February 29, 2012
Questions persist as TFC readies for Galaxy
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
Three points against an undermanned Swedish side is a small improvement over how TFC began a pre-season tournament in Orlando, but work remains.
Following a sloppy draw with Orlando City last week, a close to full-strength Toronto played a more attractive brand during what many heralded as a redeeming 3-1 win over BK Hacken Wednesday.
Still, in continuing to lack the sharpness a club one week from opening night should display, facing what could be their final pre-season test against FC Dallas, questions persist.
Toronto looked more comfortable this week with Torsten Frings dropping deep as a fifth defender. And no one benefited more than Miguel Aceval, who was much better with less defensive responsibility and more time to recover when TFC lost possession.
Similarly, starting in place of Ecuadorian Geovanny Caicedo, Ty Harden was largely unnoticeable — a good night for a role-playing centreback whose previous issues are well documented.
But with Frings forced to overcompensate for a back four that had issues containing third-tier strikers over the weekend, there’s ongoing dialogue over who should sit beneath TFC’s No. 10 as a second holding midfielder.
Finishing last season as a reliable bench player, Matt Stinson continues to show a work-rate that’s second to none. Head coach Aron Winter will have to decide if the academy product is ready to unseat Terry Dunfield as Toronto’s second-choice to Julian de Guzman, a spot that will prove crucial with the Canadian international suspended March 7.
On the wings, Reggie Lambe continues to play himself out of a first 11 role. In a pair of pre-season starts the Bermudian has failed to impress in the open field. An inability to complete passes in the attacking third should lead to Joao Plata and Ryan Johnson starting on the flanks at the Rogers Centre, especially after seeing the form Johnson returned in following national team duty.
In the club’s 3-1 win, Johnson’s success, and Toronto’s attack, largely hinged on first-round draft pick Luis Silva. In his debut, Silva was a welcome addition over Eric Avila, who seems more interested in playing closer to goal than pulling strings beneath Danny Koevermans.
Despite the positives, there were plenty of lapses. The Reds failed to complete simple tasks, turning the ball over in bad spots that a second-choice Swedish side simply wasn’t capable of capitalizing on.
And although the club’s passing sequences were significantly better than they were at the start of the competition, the Reds are finding Koevermans’ half as often as they should. As Toronto’s pre-season win means it will likely play in at least the tournament’s consolation game, it appears the Reds have earned some extra preparation.
With the defending MLS champion L.A. Galaxy visiting the Rogers Centre Wednesday, March 7, they’ll need it.
Second-choice ‘keeper Milos Kocic followed up Stefan Frei’s fantastic pre-season appearance with a quality showing of his own, re-affirming Winter’s insistence that the Reds have two capable ‘keepers ... And there will be a third. With academy ‘keepers Chad Bush and Quillan Roberts in camp, Paul Mariner says the club is set to employ a third option ... With Caicedo failing to show well in the club’s previous pre-season friendly, the anticipation of Adrian Cann having an impact seems more likely every day, especially with Aaron Maund miles away ... With Elbekay Bouchiba’s exit this week, the Reds free up an international slot that could be used for a mid-season trade, transfer or loan — something the club attempted in 2011.
HOW ‘BOUT THAT
After joining TFC for 12 games last March, Serbian Alen Stevanovic, 21, never received the respect he deserved — until now.
From the press box to the bleachers, comments on the Torino midfielder’s slow transition were fair, but his consistently unnoticed intangibles — ability on the ball, attacking mind, comfort in the final third — were
Not just to a handful of us, but to Sir Alex Ferguson, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
The British tabloid reports scouts from the Premier League’s top six have been on hand at multiple Italian Serie B games and are interested in a player many TFC supporters shunned with no regard or discussion for the potential he clearly demonstrated.
Often a victim of TFC’s below average 2011 roster, rumours of an English move should once and for all silence many of Stevanovic’s critics around BMO Field.
CANADA QUICK HIT
Canada opened 2012 with a 3-1 loss to No. 41 Armenia in Cyprus Wednesday.
Impressive through the opening 20 minutes, Canada broke through five minutes after the start when Kevin McKenna nodded home a de Guzman corner.
But the advantage was short-lived as it didn’t take long for the Europeans to pull level and eventually take the lead midway through the second half following a Marcos Pizzelli brace.
Aras Ozbiliz converted a late penalty to extend the lead and cap a fairly dominating 70 minutes for the Armenians.
Canada must wait to regroup against the Americans in a final World Cup qualifying tune-up at BMO Field June 3.