The Missing Link
Over the past few weeks there have been persistent rumours swirling (as they always seem to do I guess) about a new striker (or strikers) being drafted in by Mo Johnston. Paul Dickov’s name has been one that has been rumoured for months now and T&T forward Kerry Baptiste is apparently trialling with the team this week according to recent reports.
In a post last week I talked about how I can see players like these two scoring some goals for TFC if DeRo moves back in behind them and gives them some service and room to manoeuvre. A good friend of mine (Brando, you are the inspiration here my friend!) commented the following that got me thinking about why Toronto FC has had strikers that have gone on to have success elsewhere (Casey, Buddle, Cunningham, etc.) after failing here, and why the team’s vaunted midfield has consistently failed to provide the kind of service they on paper were capable of.
Here is what my friend wrote. It definitely deserves to be discussed:
…Just look at us from day one and you’ll see that even with what has been considered solid midfielders we have yet to provide any type of passable service to our forwards. Easy to see when the likes of Buddle and Cunny have left only to magically find the scoring touch elsewhere…How about this, make your next blog explaining why we’ve had these issues even with play making midfielders like Amado, DeRo, Vitti, Jimmy B, Mo Edu, Robbo, Ronnie O’Brien and Rohan (expletive deleted) Ricketts…If you can figure out that one I’ll be sure to give you a gold star!…”
I remember reading MLS commentators like Ives Galarcep and Steve Goff back last year stating that they believed TFC had assembled one of the best midfield groups in the history of the league. They certainly did get a lot of service to Barrett last season (who famously struggled with his confidence and underperformed in the role). Yet overall the team still struggled to score. Ali Gerba was brought in to be the answer up top, yet he struggled as well, scoring only once in his first match.
So here we are, a good selection of quality MLS strikers have come and gone and the much vaunted midfield has yet to get TFC into the playoffs. Where is the disconnect??? Other than Ronnie O’Brien back in year one, I do not think that the club has ever truly had what could be considered a truly successful wing player in the midfield. Each player other than O’Brien has had, even when playing wide, the tendency to drift towards the centre of the pitch, clogging up the middle and making the approaches to the strikers predictable and relatively easy to counter. Lack of width leads to a lack of balance. A lack of width leads to predictability and most importantly to an easier time than necessary for opposing defenders.
The knee jerk reaction I suppose to take when a team is not scoring is to look at new strikers as the answer. In TFC’s case players like Dickov and/or Baptiste might be good MLS performers, but unless there is some addressing of the lack of width that TFC currently possesses on attack there are going to be continuing struggles down the road. If given my choice today between a true “winger” and one of these two rumoured strikers I take the winger any day of the week.
At its highest levels soccer can be the most beautiful and sublime of sports. The best clubs use the entire playing surface to their advantage. Here is an example from back in 2006 that is worth emulating, especially the use of the width of the field.
And it is one of the best footy ads I have ever seen….
Joga Bonito TFC!!!