Weathering The Storm – TFC Gets a Solid Grade 10 Games Into The 2010 MLS Season
I have been saying on this forum for weeks now that the stretch of games that Toronto FC has been playing in May that end with the home tie against Kansas City Wizards on Saturday would be a defining period for the club and for its fortunes this season. And I think that after the pre and early season upheavals the club has come through this difficult stretch somewhat better off than most would have thought possible. And to top off an excellent month Toronto has already locked up the Canadian Club Championship with a game to spare and will be receiving the Voyageurs Cup on home turf this Wednesday Evening.
This last hectic month has seen the emergence of the “Preki” style of tight organized defence paired up with quick counters. The much talked partnership between Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora has been the best defensive pairing in the short history of the club. Dwayne De Rosario is near the top in league scoring and Chad Barrett appears to be finding his confidence. However before we collectively start getting ahead of ourselves and queuing up for playoff tickets I think that some perspective is in order regarding where the club is vis-à-vis where we were at the same point in 2009. Here are some numbers worth considering:
Wins Losses Draws Points Conversion Ratio
2009 – Home 2 2 2 44%
2010 – Home 4 0 0 100%
2009 – Away 1 1 2 42%
2010 – Away 1 4 1 22%
2009 Totals 3 3 4 43%
2010 Totals 5 4 1 53%
The largest difference between 2009 and 2010 is the ongoing development of BMO Field as a true fortress, with no points dropped in so far in 2010. Six home games into the 2009 season and TFC had already dropped 10 out of 18 points on offer at home. And with the next four league games at home this season TFC has a real chance to solidify a grasp on a playoff spot.
Now this season, after going 0-4 on the road to start, Toronto has earned a draw and a win in the last two games to perhaps lay the foundation for building a better 2010 overall away record. If you write the first two away games this season off, where new players were literally showing up almost daily, then the away record for 2010 would be slightly better than 2009 at the same point in time.
Goals for and against are slightly ahead for 2010 in comparison to the same point last season. In 2009 after 10 games the club has scored 13 goals and conceded 15. In 2010 the totals currently stand at 15 for and 14 against. However these numbers in and of themselves only tell part of the story. In the first five games this season Toronto conceded 10 goals and have only conceded four goals in the last five. In the first five games of 2010 Toronto scored six goals, & of course they have almost doubled their output by potting nine in the past five league games. In three Voyageurs Cup ties the team has booked three clean sheets and scored three goals in the three games played to notch up two more victories and a draw.
An interesting comparison point between the 2009 and 2010 versions of Toronto FC is in the discipline department. After 10 games in 2009 the team had amassed 12 yellow cards and zero red card offenses. In 2010 the yellows have doubled to 24 and we have had one red card (Maxim Usanov’s second yellow card, a “professional foul” if there ever was one, against the LA Galaxy in injury time). This is of course part of the style of play the club has bought into under Preki and also reflects the type of player the club has been bringing in. In a previous post I said that Toronto appears to be building the type of club that opponents would absolutely hate to play against. And I think it is no surprise that this more aggressive style of play has coincided with the emergence of the Cann/Attakora center back pairing.
So what conclusions can we draw from a brief look at the data?
- The team has bought into the defensive philosophy of their new coach. TFC plays a demonstratively harder nosed style of play in 2010 that is paying off in the results department, especially over the last 7-8 games.
- Our strikers have only accounted for 40% of our goal output in league play this season. This needs to improve if the club has serious plans to challenge for honours as the year wears on. DeRo is responsible for 53% of our scoring this season and only White, Labrocca and Barrett have scored as well. Division leaders Columbus have had eight players get on the score-sheet in 2010, doubling TFC’s number as a point of comparison. Reliance on one individual for most of your goal output is a very dangerous tactic.
- If TFC misses the playoffs by a point or two this season, Mo Johnston will of course have to answer for the lateness in assembling his total squad for the 2010 campaign, especially considering how poorly TFC played in those first two matches. This style of team management has been a fair point of criticism for Mo since Day 1.
- If Toronto can continue to play the quality of game they have been playing on the road that they have shown in May, arguably the toughest section of their entire 2010 season schedule, then they will set themselves up for an excellent chance to make the playoffs. Seven of the next ten league games are at home, where the team has excelled and three are away. The last third of the season will be very difficult, as it sees four games at home and six away.
So the club has weathered the first significant rough patch of the 2010 schedule relatively well. The run from early June through the World Cup and into late August is the part of the schedule where TFC needs to keep up what has been successful to this point in order to establish themselves as a playoff club as the run in is going to be very difficult from Labour Day until the end of the season.
If I was going to give the club a grade on the first third of the 2010 season I think they deserve a B-. They have holes to fill and issues to address, but for the most part they have over-achieved, bought into a new coaching philosophy, and finally found the type of on field character that the club has been missing for most of its history.
And now the club gets to have some fun on Wednesday night. More on the Voyageurs Cup tomorrow.