Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Just a few thoughts on the days events:

Canada lost today to Estonia, yes you read that right, and although the game was played in near whiteout conditions, and the familiar green of the pitch was no longer visible, this is still a poor result for the Canucks. This now means that coming out of the Gold Cup, the Canadian Men's National Team (A team) has not won a game. In that time, we have faced South Afirca's B team, an island of 313,376 people, Iceland, Costa Rica and Estonia. If Canada wants to seriously think about 2010, than something has to change for the better. This has all occured under Dale Mitchell, who has had quite the win-loss record over the past while. Both team's had to play in the exact same conditions, and Estonia came out on top. Our midfield, as always, was our strong point, but as many people pointed out our defence looked suspect and our forwards, wait we had forwards? I'm hoping that today's poor play simply had to do with the poor weather, but with the poor showing in South Africa, which was honestly one of the worst games I have seen in a while, being followed up with yet another questionable result, one has to wonder. How well will Canada do when World Cup qualifying starts? Will Rob Friend be able to translate his scoring success at the club level to the national level? Because without Friend, the Canucks are going to be hard pressed to find scoring. If one of De Rosario, Julian De Guzman, or Iain Hume go down with an injury, we are in trouble. Let's hope Canada's next game, against superpower nation Panama, brings about a better result.

Montreal Impact
News surfaced today that Montreal is moving closer and closer to realizing their MLS dream. Under the original guidance of the Saputo family, who are serious about moving their beloved team into the best league in North America, Montreal's potential move had always been considered very likely. Today, news came out of Montreal that George Gillett is interested in forming a partnership with the Saputo's. This is only good news for Impact fans, as Gillett would give more life to this already strong bid. I am all for Montreal receiving a team, and I simply cannot wait for a Toronto-Montreal derby to form. When it comes to Don Garber and Co. choosing a location for further expansion, it is going to have to take some seriously red, white and blue coloured glasses to ignore seriously looking at Montreal.

Canada Cup Dates
• Toronto FC at Montreal Impact - May 27, 2008 (Stade Saputo)• Vancouver Whitecaps at Montreal Impact (Stade Saputo) - June 17, 2008• Montreal Impact at Vancouver Whitecaps (Swangard Stadium) - June 25, 2008• Vancouver Whitecaps at Toronto FC (BMO Field) - July 1, 2008• Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps (Swangard Stadium) - July 9, 2008• Montreal Impact at Toronto FC (BMO Field) - July 22, 2008

It sucks that the away game in Montreal is on a Tuesday, I will not be able to attend, but hopefully Toronto will send strong support to Montreal. I'm just glad that this tournament is taking place, and really, people should just be happy with that. Watching on TV is fine, for once.

Amado Guavera to TFC heats up
According to Steve Goff, Toronto is still very interested in aquiring former MLS MVP Amado Guavera. This now means that SBI and Goff have linked TFC with Guavera, sounds pretty credible to me. My opinion on Guavera, would you honestly want him on our team going into the season or would you want us without Guavera at this point? I'm going to say with, his attitude problems are well documented, but John Carver won't take any BS from his players, and I'm sure he would keep the sometimes hot-headed star under control. This would be a great first step in strengthening our somewhat suspect midfield and attack.

Argos to BMO?
From today's Toronto Star
"The stadium is a big success right now and Toronto FC (the city's Major League Soccer franchise) is a big success. It looks like the stadium may have to expand to meet the needs of soccer and at that time we could consider (having the Argos as a tenant)," Miller said.

MLSE, you know how we feel as fans of Toronto FC about this, and although this looks to be nothing, the fact that this is still floating around shows that it is still a possibility. There will be a lot of unhappy ticket holders if a move like this were to go through, don't do it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dichio's 2008 Season - Set Up For Failure?

Oh Danny Dichio, you brought us two of the most memorable moments on the pitch last season, when you scored two ever so rare goals. First was, well, the first ever, it was what will go down as one of the most famous goals in the history of the club. Next was the last strike of the season, one of the best goals Toronto fans have witnessed in the clubs short and sometimes sour history. Both moments brought bedlam to BMO, whether it was the throwing of seat cushions or me wildly running up and down section 225, Dichio's 2007 season will forever be remembered by Toronto fans. He was not the flashiest player, he was not the most talented player, he was not the fastest player, but he won over the fans with his tough, clutch, and always passionate play. This part of Dichio's game will never be forgotten, and he may go down as Toronto's most simple, humble, and untalented sporting legends, because a legend to me is someone who will forever be remembered. No matter what Danny does in 2008, he has left his mark on the club, but 2008 may present some new challenges for #9. A lack of service, and playing time. Toronto fans don't care that he has no hair, but will they care if he cannot score?

First of all, let’s make one thing clear, Danny Dichio may be older, but we should see an improved Dichio in terms of match fitness and potential ability. For much of last season, he was injured, playing through multiple injuries that would have sidelined you and me for weeks. Dichio, however, fought through these injuries game in and game out, but his play was severely hindered by these injuries. The Dichio that we saw last season was not the Dichio that we could potentially see in 2008, but I do say potentially for a reason.

To outsiders, who have never seen Dichio play, you may think that the 6 foot 3 striker is a super talented player, but he is not. Put the ball at Dichio's feet outside the 18-yard box, and you would be lucky to see anything develop. He really is a one dimensional player in terms of talent, as direct delivery to the London native inside the box is the best route to go. His sheer size can cause multiple problems for opposing defenders, who continually are forced to clutch, grab, and pull down Dichio to stop him. Many defenders have been destroyed by Dichio in his short career in North America, and more are surely to follow. But will they be destroyed out of frustration instead this season? Toronto's starting XI, up front at least, looks to be set, and it does not include Dichio. This may be a smart move, and here is why.

Danny Dichio is a target man, and to be a target man, you need to have good crossers of the ball on either side of the midfield. Dichio had one to his right last season, in Ronnie O'Brien, but he is no longer a part of the club, after the right sided player was traded to the left coast. On the left, Dichio had, well, no one really. The revolving door that was the left wing has not stopped. Last season it was Andy Welsh, Colin Samuel, or even Adam Braz. None of the just mentioned were good could do much of anything on the left. This season, Todd Dunivant is expected to take over, and with all due respect to Todd, who is in my mind a very underrated defender and wonderful person, he has not shown the ability to play on the left. He is not going to supply Dichio with the pin-point crosses that are needed from the wing. So if you have average delivery from the left, surely Mo Johnston replaced O'Brien, well, ye-no.

The right side remains, as the left side, relatively unproven. Some people have suggested that Marvell Wynne should be moved forward, and he surely has the pace, but based on last season Wynne's ability to cross the ball is average at best, and he is better kept at the back where he should shine in 2008. That leaves trialist, and soon to be signed Martin Brittain. The 23 year old has impressed Johnston with his crossing ability which has always been considered very good. In England, Brittain's name routinely appeared in match reports, like this "Martin Brittain's right-wing delivery is met by the head of Paul Huntington for a deserved equaliser". He also was the usual taker of set pieces wherever he was in England, which just supports the point that he has a very good right foot. But his fitness and pace have always been questioned. When released from Walsall he was described as being "clearly short of match fitness and sharpness". The fact that Brittain is a good crosser is fantastic, it's what Dichio needs, but if you cannot get open because of a lack of pace, you cannot cross the ball. I guess Brittain will fall under the wait and see category, but he is in no way a Ronnie O'Brien type player, and Dichio will need much better from the right if he is to succeed this season.

Johnston should have filled these holes with two top drawer players, he has the money, but he did not. He has left the two most important holes on this team wide open, and there seems to be nothing to cover them on the way. Toronto FC will not succeed this season without a good right and left sided player, and Dichio will fall with the club. Opposing teams will be able to stack their defenders down the middle, as they did last season, and take away any entry or delivery through the middle. This will take away the two ways of entry to the box, making it difficult for Toronto to score, again. Jim Brennan better have his leg ready again this season, because his long distant screamer may need to be copied continually this season if the Reds are to stay away from 0's on the scoreboard.

So with Dichio without anyone, so far, on either side that can really find the tall target man, Dichio may find it hard to find the score sheet in Toronto this season. The addition of an attacking midfielder, in the form of Amado Guavera, would brighten the situation, but at this point in time he is not with the Reds. The ability is out there, in the form of a plethora of cap space, to give make both Danny Dichio and Toronto FC success stories in 2008, but money continues to sit there being unused. A logical thinker would assume that help is on the way, maybe from Europe (sorry, England), but Dichio will surely find it tough to score in Columbus, and will find trouble until that help arrives, but even if Dichio does not score, his name will continue to be belted out by Toronto FC fans, because he is a legend no matter what.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In Argentina

I will be in Argentina for the next 2 weeks, hopefully I will attend a game at some point. Have a good two weeks! Hopefully we sign a couple players while I am gone.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Asia and Africa: Goldmines for TFC

With MLS clubs starting to reach out to other continents for players, primarily Europe and South America, the league is quickly losing its image as a primarily domestic league. It is hard to imagine the league's rosters being filled with American/Canadian born players 5 years from now, as the league continues to loosen its restrictions on bringing in senior international players. People like Don Garber have realized that if the league is to grow, the "USA first" frame of mind must be abolished. Yes, there should still be a focus on producing top domestic players, but the league simply will not grow far past where it is now if the doors are not opened to the rest of the world.

Clubs like District of Columbia United have started to realize this, with United signing multiple South American players like Franco Niell and Gonzalo Peralta. South America will be a major contributor to this league in the near future, and 5 years down the road it is likely that you will see North American clubs snatching the leftovers from European raids of this talented continent. Toronto FC has yet to make a dent in South America, unless you consider Paulo Nagamura a dent; however Mo Johnston has made trips down south to scout out talent and check out the beaches. He has come back empty handed, and with a sun burn. Toronto may not be the most appealing option for South American players, to many in the southern hemisphere Canada is nothing more than a ice-hockey loving snow filled country. It's not impossible to picture multiple Brazilians or Argentineans playing for the Reds down the road, but it seems unlikely. The United States just seems like a better option to many South American players, so should Toronto FC get a head start on the next goldmine of talent?

Well, you would first have to pick which continent to raid. Taking Europe and South America out of the equation leaves you with Africa and Asia, two up and coming soccer powerhouse continents on the world stage, Antarctica, do we want a penguin as our DP? And Oceania, a poor option, as Australia reigns supreme in a shallow continental talent pool. So... Let's go with Africa and Asia.

Africa is again in the southern hemisphere; however no MLS clubs have attempted to make a dent in the continent, meaning that to many African players, to come to North America would mean to come to Toronto. Africa is a soccer rich continent, which can routinely hold the African Cup of Nations, a tournament full of talented nations and their players. It really was a treat to watch the 2008 version, and those who still doubted the continents ability to produce top drawer players should now be silenced. The talent pool in Africa may be one of the deepest in the world, and it remains relatively untapped when compared to other areas around the world. European clubs have taken notice of late, and some of the top players in the top leagues now come from the impoverished continent. However, one would think that there are still hundreds or thousands of talented players left in Africa.

2008 winners, and African powerhouse Egypt have a strong domestic league, and many of the national teams top players like winning goal scorer Mohamed Aboutreika, tournament MVP Hosny Abd Rabo and Amr Zaky, were playing in the Egyptian Premier League. Out of reach for MLS teams? Probably, but you never know. Money can be the deciding factor in many players’ lives, and Toronto FC has deep pockets. This is an area that is completely untapped by Major League Soccer, and if Toronto FC were to set up a partnership with some of the top leagues in Africa, signings could come. The Canadian club would obviously have to compete with European clubs for the continents top players, but the simple fact that there are so many countries with so many talented players screams success. Toronto FC would be smart to make some calls, and start to look at Africa seriously. The immigration issues that apparently have held back the club on other signings would have to be worked out, and that could be a major issue, but with one of the largest and richest ownership groups backing your team it is hard to not think that some sort of scouting system and or partnership could be set up in the near future.

Asia is your second option, the home of the J-League and K-League. A very talented continent that is full of skilled players, and again is basically uncharted land for MLS. Japan and Korea, the continents two most successful nations, seem to be the first two countries that jump to people's minds. Japan's J-League is a passionately followed league that has produced some very good players over the years, players like Naohiro Takahara, Shunsuke Nakamura and Koki Mizuno all played in the J-League before jumping to other leagues. North America is a very appealing option to many people in Asia, and that comes from speaking to people I have met overseas. The J-League may not be the most talented league in the world, but it produces very good players and Toronto would be smart to look to Asia to again snatch up young talent or bring in some of the more established players in the league today. My knowledge of the J-League is not amazing, but having watched many highlight shows and games on TV I can say that the top players in the league would do well in North America. There are probably more knowledgeable people who could point to the best options from Japan, who get to watch the J-League routinely.

Korea has the K-League, average at best according to most fans, yet looking at the amount of Korean players making significant impacts around the world makes you wonder if Toronto or other MLS teams will realize that former World Cup host's are a viable option. The J-League would obviously be the first option, but Korea does offer another untapped talent pool. Other countries like Iraq, winners of the 2007 Asian Cup, are also up and coming options. The entire continent is basically neglected by European teams, leaving clubs like Toronto FC to move in.

Toronto FC has the chance to set up themselves for the future by forming relationships overseas with some of the top African and Asian clubs. Many knowledgeable and respected minds believe that he MLS has the ability to become a top tier league, and soon it will not be as hard for teams to bring in top drawer players. At this point, teams will be forced to look elsewhere for talent and Toronto could easily get ahead of the game and ensure that they are players for years to come by becoming a major player in both Africa and Asia.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Internal Improvement Key to TFC

In the 18th minute, on a cold October night, with a thick fog hanging over BMO Field, Marvell Wynne sent a beautiful ball into Maurice Edu's path. The rookie midfielder had made a smart run into the box where he met the ball almost instantly with his right foot. Wasting no time, he coolly slotted the ball past Red Bulls 'keeper Ronald Waterreus, giving Toronto the 1-0 lead. On this night, the success of Toronto FC had a lot to do with Edu and Wynne, but could the success of Toronto FC's second season in the MLS ride on these two players, both of whom have yet to reach their 22nd birthday?

It seems ridiculous to some, but they are two players who are currently with the team that could make the difference between a successful season and an unsuccessful one. With so much emphasis being placed on improvements from the outside, fans have neglected the fact that internal improvements can also occur, and lead to a more successful season than the last. The improvement of 21-year old midfielder Maurice Edu, and 21-year old right-back Marvell Wynne, could make an enormous impact on Toronto FC this season. With both entering their second season with the club, they may have to step up and become integral parts of the team on the field, even more so than they both were in their first year north of the border.

If you watched Maurice Edu last year, from the start of the season straight through to its conclusion, you would have seen the American vastly improve his all around game as the season wore on. A player that sometimes looked lost during the initial stages slowly emerged as one of the clubs best players and his role continued to grow in importance as the campaign dragged on into the summer months. He was often featured as a central midfielder, sometimes dropping back with or in the absence of Carl Robinson, other times pushing forward into a more attacking role. His box-to-box ability as a player became evidently clear, along with his versatility as a player. The Maurice Edu of early 2007, a still impressive rookie trying to find his game, had truly evolved as a player. Toronto FC started to rely on him more and more as the injuries stacked up, and European clubs took notice of the midfielder’s solid play. Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill took obvious notice in their friendly against the Canadian club, as an invitation was later delivered to Edu asking him to come on trial during the MLS offseason. Edu politely pushed away this invitation, another indicator of his growth as a player.

Why is this a indicator you ask? Well, he had good reason to not fly overseas; he had been called up to the United States men's national team. The rarely capped American at lower levels had jumped onto the radar screens of the national team’s management with his solid play and rookie of the year honours. He would play in many of the national teams key matchups over the offseason, giving the young midfielder and the fans the confidence that Edu had arrived on the North American soccer scene. The Maurice Edu that TFC fans will see in 2008 will surely be a much improved version; he has apparently looked great in training and has worked consistently over the winter months on his finishing ability. This new and improved Edu should have an immediate impact on the on field play of the team, he should step into the role of midfield general. He will be the centre of Toronto FC's starting XI and will be relied on heavily.

The improvements made in such a short span of time when it comes to Edu's career should give you the confidence that he will be able to shoulder the load and step up in his sophomore season. A sophomore jinx, common in many sports, shouldn't follow Edu in 2008. Fellow American Sacha Kljestan stepped up in his sophomore season to become one of the better midfielders in the league, after receiving high praise, much like Edu, coming out of his rookie season, and I see no reason why Edu should not do the same. In fact Edu, even at the age of 21, could step up and become one of the top midfielders in the league if his progression as a player continues along the same line. He is a strong defensive player who can easily score 6+ goals in a season, and with what seems to be a solid backline and a healthy Carl Robinson, Edu should be free to make his impact felt up front. Is he an attacking midfielder? Not really, but he could easily be one of the best all around midfielders this season, and Toronto FC will benefit thanks to a much improved Maurice Edu.

Marvell Wynne, on the other hand, flew under the radar while with New York. The initial reaction of many new Toronto fans when the right-back was acquired was simply, who? However Wynne's dynamic pace combined with solid play at the back quickly drew praise from Toronto fans. He established himself as a strong, reliable defender who could easily step forward with his wicked pace. His ability as an attacking player was displayed against the Colorado Rapids, when Wynne made a beautiful run forward before dancing around two Rapids defenders, and jabbing the ball to Danny Dichio who tapped it in. This ability to quickly go on the attack was obviously influenced when Wynne was pushed forward in the absence of the now departed Ronnie O'Brien, but it was clear that the young back could easily push up if need be.

However you will be hard pressed to find him there again, as John Carver and Mo Johnston have both stated that they would like to see him back in his natural position at right-back, which may be good as Wynne's crossing ability was less than impressive. He will join an already solid backline that should include the likes of MVP Jim Brennan, the underappreciated Todd Dunivant, bone breaker Tyrone Marshall and impressive rookie (or so we've heard) Julius James.

Wynne has received numerous looks from the national team, and was called up for the Copa American tournament; he should be a constant member of the team in the years to come. He is now moving into his 3rd season in the league, and he could easily become one of the better full-backs in the league. He is a strong tackler who will only improve again this season, giving Toronto a dynamic and versatile option at the back; he is a player who can easily stay with any player in the league. Defenders may often be overlooked when it comes to a team’s success, but an improved Marvell Wynne, who by all accounts has been fantastic in camp, should do wonders for the Reds. And although you may not see Wynne on the right side of midfield at the start of the game, a solid backline should allow Wynne to move up. John Carver has made it clear that the use of full-backs in England, where they are relied on heavily by many clubs, will carry over to Toronto. Expect Wynne to step up in 2008.

You've just read about two young players who are set to improve this coming season, and become key members of the 2008 version of Toronto FC. Gabe Gala and Joey Melo are also two players who could make the jump this season, with Gala being my pick of the two. The Nigerian born youngster, a natural defender, can move up and play on the left side of midfield if needed. He did not look out of place with the senior team last season in limited time, and could step up and play a more important role this season. Melo, who did not overly impress this season according to some fans, has looked like a new player in camp. According to journalists and Carver, Melo was the best player in many training sessions. Improvements in both players’ games would be great for the club.

However, what about some older players who can improve this season? In other articles I touched on the fact that I expect huge improvements in both Jeff Cunningham and Danny Dichio's game. Both were injured for the majority of last season, and a healthy version of the Fast and Furious striker pairing should give TFC the two impact players they need up front. This is just another example of two players who should add to the internal improvement of the club. We can all pray that our two flanks will be ready to go come March 29th, because Dichio should thrive with two points of consistent delivery.

Internal improvement will be key to Toronto FC's success in 2008, and Marvell Wynne along with Maurice Edu should lead the way. Both are fantastic young players who will sadly leave us very soon during their time with the American U23 team in the summer, and may be gone for Europe by as soon as 2009. However we will be able to benefit from both players improvements for the majority of the season, and both will hopefully be leading the Reds into the 2008 playoffs.