TFC fans, not all is bad

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

It has been a rough month to be a Major League Soccer fan and an even rougher month to be a Toronto FC supporter.

The looming work stoppage aside, news out of TFC camp has brought very little reason to believe brighter days are on the horizon.

We in the media are often accused as being too negative. But truth be told, anyone in the local soccer community wants to see a winner at BMO Field. And it's beyond frustrating, entering Year 4 and still telling stories of a team reeling, struggling to find its identity.

That being said, the story in Toronto is not all gloom and doom. Through the dark clouds, there are actual positives.

First things first: Preki was clear at his introductory news conference he didn't expect TFC to be an immediate winner. He was honest in his assessment of the team he inherited, saying he only had "a few good players" and that winning will be "a process".

Preki's roster building is still in its infancy, and has been complicated by the lack of a CBA, and further complicated by a lack of roster flexibility thanks to past wheeling and dealing gone wrong courtesy of Mo Johnston.

As for the team's pre-season performances, take them with a grain of salt. Those results mean nothing. It's an absolute positive the shape of the team is already much better than previous years. The centre midfielders holding deep have looked disciplined in their movement, making for superior organization and overall a more efficient formation.

Give Julian de Guzman credit for creating positive space, using the width effectively. There still is a void in the attacking midfield role and next to no link up with the strikers, but a plan to work from the strength of the team will make for a more disciplined and controlled game.

Personnel-wise, the story isn't all bad news either.

TFC's employing a wait-and-see approach up front with Ali Gerba and O'Brian White. In fairness to criticism, particularly to the prior, Gerba and White weren't with the team or healthy last season. Add Chad Barrett to the equation, who still is recovering from injury and played out of position last season. All three players have some pedigree and could prove effective with opportunity. It would be a shock if one of these players doesn't have a breakout season.

Dwayne De Rosario will be relied on for goals, and is still among the best players in MLS. Johnston has said as much. De Rosario needs a big year to prove he's worth his $400,000 contract. Playing on grass at BMO should make for a better situation.

GOALTENDING DEPTH

On the back-end, TFC has goaltending depth. Stefan Frei's future remains bright and his Generation Adidas status makes him a real asset. Being in a position of strength, with Brian Edwards, Johnston can deal a goalkeeper to improve the team elsewhere.

Sam Cronin enters his second season with high expectations. He was subject to significant off-season trade interest, but Johnston believes his work ethic is second to none and he'll play a significant role with the club moving forward.

Young standout Nana Attakora's continued growth should include a better first touch and better distribution. If this happens, the Brampton native will be a stalwart.

As for Marvell Wynne, the USMNT member has regressed over the last year. But a move to outside right might be a good way for TFC to utilize his speed without being a defensive liability. His touch needs to be better, but Wynne still has the ability to be a difference maker.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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