, winning the Voyageurs Cup and thereby qualifying for the 2022 Concacaf Champions League could salvage what has been a hugely disappointing 2021 for the Reds. And that’s why Perez isn’t prepared to use the four MLS games leading up to the Canadian Championship semi simply as an exercise in player development.

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“We are going down to Miami and we want to have a good performance. And the best team is going to be put on the field to get the best outcome possible,” said Perez this week. “Everybody knows at this point that, yes, we are out of the playoffs, but we still have the Canadian Championship and you cannot only show up for one game. We need to keep going, we need to keep improving (heading into the Canadian Championship semi). Hopefully we can pass by some of the teams that we have right above us. It’s not about only getting points, but as well improving our position in the MLS table and building up for next year.

“But everybody has to stay focussed,” the coach added. “And it’s one game at a time and Miami’s our next game and the best players will be available for that game to perform and try to get a win. It’s been a very difficult year for everybody, for all of us. But at the same time we want to continue to get better.”

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On paper, Miami looks like a team ready to be steam-rolled, even playing at home at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The Herons, once playoff contenders, have lost six games in a row, being out-scored 16-1 during that time. Miami’s last victory was Sept.14, a 1-0 win over TFC at BMO Field, a controversial match that saw a penalty kick awarded to Toronto early only to be taken away on review, and then Miami scoring later on a penalty kick with TFC playing more than half the game with only 10 players. Perez was not happy with the officiating in that match and doesn’t want a repeat on Wednesday.

“We want to play a game that’s fairly judged, 11 vs. 11,” said Perez, while waving aside suggestions that Miami should be easy pickings. “Yes it’s a team that lost all these games, and the last game, away against Columbus (a 4-0 loss), was difficult (for Miami). But the three games right before that, they only lost 1-0. So I think we’re going to find a side that is strong. There are no easy teams in this league.”

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The Reds are coming off a 2-0 loss to Atlanta United on Saturday night at BMO Field — ending what was a five-game unbeaten streak for Toronto. TFC is 2-11-2 on the road this year and the Herons are a dangerous team at home.

“I think they are similar to us. They are good players like us. But in some games they are good, in other games, they don’t play very good,” said TFC attacking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo. “We are close, we are similar. We know we have good players and we will see. I hope we can take some confidence there, some points and for sure we are going there to take three points.

“There’s a chance we’ll find the classic (formation) that they’ve played most during the season, a 5-2-3. Or there is a chance that they go again with a 5-3-2,” said Perez, in breaking down the Herons. “But I think overall it’s going to be a team that is going to be very solid at the back, with the three centre backs, they’ll try to keep a clean sheet helping the keeper. Then up front it’s (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Robbie) Robinson, we know the speed he has, we know the quality of Higuain. And there’s a chance (attacking midfielder Rodolfo) Pizarro comes in the picture (on the attack). When we played in Miami (on Aug.21, a 3-1 loss) he had a good game against us and they will try to hold to that performance to motivate themselves against us.”

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Perez said on Monday that he expects Pozuelo and forward Jozy Altidore, who both recently returned to the lineup from injury, will be able to play some minutes in Miami. There’s also a chance that veteran centre back Chris Mavinga, who hasn’t played since Sept. 29 because of a lower back injury, could make the trip, though Perez added that midfielder Ifunanyachi Achara, who was injured in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Atlanta United, is out for at least one game.

Forward Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Toronto’s 17-year-old rising superstar, will get the start against the Herons, but not just because he’s young and could use some more development at the MLS level. Perez said the Brampton youngster has earned a spot in the starting XI.

SBuffery@postmedia.com

Twitter @Beezersun

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