Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full? TFC at the Halfway Point
A disappointing effort and a loss against an expansion club from Philadelphia at the weekend ends Toronto FC’s business at the halfway mark of the 2010 MLS season. And statistically the club is just about where it was at this point one year ago. Fifteen games played in the league and 22 points in the books. The proverbial glass is either half empty or half full, depending on how you look at it of course. And with the half point now reached I thought some context on where TFC is sitting now in relation to last season would be a good way to measure what the road ahead might actually look like.
Undefeated at home is a tremendous stat that the entire club should be proud of. TFC has secured 75% of the home points on offer this season. In 2009 that rate was a paltry 56.7%. TFC has played seven home games to date in 2010 in comparison to 2009 when they had already played ten home dates in that crazy front loaded schedule.
Away from home has been a much less rosy picture. TFC has only secured 19% of points available on the road so far in 2010 versus a much more respectable 42% at the same point in 2009. Seven away matches this year have seen TFC only secure a win and a draw. Thirteen of the sixteen goals conceded by TFC this year have been conceded on the road. In five away games last season Toronto had already secured a win and two draws and more than doubled their success ratio so far in 2010.
Defensively TFC has tightened things up at the back overall, but not as much as one might think. Shutouts have been doubled from three to six but goals against have only been improved by two overall (18 down to 16). Three goals against at home is perhaps the single most improved stat year over year. In ten games to this point in 2009 TFC had already conceded nine goals at home.
The offensive struggles have continued to dog TFC of course this season. TFC is three goals short of its total output in comparison to 2009, scoring 19 goals to date this year versus the 2009 result of 22. Toronto was shut out three times in 2009 and have already recorded four “0’fers” in 2010.
The bulk of Toronto’s scoring for 2010 to date has of course been due to the excellent start to the season by Captain Dwayne De Rosario. DeRo has scored eight times, however he has gone goalless since the end of May. Only O’Brien White with two and Chad Barrett with five have scored more than once. In 2009 DeRo, Guevara, Dichio, Serioux and Barrett had all scored more than once to this point. Eight TFC players had scored in the first half of the TFC 2009 campaign compared to six this year.
Going back to 2009 for a second, Toronto only had five home games in the last half of the season and did an overall good job by winning three and drawing two of them. On the road Toronto only won once out of ten chances on the road and drew an additional three matches, losing six. Toronto did not win away from home after mid July of 2009. In fact Toronto was outscored in those very road games by 12 goals, scoring 8 and conceding 20. Six of those games saw Toronto not record a single away goal.
Famous modern day philosopher Homer Simpson was once famously quoted as saying that you could “…prove anything with facts…” And of course he is correct. None of us truly knows where Toronto will finish this season and if a playoff spot can be secured. Comparing last years results with 2010 can only provide part of the picture. There are trends of course that are worth looking at, but they only paint a partial picture.
For the MLS run in Toronto must play seven remaining home matches at BMO Field. Five of them will be against clubs that are either tied with currently or are ahead of Toronto in the MLS standings. Suffice it to say when Salt Lake City, Columbus, Red Bulls, Houston and Dallas are left to come at home there will definitely be challenges for Toronto to keep its home undefeated streak alive. Of the eight away matches left to go Toronto has a generally easier path than last season. Five of the eight remaining away games are against clubs below Toronto in the current standings. Toronto has already gotten Columbus, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake out of the way. Games remain to be played against DC United, Chivas, Seattle, Chicago and Kansas City… all clubs currently behind Toronto in the league tables. Dallas, New York and Houston will definitely be three of the tougher road games remaining. Suffice it to say there are more winnable matches on offer away for the rest of this season then there were at this point in 2009. So one can perhaps assume Toronto has a harder home schedule and an easier road schedule remaining for this season versus last.
Last season Toronto had two friendly matches to squeeze into an already crowded home schedule, including one circus act called Real Madrid, which infamously led to a league fixture being moved. Luckily for TFC this week’s game against English premiership side Bolton Wanderers is the only 2010 friendly on the docket. As well, same as last season, Toronto has later this month and in early August two critical matches in the CONCACAF Champions League, when it attempts to qualify for the group stages of the tournament against Honduran side Club Motagua. If successful Toronto will advance into the group stages and will then have to squeeze an additional six matches into their schedule for the run in. There will be two in mid to late August to contend with, three in September and one in mid October. Those potentially six additional matches will definitely test Toronto’s ability to both keep competitive in the league and also try and succeed in a tournament that the club definitely wants to do well in. More home dates means more money for the club and more profits for the owners. Let’s not forget how much three or more additional home matches means to TFC’s bottom line. If they make the group stage, TFC will have to play Real Salt Lake an additional two times along with trips away to Panama and Mexico.
So where do all these facts and figures leave us? I personally think that Toronto FC is a better club overall then they were last season, even though a lot of the numbers do not necessarily back that assertion up. The roster has been relatively stable (at least by TFC standards it has) and a number of players have performed much better then expected. The oft mentioned Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora of course come to mind. So does Stefan Frei. Dwayne De Rosario of course is a League All Star and if the season ended today he definitely would at the very least have to be considered for League Most Valuable Player.
The recent loss to Philadelphia aside for a moment, Toronto has just gone on an undefeated string that is the longest in club history. The club won the Canadian Championship handily compared to the need for a “miracle” to secure the Voyageurs Cup last season. And of course two designated players are now on the roster in 2010 where in 2009 Toronto had zero DP’s under contract. Julian De Guzman and Mista are definitely going to be two critical individuals that will definitely need to make an impact on results if Toronto is going to succeed in 2010.
Toronto has a tougher home schedule remaining this season than last season, but they are playing better at home this season versus last. TFC has a relatively easier road schedule remaining this season in MLS then in 2009 but has played worse on the road overall to date. The team is remaining competitive in more matches but of course needs to start scoring more goals, especially away from home.
If back in late March, during the upheavals surrounding this club (Gerba-Gate, Carl Robinson, Adrian Serioux… take your pick) you would have told me that Toronto would be at the same points level halfway through 2010 then they were in 2009 then I would have probably thought you were a bit loopy. Many Toronto fans thought this would be a much more difficult season then even 2009 was. In 2009 TFC was arguably a more talented club , especially in the midfield, yet it never lived up to its expectations. In 2010 Toronto FC appears to me to be more than the sum of its individual parts. Now it is up to Preki and the coaching staff, our Captain, our two designated players and our squad to continue to improve at the back and find a way to score more goals. It’s a pretty simple game after all…..isn’t it?
Comments always welcome.