I have been concerned with the quality of play in TFC's preseason games, but yesterday's game against the Philadelphia Union allowed those concerns to vanish.
First of all, the performance of Michael Bradley was excellent. His passing may not be pinpoint yet, but his coverage of the field and his control of the ball was top notch. He played 90 minutes and whether paired with Osorio or Bekker he was TFC's dominating player.
When you add the flashes of offensive play that were displayed by Rey and Jackson, it was possible to end up drooling at the prospect of Gilberto and Defoe as forwards out in front of this midfield.
I was also impressed with the play of Justin Morrow at left back. His attacking skills, his defending and his overall awareness were well ahead of what TFC has come to expect from Ashtone Morgan. Morgan had some playing time, but the drop in dependability was notable.
Henry and Caldwell looked solid in the middle. They both seem to benefit from Bradley playing well back in the midfield when defending. The rookie Nick Hagglund played right back and did not look out of place. He has energy, size and looked confident when on the ball. It made me wonder if he will be kept with the team for the season rather than being loaned to Wilmington.
DeRo and Weideman at forward were ineffective and their contributions (or lack of) just underlined how sad the Bright Dike serious injury is for Toronto. Hopefully in a matter of weeks we are watching Defoe and Gilberto as TFC forwards and the depth concerns will fade a little. It seems likely that DeRo will be making short appearances as a super sub and will be contributing more for V-Cup games.
Saving the keeper for last, Julio Cesar had little to do for most of the game. He looked strong and confident. His distribution of the ball was everything a fan could hope for. Then late in the game when Philly tried to take advantage of the TFC traditional defending fade, Cesar made two stops that made his arrival as Toronto keeper official. Google Translate gives me both "parede" and "muralha" as Portuguese versions of "wall". Somebody help me with the Brazilian....
Then the roller coaster began to drop.
At first the news seemed to be that Laba had been loaned to Vancouver. Then later it was officially announced as a trade for future considerations.
Howls from the fans in the forums, the twitterverse and everywhere else you can imagine was the first response.
Part of me wants to howl too. TFC being fleeced in trades has been a constant background story throughout their history. I understand that having too many designated players put Toronto in a tough position. It is also important to provide context to the howling unhappy fans. TFC fans know the game well and we have been mistreated too many times. Remember that not too long ago we were subjected to the sight of Aaron Maund attempting to learn the holding midfielder role. His positioning was shabby, his anticipation non-existent and both his touch and tackling were woeful. There were many TFC 2013 critics of Justin Braun, but I thought that the clinching argument in his favour was that the team had traded Aaron Maund for him
So when young Matias Laba arrives it is as if the soccer gods have rewarded us for our patience. Of course we are going to be out of proportion attached to a player who does so many small things right and seems to have the potential to become even greater. A Laba and Bradley midfield seemed to be a reward beyond our wildest dreams. Now, with the trade, it seems that dream has been shattered and the memories of horrible trades have flooded back in.
Time may heal this one. A strong start for Gilberto seems a requirement for success.
How many days now until that first game in Seattle? I should find a countdown clock for the blog. Bring it on.....