One Horrible Result – One Future Still Cloudy
You know sometimes it is hard to keep perspective, especially after a humiliation like the one Toronto FC suffered last Saturday at home at the hands of the Philadelphia Union. But perspective is what I truly feel we need right now.
Many of you might understandably think today that the outlook for the team this season is pretty bleak if you go by the latest result. And you might be absolutely right.
The result on Saturday past was without a doubt a huge disappointment. Losing by four. Conceding six at home. Most players on the field frankly taking the day off. Tactics that were either easily countered or implemented by players that are simply not able to play in that fashion. You can take your pick I suppose from this short list of reasons. And if fans feel that way after what we saw I guess they to a degree have a right to do so.
The key phrase though is “to a degree”. Many might disagree but I do not for a minute believe that the club is truly as bad as the result on Saturday indicated. Nor do I believe that they are as good as they looked last weekend in Colorado when they earned a point under tough circumstances, and frankly deserved the full three points based on the quality of the effort. They are somewhere between these two recent examples. And where exactly they are we won’t know for a good while yet.
There are still some good pieces here folks. And that has not changed since Saturday. Frei is as good a goalkeeper as there is in MLS. Saturday was just about his only poor effort so far this season. Eckersley, arguably the best player on the field for TFC Saturday was not even on the team when they broke camp. TFC has not has a true striker in the lineup since Alan Gordon went down with injury. And Joao Plata was considered nothing more than a long shot at the start of the season and now he is a usual starter.
And there are still the issues that the club needs to address. Getting more out of Julian de Guzman is key as he has shown flashes of quality but not as consistently as a designated player needs to do. Five seasons now and no true solution has been found at left fullback and the club still leaks goals more than any club in all of MLS. For each of the five seasons they have been around TFC has led the league in conceding corners and trails the league in earning them, meaning to me that their wing play has been less than impressive since day one. They are thin at striker with only one true number 9 on the roster and he is out injured right now.
Aron Winter hinted on Saturday after the debacle versus Philly that changes are coming. The transfer window opens up soon and Toronto has some cap space available that can be used to reinforce/upgrade the squad. TFC can afford to bring on one or even two newcomers under designated player contracts. There is sufficient cap/allocation space to make that happen should the club choose to do so. Or they can go the strength in numbers route and bring in four or five non DP players if that is the path they choose to take to try and upgrade the squad. Suffice it to say there may be no Dan Gargan, Ty Harden, Nick Soolsma or the like here past the early summer.
The other thing I think many of the more reactionary fans are forgetting now is what expectations they had as individuals going into this season. Most pundits, myself included, thought going into this year that the club would struggle, that it would have a huge challenge to improve enough to get into the playoffs and that the only realistic hope of honours for the club would come in the Voyageurs Cup tournament and perhaps in the Champions League. With due respect how could an outlook like that be changed after one poor outing… or for that matter a good one line in Denver over a week ago?
No don’t get me wrong, the club should not be let off the hook by the fans for what was a true embarrassment on Saturday. Losing is one thing. But losing while most of the players on the field appear to be dogging it is inexcusable, and both players and coach have a lot to answer for to their paying customers.
This week the International break sees TFC lose three players who have been in the starting XI, de Guzman, Plata and Williams. Others who have not been deemed worthy of starting ahead of them are now going to be asked to step up. And that starts Saturday versus Kansas City, a side that to date has been even worse than TFC has been.
If they lose again on Saturday I probably will feel the same way I do today, namely that one single game is not going to make or break the campaign at this relatively early stage. But if the effort on display Saturday equals what we all saw versus Philly then I think the problems this team has might be even larger than we might actually think they are.
What do you think? Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.