TFC 2010 | Week#1

Crystal Ball Cloudiness

Where We Stand
It’s hard to believe three seasons have come and gone since our team’s thrilling entrance into the MLS. The only constant has been continuous turnover on the roster and the coaching staff. We’ve had our share of excitement, mostly as fans thrilled by ourselves, and we’ve had our heartache too. With our fourth season about to begin, we might be looking at the most inscrutable Toronto FC season yet.

30 games begin this week and, to date, the team has been totally unimpressive through the warm-up period. Our visit to the recent Carolina Challenge Cup featured no wins and no goals scored in three matches. To be fair, ‘trialists’ have been fighting to fill gaps on the bench and our franchise players have been slow to rev up the jets. It’s hard to know if this is a sign of things to come or merely a demonstration of coach Preki’s indifference to preseason results and his indifference about fans’ opinions. All that aside, no goals over three matches is never a good sign.

Player Slayer
By the end of last season, it appeared that we had the talent necessary to compete in the MLS. Preki and Mo Johnston have gone all backyard surgery on that roster since then – lots of slashing and sloppy stitching. We still have a strong core, but we lack proven depth and have cut away character players that could grind it out when the going got tough. It’s sad to see Carl Robinson, Adrian Serioux and Marvell Wynne sent packing – but they’re gone and it’s no use crying.

One thing is certain, players coached by Preki will be drilled into a structured system and will play by his rules or will find themselves out on the curb. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that this would mean Amado Guevara would be sent on his way; he’s a talented guy no doubt, but humble team player never. More mysteriously, Ali Gerba also became a chafe in Preki’s jockstrap somewhere along the preseason route.

Thus, unproven youth and almost pasture-ready veterans will have to rise to the challenge. Unless there are some notable acquisitions in the making, our goal getting and central defending will be a competition among the unsung and unknown. Let’s hope O’Brian White, Chad Barrett and Fuad Ibrahim can find good health and their scoring touch early, because it may be a while before we see any new strikers on our bench.

Preki’s House
Getting over the stinging defeat that closed our 2009 schedule will take a while yet. I blame John Carver for last year’s misfortune. It was a calamity when he suddenly abandoned the team to his coaching assistant a few games into the campaign. I think Chris Cummins performed admirably, given the circumstances, but there were strong signals that the squad lacked the necessary leadership to get the job done.

We must hope that Preki will put an end to those terrifying self-destructions which plagued Toronto FC after the 75 minute mark throughout 2009. Just one of those ties or wins on the road last year, squandered by nervously backing off and letting the opponents dictate the closing, would have earned us the playoff spot that New York mugged from us in our final match. Consistency would be a great improvement and, personnel aside, if Preki can bring that to our back line alone we will stand to gain a lot of ground in the Eastern Conference.

2010 Forecast
Despite all the uncertainty ahead, my prediction for 2010 is cautiously optimistic. Preki and Johnston will find some new players and bolster the back line and the striking. I think we’re in for a 12-10-8 season, marginally better than last year with Toronto FC earning a wildcard appearance in the playoffs. If there’s one thing Preki can deliver, it’s his MLS experience of making the most of his squad and delivering that initial post-season opportunity. It may not be an exciting style of play, but Preki’s style focuses on results (aka not losing). Only time will tell.

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