April 20, 2012
It's now or never for Toronto FC
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
Toronto FC has had its share of dark moments, but a loss on Saturday at home against the Chicago Fire would drop the franchise to a new low.
That's why finally picking up a point or three for the first time this season will be crucial for the reeling club.
The math says otherwise, but the team knows making the playoffs after wasting 18 valuable points would be an almost insurmountable challenge.
"It's very important, this may be the last chance for the playoffs," said team captain Torsten Frings after Friday's training session at BMO Field.
Frings, the club's most pivotal player, has not seen game action since going down in the season opener in Seattle, a 3-1 loss that was followed up by four more defeats (with TFC outscored 7-1) minus the German international.
To a man, the Reds believe luck has played a part in their losing skid -- they have credited opposing keepers and lamented missed opportunities as reasons why they have only tallied an MLS-worst two goals so far -- but defence has also played a large factor in the swoon.
That's where the return of Frings will be most impactful.
"It's a big boost, he's our captain, he's our leader. It will show on the pitch how well we'll be organized hopefully," said defender Richard Eckersley.
"To have Torsten back is a big bonus for us," said midfielder Julian de Guzman.
"The guys are upbeat, it's been a good week with Torsten involved in the sessions. I think everyone kind of feels his presence in the field and what he can do for our team."
Frings has excelled as a midfielder over the years -- including at multiple World Cups -- but in Toronto, he recognizes he must toil elsewhere.
"I'm a midfield player but I think what is important for the team and I think in this moment, in my opinion, it's better if I play in the backline," Frings said.
"We (gave up) too many goals in the last games and we have to keep the zero, it's very important," he said.
"At this moment, it's better if I play (there)."
TFC will also be bolstered by the fact that Adrian Cann, its best defender over the past few seasons, has a game under his belt after returning from a major knee injury and should be even better than he was last week in central defence.
"Both Torsten and Adrian, they're massive boosts for the team, they're just what we needed," continued Eckersley.
Head coach/technical director Aron Winter knows there are some clamouring for his head, but he has preached patience during his rebuild and does not appear rattled, but rather confident things will turn, starting on Saturday.
"There's always pressure on me but I look forward to the game."
"It's a fact of time the goals are coming ... tomorrow," Winter assured.
But not from striker Danny Koevermans, who will be sidelined after picking up a groin injury at training on Thursday. Koevermans has been snake bitten all season but was by far Toronto's most dangerous attacker in 2011.
Ryan Johnson will take his place up front with Joao Plata and Reggie Lambe looking to make things happen from the wings.
"We just need to take our chances, we create so many but we just can't seem to put the ball in the back of the net," said Lambe when queried about what must be done to finally get the offence going.
More than anyone, Winter needs things to go right for the Reds on Saturday.
As noted in the Toronto Sun's soccer blog earlier this week, some of the numbers under Winter aren't pretty.
TFC has won only six times in 39 Major League Soccer appearances under the Dutchman -- and never in April -- claiming only 33 of a possible 117 MLS points overall.
For those hardy souls who still believe TFC's glass is half full though, we do have one positive stat to finish with:
Though Toronto has earned points only 43% of the time without Frings the past two seasons, that number jumps to 71% when he sees action.
No wonder they're so happy to see him.