TORONTO — The Toronto FC team that Real Salt Lake kicked to the curb at Rio Tinto Stadium in late-June is significantly different than the team it will face at BMO Field tonight in Canada.
In the past month, Toronto has added seven players and shipped out five more in a significant summer rebuilding project for one of the worst teams in MLS. Two of the incoming players are designated player signings — 34-year-old former German international Torsten Frings and 32-year-old Dutch striker Danny Kovermans.
So what does it all mean for Real Salt Lake (KMYU 2.2, 5 p.m.) tonight? Who knows.
"I don't think anybody really knows what Toronto is going to put out there. They're making a lot of changes, a lot of trades, bringing new players in. This is a team we haven't played yet," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
The Toronto team RSL beat 3-1 two months ago was arguably the worst team it has faced all season. The revamped version isn't quite so bad.
"It would be a huge mistake if we took Toronto lightly, 'cause we know how tough they can be, especially at home. They made a lot of moves and everyone on their roster is trying to prove themselves right now," said defender Chris Wingert.
The results lately have been better.
From May 28 to July 23, Toronto posted a 1-7-3 record in league play and was outscored 24-9. In the four games since, which coincides with the new arrivals finally getting acclimated with one another, Toronto is 2-0-2 in all competitions. Its two wins were against Nicaraguan club Real Esteli FC in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying — but wins are wins when you're struggling.
"I think we should expect a team that's moving in the right direction. Two road results in a row plus advancement in the CONCACAF Champions League, I think they're feeling positive about the way they're moving right now," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It's a very dangerous opponent for us, but it's still an opportunity for us to try and get all three points on the road."
RSL has been decent on the road this year with a 2-3-3 record, but it's never really looked all that comfortable away from home. If it has any hope of chasing down the Western Conference leaders, that will need to change.
Real Salt Lake closes the season with nine of 13 games on the road beginning tonight in Canada.
"Last year, I felt like it didn't matter where we played, home or away, we always had the same mentality and we always put together good performances. I'm sure we picked up more points at home than we did on the road, but I think some of that comes down to the emotional state of things," said Kreis. "This year, I still think we're kind of finding our way on the road."
RSL is winless (0-2-2) at BMO Field in four previous league appearances and has never scored a goal. It's feeling good about itself following last weekend's 3-0 victory at home against New York.