TFC Stable – LA Anything But
Well over a hundred players through the door at BMO Field.
Well over thirty players suiting up for Toronto FC in 2011 (setting a MLS record in the process).
A wholesale house cleaning of players coming and players going in the summer of 2011.
Suffice it to say our little club has not exactly been a paragon of stability in its short history. However it appears that the unrest and upheaval within the club, that of course has been a large factor in the results TFC has failed to earn in those five years now past, is starting to come to an end. This time last season we were hearing rumblings about a certain team captain going to Scotland to train in Glasgow. The club was still in “interim GM” hands and the revolving door was spinning off its hinges.
A year later and its just about as opposite a situation with Toronto FC as it could possibly be. There were some players waived at the end of the season past, however these were, with due respect to them, peripheral pieces. There were some acquisitions such as Reggie Lambe and Jeremy Hall to add some wide pace and defensive cover respectively. And defensive Stalwart Adrian Cann, on his way back from injury, had his option picked up. There have also been rumblings that the club is doing all that it can to secure the services (whether by loan or otherwise) of both Joao Plata and Richard Eckersley.
All of these moves are new of course but by the standards that Toronto FC has set in the past five years this offseason has been just about the most stable and bereft of upheaval periods in the club’s short history. I think its fair to say that just about ten and a half weeks out from the Champions League Quarter Fnal First Leg at the Rogers Centre and we have a pretty fair idea what our club is going to look like in general terms, and that is very similiar to the side that finished so relatively strong last fall.
Our opponents are MLS Cup Champions but as of today they are anything but stable. Here are just a few of the issues they are going to have to deal with in the coming weeks.
Landon Donovan: Landycakes is off to Goodison Park for his second annual stint with Everton of the English Premier League starting just after the holidays. He is already in the UK training with the Toffees and he will be with them on loan until just about a week before the Champions League fixture in Toronto in March. Donovan could of course come back banged up and tired. He could come back injured. He could come back disgruntled, getting his head turned and wanting to remain in England. Or he could come back rejuvinated and in far better game shape and with a sharpness many TFC players won’t have coming out of training camp. Bottom line is that his stay in England is something TFC fans will need to monitor closely.
David Beckham: If reports out of Paris are to be believed the deal that will bring David Beckham to Paris St. Germain is all but done and that in the coming days David will be announced as their newest signing when the International transfer window opens up after January 1st. Rumour out of Los Angeles is whispering that the Galaxy have tendered a large one year deal to Becks to try and keep him but that its not likely he is going to turn down what Europe’s newest (at least financially) Super Club is going to offer him to play in France. Word from France is that PSG are willing to offer him a longer term deal than LA is. Bottom line for me is that the LA Galaxy are far from the fearsome opponents that just won the MLS Cup without Beckham than they are with him, especialyl considering how damned good he was for them down the stretch last season.
Juhinho: Beckham’s partner in the midfield this season was Brazilian defensive specialist Juninho and considering how many 1-0 wins the Galaxy notched up in 2011 its fair to say that he was just about as important a piece of the puzzle for them in 2011 than Donovan and Beckham turned out to be. On loan from Brazilian side Sao Paolo, it looks like his parent club is ending the loan and bringing him back home.
Omar Gonzales : Centre back Omar Gonzales is MLS 2011 defender of the year. He is 23 and gets better each time I see him play. SImply put the kid is a beast. Word out of LA is that he being courted by both Mexican clubs and by more than one English Premiership side for a potential move. He could be gone before training camp opens next month.
On top of all of this there is of course the usual amount of off season turnover that all MLS clubs experience further down the salary chart as they try and find ways to afford the pieces they feel they need into a relatively tight salary cap structure. Potentially the Galaxy could have upwards of ten new faces on its roster when they come to Toronto in March.
So potentially you have a TFC side going into the Champions League Quarter Finals that looks much like it was in October 2011 versus a (probably still very strong – all respect to them) LA Galaxy side that might look very different and less formidable than it did when they lifted the MLS Cup last month being forced to start potentially a completely new midfield and defensive spine.
Bruce Arena is a great coach. The Ownership group in LA is committed to spending what it takes for them to be strong. So lets not get ahead of ourselves here and let visions of a Rogers Centre pitch invasion knock visions of sugerplums out of our hesds just yet. But as it it stands today, going into the holiday season, Toronto FC looks to be a much more self assured and stable club going into a critical period than their currently powerful adversary does.