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.

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