TFC's Winter weathers storm

TFC coach Aron Winter drew on his experience to get himself and his team through a tough slump....

TFC coach Aron Winter drew on his experience to get himself and his team through a tough slump. (GETTY)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:18 PM ET

TORONTO - In his time as a top footballer, Aron Winter plied his trade in several high pressure, tightly scrutinized situations.

That pedigree came in quite handy over the past few weeks as the losses piled up for Toronto FC.

Winter remained calm and steadfast in his vision and in his belief that his squad was much better than it had shown through a winless start.

Though the Reds aren’t out of the woods yet — a first MLS win can’t come until 10 days from now due to a break in the schedule — Wednesday’s convincing 2-0 victory over Montreal, advancing the Reds to the final of the Canadian Championship, has taken a lot of pressure off of the Dutchman and his side.

The handling of captain Torsten Frings was masterful. Toronto gave every indication that Frings, who injured his shoulder in last Wednesday’s Canadian Championship opener, would not play. His place in the starting XI thus came as a massive confidence booster and surely came as a shock to the Impact and head coach Jesse Marsch, who had to alter his game-plan with the Reds’ most influential player seeing unexpected action.

“Torsten (Frings) has always played that role; like a captain,” Winter said.

“He had a problem with his shoulder and did everything to play today. He’s a real captain.”

Without Frings, without Winter’s calm comportment and without a “clear the air meeting earlier in the week,” the Reds would not have been able to come up with the huge effort necessary to beat Montreal while mostly down a man.

CHARACTER CHECK

Ryan Johnson put his heart on his sleeve last Saturday, expressing his despair at TFC’s sorry situation. Wednesday was a time to back up his beliefs that the club would look better playing a more attacking style.

Not only did Johnson score, he also easily could have had more — Donovan Ricketts made a fantastic stop 20 minutes into the game.

Johnson has been a force in non-league games for the Reds since arriving last season and with Danny Koevermans set to rejoin him up front soon, Toronto’s sputtering offence might be about to get on track.

“We have enough quality to come in the box and make goals,” Winter said. “We have to keep moving forward the same way.”

Added Johnson, “I’m proud of our team that we dug in and we fought like we talked about after the last loss. Hopefully this will propel us into some more wins in the league.”

RIGHT CALL

We’ve gotten on referee David Gantar in the past for his work, so to give credit where it is due, his straight red card of TFC defender Richard Eckersley was a just call. Eckersley has been inconsistent of late, but the team needs him and he’ll be badly missed due to his automatic suspension in the opener of the Canadian Championship final next week in Vancouver.

HENRY MAKING MARK

Young Doneil Henry lobbied for a chance to play central defence and he has flourished since getting the assignment from Winter. Steady and effective on Wednesday, it was the third match in a row Henry was a positive force for the club and the second straight in the centre of the defence.

With fellow Canadian international Adrian Cann beside him, Henry has given the club a much-needed lift in what has long been a troubling problem area. Cann even got into the action offensively, booting in a shot that Johnson eventually corralled and fired into the goal.

The play of Jeremy Hall has also been an important development.

UNDERDOGS

TFC will be the heavy underdogs over the next two weeks against Vancouver. While Toronto has won the Voyageurs Cup the past three years, the Whitecaps will be eager to lift the trophy for the first time.

While Toronto has plummeted to the bottom of the league, the second-year Whitecaps have surged to fourth in the West at 5-2-2, allowing only seven goals so far. The Reds have conceded a whopping 18 goals.

On the plus side for the visitors? Vancouver played at home on Wednesday and must travel to New England on Saturday before meeting the Reds. Meanwhile, TFC can rest and get fit with no games until the Vancouver meeting. 


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