CHICAGO, IL – The Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool will begin on Saturday in Toronto when the Reds take on MLS side Toronto FC . It is the club's first match of a North American tour that will see Liverpool travel to Boston and Baltimore before returning to England ahead of the upcoming English Premier League season.
The former Swansea manager is the most high-profile addition by the legendary club, and his work in helping turn Swansea into one of the most stylish and attack-minded teams in the Premier League. This, despite Swansea having just gained promotion a year earlier, and their limited budget.
Now Rodgers takes over a Liverpool team coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Premier League, a season that ultimately cost Kenny Dalglish his job as manager.
Toronto FC knows about disappointing results and coaching changes, having disposed of former head coach Aron Winter in June after the team's disastrous 0-9 start to the 2012 season. That coaching change has led to a dramatic turnaround for the Canadian club champions, who have gone 4-2-4 under interim head coach Paul Mariner.
TFC's recent success and three-match winning streak should mean a better test for Liverpool than was first expected when this friendly was announced. Still, this battle of teams nicknamed 'The Reds' looks like a considerable mismatch even given the fact Liverpool is just kicking off its pre-season while TFC boasts mid-season form and fitness.
The game is Liverpool's first of three in North America. The Reds will face Italian power AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston on Wednesday before taking on English Premier League rival Tottenham in Baltimore on July 28th.
Liverpool has announced a strong squad for their North American tour, with Steven Gerrard leading a roster that will also include newly-acquired Italian forward Fabio Borini, England national team midfielder Jordan Henderson and striker target Andy Carroll, who has made the trip despite being the subject of rampant transfer rumors.
The English Reds will be without Uruguayan star Luis Suarez, who is on national team duty ahead of South American World Cup qualifying, as well as goalkeeper Jose 'Pepe' Reina, who is on vacation after being with the Spanish national team during its run to the Euro 2012 title.
Saturday's match should offer the first glimpse of what Liverpool will look like under Rodgers. The 39-year-old manager has been lauded for the attacking style of soccer he teaches, and Liverpool fans in Toronto will surely have a keen eye on seeing how the pieces fit in the club's new system.
The friendly comes during a busy stretch of matches for Toronto FC, which has managed overcome a horrendous start of the season to pull back to the pack in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference. Toronto had a damper put on their positive gains, when the club received awful news earlier in the week when it was revealed star forward Danny Koevermans was lost for the season to a torn ACL.
TFC should still have enough standouts to give Liverpool a good test in their pre-season opener, assuming head coach Paul Mariner trots out starters for the match. If he does, you can count German midfielder Torsten Frings, rookie midfielder Luis Silva and goalkeeper Milos Kocic among the players who could impress against their English counterparts.