March 26, 2012
Reds need to re-think tactical changes
By Kurt Larson, QMI Agency
Arguably its lowest point as a club, last season's embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union shamed supporters with a feeling they thought they'd never leave a TFC match with again.
"We were humiliated," head coach Aron Winter said last May, a sentiment that returned to BMO Field over the weekend when the club suffered its worst defeat since being hit for six last spring.
While its easy to blame individual players and the club's collective effort for Saturday's 3-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, suspect lineup shifts have punished the Reds in consecutive league fixtures beginning in Seattle to start the season.
Heading into halftime at CenturyLink Field without Torsten Frings, Winter replaced Ty Harden with Danny Koevermans and shifted the club into a 4-3-3, a move that saw a fragile Toronto defence concede twice before falling 3-1.
In an identical situation Saturday, Winter pulled Terry Dunfield for Koevermans and moved Toronto into what was essentially a 4-2-4 -- something that yielded similar results when the 'Quakes tacked on two additional goals midway through the second half.
Although it's clear the club has yet to find a reliable central defender capable of releasing Frings' from his defensive shackles, it's just as critical that Toronto's coaching staff concocts a system that maximizes TFC's chances of getting results.
Perennial TFC boo boy Julian de Guzman wasn't the problem Saturday and neither was Harden. By the end of the San Jose match the club was playing with just a single holding midfielder and rookie Luis Silva as its only two players in the middle third.
As a result, San Jose had acres of space to walk through TFC's midfield and counter-attack what was a helpless and hapless back four.
Disorganized and discomforted, Toronto looks like a club with no midfield presence and no confidence at the back. Despite having the offensive personnel to catch teams in transition, the floodgates will remain open if the Reds continue to not defend as a unit.
"I hope they stay open," Chris Wondolowski said after bagging an easy brace Saturday.
And they likely will if Winter doesn't correct the mid-match formation changes that have exposed Toronto's back line for two weeks.
"We got beat," Ryan Johnson said, before pausing during his post-game. "Hands down, we got beat."
Worse, Toronto got embarrassed Saturday, which took supporters all the way back to Winter's words last May.
CANN YOU HELP?
Adrian Cann's impending return could help settle a back four that has been rattled since holding a dangerous L.A. Galaxy attack in an impressive 2-1 Champions League win.
Toronto's tactical issues aside, Cann looked confident in training last week and could replace Ty Harden or Aaron Maund on the right side of defence.
The club's 2010 stalwart is tentatively scheduled to compete in a reserve match following Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew and could be deemed match fit as early as next week.
Noticeably vocal during full-team pre-match training last Friday, TFC's current defensive strife presents a dream situation to a player whose time at TFC appeared all but finished when a torn ACL ended his 2011 season.
With Frings out, Geovanny Caicedo's contract shredded and Harden failing to complete a full league match, the club may have no choice but to insert the Canadian international next week.
As a hamstring strain has Frings still three weeks from a return, Winter should consider playing a healthy Cann between Harden and Miguel Aceval in a back five.
While it will take something away from the attack, it might dry up the shocking number of goals Toronto has conceded through four games.
Three weeks into the season and the Reds are right back where they ended 2012. Saturday's 3-0 whipping gave TFC a league-worst minus-five goal difference as they joined Philadelphia as the last remaining clubs yet to secure a league point ... Meanwhile, the Vancouver Whitecaps continued their undefeated run with a scoreless draw at B.C. Place Saturday night. The 'Caps had a number of chances to snatch full points, but instead allowed Dwayne De Rosario and D.C. United to grab its first point of the season ... After earning just five shutouts through 34 MLS matches a season ago, Vancouver is the only remaining MLS club not to have conceded in 2012 ... The San Jose Earthquakes are one of two clubs the Reds have never beaten at BMO Field. Toronto faces the other this weekend when Trillium Cup rival Columbus travels to Ontario ... And the Crew will be riding high after a comfortable win at Crew Stadium over Montreal Saturday. The visitors played a man down for 70 minutes when a reckless elbow from Jeb Brovsky saw referee Mark Geiger reach for his back pocket.
The Seattle Sounders began 2011 with consecutive losses and still went on to finish second in the west. That said, Seattle's back-to-back losses were to the eventual MLS Cup champion L.A. Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, two of the most talented teams in the league.
Although soccer is far from a game of statistics, the New York Red Bulls secured the league's final playoff spot with 46 points (1.35 ppg) last year.
Going strictly by the numbers, Toronto will need at least five wins from eight games ahead of June if its to keep pace with the playoff race this summer.
After two matches it's too early to make post-season predictions, but if the Reds fail to pick up three points against at least one of Columbus, Montreal or Chivas over the next three weeks, you'll start to hear rumblings.