Does Aron Winter have the personnel to continue playing his preferred 4-3-3 system, or is it time to experiment with a formation most North American players are more comfortable in?
After watching the Reds salvage a point against winless Chivas USA and chew their nails against the Galaxy for 90 minutes, it was only a matter of time before TFC’s disorganization was exposed.
In a system that hinges on the ability of Toronto’s outside backs consistently joining the attack without abandoning defensive assignments, the Jacob Peterson right-back experiment failed from the opening whistle Saturday night in TFC’s home defeat to D.C. United.
Couple Peterson’s disappointing display out of his midfield role with Danleigh Borman’s horrendous early giveaway, and you have to question if Toronto will ever find success in this formation, or if the Reds would be better suited switching to a more traditional and defensive 4-4-2.
It’s apparent Winter is still looking for a combination of players that fit his attack-minded setup. But the Dutchman is quickly learning that, while plugging in offensive-minded players like Peterson and Mikael Yourassowsky at wing back helps the attack, teams have consistently exploited the pair’s inability to defend and keep the game in front of them.
While Peterson looked bright to start the season in an attacking midfielder’s role, he was beaten far too easily on D.C.’s opener after Chris Pontius exposed his lack of recovery pace and his uncertainty with his back to goal.
The never-ending theme in the stands is whether TFC has the type of players needed to trot out a 4-3-3 formation. If Winter moves a player such as Ty Harden or Nana Attakora to outside back, production in the attacking third falls off. But if he moves attack-minded players like Peterson to outside back for his willingness to get forward, the opposition have its way with the inexperienced defender.
And after naming a different back four for the fifth time in six games, and conceding the second most goals of any team in the league, it’s apparent Winter is still looking for a defensive combination that can see out a match while producing at both ends of the pitch.
I’m just not sure those players reside anywhere in Toronto’s dressing room.
The decision by referee Mark Kadlecik to send off Harden in the 49th minute was ill-received by TFC supporters. But in his first game in charge, Kadlecik got it right. Harden’s tackle was horribly timed, he was the last man back and it prevented an excellent scoring opportunity inside the penalty area. It doesn’t get any clearer than that … By the way, did anyone else notice that nifty heel pass from D.C. veteran Josh Wolff that set up that eventual play? … If TFC’s defensive problems persist, look for the newly acquired Richard Eckersley to get a shot somewhere along the back line. Eckersley was acquired last week on loan from English side Burnley just before the transfer window closed. We haven’t seen him in Toronto just yet, but what are the chances of him reporting to camp sporting a handlebar moustache? … TFC had its best opportunities of the game after going a man down. The Reds applied good pressure during the 10 minutes following Harden’s red card, but it’s possible that the team’s youthfulness is dooming TFC to slow and sluggish starts in a majority of games to start the season … Speaking of youthfulness, supporters should be applauding 18-year-old TFC academy product Oscar Cordon for earning his first MLS start on Saturday. While he wasn’t as influential as you’d like an attacking midfielder to be, his ability to connect passes through the middle of the park and his composure on the ball speaks to his maturity at such a young age. Look for Cordon to see more time, particularly in Toronto’s upcoming Canadian Championship matches … Someone who unfortunately may not be seeing more time is defensive stalwart Adrian Cann, who made way early for Attakora after suffering what TFC officials are calling a rib injury. To add insult to injury, D.C. United scored on the play as Cann remained on the ground, unable to track back and cover eventual goal-scorer Charlie Davies … In what appears to be a great off-season acquisition and comeback story for D.C. United fans, Davies leads all of MLS with five goals through five games played. Just 18 months after a fatal car accident almost took his life in Virginia … Someone looking to make a comeback ahead of TFC’s game against Columbus this Saturday is Alan Gordon. The big-target forward has been sorely missed and his addition ahead of Saturday’s contest would provide the strength and grit the team is desperately missing up top.