Itís becoming more clear by the day this year at Toronto FC looks made to be entitled The Young and the Restless.
The team has been a Soap Opera at times in previous years. But this yearís edition has nothing to do with drama. The players will be young, and the supporters will be restless.
Call it a re-shuffle; or call it a rebuild if you will. No matter what you call it, Toronto FC is starting over. Again.
Itís not what supporters want to hear but itís the truth. After four years of sub-par performances, more of the same is likely. But this time around with the clubís sixth head coach heading into year number five, tactics will not be the main issue. Personnel will be.
At this stage late in the pre-season, a lack of quality isnít the teamís biggest worry. Itís a lack of experience. Torontoís roster is far too short on tangible, on-field Major League Soccer experience.
That could change in the coming weeks in months. As one Toronto FC player told me Wednesday, the roster isnít close to being a finished product. More players are certain to join the fray. Once again, this is not what the fan-base wants to hear heading to Vancouver in eight days.
Head coach and technical director Aron Winter holds his cards close to his chest, resisting the temptation to disclose what players he desires. The manager opened up marginally in Charleston, admitting heís ďlooking for other players because at this moment Iím missing a left-winger and also upfront Iím missing a striker.Ē Thatís as much as youíll get out of Winter.
Itís all rather secretive. Heck, who these players are and where theyíll come from is an absolute mystery. There are no known advanced scouting missions taking place. Director of player development Paul Mariner is in Charleston. And the last we hear, Nick Dasovic was scouting at the U-17 CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica. Because thatís Toronto FCís directive: Go young.
It?s a conscious decision for by Toronto FC and their staff to turn to
youth. It was never announced to the public, but consultant Jurgen
Klinsmann?s advice to Toronto FC was to turn to their youth and
develop from within. Winter is following that edict. Heís going young. Very young.
Thursdayís training session at the College of Charleston resembled that of a development, or youth team. And thatís not meant to be disparaging.
Mixed in with a handful of fully mature men is a large group of young men, still growing into their bodies. The common denominator among them is a lack of MLS experience. Veteran leadership is mandatory to compliment the youth. And despite the 44-year-old Winter looking good taking part in drills with his team in training, the former Dutch International isnít going to be lacing them up Without requisite experience, Toronto FCís banking the talent gap between the quality of player they are developing and other core players, league-wide is negligible. The move is a gamble. And over the short-term, the experience elsewhere will most certainly trump the emerging talent, no matter the positive tactics Winter deploys.
The average age of Toronto FC starters Wednesday was 23. Add Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman and Adrian Cann to that group and that number goes up considerably. Wednesday night against Charleston, plus those three is your eventual starting 11.
The only regular with substantial MLS experience at Toronto FC is DeRosario, having played and started for MLS championship teams over the course of a decade. Midfielder Nick Labrocca is the only other player that can be deemed truly experienced, having been a three-year starter in MLS.
No other player fits the bill. The rest are journeymen, role players, those relatively new to the league or players young in their careers.
The result is a distinct lack of moxy and players that can keep a team together when put under pressure.
Multiple soccer executives in Charleston have been in high praise of Winter and the approach heís brought to Toronto. The consensus is this coaching staff and management team will finally get it right.
But the consensus is also there will be growing pains, TFC needs to add more veteran presence to the roster, and the team will struggle until it finds consistent performers.
And the Toronto FC faithful will remain restless until they do.
cann comes back
Toronto FC announced Thursday night defender Adrian Cann will rejoin the team Friday in Charleston. Winter will not comment on Cann until after Saturdayís game against DC United.
Up until Thursday, there had been no interaction between Cann and Toronto FC since the disgruntled defender left the team in Orlando hoping to renegotiate his contract. Winter told Sun Media last week Cann could return to the team under the terms of his previous contract if he apologized to the team.
Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman are moving closer to first team appearances. Both players were full participants in Thursdayís training session.
De Guzman looked lively as he continues his return from off-season knee surgery. It still remains a long shot de Guzman will be match fit in time for the season opener next Saturday in Vancouver. But the midfielder is on the right track.
De Rosario showed a slight limp at times during training as he faces a fitness battle of his own. The captain picked up a knock to his right leg while in Orlando. His status for Saturday is questionable.
Dutch newcomer, midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba, did not practise again Thursday and will be out 1-2 weeks.