Despite the holiday weekend, we got to catch up with Duncan Fletcher who covers Toronto FC at Waking the Red ahead of tomorrow night's match against the New York Red Bulls. Check out Duncan's thoughts on Tony Tchani, recent designated player additions Frings and Koevermans, and whether Toronto FC is playoff bound in 2011. Feel free to add your thoughts under the comments section below.
1) Once A Metro: How has former Red Bull Tony Tchani fit in to Toronto's system?
Waking the Red: It's been an up and down season for Tchani. His first couple of games after arriving he looked fantastic, a real dynamic physical presence that led me to declare a burgeoning man crush on a podcast. After that though, he seemed to get worse, more slow and tentative, as if confused by Aron Winter's system (he was by no means the only one). He got better again but has had some injuries that he's just getting back from. You may see him play Centre Back in New York, our only fit natural CB is a 19 year old academy product who's had a few rough games, so Tchani and Right Back Richard Eckersley finished our last game there, and they did alright so may get the start. He seems to be settling in off the pitch as well, his first weeks here had melancholy French tweets about the weather and not knowing anyone in Toronto, after winning the Canadian Championship on Saturday he tweeted "Party at my place just loyal fans invited n beautiful girls as well lol. Just kidding guys but thanks for supporting n believing in us." and on Sunday morning "What a beautiful day!!! Gotta enjoy after a rough night."
2) Once A Metro: The Reds are close to the bottom of the Eastern Conference but are 4th in shots on goal. What gives? Is it bad luck, an inability to finish, or a little of both?
Waking the Red: I'd go with an inability to finish, since trading De Ro, we've had virtually no secondary scoring. Our Centre Forward has been Alan Gordon or Maicon Santos, they've done ok when fit (which isn't often enough, I'd be surprised to see either of them in the starting lineup) and scored quite well, but the rest of the team has 3 goals from open play since De Ro left, in 21 games. It's not bad luck either, almost all our players are more the types to create chances for other people, we haven't had a real goal poacher all year, hopefully Danny Koevermans will be that player.
3) Once A Metro: While the big annoucement of two Designated Player signings won't take effect until later in July, how will the arrival of Frings and Koevermans impact the club? Is Toronto FC playoff bound for the first time with these additions?
Waking the Red: This year it's probably too late to be making the playoffs, especially given how we've wasted a favourable schedule so far, but they should really help us get to, and compete in, the CCL group stages. Torsten Frings should have a big effect on the mentality of the club. TFC's been a bit of a shitshow since they started, having a German international and former Bundesliga team captain come in will be very helpful in the dressing room. How much he'll be able to influence play as a 34-year-old Defensive Midfielder is up for debate, but he'll be huge behind the scenes. Of course if the sterotype of the German footballer is about professionalism and winning, for Dutch footballers, it's talented and flaky. A forward is just what we need so in a positional sense Danny Koevermans is a better pick up than Frings. Hopefully he takes it seriously and it works out, but I have less confidence in him than in Frings. Either way, playoffs bound? Yes, eventually (surely to god at some point we've got to make it) but not this year.
1) Waking the Red: Why the quick turnaround on Dwayne De Rosario? Is it a case of positional needs, clearing cap space, or De Ro just not working out?
Once a Metro: De Rosario never lived up to the expectations in New York, especially considering his high salary requirements. While we didn't see any of the notorious DeRo drama his past clubs experienced, he was not going to stay past this season without being a Designated Player - a status and wage that the Red Bulls were not interested in offering.
The trade was admittedly a bit of a shock initially, but Dax McCarthy is a young, quality box-to-box for ninety minutes midfielder who can contribute to the attack but also get back and defend. The Red Bulls have shown they have no problem scoring goals, and trading De Rosario should not make much of a difference. The move also frees up some cap space and an international player spot, and early transfer window rumblings have New York targeting some much needed defensive help and depth.
2) Waking the Red: Luke Rodgers is a relatively low profile signing by your standings but seems to have had a big impact. What has he brought to the team?
Once a Metro: Energy and swagger. He's nicknamed "The Tank" but his ability to make lateral runs and create space for both himself and the other New York attackers cannot be ignored. He's been especially missed the past few games with Plantar Fasciitis while Juan Agudelo was away with the U.S. National Team. When Taino, Ream, or Marquez play long passes from the back he's an incredible threat against any defender, and his style is really complimentary to the role that Henry has taken on often sitting back a bit on the attack. Also, if Rodgers is able to get healthy again and reclaim his starting spot his salary is an absolute bargain at $180k.
Finally, anyone who calls out Landon Donovan for whining and complaining too much on the field is a welcome addition to the team.
3) Waking the Red: The NY Cosmos hype just won't go away, would you welcome a second team in NY? Would it work?
Once a Metro: Ah, the Cosmos. If they put together a quality team and make a stadium deal somewhere convenient and accessible to public transportation they'd probably do alright. I'm not sure they would fill the Meadowlands like the Cosmos of the 1970s but what I really like about their organization is their developing youth academies and potential homegrown players, so even if they do join MLS they have some infrastructure and flexibility around the strict salary cap restrictions. They are more than a clothing brand, like some have recently suggested, but I'll believe it when I see it as far as MLS having two clubs in New York at least in the next couple of years. Regardless, if they do join, put together a good team, and fill seats in whatever stadium they play in, the Cosmos will be good not just for soccer in New York but for MLS and America in general.
Thanks again to Duncan, while we can't wish Toronto FC the best in MLS this season we will be rooting for the Reds to advance in the upcoming 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League.
Update: Dan's opinion on the Cosmos does not reflect the opinions of Once A Metro. They are nothing more than a clothing brand and are not welcome in MLS.