Time to look towards next year for FC

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Season No. 2 is in the books for Toronto FC.

The team finished 10 points ahead of its total from last year, but still has a long way to go before it can labeled as an on-field success.

The work for Mo Johnston and company building towards 2009 starts now, with naming the 11 players TFC will protect ahead of the expansion draft for the Seattle Sounders.

The to-do list is vast for TFC, so in no particular order, here's a wish-list for next year's squad:

- An upgrade at left- midfield : TFC's lack of width had the team playing a very narrow game with very little ball possession. The club doesn't have the natural wingers with the speed and service to be an offensive threat. On the right-side, Rohan Ricketts was solid, but the Englishman tends to drift inside, which is problematic keeping the proper spacing through the midfield. If Ricketts is the answer on the right, that makes a natural outside left player that much more important.

- An upgrade in central defence : This position is the most-pressing need. All too often, the back-line would be caught out, or caught flat. The players commandeering centre-back last year didn't have the pace or organizational ability to keep the defensive unit working cohesively. It often was suggested a designated player should be brought into the team in the mold of a special goal-scorer or a player with exceptional offensive flair. Instead, tt makes more sense to bring in a horse to lead from the back. The team will go only as far as the defence allows -- ask the L.A. Galaxy about that.

- Finding the heir apparent to Danny Dichio: As a target man and a goal scorer, Dichio has shown he can be a real difference maker in the MLS. However, age and health concerns have caught up to him, and there have been suggestions Dichio may be ready to move on. Regardless if he stays or not, it's vital for TFC to find a playmaker to play alongside Chad Barrett. Carlos Ruiz is not the long-term answer.

When Dichio was out of the lineup, the team failed to produce. This can't be the case if TFC is a playoff team next year.

- More Canadians: TFC was built to provide an option for Canadian players to compete at home at a high level. Although there are a number of young Canadian kids involved in the TFC setup, not enough are playing significant roles with the first-team. The emergence of Kevin Harmse over the last month of the season was a nice story, but it has to happen more. It's now up to management to see it as a worthwhile venture to bring high-level Canadian talent home, and for Canadian players to decide Toronto is a place where they want to make a name for themselves.

- Stability in coaching: John Carver made great strides as a manager as the season progressed. He showed his warts at times, but did as much as he could with the players at his disposal. A second year of Carver is a necessity for the consistency and growth of the squad.

- No more excuses: Supporters are sick of them. Whether it's regarding squad selection, the FieldTurf, officiating, or the failure to bring in a designated player, nobody wants to hear it. The first two seasons have been a learning curve, but year three is going to be a make or break season. Fans have flocked to BMO Field for the experience, but what will make them stay is a winner. Excuses no longer are acceptable.

BAILING LIKE BECKHAM

The suggestion circulating through certain sections of the North American sports media that David Beckham will not help AC Milan is complete nonsense. Any team, in Europe or elsewhere, benefits from the service that Beckham provides.

He's still an elite-level player.

So the coming loan is a great move for both Beckham and AC Milan.

But what about the MLS? What do they have to gain?

The loan move is more symbolically problematic than any on-field repercussions. Letting their poster boy play elsewhere sends the wrong message to the North American soccer public.

It says the MLS isn't good enough to satisfy Beckham's competitive urges. It says to potential recruits that the league won't give them a legitimate shot at playing for their countries.

It would send a stronger message if the MLS said no to the loan, saying to the public if you want to see one of the best players in the world, it will have to be in the MLS.

Unfortunately for the MLS, it doesn't seem like it was its call to make.


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