March 22, 2012
East is least, which suits TFC fine
By Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency
On zero points, a negative goal difference and with one game played, if the playoffs began today, Toronto FC would earn its first MLS post-season berth as the East's fifth seed.
After beginning the season with a 2-9-0 record (minus-14 goal difference) against Western Conference clubs, it goes to show you just how bad the league's Eastern Conference is.
The Reds were outclassed last week in Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps dismantled the Montreal Impact on opening day -- signs the league's unbalanced schedule will be a good thing for TFC.
Looking transformed in flashes, there's still doubt as to whether TFC has turned the corner. Getting past the Galaxy was massive, but what followed in Seattle told us quite a bit about how the season will go.
Much like 2009, the year Toronto missed the playoffs on the final day, the Reds will be in and out of the playoff zone, grabbing at the final spot with Columbus, Philadelphia and Chicago -- maybe New York.
Of concern is the fact that two of TFC's biggest threats a season ago -- Joao Plata and Danny Koevermans -- have yet to show well in three matches. Similarly, it appears highly touted winger Reggie Lambe is struggling to find a place in what's a fast and physical league.
While Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva have been bright through three games, even with Torsten Frings patrolling the back line, the Reds haven't solved their persistent issues at the back.
Both TFC and the Impact have a make-or-break month of games ahead.
Beginning on Saturday against San Jose, Toronto must find a way to get early-season points during the weakest portion of its schedule.
As for the Impact, the Quebecers must find a way to get through a back-breaking three weeks.
Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch has criticized MLS for a difficult opening schedule that sees the Impact play four of its first five matches away from Quebec.
Sitting on one point through two games, the Impact's next three matches are in Columbus, New York and Salt Lake -- making it very likely the league's newest franchise will be on a single point when it hosts Toronto.
Certainly better than past expansion sides -- Salt Lake ('05), Chivas ('05), TFC ('07) and Philadelphia ('10) -- the Impact doesn't appear to have the weapons to break teams down.
Montreal hoped expansion draftee Just Braun would finally have the breakout season he has been after since 2008, but in two matches it's clear the Impact has assembled nothing more than host of second class attackers that will struggle to unlock MLS defences.
Although the Bernardo Corradi signing is interesting, even the Impact doesn't have faith in their newly employed striker -- Montreal wouldn't give Corradi more than a three-month contract with the option to extend.
Add to that the extremely late move to trade Eddie Johnson's rights to Seattle in exchange for Lamar Neagle and Mike Fucito and the Impact are in desperation mode just two games in.
It won't be enough, but the club will rely heavily on the midfield work of Davy Arnaud and Patrice Bernier, who appear to be the two bright spots so far.
In a stat distributed by mlssoccer.com, the Elias Sports Bureau is giving Whitecaps supporters something to smile about.
According to the league's statistician, 90.3 % of MLS teams that win their first two matches make the post-season.
Stats aside, the 'Caps are one of three MLS teams that haven't conceded through the first two weeks of the season. In addition to bringing in
Lee Young-Pyo, U.S. international Jay DeMerit and Argentinean Martin Bonjour have formulated a quality partnership that has shored up a terrible defence.
Onlookers will point to the fact that Vancouver opened the season against a pair of cupcakes -- Montreal and Chivas -- but six points from a possible six demonstrates a certain bit of quality.
Head coach Martin Rennie has done an admirable job of improving the 'Caps from front to back, specifically by acquiring Sebastien Le Toux from Philadelphia just before the season.
Heading into Week 3, the club's front four are more dangerous now than ever. With Le Toux playing off Designated Player Eric Hassli and Camilo looking sharp, the Whitecaps are a massive threat to end TFC's run of Canadian Cup titles.
Canada’s under-23 national team opened CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament with a scoreless draw against El Salvador in Nashville Thursday night.
Although it failed to threaten the Salvadoran goal, Canada played level with the Central Americans for 45 minutes before its match fitness appeared to fade.
El Salvador had a number of chances to grab full points late on but failed to convert.
Canada will look to regroup against a talented U.S. side on Saturday and will need a top two finish in its group to move on to the tournament’s semifinals for a chance to qualify for London 2012.