Poor, poor Stefan Frei.
I was at a friend's cottage over the weekend, so had the Toronto FC game stream on in the background on a laptop so didn't really get the full picture, a bit of a half arsed effort really. From what I did see, and have read online, it seems like that pretty much matches the effort TFC gave in losing 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo.
Watching the game in six minutes, aside from a Nick Soolsma run in the 76th minute that was impressive but ultimately ended up going nowhere, TFC had nothing happening. The stats back that up, only 2 shots, neither of them on target, and 39.7% possession are both damning statistics. Houston didn't really look that much better, but they didn't need to be, their second goal was merely the exclamation point, one goal was always going to be enough. Houston's first goal was similar to New York's third in the previous game. A TFC move ended with the returning Alan Gordon very optimistically appealing for a penalty which wasn't given and Houston broke quickly down TFC's left side and scored. The second came from a bit of a goalmouth scramble from a corner, forced after Stefan Frei made two good saves in succession. Poor defending both times, maybe it's to be expected with such a depleted back 4, but that's not going to get better as Richard Eckersley will miss the next game due to suspension.
Whereas the 5-0 loss against New York was merely a reflection of the difference in talent rather than effort, this was more about a lack of heart and passion, which is probably even more depressing, a confirmation that the Vancouver wins were just positive blips in a very poor first portion of the season. TFC's next game isn't until July 20th, with the transfer window open, and at least Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings to improve the team.
Aron Winter spoke after the game about making trades to improve the team, which sounds very promising until you really think about what we have to offer as trade bait. Who on our team would another MLS team want to take off our hands in exchange for a top quality player? Winter had previously spoken about trying to get leaders at the front back and middle, the addition of Frings and Koevermans leaves Centre Back as the one obvious place to be improved. A dominating prescence at Centre Back, someone like Columbus' Chad Marshall, or Salt Lake's Jamison Olave would be great, but what would we be able to offer to prise someone like that away from another MLS club, without significantly weakening a different position?
Stefan Frei is really the only player we have at this stage that would not be out of place in the starting lineup of a top MLS team, but is Milos Kocic ready to be a full time starter? If not, well we're back to needing an upgrade in an important position. Richard Eckersley is good but is only on loan which will surely lessen his trade value. Tony Tchani has a lot of potential and his generation Adidas contract that doesn't count towards the cap would be attractive to any team, so he could maybe fetch something back. Joao Plata would probably get a lot of attention, but again, he's only on loan, and should a rebuilding team really be giving up it's brightest young prospect? Incidental fun fact, according to wikipedia, Plata's middle name is Jimmy!
I think Alan Gordon may be the best bet in this regard. When fit, he's played very well, and proved he can do a good job as Centre Forward in MLS, but is now presumably second choice there behind Danny Koevermans. Depth is a great thing to have, but in TFC's situation, can they afford to have one of their better players sitting on the bench regularly? I'd rather keep Gordon than Maicon Santos, but Santos seems a bit more versatile, so more likely to be able to find a place in the team alongside Koevermans. I'd be sad to see Gordon go, but if we can swap him, and maybe an up and coming young player or maybe a draft pick or some allocation money for a solid Centre Back, well that would probably be a good decision that would help in the short term without hurting the long term prospects that we really should be more focussed on at this stage.
The sad part of Saturday's game is that I don't have any sense of outrage, disbelief or disappointment at the result, or even the lack of effort. TFC are what they are, especially with the injuries effecting them so much, and that 2-0 defeat was nothing out of the ordinary. Apathy and resigned acceptance aren't good things for a fanbase to develop, but it's even more worrying when the team itself shows those traits, yet there was very little self belief or fighting spirit on display last night. Whoever Winter trades away and whoever he brings in, it's going to be an uphill struggle for the rest of the season, as those two wins against Vancouver now aren't looking like any kind of turning point at all.