Saturday, November 8, 2008

TFC Season Review - Part 2

A couple years ago, while watching Laurent Robert score a cracking goal for Newcastle, I declared him as having “The Most Electrifying Left Foot in the Premiership tm” - a purely subjective award that has since been bestowed upon such gifted southpaws (hoofs?) as Arjen Robben and Jon Arne Riise – all recipients have subsequently left the Premier League. You can imagine my delight when I found out that the temperamental Frenchman had signed for Toronto FC. Larry was to join former League MVP Amado Guevara, Welsh International “Crazy Carl” Robinson, 2007 Rookie of the Year and FIFA 09 coverboy Maurice Edu and team gadabout Rohan Ricketts in a midfield that could roll with any in the MLS. How then did this cosmopolitan and undoubtedly talented midfield fare in 2008? Well, in a word (and one that’s all too well known to Toronto sports fans), inconsistently.

Robert typified this inconsistency by performing well in his first few games before he started putting in as much effort in his game as Dylan McKay does in being cool (i.e. none). This was rewarded with a mutual au revoir and a late August contract termination.

On the other wing, TFC scored a major pick-up in Rohan Ricketts. Having played with both Arsenal and Tottenham, Ricketts’ career seemed to be declining into first division obscurity before he was handed a fresh start in Toronto. Flashes of quality were overshadowed by a string of pretty ordinary displays that neither the fans nor Ricketts himself can be content with from a player of his caliber. His form did improve toward the end of the season, so hopefully his “poppin” off field persona can be matched with a greater presence on it in year three.

Going the other way across the Atlantic mid way through the season was Maurice Edu. At around $5 million, I think perhaps Rangers overpaid for an unproven centre mid who was having a bit of a sophomore slump at the time of the sale. He’s certainly got the quality to play in Europe in some capacity, but I don’t think the big leagues of Spain or England will be calling him for a few years. I met him briefly in the BMO Field beer garden just before he left for Scotland and wished him all the best. His response? “Thanks, man.” Pure class.

Amado Guevara was considered by some in MLS circles to be a moody, dramatic locker room cancer and therefore a risky acquisition for TFC. He’s proven to be the opposite, seeming to genuinely enjoy being in Toronto. The most frustrating thing about Guevara (when he’s playing for TFC, and not shredding Canada with the Honduran national team) is that, even though he’s always one of the better players on the field, he’ll occasionally pull some shit that leaves you scratching your head and wondering how this guy isn’t a perennial MVP candidate. The more Guevara plays with this team, the more those around him will be able to benefit from his skill.

I am firmly in the belief that Carl Robinson is a key to the squad. His occasional perfect passes to no one in particular notwithstanding, his role as the core of the team, tucked in between the more attacking Guevara and the back four was recognized recently with him being awarded team MVP ( ). As of now, and despite assurances from the team management, it’s not certain whether or not Robinson will be in TFC red come pre-season. His would be a big pair of shoes to fill and for a team that hopes to build upon the improvements of this past season and qualify for the playoffs next year, Carl Robinson provides the all important steadying influence in the middle of the park.

Tyler Rosenlund and Gabe Gala provide the depth in midfield and are both promising in their own way - if not quite ready for regular MLS appearances. The most often used sub was Johann Smith, a genuine contender to Marvell Wynne’s “Fastest Guy in the League” title; his second half introductions throughout the latter part of the season had a twofold purpose in my opinion: motivate Ricketts, as he was more often than not subbed off to accommodate Smith, and to see if Smith was in fact the real deal as a player who could come on late in the match and influence the result. His performance at New York suggests he is. That being said, TFC is all bout influencing New York:

Overall 2008 Grade - Midfield: C
Top Off-season Priority: Keep Crazy Carl and acquire a solid left winger.

1 comment:

Smokey said...

Solid column dude. I must admit that I've been watching the new 90210, and there are rumours that Dylan will be making a comeback.

50 knows.