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Canada Day matchup.

On Form

Toronto FC, by Mike Beauvais: With Saturday’s 0-0 draw with the visiting Galaxy, TFC extended its undefeated streak to six matches and the club has not lost at home since a defeat at the hands of Los Angeles on June 6, 2009. While the match was rather pedestrian and the Galaxy never seemed to truly threaten, the Reds defense kept the league leaders at bay to give ‘keeper Stefan Frei a relatively easy day at the office. Rearguard Dan Gargan was especially impressive with strong runs up the wing and his overall composure when clearing the area and outletting the ball. Kudos must also be given to Jacob Peterson, whose pace kept the Galaxy defense busy for most of the evening.

Houston Dynamo, by Zac Lee Rigg: The last time someone blanked Houston was May 5. Since then the Texans have scored in every single match. Midfield holder Lovel Palmer has aided the offense with a goal in each of the last two games.

Off Target

Toronto: Both TFC and the Galaxy can probably be given a mulligan for their lackluster performances on Saturday due to their extended layoffs, but this was the Reds’ second consecutive match without bulging the twine, a stat that has to be disconcerting for Preki.  Aside from a couple of speculative efforts from Nick Labrocca and a late blast that sailed well high from Gabe Gala, Toronto rarely troubled Donovan Ricketts. Much like their previous match with the Wizards, Saturday could be seen as two points lost, rather than one gained in a tight Eastern Conference. History has already shown that TFC cannot afford a midseason slump.

Houston: Despite a purring offense, Houston can't seem to turn goals into points. The side hasn't recorded a win in MLS this month; the last time Houston won in the league came against D.C. United on May 22.

Tactics

Toronto: TFC should be the fresher club coming into Thursday’s match, as the Dynamo were in U.S. Open Cup action on Tuesday, defeating Miami 1-0. While both Chad Barrett and Julian de Guzman were relegated to the bench due to respective hamstring injuries, both featured in the Galaxy match as substitutes and should be in Preki’s starting XI if healthy on Thursday. Nick Garcia, having served a one-game suspension, will also be available for selection. Look for Preki to return to a 4-4-2, but with former Dynamo star Dwayne De Rosario back in his familiar midfield role, rather than as an out-and-out striker.

Houston: Luis Angel Landin found himself in a midfield role during a U.S. Open Cup matchup against Miami FC, but that experiment won't continue into MLS play -- Landin limped off injured in the first half of that encounter. Expect the side to revert to its customary 4-4-2.

Intangibles

Toronto: Luis Angel Landin left Tuesday’s match early, picking up a knock on his knee, and if the influential Mexican’s participation is limited on Thursday, it will likely reinforce the need for Dominic Kinnear’s side to play a typical away match, settling in to defend and rarely coming forward. If this is the case, TFC must take the play to their guests and attack with intent. With the Fire nipping at their heels, the Reds need to cement their hold on third in the East and continue their playoff march. They won’t do that through dropping more points at home.

Houston: The Dynamo isn't used to sitting in the bottom half of the table. Currently, the Los Angeles Galaxy (33) has almost double Houston's points (17). Heading into the second half of the season, Houston will need its customary late-season run to make it into the playoffs.

Prediction

Toronto: The Reds send the Canada Day BMO crowd home happy with a 2-1 win over La Naranja.

Houston: A terse draw.

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