I was going to put something here about starting midfielders but then I saw Ryan Johnson's pose. And that is all that needs to be noted in this photo
The second part in our look at Toronto FC's depth and roster competitions is set to focus on the midfielder. Yesterday, Duncan took a look at the goal keepers and it came down to a simple question of Milos Kocic or Stefan Frei for the number one spot. Let's face it though, in that area of the field there is really no bad decision with both keepers being quite talented and capable of starting at the MLS level. Now we have skipped the defenders for now, just in case that signing we are all expecting comes in the next couple of days, and we move on to the midfield.
The midfield is probably the trickiest area of the squad to break down because it is where Toronto has the most players ready to contribute. It is also difficult to decide who is actually a midfielder and who should be listed as a forward. Should the likes of Joao Plata and Ryan Johnson who play up top in the 4-3-3 formation count as midfielders? For the purposes of this they will not. Matt Stinson, who spent time at right back last season, will count as a midfielder for the sake of debate though. Jeremy Hall is also capable of playing in the same two spots as Stinson but I expect he will be used at right back more so his time will come in the defenders post.
So without further ado the break down after the jump.In the 4-3-3 formation that Toronto FC used last season, when Torsten Frings was not in the backline, there are two different midfield positions. The 3 midfielders are either in a defensive or an attacking role and it is pretty easy to divide the two groups on the team.
We will start with the more defensive players. The group is highlighted by a pair of designated players in Julian De Guzman and Torsten Frings. When those two are fit and not in need of a rest they would be the easy choices for the spots in the starting eleven.
De Guzman is coming off his best season for Toronto FC as in the second half of the year he seemed to finally have a good run of fitness which allowed him to build confidence. The fact that he chipped in a couple of goals last season was a real nice bonus but he remains a no nonsense defensive player. His biggest strengths have always been his tackling abilities and being able to pick out short passes. JDG will never be an attacking or creative force in the squad but he is finally proving to at least be solid and reliable in his role. If he continues to build confidence in the coming season he may finally be worthy of that huge DP contract that the club gave him.
Frings is probably the key to Toronto's midfield. Calling him a midfield general seems to be a very fitting label as he is capable of controlling the tempo and flow of both teams games. He can do that with his passing skills that can start his own team going on the attack or with his tackling skills that can break down the other teams. Add into that the fact that the former German international seems to be a clear leader on the team and his value can hardly be overstated.
The defensive midfield position becomes a bit more tricky when you try and consider who should be the first players off the bench. In that regard Terry Dunfield brings the most experience and a very high work rate that has endeared him to Canadian fans over the year. Now Terry did not play a whole lot for Toronto last season after coming over from the Whitecaps but I think this season his role could grow as he should serve as a regular backup for Frings and JDG.
Behind those three would probably be Matt Stinson who will look to continue his development this season. Stinson is still only 19 years old so throwing him into an increased role this season seems a bit unlikely but we could see him making 15-20 appearances for the club. He proved himself to be capable of slotting in at right back last season, and it's at that position in particular he im pressed Canadian coach Stephen Hart so it will be interesting to watch as the season progresses where the club decides to use him the majority of the time. Like the other defensive midfielders Stinson is strong on the tackle and really willing to put his body in there to win a challenge. He will need to continue to improve his vision and his passing but at his young age the best way to do that is getting playing time.
On the attacking side of things the main guy last season was Eric Avila. Last year he was basically the only player who naturally fit in that attacking role as the others who filled in when he was out of the lineup were better suited to being wingers. The likes of Ryan Johnson, Peri Marosevic, and even Joao Plata could all play in this slot but it would limit their impact on the match as they all do better exploiting spaces down the wings. This year though Avila will have a more natural backup in Luis Silva, the clubs 4th overall pick in the SuperDraft.
Avila came over to the team from FC Dallas last season and was fairly solid in the games that he did play. His scoring was a little lacking and from time to time he seemed to disappear from matches but when he was on his game he was capable of being a talented play-maker. Now I don't think Toronto needs a whole lot of goals from this position in the lineup, they can come from the 3 forwards, but for Avila to succeed this season he will need to become a more reliable play-maker and provide service to Danny Koevermans and the other scoring threats.
Silva is a bit more of an unknown seeing as he is a rookie and has never played at this level. If you look at his work at the NCAA level he seems set to be the kind of play-maker that Avila was at his very best. He is a capable scoring threat as well so he seems a good fit to play off the shoulder of Koef. I think we will see Silva backing up Avila to start the season but by the middle of the summer he could very well have taken over the starting job.
Toronto does have other names in its midfield but they are likely to be used in more limited roles. It would be remiss to leave out the likes of Oscar Cordon. Cordon is another young academy grad but last season he seemed a bit further from the squad and should now be even further down the depth chart. We might see him in the Voyageurs Cup but I would not expect much more. Then there is some of the new draft choices that came in the Supplemental rounds but really we know so little about them that trying to fit them into a depth chart is almost impossible.
So here is how I see the depth chart breaking down:
Julian De Guzman Torsten Frings
Terry Dunfield Matthew Stinson