April 30, 2012
Winter needs to chase fourth Canadian Cup title... Reds need to set their back four and stick with them ... Montreal can get much more impact off their bench
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI AGENCY
You’re disorganized, winless in nine games and chasing your first win since escaping the Galaxy’s Home Depot Centre with a fortunate Champions League result before the MLS season.
What better way to correct the wrongs of the past two months than in a midweek Cup tie in Montreal?
Following a loss in Salt Lake — one that saw TFC’s defence concede three goals for the fifth time this season — head coach Aron Winter should start a close to first choice lineup Wednesday in the first leg of a semifinal Canadian Championship matchup in Montreal.
Desperately needing a result in order to salvage any confidence that might remain, it’s crucial Toronto’s back four be given the opportunity to sort out its issues before DC United visits BMO Field on Saturday.
With both Vancouver and Montreal stating their intentions to chase Canada’s lone CONCACAF berth this month, throwing away a chance to jumpstart a season simply wouldn’t be wise.
Winter must use the Canadian Cup as a building block for a team that will otherwise soon have nothing left to play for.
On the way to conceding 26 goals in all competitions this season, Winter has used 10 separate combinations across Toronto’s back line.
In just 11 matches this year, the Dutchman has used eight players in the centre of his defence, including perennial wing back Richard Eckersley, a very raw Aaron Maund and 18-year-old Doneil Henry — inexcusable considering the club identified that part of the field as a major issue midway through last year.
With Dicoy Williams set to return from a knee injury this month, Winter acknowledged late last week it’s possible he’ll toss the Jamaican directly into the fire, making it nine different central defenders since the beginning of March.
Last weekend’s heartbreaking loss exposed much more than what the club’s management routinely calls “a lack of quality.” After having multiple Salt Lake goals waved off — the 3-2 finish at Rio Tinto really should have been much worse — it’s clear no matter who’s in the heart of defence, Toronto’s back four lacks the familiarity with one another that’s crucial to defending as a cohesive unit.
When players like Alvaro Saborio are able to consistently go unnoticed in the gap between Adrian Cann and Eckersley, communication is a massive problem. The Costa Rican played a part in three Salt Lake goals on the weekend, two of which were incorrectly called back due to poor officiating.
The formula to building a successful club isn’t a secret. The ability to structure a winning team doesn’t result from wayward DP signings or bringing multiple wingers into the side. It happens when a club builds from back to front as opposed to the opposite.
Failing to compile a proper pre-season calendar issued TFC little time to organize a proper back four before the start of the season — something that continues to haunt them a quarter of the way through the campaign.
And until Winter identifies a starting unit for more than single weekend, Toronto’s obvious absence of defensive quality will be exaggerated by the lack of familiarity and communication that has plagued the group since the end of February.
Electing to start an entirely different unit in Montreal Wednesday night won’t serve as needed rest, but another disruption for a group of players who are labouring to settle into first team that seems to change every time out.
The Reds might have no choice but to toss out a first choice lineup tomorrow night.
Quick, offer me 11 players capable of starting in place of the group that began the weekend league fixture in Utah.
If you did, you’re coming to your senses and realizing after TFC’s first 12-14 players, there isn’t much there.
The same can’t be said for the Montreal Impact, whose bench on the weekend featured a group of players with more than 200 MLS appearances and close to 100 international caps.
“The Canadian Championship is a very important competition for us,” Matt Jordan, the Impact’s director of soccer operations, told the club’s website. “We know that we are going to call on every player throughout the season and, in particular, in the month of May with so many games in a short period of time.”
Against the second division’s FC Edmonton in last year’s Canadian Cup semifinal, Winter trotted out a close-to-first-choice lineup that walked away with a convincing 3-0 win on the road.
And although he denies it, with his job potentially hanging in the balance following a record-setting, league-worst start to 2012, the Dutchman would be insane not to try and reverse the club’s fortunes by seeking early-season revenge against a club that embarrassed the Reds last month.
On the opposite coast, the Whitecaps know what’s at stake.
“It’s hugely important,” Vancouver’s Jay DeMerit told the Province. “We have it as one of our big goals and the only way we can do that is by first beating Edmonton.”
Arguing they’ve been robbed on multiple occasions since the tournament’s inception, it’s clear the ’Caps are eager to secure entry into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Whether Winter and the Reds feel the same way remains to be seen.
Depending on Winter’s midweek lineup, we’ll soon see if failing to win for the 10th straight match is deemed acceptable by this manager’s standards.