MONTREAL - Aron Winter came to Toronto promising to deliver an exciting, attractive and — most important — winning brand of soccer.
None of that has come to pass (Los Angeles Galaxy win aside) — unless one is a fan of watching opponents create countless scoring chances — so Winter appears to be back-tracking for the time being.
His club didn’t even pretend to be interested in going forward against the Montreal Impact in Wednesday’s sleep-inducing 0-0 draw. Yes, the group could barely connect three passes in a row, but not trying to create was by design as Winter was desperate to see his struggling squad earn at least a draw for the first time in ages.
The plan just might be the same at home on Saturday against D.C. United and next Wednesday against Montreal, even if some Reds supporters might not like it.
The strategy is a sound one at this point. Better to pick up points and stop being the worst defensive club in North American soccer than to score a few goals and consistently lose.
At some point, Winter insists, he will return to his original vision, just not right now.
“At this stage we are at now, (it’s) important to get the zero at least,” Winter said after the draw.
“At a certain moment for sure we are going to make a progression and show everybody how we want to play with nice football and winning the games, but for us it is important for the confidence of the players to get a good result and I think 0-0 away was a very good result.”
Time will tell. But with the heat on the Dutchman thanks to his club’s 0-7-0 MLS start, he had to change something.
HENRY MAKES MARK
Brampton’s Doneil Henry, the 19-year-old who was the first member of TFC’s Academy to graduate to the first team, has made the most of his minutes the past two games.
He scored a goal against Real Salt Lake as a substitute and was the best Red other than Milos Kocic on Wednesday thanks to effective defensive play.
Henry said he was confident he’d get an opportunity.
“It was always coming, I’ve showed the coaches I can play coming as a sub and I finally got my chance to start,” he said.
Henry played right back in place of Richard Eckersley, but that is Eckersley’s spot when he is in form and Henry said he prefers to play elsewhere anyways.
Would TFC consider moving such a young player to such an integral position as centre back?
“It’s possible, everything is possible,” Winter said of playing Henry beside Adrian Cann.
Dicoy Williams will get his shot in a few weeks, but until then, Henry is showing he might deserve a look.
He’d be all for it.
“I’m familiar with (right back) now, but my favourite, 100% (is) centre back,” Henry said, before adding he’d play anywhere Winter tells him to as long as he gets in the lineup.
READY FOR THE CIRCUS
TFC will host former captain and all-time leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario and his formidable D.C. United squad on Saturday.
Though D.C. gave up five goals to impressive San Jose on Wednesday in a 5-3 loss, De Rosario scored a beauty and is playing well for a team that had been on a seven-game unbeaten run.
De Rosario’s long-time teammate Cann is expecting a challenge, but is excited.
“Every player that’s been playing on your past clubs they always want some sort of redemption. Regardless of whether or not they’re coming back to BMO, we’ve got to go out and battle. We need those three points,” Cann said.
“You always get up for former players, it will be a battle, but having said that, we’ve got to win the game.”
Cann said the 0-7-0 start had been tough on the Reds which is why Saturday will be so important.
“You play hard, real solid, we played our butts off and not getting the results we wanted and losing the last minute in overtime (last week) kind of gets to you,” he said.
AROUND THE PITCH
Kocic said Montreal knew he likes to be very active on corner kicks, cutting back and forth and made sure to keep someone in front of him, forcing him to stay in place and rely more on his defenders. “I wish I could help more on corners, but I think the guys handled it well,” Kocic said. The ’keeper added the team is staying positive and earning a draw helped the mood in the locker room. “You have to start somewhere. It’s better (if it happened) sooner than later, but you are where you are.” ... Whether it’s Montreal or Toronto, whoever meets the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship final will be the underdog. The Caps easily handled FC Edmonton in Alberta on Wednesday, though the final was only 2-0 ... Reggie Lambe said Olympic Stadium’s awful playing surface “caused us to sit back a lot. We’re not really used to playing on that surface so we didn’t want to do too many things to make too many mistakes, so we just sat back and absorbed the pressure.” TFC got burned repeatedly in a loss to the Impact in Montreal earlier this season ... Winter said both Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma could return on Saturday, though the guessing here is Koevermans plays, while Soolsma waits until Wednesday. TFC badly misses its best scorer and best passer, but neither will solve everything unless the service out of the back and from the midfield improves considerably.