Ultimate tease arrives

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

There has been a lot of criticism over the years from this columnist regarding the job Mo Johnston, Toronto FC director of soccer, has done building his team.

In a revolving door of players and trialists at TFC, a lot of you-know-what has being thrown against the wall with next to nothing sticking.

There is no way you can convince me Johnston deserves his yet-to-be-announced, three-year contract extension.

That being said, I'm convinced Johnston deserves credit for finding a gem of a centre-midfielder.

Straight up, 18-year-old Amadou Sanyang is a player.

And Mo got it right.

Having to wait until August to get Sanyang on the field because of age restrictions must have been the ultimate tease. Now that he is here, Sanyang has staked his claim to remain a regular.

Carl Robinson's one-game suspension (yellow card accumulation) opened the door for Sanyang to start Saturday and impress much like he did two weeks ago against D.C. United. Sanyang stood out for all the right reasons -- industry, poise on the ball, and overall energy.

And now Robinson should be looking over his shoulder.

Robinson has been a model representative and professional in all aspects from the get-go. On the field, he is the TFC's back-to-back MVP.

But he is a peculiar player. While his class and pedigree by MLS standards are undeniable, his influence this campaign can be questioned.

His play isn't flashy -- three goals and seven assists in 73 games speak to that. His value is through the little things he does that often go unnoticed.

But even taking that into consideration, Robinson's performance falls short of what he is capable of and what the team needs. He tends to sit back too often, getting caught between having influence on attack and playing too deep.

And this year, his once pristine distribution has been spotty at times.

The sloppiness has been uncharacteristic, and holds him back from taking control of games. A player of Robinson's stature should be much more influential on the pace and flow of the game.

Few are finer playing the ball laterally. But in a league where speed and pace are everything, Robinson isn't the best fit. This isn't meant to take a strip off the Welshman. But rather, Sanyang is a better fit in centre-midfield.

For this year, Robinson will be better off, and so will the team, if he shifts back to centre-back. As for next year, it wouldn't be surprising if Robinson is no longer a Red.

Though he took less money to stay with TFC so the team can compete under the salary cap, he still doesn't come cheap at over $300,000 US. And in a league where the salary cap is far too low, it is of the essence to spend wisely.

With Sanyang's emergence and Sam Cronin being a natural fit in a defensive central midfield role, there are cheaper options.

So, Mo will have a tough decision come season's end.

How ironic another class individual and proven goal-scorer, Danny Dichio, was nailed to the bench in a game where a goal was there to be had. The talisman was lucky to be in Seattle period, after initially being deemed not physically able to travel to the West Coast (a lame excuse if I've ever heard one).

Not sure who is making the decisions on this issue but Dichio playing the full 90 minutes in a midweek reserve match and TFC sending out misfiring Chad Barrett in its starting XI instead is an astonishingly bad decision. The way Dichio has been weeded out reeks more of politics than any question about fitness.

EPL thought of the day

Manchester City's perfect start to the season is not as impressive as it looks.

City's unconvincing wins over Blackburn, Wolves, and Portsmouth (all teams expected to be in relegation territory) don't prove it is ready to compete. City's next two games against Arsenal and Manchester United will be the true test.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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