TORONTO - Maybe the defensive chains former head coach Aron Winter draped over Torsten Frings’ shoulders masked the deficiencies now evident in the German’s game.
While the 35-year-old midfield maestro is still capable of switching play and providing teasing balls in behind opposing back lines, the one side of his game that was always a constant seems to have gone missing in recent months.
Looking past his embarrassingly wayward attempts from distance during Tuesday’s Champions League tilt, TFC’s Designated Player has been repeatedly upstaged on the defensive end by Terry Dunfield, whose quality over the past month earned him a Canadian national team recall Thursday.
Although his one- and two-touch play is timeless, there are questions as to whether the World Cup veteran is still capable of providing the no-nonsense defending that once made him a multifaceted midfielder — something TFC head coach Paul Mariner abruptly pointed out following Toronto’s 3-1 loss to Santos Laguna.
“Frings,” said Mariner, when asked Tuesday to single out the player at fault on Santos’ game-winner.
“I don’t like people diving in,” he said. “If (you) dive in then you make a problem for (your) teammate and that’s irresponsible. I don’t appreciate it.”
In the 89th minute, Frings’ lack of pace and defensive poise was painfully obvious when Daniel Luduena danced around the German before walking into TFC’s box and bagging the winner. Although Jeremy Hall’s defensive awareness was pitiful on the play, the goal began with Frings, who should kept Luduena in front.
Because the Reds are in disarray for the sixth straight season, with a year left on the deal he signed two summers ago, TFC’s top brass must look at whether the close to $2.5 million Frings will make this season is money well spent.
Although contract specifics are never fully disclosed, Julian de Guzman is on record saying TFC attempted to buy him out before sending him to Dallas. As a result, it’s plausible that Frings could be offered the same farewell.
Freeing up that cash could be the next step in Mariner being given the tools to add a few pieces the club desperately needs before a pressure-packed off-season.
DOT DOT DOTS
To add to the pressure, Impact owner Joey Saputo is saying all the right things in Montreal. “We listened to the calls of our supporters and we have adjusted (season-ticket prices),” he said. “We will never take our ticket holders for granted.” After raising season seat prices substantially since 2007, the pressure is on TFC’s front office to demonstrate the same respect for the beleaguered fans at BMO Field … Jorge Vergara and his wife, Angelica Fuentes, became the lone managing partners of Chivas USA on Wednesday. The pair, who also own Chivas de Guadalajara, a club that has seen an immense amount of turnover under their guidance, could make sweeping changes to a club that sits nine points out of the MLS playoffs with two months to go … Five TFC players will suit up for their respective national teams ahead of September’s World Cup qualifying dates. Darren O’Dea will travel with Ireland to Kazakhstan while Dicoy Williams and Ryan Johnson will suit up for Jamaica in back-to-back matches against the U.S. Toronto will send two players to join Canada, which announced its roster Thursday.
Head coach Stephen Hart announced Thursday a roster of 21 players who will take part in Canada’s World Cup qualifiers against Panama next week.
“You always want to have a balanced squad,” Hart said. “I tried as much as possible to go with the players that are playing and look to where we need reinforcement.”
After being left off the roster during a pair of June qualifiers, Toronto FC’s Dunfield and Montreal Impact’s Patrice Bernier earned recalls into the side.
Following a serious ankle injury that has kept him out for four months, Augsburg’s Marcel de Jong replaced Mike Klukowski on Hart’s roster, providing Canada a different look on the left side.
“He can play a number of positions,” Hart said of de Jong. “We’ll see how things go in training. It’s a little more variety than we had (in June).”
To go along with 12 foreign-based players, Canada’s roster features nine MLSers, three of which — Dunfield, Bernier and Ashtone Morgan — play for Canadian clubs.
Veteran striker Dwayne De Rosario is joined in the attack by Norwich City’s Simeon Jackson and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Olivier Occean, who scored the game-winner against Cuba in Havana earlier this summer.
Following two shutout performances in June, Canada’s back line will likely remain unchanged as team captain Kevin McKenna, Andre Hainault, David Edgar and Ante Jazic are all on the roster.
Canada hosts Panama, which currently leads the group with six points, on Sept. 7 before playing in Panama four days later.
With four points after two of six third-round games, Canada will host last-place Cuba Oct. 12 before wrapping up group play in Honduras Oct. 16.
The top two group finishers will advance to CONCACAF’s final round for a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Kurt Larson will travel to Panama City next weekend to cover the Canadian men's national team on its quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.