TFC has a lot of unanswered questions

Andy Williams of Real Salt Lake takes down Toronto FC's Nathan Sturgis during MLS action in Sandy,...

Andy Williams of Real Salt Lake takes down Toronto FC's Nathan Sturgis during MLS action in Sandy, Utah, Saturday. (AFP)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

TORONTO - A rundown of TFC’s diminished lineup sums up Saturday’s predictable 3-1 loss in Salt Lake City.

Overwhelmed by a more experienced and closer to full-strength side, RSL punished multiple lapses in TFC’s defence that led to each of Salt Lake’s goals.

Ahead of this week’s league and Cup battle with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Aron Winter must address his back four. Doneil Henry has become nothing short of a liability that Vancouver’s Eric Hassli will exploit in every situation.

After losing his mark on RSL’s opener Saturday, Henry was marking space on the second before horribly misjudging the ball that led to RSL’s third.

Although Joao Plata and Javier Martina were ineffective before early exits on the weekend, the burden fell on Toronto’s defensive shape to limit mistakes in attempting to salvage a draw.

While allowing an 18-year-old academy reserve to take responsibility for Saturday’s loss isn’t completely the answer, Henry’s performance is worrisome ahead of two big matches with the ’Caps.

“It’s normal that some games the younger players are playing well and in other games it’s difficult for them,” Winter told the club’s website. “Today, if you saw all three goals, (Doneil) was too late.”

Henry’s promising outings at L.A. and New England are now overshadowed by the immaturity that has led to each of the last four goals the Reds have conceded.

If Nana Attakora is held out again, Vancouver’s Hassli will have his way with a TFC defence he finds success against even when the Reds are at full strength.

Watching Salt Lake cruise to a win leaves many questions unanswered heading into TFC’s biggest week of the season.

By the numbers

While a freak outbreak of knocks and injuries have placed TFC’s more expensive commodities on ice, Salt Lake’s ability to manage player salaries and intelligently disperse funds among key players was on display Saturday. Salt Lake’s starting 11 earned close to three times more cash than TFC’s … A more in depth look at RSL’s bankroll shows why the club has been successful. Including ’keeper Nick Rimando, Salt Lake’s defensive core holds salaries totalling close to $1 million — more than TFC’s entire starting lineup on the weekend … The league’s expanded playoff system will see Major League Soccer’s top-10 teams into the post-season. Keeping TFC’s 15 points in mind, the Reds will need 40 to have a chance at earning a spot in the play-in round … Toronto’s best finish came in 2009 when it finished on 39 points … Following the loss, Winter mentioned the coming transfer window. “The window is going to be open and I’m going to get some players,” Winter said. “Even when we are rebuilding, I want to win.” … Although the league’s mysterious salary cap makes it difficult to put an exact number to how much cash the Dutchman will have to deal, for a club that’s already well under the cap, Alen Stevanovic’s departure opened up another quarter million last week ... As per league rules, a designated player that joins midway through the season accounts only for $167,500 of a team’s overall budget, leaving little excuse for the Reds not to spend.

Help on the way?

Who or what positions the club hopes to fill is a bit unknown. In late May, Winter indicated he was looking for goal-scorers and leaders. But for a club that is struggling at both ends of the pitch, Winter should be concerned with adding to a defence that is on its last lifeline.

Toronto needs to take a look at how opposing clubs have converted to powerhouses in the past after making it a priority to shore up things at the back. For instance, not only did the New York Red Bulls draft well in defence, they signed Rafa Marquez to a massive contract that organized New York’s back four.

In terms of Saturday’s match, ask Plata how it felt to run directly into Jamison Olave’s towering presence. The Colombian’s strength was a main factor in Salt Lake’s rise to power in 2008.

With Adrian Cann coming off a knee injury and Nana Attakora in and out of the team, the Reds have the cap room to find a stalwart in defence they can build around for years to come.

In addition to helping stabilize a shaky back four, TFC must bring in a player that sees the entire field and can direct the players in front of him.

Parting thoughts

Wednesday’s MLS match will feature the league’s bottom two teams. The league’s two Canadian clubs will then meet in the Voyageurs Cup final Saturday afternoon with the winner advancing to the Champions League.

If not Wednesday, the Reds should have a number of first-team players back for the Canadian Championship.

Alan Gordon took part in light training this week but wasn’t an eligible sub in Salt Lake. The Reds are hoping the man that makes TFC’s offence click will be ready this week.

In playing two matches against the same rival in quick succession, a lot will be asked of how both managers approach each competition. After seeing their playoff hopes vanish in June, don’t be surprised if the pair take Wednesday’s match lightly while looking ahead to Saturday’s Cup final.


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