pic by Jeremy Hall
When Toronto FC hits the road, we fans turn on the tv and plan to grimace our way through the game. Expectations are low and any glimmer of hope is embraced with love. Remember that lead at the half of the New England game? Remember that pass from Chad Barrett to set Sam Cronin free in Colorado? Maybe this time they can look better playing out west at altitude. Maybe this time they can play smart and play tough and grind out a point. Maybe…
TFC fans learned nothing new Saturday night watching them play in Utah. We had a number of things confirmed, but really nothing new.
Confirmation #1 TFC does not have the midfield ingredients to grit and grind out a road result. I give a small amount of credit to Coach Preki for giving TFC a road warrior look. He rested DeRo and Julian DeGuzman (which I just can’t argue with, TFC still has three Canadian Championship games over the next month and league games every weekend). I would be giving more credit if the strategy had worked.
A midfield of Sanyang, Sarich, Gargan, Labrocca and Nane Joseph has to be designed to mark tightly, clog the passing lanes, tackle with grit and knock RSL off their game. It was a great theory, but in practice it did nothing. Sanyang’s passing giveaways were part of the problem. Joseph’s best moment was in support of Chad up front. Overall this midfield lacks the speed and tenacity to swarm and clog. More importantly, they lack the ball control strategy to play keep away for any stretch of time. So they compete for the ball, sometimes win it and then lose it again. Although I give a little credit to Mr. Preki for giving it a try, remember that 4 of those 5 midfielders have arrived in Toronto during this coach’s short time. I have the gut feeling that if you wanted to play "clog and clutter the opposing team’s attack" last year’s Robbo, Guevara, Cronin and pull Serioux out of his central defender role and you could do it. I am also realistic enough to remember that they had some woeful performances. Some things never seem to change.
Confirmation #2 TFC does not have the firepower to get back into a game. DeRo’s late pk goal was a small reward for not turning the tv off early. Yet the half time substitutions of DeRo, JDG and OBW on (and Hrsich, Joseph and Sanyang off) did not alter the game at all. Toronto had no sustained attack in either half. They had a struggle keeping possession no matter what their line-up or alignment happened to be. Dwayne DeRosario just might be all Toronto has when holding onto the ball. Chad Barrett works hard and O’Brien White shows a flash of potential from time to time. They are both worthwhile projects, but DeRo needs company. Some things never seem to change.
The good news is that TFC have a week to rest. The bad news is that Chicago Fire may be the team to expose the weaknesses at home in the manner that RSL did on the road. The truly bad news is that so much of the overhaul of 2010 has left TFC with too many "not ready for MLS" players.