January 25, 2010
Preki influence good for TFC
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
One trade down -- and surely more to come.
As uninspiring as it may have been, Toronto FC and Mo Johnston's trade last week for midfielder Jacob Peterson at least showed player personnel decision-making no longer is a one-man operation at the club.
Peterson's acquisition won't excite, but the message should. Johnston has spent three years running the franchise basically alone with not enough scouting or influence to assist in team building.
Things have changed with Preki on board as coach.
The Peterson deal had Preki's fingerprints all over it -- Johnston made that loud and clear. Preki is much more than a field manager, he's a decision-maker. And TFC is better for it.
Expect more moves to come, with Preki's influence the guiding force. And with training camp a week away, there are significant holes to fill.
Rumours continue to revolve around goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Johnston isn't actively looking to deal Frei, but the young goalkeeper is the bounty for getting significant talent. Almost every proposed draft-day deal involving TFC included Frei. He is a valuable asset -- quality with Generation Adidas status. For Johnston to move Frei and give the goalkeeping reins to Brian Edwards, he'll have to be blown away.
On defence, it makes sense to move Adrian Serioux to right-back; a position at which he thrived while in Houston. On the other side, Nana Attakora isn't a natural left-back, but fits the billing. Attakora proved a capable marking defender last season, and look for his growth to continue in a marking role.
Centre-defence is where bigger questions arise. It makes sense for Emmanuel Gomez to get a good look. Gomez still is young enough to grow into the position, having the necessary size and confidence on the ball. But he needs help.
The idea that Egyptian trialist Ibrahim Saied can be an answer is far-fetched. The move reminds of a previous experiment, Olivier Tebily -- a defender with minimal international name recognition failing to live up to expectations. Johnston needs to look long and hard at bringing in a permanent answer at this vital position.
In midfield, the question is where to play Sam Cronin. The second-year player looked good outside right when deputized his rookie year, but isn't a natural wide player. Cronin is a valuable commodity. Johnston looks at Cronin as an integral part of his team going forward, and refused to trade him on draft day despite getting more calls about Cronin than any other player. Cronin will be in the starting XI, so outside right seems like the place.
The middle of the park seems straightforward, with Julian De Guzman and Carl Robinson. Robinson is a natural in the holding role. And with a training camp under his belt, De Guzman should have no problem proving his prowess.
On the left, Dwayne de Rosario could find himself on the flank. De-Ro is no stranger to the position, having done well wide left with the Canadian national team. This, however, isn't the ideal situation for De-Ro or the team.
If De-Ro isn't wide left, Jim Brennan or Chad Barrett may work. Brennan no longer can be penciled in as a guaranteed starter and it's questionable whether he retains the captain's armband under Preki. Left-midfield might be his best position at this point, a place his lack of pace won't be exposed. Barrett isn't ideally suited there either, but proved he can be a makeshift flank player when need be. Johnston would be best off looking to upgrade.
Ditto for up front. The largely unproven O'Brian White looks destined to have a run, but with whom he partners is unknown. De-Ro is most logical because of his play-making ability. But a true target-man and proven goal-scorer is atop Johnston's wish list.
As trade bait, Marvell Wynne has been dangled, but there's next to no market. Wynne's stock has dropped considerably over the last year, despite being involved with the U.S. national team set-up. No MLS team came calling for the speedster in draft-day trade talks.