TFC must be better for home opener

GARETH WHEELER, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

Last week’s 4-2 season opening loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps was as a reminder how far Toronto FC has to go to become competitive.

 Toronto FC will have to be a whole lot better in various aspects of the game in its home opener Saturday to avoid dropping points in consecutive weeks to expansion competition.

 The Portland Timbers roll into town, featuring Toronto FC killer — striker Kenny Cooper.  The talisman marked his return to Major League Soccer last week with a goal, and has scored six goals in his past four games against TFC.

 BMO Field at times over the years has been a fortress for Toronto FC; a beacon of stability for a club with very little.  Memorable wins last season against the MLS champion Colorado Rapids and Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League speaks to the difficulty of playing in Toronto.

 The usual warmth inside the friendly confines will be replaced by cold weather with a projected high of -1C on Saturday, and an anxious crowd eager to see early results of head coach Aron Winter’s overhaul, live and in-person.

 Nothing short of a Toronto FC victory will be seen as progress to most.  To avoid back-to-back embarrassments, Toronto FC will have to do five basic things to get a result Week 2.

 

Positive possession vs. Possession

Toronto FC dominated possession in Vancouver to a clip of 65%.  The statistic is flattering, but hardly tells the story.  Toronto’s possession was largely negative, consisting of the defensive line passing it back and forth, amongst each another. And when the ball advanced, there weren’t enough options in Red to attack with design.  Vancouver sat back comfortably, letting Toronto meander as it pleased.  Possession statistics are only significant when the majority of possession is coming from the midfield in attacking positions. The midfield needs to be better at finding space and holding up the ball.  And the defenders need to be far better in distribution. Too many wayward passes killed the flow and meant attacks were played from passive positions.

Adrian Cann needs to be moved back into the middle

The punishment/experiment playing Cann at left-back needs to stop. The Whitecaps carved up Toronto FC’s left side, and Cann was left stranded.  It wasn’t all Cann’s fault, the support coming from the central defence was poorly timed and not good enough. Without Cann in the middle last week, Nana Attakora was lost from a positional perspective. Cann is a centre-back, period.  His partnership with Attakora is one not to be messed with, at this point. Cann doesn’t have the speed to deputize the wing, but has the ball control and ability to read the game to be an asset in the middle. 

Toronto FC wingers need proper positioning

While Maicon Santos did well tracking back as a targetman getting involved last week, the same cannot be said of the wing players.  Javier Martina and Nick Soolsma each had moments with the ball at their feet, looking like real threats. But opening up into space and properly supporting the midfield was largely absent. Soolsma looks awkward moving off the ball, and it’s hard to see him sticking at the right-wing position. Jacob Peterson was efficient in the role in pre-season. Martina looks like he can be a contributor, but where his best position may be is up for debate. In a 4-3-3, the wide positions need to keep opposing wing-backs honest, stretching the field and creating space. Young Nicholas Lindsay did a proper job in the role at the end of last season, getting the ball in space and attacking defenders. Not playing the position properly means a breakdown in system.

Get Dwayne De Rosario the ball in advantageous positions

The script reads much the same as previous seasons: Toronto FC’s best players not getting the ball at their feet or in proper positions. De Rosario was left frustrated and it’s well warranted. If the system is predicated on movement, and one of De Rosario’s strength’s is finding room in tight spaces, then he needs to get the ball. He creates and can finish. De Rosario’s goal came from superior movement and a well-timed run when he received distribution. So the other two midfielders need to spread out and demand the ball from the back four in possession. That way De Rosario can play off the movement and become more influential.

More effort, more push-back

The entire work-rate and effort last Saturday left a lot to be desired. There is no excuse for not hustling back and competing.  Toronto defenders inexcusably left goalkeeper Stefan Frei for dead multiple times during the match, including a two-on-none break on Eric Hassli’s goal in the 72nd minute. Talent-wise, Toronto FC isn’t good enough to take stretches of the match off.  It will have to out-work and out-think opponents. It was out done in both categories against Vancouver. That must be remedied.

Toronto FC added a new player to their roster Thursday, acquiring Serbian International Alen Stevanovic on loan from Italian Serie B side Torino FC.  The 20-year-old midfielder is co-owned by Torino and Internazionale Milan.

 

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