TFC Speak to the Media – March 16th
Just returned from BMO Field where Toronto FC has some media availability ahead of the trip to Vancouver on Friday. The club made Coach Aron Winter available along with players Dan Gargan, Jacob Peterson, Maicon Santos, Nana Attakora, Adrian Cann and captain Dwayne De Rosario.
And without a doubt DeRo and his ongoing contract dispute was still the story that most of the gathered media were most interested in pursuing .Dwayne must have fielded up to a dozen questions from the assembled media today.
Here is what I learned.
- There has been no progress in contract talks (if they can be categorized as such) between Dwayne and Toronto FC. Dwayne is still angry and he did not elaborate today when given multiple opportunities to do so on if there has been anything resembling ongoing talks securing a new deal.
- When asked to clarify further the circumstances surrounding what happened back in December/January with DeRo going to Glasgow and training/trialling with Celtic he simply refused to answer the questions asked. I guess we will have to wait a while longer to find out exactly what did or did not take place.
- Dwayne was also asked to clarify what he said in February before the club headed off to Europe to start training camp. If you recall DeRo implied that he might hold out and not play regular season matches if his deal was not renegotiated. Today Dwayne did step back somewhat from those remarks when he said that “…it’s time to play football..”. I guess someone must have told Duane that a holdout would lead to no pay and a possible league suspension. Bottom line there is no settlement in sight and no guarantees that this issue will not become the distraction it became late last season.
- Whether it is due to language skills, temperament, experience or perhaps an abundance of personal caution, it is going to be really hard to read Aron Winter this season. He keeps his cards close to his chest and in the media scrum today he revealed little that was not stated previously.
- Julian de Guzman will of course not feature this weekend as his recovery from off season surgery continues. Winter did feel that April is still likely the return date for him to the TFC midfield.
- Aron expects to have a roster of 23-24 signed players on opening day with coverage of at least one player for each on field position. He did not elaborate on how long he expects to take to fill out the 30 man roster. He did mention the Gold Cup in June and how important in his eyes it would be to try and have enough reinforcements in place to handle the expected absences of players like DeRo, de Guzman and maybe even Cann and Attakora for a significant amount of time.
Cann, Attakora, Peterson, Maicon and Gargan
- Each of the players above in their times with the press stated that they felt that progress on implementing the new tactical approach Winter has instituted is still a work in progress. Gargan in particular stated that he felt that he was learning another piece of the puzzle in each and every training session.
- Cann and Attakora separately complimented Stefan Frei for the leadership that he has displayed in training so far due to the increased tactical role the goalkeeper in the new TFC system will be responsible for.
- When told of the 300+ TFC supporters expected to make an appearance in Vancouver this weekend and what message if any would he give them, fan favourite Dan Gargan exhorted them to “…be loud…”. He went on to say how uplifting it often is to see TFC fans make these kinds of efforts to get to away matches and he hoped that the result would be worthy of them.
- Maicon Santos, who will be counted upon to score goals this season as the primary striker in the new system professed himself to be “…100% healthy and 100% happy…“. His health has been an issue, particularly last season. Hopefully he can put that behind him and be the goal scorer TFC hopes he will become.
- Adrian Cann stated that he had “…not spoken with that guy…” when asked about the arrival of new TFC striker Alan Gordon via a trade last week with Chivas USA. A TFC staffer confirmed to me that Gordon has not trained with the team as of yet and that he has yet to make an appearance in Toronto. He will be meeting up with the team in Vancouver on Friday where he will be introduced to his new teammates for the first time. Whether this has an impact on if he will be a part of the lineup on Saturday remains to be seen as he likely will only have one practice at most with the team before Saturday’s kickoff.
- Jacob Peterson stated that the club felt comfortable playing on turf instead of grass as they will at Empire Stadium on Saturday against Vancouver. Jacob spoke to his and his fellow teammates comfort with the surface as they train on it all the time.
One final observation came from a TFC staffer who I chatted with offline. I asked him that draft picks Omphroy, Gold and Plata were still with the club yet neither of them had yet to sign. He stated that it was likely that these players would sign before the end of the week, and upon my return home today to write this piece I learn that Demetrius Omphroy had indeed already signed his first pro deal. Look for more on these remaining youngsters later this week.