August 17, 2010
Mista gives TFC that needed boost
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mista has arrived in Toronto.
He may have been with Toronto FC in body for a month, but as far as impact goes, this was his night.
There is something to be said about having a target-man. Playing through the midfield is fine, but without having someone to stretch the defence deep, while also having the ability to put their foot on the ball and dictate the pace in attack is a true necessity.
TFC has never had that player. Danny Dichio came closest, but was more apt to playing the ball in touch rather than taking control and distributing accordingly.
Tuesday night, Mista was clinical in his proper distribution. The intelligence, his natural ability to read the game and react was a difference maker.
His goal will be talked about. But his consistent, properly weighted balls down the line are just as important.
You've got to remember; Mista wasn't just a good player in La Liga, he was a very good player.
There was no better year for Mista than 2004, playing a key role in Valencia?s La Liga title and UEFA Cup Championship. Mista started 35 games that season, scoring a team best 24 goals in the process, including the second goal in Valencia?s 2-0 UEFA Cup Final victory over Olympique de Marseille.
It's important for TFC to have a player who not only came up through the Real Madrid youth system, but who has won trophies as a professional.
You can see Mista's teammates are growing accustomed to his style and are clearly looking to get him involved. Julian de Guzman may be the biggest benefactor of Mista's arrival. Having his former Deportivo La Coruna teammate who plays best with the ball at his feet provides de Guzman a legit target and someone to play off of.
And that's exactly what de Guzman and TFC did for 66 minutes before Mista was substituted off. After Mista left the proceedings, TFC lost there way a little bit. TFC was unable to hold up the ball and snuff out the game - call it a loss of quality and thus composure. Give Cruz Azul credit for making it difficult by making positive substitutions, bringing Gerardo Torrado and Javier Orozco into the match. But TFC surely could have done better controlling the game as they had over the previous hour and change.
Mista wasn't the only player announcing their intention to be contributors for TFC down the stretch. Midfielder Martin Saric returned from a long-term quad injury and showed form not previously displayed while wearing Red.
Saric was a caution waiting to happen over the first months of the season after his arrival. The Argentine?s play was erratic and sloppy, failing to impress before succumbing to injury July 10th.
Tuesday, Saric looked a new man. It wasn't just his advantageous brace. It was the way he complimented de Guzman controlling the centre-midfield. Saric showed patience and self-control, necessities in a frantic Major League Soccer.
Sometimes the out of control pace of the MLS game throws players for a loop when first arriving. The CONCACAF Champions League, playing against much more patient and controlled teams of Central America tends to lend itself to particular players used to playing a ball-controlled style game.
While CCL games tend to be rather hybrid, they're more innovative, rewarding adventuresome players. Whereas MLS, sometimes it seems simply the bigger, faster, stronger players rule the day.
I?d be remiss if I didn't include goalkeeper Jon Conway with the other two standouts.
Conway has been relegated to backup at the ripe old age of 33. And judging by his solid performance in just his second competitive match of the year, Conway's got some game left in him.
Conway's near post, reaction diving save in the 40th minute on Alejandro Vela's left-footed volley was crucial. It was a true turning point in the match, with Vela's effort having eyes for the back of the net.
When tested, Conway was solid throughout. A Christen Gimenez 89th minute free kick caroming in off the post was Conway?s only blemish.
The keeper hesitated for a split second, but it's difficult to tell whether it would have made a difference in keeping the ball out.
Bigger picture, as good as Stefan Frei has been, and in my eyes there has been no better keeper in MLS in 2010, the kid needs a break from time to time. Having Conway is a luxury most teams do not have.