Some of the edge was taken off Saturdays Fire road match at FC Toronto when the club announced on Friday that Chris Rolfe wont be playing. The popular striker, who rejoined the Fire this week after spending three seasons playing in Denmark, suffered what the Fire calls a minor ankle injury in training on Thursday.
The Fire (1-0-2) hopes to fatten its record against the only team in Major League Soccer without a standings point. FC Toronto is 0-5-0. Rolfes presence would have bolstered an attack that produced just three goals in the first four MLS games.
While Rolfes participation would have spiced up the Fires latest road trip, it wont detract from the match for right back Dan Gargan. He started 25 times for FC Toronto when the club made its MLS debut in 2010. He was dumped midway through the following season after the club switched coaches from Preki Radosavljevic to Aron Winter, a former Dutch international who had been an assistant coach for that countrys famed Ajax club.
Winters arrival triggered a massive roster revampment, with Gargan just one of those leaving. He was sent to the Fire along with a second-round draft choice for defender Dasan Robinson. Gargan calls his stay in Toronto "a bittersweet memory." This will be his first game back since the trade.
"I love the city," he said. "Toronto has some of the best fans in the league. When Toronto came into the league they set the standard for how good an atmosphere can be. I look back on Toronto and thought I would have been there a lot longer than I ended up being there, just because of the kind of player I am. I bring a lot to a team, and when they brought in new guys they went in a different direction."
Generally, that direction hasnt been the right one as this seasons record suggests. The Gargan trade was one of the new regimes worst moves. In exchange for a proven starter FC Toronto acquired Robinson, who apparently didnt fit in either. Less than two months after joining FC Toronto, Robinson himself was traded to Los Angeles. The Galaxy declined to re-sign him after last season, and Robinson eventually announced his retirement.
Shortly after the Fire acquired him Gargan scored against his former team in a 2-0 win at Toyota Park. He didnt look back fondly on Toronto then.
"The way they handled some things was tough to swallow," he said. "I dont think they gave this league enough respect. Slowly but surely theyre probably understanding that a bit more. At the end of my time there it was tough to be in the lockerroom and deal with the situations that were going on."
Given the winless record, things cant be too happy in the FC Toronto lockerroom these days, either, but Gargan still respects the group that will take the field against the Fire on Saturday.
"Theyve been a bit unlucky," he said. "They had good results in the Champions League and played some good football at times. I watched some of their games. They have some talented players."
He is sure his Fire teammates wont be caught looking past a struggling opponent to the next home match, on April 28 vs. Seattle.
"Toronto may have no points yet, but we cant change how we play," said Gargan. "Its a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand theyre in last in the Eastern Conference, but our guys are smart enough to know that theres parity in this league. I dont know if your record reflects how good of a team you have."
The Fire hasnt exactly torn up the league yet, anyway, and just playing in the charged-up atmosphere in Toronto could make for a difficult match.
"I dont expect that to change just because theyre 0-5," said Gargan. "Itll be a tough match. It usually is going there and, for the most part, Toronto is a great organization."