Toronto, ON – Major League Soccer's cellar-dwellers are set to meet on Wednesday as Toronto FC welcomes the Portland Timbers to BMO Field.
Both sides have endured long stretches of poor play over the course of the season as TFC sits at the foot of the Eastern Conference on 19 points while Portland bottoms the West on 20 points.
Despite both sides having undergone coaching changes during the campaign - Toronto parted ways with Aron Winter in favor of Paul Mariner while Portland enlisted the help of Gavin Wilkinson on an interim basis until a full-time replacement for John Spencer was identified - the Canadian club has fared better over the past two months, going 4-3-3 over its last 10 games compared to Portland's 2-7-1 record over that same period.
But despite their deficiency in current form, the Timbers are banking on an upgrade at the back to spark a move up the table.
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Impact in exchange for Troy Perkins, is expected to be minding the net for the Timbers on Wednesday.
Being thrust into the starting lineup is often a challenge for new signings, but Ricketts is hopeful that he can gel quickly with his new teammates.
"You've got to learn how everyone plays, and you've got to adjust accordingly," Ricketts told MLSsoccer.com. "You've got to get on the same page with everyone else, so that's the most difficult part. But when you play with good teammates and good players the transition is always easier. Sometimes it takes a few matches, sometimes a few practice sessions and sometimes an entire season. But let's hope it's not an entire season."
Toronto also bolstered its roster with the addition of Darren O'Dea, but the Irish defender is on international duty and will have to wait to make his MLS debut.
Defenders Dicoy Williams and Doneil Henry will be unavailable through international duty as they tour with Jamaica and Canada respectively, leaving TFC slightly thin at the back.
That should place added pressure on Ashtone Morgan, who is enjoying a fantastic year at left-back. The defender, who likes to get involved on the offensive end, will be crucial for Toronto's hopes of three points on Wednesday.
"Very good, terrific," Mariner told MLSsoccer.com in assessment of Morgan. "I think he's been on top of his game. He's had different partners in front of him and he's coped so, so well. I think he has been one of our most consistent players this season."