TFC 2011 | Week#4

The Way To San Jose

Week four is upon us, and Toronto FC are back on the road again to face the San Jose Earthquakes.

What TFC are bringing

Through three matches, Toronto FC have been working with a shifting roster of players. It’s not so surprising that things have looked a little shaky at times. A few defensive missteps seem unavoidable. This team needs weeks if not months of playing together to integrate the new faces and start working smoothly as a unit.

The one variable that remains a particular concern is Toronto’s back line. With possession and passing the key to Aron Winter’s system, the Reds central defenders have looked especially uncomfortable on the ball. Last week, Chivas was quite effective at thwarting the Reds build up by letting the central backs bring the ball forward.

Neither Attakora or Cann seemed ready to steer around a bit of forward pressure while the rest of the Quakes sat back and defended the passing lanes. As a result, I’m fairly certain coaches around the league are going to adopt the same strategy against TFC.

Danleigh Borman put in a decent performance, and at least seemed like a fullback who can run the wing. There’s no thrilling pace, but he was competent – and that is something missing from TFC nowadays. The Garganator may show up again at fullback, but he has yet to look comfortable in the new system. And Harden, Attakora and Cann all have been struggling in their stints outside the middle. Maybe we’ll see some of the younger guys on the bench getting a chance to fill that role.

Lots of folks are still burning about DeRo’s departure. And there’s no question his loss, and all the drama that has come with it, will cast a shadow over TFC for the foreseeable future. As a midfielder, Tony Tchani was being criticized as an unworthy replacement. It’s not a fair comparison, as he’s a different kind of midfielder. Perhaps ignorant of the heat burning around him and the trade, I thought Tchani put on a good show. He was up and down the pitch, good at keeping possession and decent with his passes. Not bad at all for a guy that had just arrived in town. He made his mistakes and some fouls but gave a lively performance that shows lots of upside.

This has me wondering about the shape of the midfield going forward. Julian de Guzman played last week, but really didn’t look like he was in top form. Still, for my money, JDG and Tchani playing middle of the park is not bad picture at all. Toronto FC also has some depth on the bench now in midfielders. Some are young and untested, and Bouchiba is recovering from an injury. I imagine we’ll get to see more of them over the next few weeks as Winter waits for de Guzman to sharpen up, and as he searches for the right mix.

That brings us to attack. Javier Martina has staked a claim to the right wing with three solid outings. The left flank seems less certain. Soolsma didn’t have a great game in week #1. Jacob Peterson can run out there, but Stevanovic now seems to be favoured in this job. It’s too soon to say if it’s a good fit. From what he’s shown us so far, it looks like he favours cut-backs and carrying the ball in from the flank. Given that, he also might benefit from a move to more of an attacking mid role.

This is where I’m a bit stumped, as Maicon Santos is currently filling that attacking mid position, giving up the centre forward job to Alan Gordon. It worked surprisingly well against Chivas, because Santos has decent touch and an eye for passing. Is he really the best guy for that role? I wouldn’t have guessed it. It does make for some nice height in the middle, especially now that we’re seeing some flanking runs that end with crosses.

What they’re up against in SJ

Most pre-season forecasts had the Quakes as middle of the pack. Three matches in, San Jose and TFC have the same 1-1-1 record and four points. The story of Quakes has been the hot scoring touch of Chris Wondolowski. So hot, that he’s been the only one scoring their goals for thirteen consecutive games. Until last weekend, that is, when two other Quakes scored to earn a 2-2 draw in Seattle. There’s the story: generally seen as strong defensively, the Quakes are also seen to have just one proven goal scorer.

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