Aaw, cute. Matching boots and everything.
Continuing our look at just how Toronto FC's squad stands before preseason starts this week. What questions remain to be resolved, what gaps still need to be plugged, and just who would be our starting eleven if we had to pick it right now. We've already looked at the Goalkeepers and the Midfielders, and we're blatantly putting the defenders off in the seemingly futile hope of all the rumoured signings actually being confirmed at some point. So that leaves us with today's focus, the suddenly Peri Marosevic free forward line.
It's fairly straight forward formation wise as though the defence has switched from 4 men to 5 men (though maybe that's just 3 men) and back, and the midfield can be point forward or point back, Aron Winter has clung on to the idea of the three man attack, so really it's just a question of who will fill those spots, and what is currently a worrying lack of depth should injuries hit.
Starting in the middle where there's absolutely zero debate that Danny Koevermans is the number one choice. His movement in the box, deadly finishing and round attacking instincts were just too good for many an MLS defence in the half season he played last year. That's despite him always being described as 'almost close to full fitness and looking slightly on the hefty side when compared to most ultra fit players in today's game. If he can go into the season at 100% and play a full season fully fit, then he should definitely be in contention for the MLS Golden Boot as league top scorer and could well break the 20 goal barrier.
Who's behind him for that Centre Forward spot? Ryan Johnson showed he could be an effective back up, as the Jamaican forward did well and scored a few goals when replacing Koevermans in the lineup last season. There's also Keith Makabuya, who was promoted from the academy team at the end of preseason last year. It may have been a year too early for Makabuya, who only made one apppearance all year against Vancouver in the opening game. Hopefully his game has developed to the point where he can be seen as a realistic alternative from the bench.
Moving on to the wings and there's definitely a few more questions there. Joao Plata is officially re-signed, which is great news, and hopefully he can continue to impress on the Left Wing despite the increased attention he's likely to get from defenders this season. If he can't do that or has some kind of sophomore slump (positively hate that phrase, but it works here for what I want to say, so there it is, sigh.) then we could be in trouble. Left wing alternatives, well there's Ryan Johnson, and I think draft pick Luis Silva was touted as being able to play wide on the left as well if necessary.
On the right, with Marosevic gone, we're down to Nick Soolsma and Reggie Lambe. Lambe's a bit of an unknown quantity, but the fact he did gets plucked from Bermuda by Ipswich Town suggests there's potential there just waiting to be tapped. If that can happen here, then I think he'd be a much more dynamic threat than Soolsma, and he and Plata would be a great wing partnership. Of course, like any skillful tricky winger he may well be another Javier Martina or Peri Marosevic and look exciting while very rarely delivering. If that happens, well, Soolsma will once again be there to step in and provide his reliable, steady, unspectacular play out there instead. He's not a bad player to have available to fall back on, but I think it's definitely worth the gamble to see if Lambe can provide us with something better.
One of the big questions is how will Ryan Johnson fit in. He was one of Toronto's best players in the second half of 2011 and scored plenty of goals after coming over from the San Jose Earthquakes, but doesn't really seem to have an obvious place. He's not better than Koevermans at Centre Forward, he's not better than Plata at Left Wing, or Eric Avila in the Attacking Midfield spot. Being able to play a few different positions means he'll probably get plenty of sub appearances and random starts here and there, never in the same position. Will he be able to flourish in that situation, and maybe force his way into the side somewhere, or will it lead to a drop off in play similar to that he suffered at San Jose which saw him drop from team MVP in 2009 to being seen as no big loss by fans when he moved to Toronto?
So, 6 players to spread around those 3 positions, it's a bit thin really isn't it, hopefully there'll some new arrivals, whether triallists we'll see in preseason or signings from the academy such as Stefan Vukovic who starred with the academy last year and was the top scorer in the entire CSL. That's what preseason is for of course, to solve just that sort of problem, but for now, this is what we've got to go with.