Toronto FC's mid-term results are in

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:15 PM ET

TORONTO - It’s been another difficult season so far for Toronto F.C., although a pair of wins against the Vancouver Whitecaps last week may signal better days ahead.

What follows is our mid-season report card, based on the Reds’ performance through 19 MLS games:

Stefan Frei - A: How many times does Frei need to rescue TFC before MLS recognizes him as the league’s top ‘keeper? Leading the league with 70 saves, Frei’s heroics have preserved a number Toronto’s nine draws in addition to keeping games respectable. Making stops at crucial moments, his distribution makes him the most complete goalkeeper in the league. It speaks volumes when you earn best 11 honours following a 3-0 loss in Seattle.

Adrian Cann - B: When a poor performance in the Voyageurs Cup final saw him removed from the lineup, supporters saw how important Cann was when Philadelphia hit for six in TFC’s worst moment to date. A few lapses aside, Cann continues to be consistent, composed and a proven ball winner. Although not as commanding as a central player needs to be, if paired with the right partner, he is a player that can help the Reds moving forward.

Dicoy Williams - B: The Reds are receiving excellent value for Williams’ low salary. The Jamaican is a proven ball-winner whose simplicity was a welcome addition after watching TFC fall 4-2 to an expansion side on opening day. Out of the five players the Reds have rotated through the heart of the defence, Williams has been the most consistent.

Richard Eckersley - A: The Englishman’s tireless effort and will to win is on display every time out. A hard as nails player, his individual defending is second to none while his pace produces overlapping runs that threaten opposing back lines well into matches. His confidence and leadership qualities are striking for a player that joined weeks into the season.

Danleigh Borman - C: Boreman’s inconsistencies are difficult to address. While left-sided players are a commodity in North America, the South African’s individual defending is exploited by opposing attackers that are often a step quicker. His ability to get forward and provide decent service from the left has been overshadowed by multiple defensive lapses.

Julian de Guzman - C: At $1.9 million a year, even de Guzman’s bad days have to be sufficient. They’re not. De Guzman is a role player who is not providing enough to justify his designated player status. There are holding midfielders across MLS who do an equivalent job for a fraction of the price. Because de Guzman produces so little going forward, when he’s not providing a quality link between TFC’s backs and forwards, he’s of little use.

Nathan Sturgis - B: After struggling for inclusion to start the season, injuries have gifted Sturgis a chance at providing quality minutes in an injury-ravaged midfield. While great in possession and organized in defence, he isn’t as influential as a holding mid needs to be. Although he connects well with teammates, he fails to make himself available in situations where the Reds are looking to relieve pressure. Can he see the field beyond the first 30 metres?

Javier Martina - C: It’s possible that our expectations were inflated following the stunner he produced against Portland, but no one could have anticipated the collapse that occurred. Beaming with confidence early in the season, Martina was dangerous in isolation and routinely took players on in producing a host of opportunities in what many thought was a revamped attack. While improving over the last few weeks, Martina continues to chase games.

Joao Plata – B: Better suited coming off the bench, the 19-year-old has taken on a much bigger role than expected this year. His confidence is unmatched and his first 10 yards are second to none. Although he has slowed down of late, the Reds would be without a crucial piece if it weren’t for intelligent drafting and speed.

Alan Gordon - A: Not only is Gordon one of TFC’s few threats on set pieces, his addition kick-started a Toronto attack that was somewhat limited without the presence of a big target to hold off defenders and involve teammates. Nagging injuries might be a concern, but he gives the Reds a chance to win when he’s in the lineup — that’s enough for me.

Dan Gargan - D: Many want to know why TFC’s utility man doubled his salary following a losing season. While he’s the kind of player that can come in and kill a game off when needed, injuries have forced Winter to use Gargan far more than is necessary. After watching him lose his mark on multiple goals this season, it’s apparent Gargan has struggled to fully make the leap back from the second division.

Ty Harden - C: Toronto’s 6-2 loss to Philadelphia demonstrated what we already knew — Harden is more or less a third choice centreback that has been forced to take on an immense amount of responsibility in 2011. Although he has taken his fair share of heat, Harden is the kind of player every team needs — a low-cost reserve who can play Cup games when called upon. Unfortunately, he has been called upon week after week.

Tony Tchani - B: Looking back at the goal he scored in a 1-1 draw with Columbus, Tchani’s ability to combine and find gaps in the opposition’s defence is paramount to the system the Reds hope to run. Like Plata, he’s a player that’s not afraid to take a chance and look for the final pass. As Generation Adidas players don’t count against team salary caps, he’s the kind of player Winter can mold as he transforms the club.

Jacob Peterson - B: Peterson’s work rate and simplicity is sorely missed at the moment. Although welcoming him back from injury won’t solve Toronto’s scoring woes, he was excellent in possession and at keeping his defensive shape. After struggling through most of last year, he was easily TFC’s top midfielder when healthy.

Maicon Santos - C: Toronto’s leading goal-scorer is deadly when he has time to face up and cut to his left, but where does he fit? It’s a lock that Gordon’s return from injury will see Santos moved out of his current spot and the addition of Danny Koevermans may leave Santos on the outside looking in. Although Santos has buried some of his chances, he goes missing for entire halves and struggles to keep possession in the middle third.

Mikael Yourassowsky - B: The Belgian’s versatility was an asset when the Reds played eight games in May. Yourassowky’s tireless performance in a scoreless draw with Colorado raised his profile among supporters. Still, he seems out of place in midfield and consistently closes space for Toronto’s wingers. Although it remains unclear where he fits in Winter’s 4-3-3 setup, his relatively small contract makes him a quality acquisition.

The others

Nana Attakora - C: Did well to work his way back into the team, but a poorly timed injury leaves a lot unanswered.

Oscar Cordon - D: Showed well against a lower division side in Edmonton, but is consistently overwhelmed against MLS competition. Not trying to slag the kid, but he’s not close to ready.

Doneil Henry - C: Was a pleasant surprise in L.A. and New England, but RSL exposed the former academy player.

Nick Soolsma - C: Speed is a major issue here, as is decision making. His inability to spot opportune runs is concerning. Still, his commitment in games is undeniable.

Gianluca Zavarise - C: Could play an important role if the Reds get into Champions League group play.

Team highlights/lowlights

BEST MOMENT THUS FAR

March 26 vs. Portland Timbers

When Frei’s 70th minute dropkick landed in Martina’s path, the Dutch winger struck a first-time half-volley that dipped into the side netting. The obvious goal-of-the-year candidate not only took top honour in Week 2, it also lifted spirits around BMO Field following a depressing 4-2 loss to Vancouver in the opener.

WORST MOMENT THUS FAR

May 28 vs. Philadelphia Union - 6-2 defeat

In what has to be considered the franchise’s lowest moment to date, the Reds were thoroughly embarrassed by the Philadelphia Union in a 6-2 dismantling. To make matters worse, two early second-half Santos goals cut the deficit to one before the Union stormed back with three more. Without Frei in net, the score could have been worse — much worse.

BEST LEAGUE RESULT THUS FAR

April 13 vs. LA Galaxy - 0-0

Coming off a road draw in San Jose, the Reds weren’t expected to be a contest for the league’s top team. But in David Beckham’s first league visit to BMO Field, it was TFC that controlled stretches of the match in one of the most entertaining games this season. In the 80th minute, 22,453 supporters erupted when Plata’s diving header almost stole three points from last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners.

WORST LEAGUE RESULT THUS FAR

May 14 vs. Chicago Fire - 2-2

The Reds squandered their two-goal lead against a poor Chicago side. Failing to take advantage of opportunities to put the game out of reach, it was the Fire that stormed back through a Marco Pappa restart in the 63rd and an Orr Barouch sitter in the 76th. The Fire would have escaped with maximum points if it weren’t for Frei stopping a Daniel Paladini breakaway 10 minutes from time.

BEST ACQUISITION

Richard Eckersley

If not already top choice for this spot, his performance in the Voyageurs Cup final sealed it. His recent move to the centre of defence — something I called for as soon as Cann suffered a season-ending injury — cemented the Englishman as the most complete player TFC has had in its five-year history. While difficult, if a permanent move can be orchestrated, Toronto must look at bringing the Burnley man in on a full-time basis.

MOST UNDERVALUED PLAYER

Stefan Frei

A compensation package totaling $155,000 per year puts Frei on the lower end of starting ‘keeper salaries. Frei is going to need more if the Reds plan to keep him beyond his current agreement. With Philadelphia’s Faryd Mondragon bringing in close to $400,000 this year, supporters should be upset if ownership fails to shell out for the league’s top ‘keeper.

MVP OF THE FIRST HALF

Stefan Frei

It’s surprising that Frei isn’t facing early retirement following his first three years in the league. Peppered on a nightly basis, Frei has had more shots taken against him this season than any other ‘keeper in the league. Truth be told, Frei really should be the first choice ‘keeper at this year’s All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena.


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