TFC has a lot of work to do

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

To say Toronto FC has a lot of work to do before embarking on its pre-season tour in Turkey a week from now is an understatement.

It has been just two weeks since Toronto FC’s new managerial team was formally introduced. And it was always going to be difficult for the new regime to operate on a tight timeline in preparation for the 2011 season. Filling a roster short on numbers and heavy on questions marks is daunting task, no matter the prep-time.

The new TFC leadership — Paul Mariner, Aron Winter and Co. — has hit the ground running and, although their heads are still spinning, have brought a renewed optimism to the club.

The process of rebuilding will be a marathon, not a sprint, no matter how gutted the roster may look at present. Sometimes a step back is needed in order to progress.

The tangible moves of trading forward Chad Barrett and backup goalkeeper Jon Conway to clear salary are prudent ones, considering the directive of starting anew. And the fact there’s finally a proper management team in place to oversee the operation is the biggest positive of all.

It was easy to criticize former director of soccer Mo Johnston for the team’s lack of progress. But he was just one man. No successful operation with such grandiose aspirations can be run by a team of one. Proper infrastructure is required and now TFC has just that.

It’s not just the addition of Mariner and his winning track record in MLS. Or the arrival of Winter, an ambitious young head coach with a desire to play how the modern game is meant to be played. It’s the concept of team; a network of individuals running the show, varying in experience, but all working in unison. The various perspectives, checks and balances and input, from the academy to the first team, are invaluable to a franchise previously lacking dimension.

Not listed among the positives has been the over-used and over-stated proclamation “Total Football” has arrived at TFC. It’s nonsense.

“Total Football” is out-dated. It stems from a time where one-dimensional players could thrive and a time where role definition was king. That is no longer, and hasn’t been the case in soccer for quite some time.

Top-rate defenders are already good on the ball. And capable attacking players can track back with the best of them. Complete players are not the goal; they are the expectation. The modern game demands it. So let’s ditch that nauseating descriptor and focus on other characterizations, such as “Good Football,” or “Winning Football,” or “Attacking Football.”

You get the picture.

Winter wants TFC playing attacking, possession soccer in a 4-3-3 system. Fine. No matter the system, its effectiveness is entirely predicated on the personnel. It can be argued TFC should have been playing a 4-3-3 for the past couple seasons based on their roster. TFC has never had capable outside midfielders, and a 4-3-3 takes the need for midfield width out of the equation (to a certain extent).

So with a 4-3-3 in mind, the three most pressing needs for management to acquire are capable wing-backs, a centre-forward/target-man and an overall upgrade in positional depth.

The shopping list is a lengthy one. Don’t expect all items to be addressed before the season. It’s baby steps for this group. But it’s the only way to go.


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