The Columbus Crew heads north for a match up with Toronto tomorrow. To get the latest scoop on the current Trillium Cup holders, Massive Report asked Duncan Fletcher of Toronto FC blog Waking the Red to answer three questions about the Reds.
It's now year 2 of the Aron Winter era and there seems to be some semblance of a plan. Is there enough talent on this team to vie for the playoffs?
Yes, aside from the one glaring hole of the lack of a good quality centre back. We have both talent and depth up front where Ryan Johnson's early form made up for Danny Koevermans' slow start ( though he's looking sharper and sharper, the goals are coming soon for him). Draft pick Luis Silva looks like a dangerous attacking midfielder, and free agent signing Reggie Lambe is beginning to look very tasty on the wing.
In midfield we're ok, especially if Torsten Frings can ever get back there, though we need more consistent effort from Julian de Guzman.
The problem is that until the defense is sorted out, we won't ever be able to really utilize those strengths properly. Andy Iro wasn't the answer, Chilean Miguel Aceval is too slow to be the answer, another new signing Geovanny Caicedo, got "mutually consent"ed before the season even begun and we're basically right back where we were last season.
That means compromises are necessary, whether it's Torsten Frings being moved back to be a 3rd Centre Back, or having 2 defensive midfielders playing right in front of them. Until we can get a reliable Centre Back partnership, the best TFC fans can hope for is to be in and around the edges of the playoffs, though with a bafflingly good cup run thrown in for good measure. We're all hoping Adrian Cann, almost ready to return from an ACL injury suffered last May, can be the man to turn things around, but that's a big ask.
How much squad rotation do you expect with the upcoming Santos Laguna match next week?
Probably not much, mainly due to lack of options because of injuries and under 23 olympic qualifying callups. I'd expect Koevermans, Eric Avila and new signing Logan Emory, a defender formerly of the Puerto Rico Islanders, to all get 90 minutes as they're ineligible for Wednesday's game. Any other changes will come up front where the drop off in talent wouldn't be too bad. Joao Plata only got roughly 20 minutes in the last game, so I'd expect him to get a full game in, and Luis Silva should also see playing time after being an unused sub.
In defence and the defensive midfield spots, the only real options are rookies and kids, which would be a big risk. Given how the MLS season started and how the home opener was such a disaster, I think getting points from this game will be seen as very important. Aside from Emory coming in instead of probably Miguel Aceval who left Wednesday's game with an injury, I don't foresee changes to the defensive players, and Milos Kocic will definitely be in goal given the only other option is Brian Rowe of the emergency goalie pool.
Toronto seems to have plenty of firepower on offense, but without Torsten Frings, does anyone else play defense?
They do, but the centre Backs in particular don't seem to play it well. Left back Ashtone Morgan and right back Richard Eckersley are decent at the back, and, when we play 3-4-3 very good at going forward to join the attack, but it's at centre back where there are still issues. Ty Harden is an ok second Centre Back. If paired with someone genuinely good, he'd be alright, but though we've got a few players at that level, we don't have that one Chad Marshall-esque player to be the leader of the defence and to help those secondary players do the job.
Moving Frings back has helped out, or playing a very defensive midfield helps out, but playing an attacking 4-3-3, which is what Aron Winter really wants to do is pretty much suicidal with the squad as it stands. If we play a defensive system, we can be relatively solid, and the forwards are good enough to be able to create chances on their own, but if we try the other way around, the defence is nowhere near good enough to be able to hold it's own.
Massive Report thanks Duncan and Waking the Red Soccer for taking the time to fill us in on tomorrow's visitors. You can see Massive Report's answers to Waking the Red questions here.