TFC kids are alright

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

New blood makes for new optimism for Toronto FC.

Not only did TFC beat rival D.C. United 2-0 on Saturday, it played one of the most attractive brands of soccer seen at BMO Field in more than 2 1/2 years.

Both teams were eager to build on the ground and work the ball intelligently while taking chances in one-on-one situations. The panicked soccer of the past -- kicking and running with long stretches of throw-ins and balls out of play -- wasn't to be seen.

And that is shocking, considering the youth on display. TFC started six rookies, while D.C.'s freshman midfielder, Rodney Wallace, was a catalyst for stylish play.

Most notably, three first- time starters stood out -- striker O'Brian White (23), midfielder Amadou Sanyang, (turned 18 on Aug. 1) and defender Emmanuel Gomez (also 18).

TFC's director of soccer Mo Johnston has been touting the trio for quite sometime. With White coming off injury rehab, Sanyang finally old enough to play, and Gomez deemed ready to compete, there is credence to Johnston's words.

Thus, it wouldn't be surprising if Johnston's three-year contract extension is made public this week. Nothing has been confirmed, but sources say pen indeed has been put to paper.

The best of the three on Saturday was Sanyang. The young Gambian brought energy and a willingness to play the ball on the ground. For such a young player, the under-20 Gambian international had loads of confidence, working the ball out of tight situations and challenging much more experienced players.

No. 22, who has good size for his position, was all over the field and showed an excellent fitness level.

One noteworthy performance, however, isn't enough to draw any conclusions. But from that sneak-peak, it's easy to suggest that Sanyang has the quality to create a selection headache for manager Chris Cummins. And don't be surprised if some of the elder statesmen on the team start spending more time on the bench, or are even deemed expendable.

That's definitely the case on defence. Fellow Gambian Gomez continues to look composed at centre-back. Released centre-back Marco Velez was never the answer. But the fact he was released when TFC's backline is short in numbers because of injury speaks volumes for what the club thinks of Gomez.

It will be intriguing to see how the newest recruit in the carousel of defenders, Lesly Fellinga, will fit into the equation. At 5-foot-8, Fellinga hardly has the size to be a ball-winner in the air, something the team lacks.

Of the first-time starters, White got the headlines for his goal, and deservedly so. Speaking to White in the pre-season, the Jamaican-born Torontonian was cautiously optimistic of his chances to make an impact this campaign after recovering from an ACL injury. Now he looks very much part of the equation.

Chad Barrett's uninspiring play, Danny Dichio's ongoing battle against his own body, and Ali Gerba's less than stellar fitness level make White a real option.

White is tall, lanky, and unorthodox. And he can put the ball in the net, something that has haunted the Reds all summer. Cummins will have to be careful with White, not to overplay him and risk further injury.

White's emergence allows Pablo Vitti to drop back in a wide midfield role, a position he looks more comfortable in.

Vitti again showed a lot of on-field class against D.C., both taking on players and in distribution. Those who question his soccer acumen don't understand the value of what he brings.

The composure of the young Reds will be tested in a crucial three-game western swing, starting next Saturday at Chivas, followed by trips to Seattle and Colorado. Two points separate the four teams, all of which in the playoff mix. TFC has never won at Chivas, but did manage a win in Colorado last season.

The trip to Seattle will be TFC's first, having lost its only match against the Sounders 2-0 in its first game at home this season.


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