TFC 2011 | Week#14

FC Gordon

Goals Without Gordon?

I was miffed when I first heard that Toronto FC had sent Nick LaBrocca to Chivas USA for a non-starting forward, named Gordon. I was certain it was some kind of salary-cap horse trading. Despite showing some promise early in his career, Gordon had been riding pine for a while. This guy was going to play for TFC’s reserves. Then, he’d disappear after a year or two.

Plus, this is the kind of dealmaking I expected in the immediate wake of Mo Johnston’s master planning wipeout. Aron Winter has to juggle and swap contracts with other MLS clubs, for a while, to get what he desires on TFC’s roster. So, big deal, Winter gave up LaBrocca for a bench player.

Now, as I look back at the first third of the 2011 season, I have to wonder if Paul Mariner or Aron Winter actually expected Alan Gordon to be the most vital player in their attack. Without him, as the Reds were throughout May, Toronto FC are a very different team. Gordon’s presence at the front is like a sudden jolt of high voltage through an offensive unit that has been mostly dormant or disengaged.

L.A. Confident

After putting in a half against Sporting KC, Gordon looked ready to return and make an impact. Then, last week, much was brayed about Gordon’s goal scoring results against his former clubs. In my cynacism, I was already dismissing the thought of Gordon dropping back into the roster as a go-to goal scorer. Then the man simply stunned. His two, sweet goals sallowed the lowly Reds to pull away a point from a visit to the MLS leading LA Galaxy.

(Gordon in top form, TFC 2 – Galaxy 2).

Busted in Beantown

The first half of the match against the New England Revolution was just as astonishing. Gordon looked great. The Toronto FC attack were unlucky not to take a lead into halftime. The Reds dominated play, were much more dangerous going forward, and seemed intent on winning. Anyone watching this team through its May stretch will tell you that just wasn’t the tone of TFC’s play without Alan Gordon.

In the end, it seemed Winter was juggling his roster in anticipation of Saturday’s home match against the Seattle Sounders. Maicon Santos was replaced by Oscar Cordon. Joao Plata left for Javier Martina. And Gianluca Zavarise came on to rest Nick Soolsma. And with all these changes, the tempo, tenacity and dangerousness of Toronto FC’s game left as well.

Initially, I felt this was due to these specific substitutes. Quickly, however, it became clear that there was was just one real culprit behind Toronto FCs sagging spirit. Alan Gordon was tired. With their three changes used up, it was sad to watch Gordon struggle and strain to play out the full match.

(Gordon at peak for 65 minutes, TFC 0 – NE Revs 0).

Who Will Make The Rain

Here’s hoping that Gordon has at least one strong half in him for Saturday. The past two matches have shown his presence to be the catalysing element in TFC’s attack. His efforts open up the play for others around him, especially Santos and Plata. Midfielders, like Peterson, Tchani, Yourassowsky and Stevanovic also benefit from Gordon’s ability to stretch play forward and occupy the central defenders.

It will take more of this action to turn Toronto FC into a winning side. Crucially, it often seems like Gordon is the only one in Red who has a single-minded will and determination to score. Santos and Plata can provide fleeting brilliance to make goal magic. Soolsma, Martina and others can feed the front with opportunity. But nobody else singlehandedly makes the Reds as dangerous as Alan Gordon.

We’ve reached a point in the season where the bodies are falling. Injuries are decimating the central defense. Several midfielders are nursing ailments too. And yet, no other variable looms as large as Alan Gordon’s health.

Attention Shoppers

Toronto FC needs Gordon fit and ferocious. That much is clear. More importantly, the Reds need at least one more large forward with the same abilities and style of play in the roster. Without this, TFC will succeed and fail based on Gordon’s well-being alone.

Aron Winter is a ‘team-first’ guy. He’s tried all other combinations of players and tactics. They all have proven unsuccessful thus far.  There’s no “I” in Alan Gordon, and ironically TFC need to build their game around this particular guy right now.

Maybe we can rest easy because the Reds working on Gordon’s clone. Perhaps Mr. Mariner has found a looked-over, but about to break out forward in the Gordon form. Either way, Winter’s crew may need to distill and bottle whatever tactical essence is held within Alan Gordon, and in his absence sprinkle it on whomever is called upon to play his role up-front.

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