TFC in desperate need of true centre-back

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Stefan Frei has arrived.

In his third start in Major League Soccer, Toronto FC's rookie keeper had his busiest and best day thus far.

With a myriad of important saves, the young Swiss goalkeeper showed why he's TFC's keeper for the present and the future.

FREI A STANDOUT

Without Frei standing on his head on many occasions, a sub-standard 1-1 home draw against MLS bottom-dwellers FC Dallas could have been an embarrassing home loss.

Toronto was outshot 19-10 (7-2 on goal), hardly looking like the decent home side it was in '08.

TFC head coach John Carver may be happier about his team's performance this week than last, but quite frankly, anything short of three points has to be seen as a massive letdown.

After a positive start, the second half was a nightmare for the home side.

How can a TFC letdown for a second consecutive week be explained?

Much has been made of the team giving up too many second-half goals -- late goals in particular -- since its inception.

While fitness seemed to be a regular scapegoat, a more fitting reason is the lack of a defensive stalwart to keep the side organized for 90 minutes.

When the pressure mounts, all teams need a defensive player who can put his foot on the ball and dictate defensive responsibilities.

TFC never has had this player, and is thus exposed defensively.

From Day 1, the mantra for building TFC should have been from the back out. This doesn't just apply to TFC -- or just soccer in general -- it's the building model for all sports.

Heck, when Brian Burke came to Toronto to save the Maple Leafs, he proclaimed he was going to build from the back out.

Instead, TFC has been built part by part, none seeming to fit appropriately with the others. There are talented players scattered across the pitch, but style doesn't always mean substance. To help the talent shine through from defensive third to attacking third, a strong defensive nucleus is needed to establish play at the back to find consistency and rhythm.

This hasn't happened and hopes of bringing in a top-class centre-back continue to fall by the wayside.

The addition of Adrian Serioux has helped the situation but he is not ideally suited for the role. Serioux's preferred position is as a defensive midfielder and has been proven as a right-back in the past.

Similarly, Kevin Harmse isn't a natural centre-back.

Serioux in a defensive holding role would be a massive upgrade to the formation, allowing Carl Robinson to move more freely through the centre of the pitch.

That means Amado Guevara and Dwayne De Rosario could have more room to operate offensively while not giving up anything from a defensive perspective.

Once again, this means bringing in quality, natural centre-backs.

Makeshift doesn't work, whether it is the MLS or the English Premiership.

It's no coincidence Manchester United's recent defensive woes were compounded after losing Rio Ferdinand to injury.

Ferdinand's the stabilizing force at the back of United. His poise, positional superiority and organization disguises weakness in United's personnel. Just like if Liverpool lost Jamie Carragher or Chelsea was without John Terry -- the defensive organization wouldn't be the same.

It's time TFC acquires a player in the mould of a Ferdinand, Carragher or Terry to call its own.

TFC still has its designated player allotment and now would be the appropriate time to use it on a centre-back.

If not, it will continue to be a busy season for Frei.

Notes

Rumour has it TFC is getting ready to announce a summer friendly with a major European team. Part of the deal is said to be a grass field brought into BMO for the game ... The long-throw is a weapon, but should it be used every time? Serioux's long throw worked to perfection on De Rosario's first goal as a Red. But if TFC is going to use it every time, it needs to bring a man short and create some more space.


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