Turf must go, but it's no excuse

Toronto FC's Dwayne De Rosario battles the Chicago Fire's Logan Pause for the ball at BMO Field,...

Toronto FC's Dwayne De Rosario battles the Chicago Fire's Logan Pause for the ball at BMO Field, Saturday, May 16, 2009. (Sun Media/Dave Thomas)

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

"The turf's gotta go. I'm sick of it."

It took Dwayne De Rosario all of six appearances at BMO Field in 2009 to come up with that startling revelation.

The turf at BMO never has made sense.

It didn't make sense when non-soccer savvy politicians and planners decided to go with a universally disliked surface in the first place. And it makes even less sense that the powers that be haven't gotten rid of the unattractive artificial surface for good.

Political red-tape and nonsensical excuses have stood in the way of getting grass. The hope that common sense will prevail is a pipe-dream, with the decision-makers playing politics instead of acting for the greater good.

For crying out loud, does the city want a place to play ultimate Frisbee or a place for a professional soccer team to play?

That's what happens when MLSEL cuts a deal with self-serving politicians to save the organization a couple bucks constructing the stadium.

It's sad we'll see stadium expansion -- adding seats to a stadium whose facilities (ie. restrooms and concessions) will not be sufficient to deal with the added influx of patrons -- before we see the one thing that can actually make the product on the field better. That's because grass costs money -- more seats equal more money. It's as simple as that.

Until the grass is laid, the turf will continue to be an unnecessary distraction and an annoying excuse. In the end, it holds back the product.

The turf has been talked about too much, so in the famous words of Larry the Cable Guy: Git-R-Done.

That being said, from an on-field soccer perspective, De Rosario's suggestion that the turf is "killing" his team is flawed. It's the way the side plays tactically on the turf that's the bigger issue.

When playing on a wet, slick surface like during Saturday's game, spacing is key.

And TFC's biggest Achilles' heel this season has been a complete lack of width. The team plays far too narrow. It plays far too bunched up.

Simply put -- the space is being used all wrong. And thus, the quality suffers.

There's no flow to the game when possession is thrown away cheaply. And that's inevitable when play is so tight.

When a player with the ball looks up and his options are limited, he tends to want to create space, choosing to lead another player instead of playing directly to his feet.

In doing so in the conditions Saturday, the ball was always going to fly -- and it flew out of bounds with reckless abandon.

Talented players such as Amado Guevara can compensate for tight quarters. But the quality of Guevara doesn't readily run through the rosters of Major League Soccer.

The result, predictably, is all too sloppy play. The remedy for bunching together is getting players in wide positions.

The challenge for head coach Chris Cummins is to either find the necessary personnel or a formation conducive to getting players to hit the touchlines to create more width. On paper, TFC doesn't have that natural wing player.

If Director of Soccer Mo Johnston doesn't bring in the kind of player that can stretch the field east-west, Cummins needs to demand his wing-backs play more outside, creating space for themselves as well for the players in the middle of the pitch. The wing-backs are vital to playing a strong, ball possession game.

If Cummins can't get more width from his side, the team's play will continue to suffer --on turf or not.

Nutrilite letdown

Two games into the Canadian Nutrilite Championship and one-thing is clear: The Canadian USL-1 teams are simply not up to par.

Although both the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps have a collection of talented players, their overall squad strength is significantly lower than that of the teams TFC plays week in, week out.

TFC outshot Montreal 16-3 on Wednesday, simply walking through a defensively challenged midfield. And in TFC's opening match, the Whitecaps offered up very little in terms of any quality.

After two matches, there is nothing to suggest TFC won't be crowned Canadian champion this time around -- which makes last year's failure look that much worse.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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