March 19, 2012
Losing to Seattle is one thing, losing Frings is another
By Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency
The Sounders did what the Galaxy couldn’t Saturday night, exploiting a vulnerable Toronto defence in a 3-1 opening day win at CenturyLink Field — a game dwarfed by the indefinite loss of TFC’s defensive anchor.
Torsten Frings played a massive role during last week’s Champions League quarterfinal, but an awkward lunge midway through the first half Saturday saw the German limp off under the guidance of TFC staff.
“We’ll have to wait,” head coach Aron Winter said of Frings’ injury. “We tried to force things but we weren’t able to. He will be re-evaluated.”
Trailing at the half, Winter elected to drop a fifth defender in favour of Danny Koevermans, who entered after the break for a struggling Ty Harden.
With rookie centre backs Aron Maund and Miguel Aceval missing the German’s steadiness between them, things began to unravel.
“We felt (Toronto) played with a high line and we felt we could get in behind them,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who undoubtedly watched tape of TFC’s dangerously high defensive line days earlier in L.A.
“They lost Frings to injury, that’s obviously a big part of their team,” Schmid said.
Although it clearly assisted the Sounders, the Reds managed to hold them off, and nearly equalize, during the final 20 minutes of the first half.
Upon replacing Frings with Maund, Winter slid Aceval centrally in place of the German, keeping the club in its familiar 5-4-1 defensive setup.
“I think if you watch in the first half we played quite well,” Winter said. “At the end you have to force something to at least score.”
With 45 minutes to play, the decision to alter course and move to a 4-3-3 stranded a fledgling back line that was made up of three players — Maund, Aceval and Logan Emory — that have never played together. It ripped the Reds wide open early in the second half.
“Whenever a guy gets a hat-trick, like David Estrada got (Saturday), a great performance for him,” Schmid said. “But our team tactically did what we wanted to do.”
Estrada exposed Toronto’s four-man back right from the start, latching on to a through-ball that would have been snuffed out had the Reds stayed in their more comfortable five-back system.
As for Estrada’s third, chalk it up to a series of mistakes that ended with Maund labouring to slide over and defend against a simple one-two.
“I think that some of the players didn’t give everything,” Winter said.
But after playing even with the Sounders for at least a half, there are dissenting viewpoints as to where to point the finger.
THIS AND THAT
Club officials told the Sun that Frings was set to be re-evaluated this week and that no updates were available as of Sunday … Winter made four changes to the team that downed the Galaxy last Wednesday, but the ’keeping situation remained the same: “We had to make a choice and we chose Milos (Kocic),” Winter said. It’s safe to say there’s a new No. 1 at BMO Field … How many MLS managers would sit a pair of healthy Designated Players in favour of role players? Cause for concern if you’re Julian de Guzman, who was replaced by Terry Dunfield — someone who earns approximately 5% of what de Guzman rakes in annually … Sitting Ashtone Morgan in favour of Emory is the strangest one. While personnel wasn’t at the root of Saturday’s loss, Toronto’s starting left back didn’t see the pitch. To be fair, Emory did well in his first appearance for the Reds, but was the change a precursor to Morgan potentially missing time with the Canadian Olympic squad?
BYE, BYE MORGAN?
Morgan confirmed over the weekend that he may still be added to Canada’s under-23 Olympic roster ahead of this week’s qualifiers in Nashville.
“Right now I’m still unsure what’s going on,” Morgan said. “I’m just focused right now … we’ll see what happens.”
The 21-year-old told the Sun that TFC has yet to make a decision as to whether they’ll release Toronto’s starting left back for the CONCACAF tournament, which runs March 22 to April 2.
Although his name didn’t appear on head coach Tony Fonseca’s initial camp roster, Morgan says the possibility still exists that he could feature in the tournament.
“After (this weekend), we’ll see what happens,” Morgan said, agreeing that the club’s needs might be keeping him from joining Canada at the moment.
Should he join Canada’s U23s in search of the team’s first Olympic berth since 1984, Morgan, as well as Matt Stinson and Doneil Henry, will likely miss TFC’s Champions League home leg against Santos Laguna on March 28.
If you would have told Toronto’s front office the club was set to earn a win, loss and a draw through its opening three fixtures, it would have been over the moon.
While dropping points in Seattle is close to certainty in this league, failing to secure maximum points at home to San Jose — with or without Frings — will be cause for concern.
Heading into the softest part of this year’s league schedule, the Reds simply must pick up early-season points.