Stop blaming Frings

Torsten Frings gets blamed for a lot of things. Let's just be objective.

While the following statement might make folks in Montreal jealous, Toronto is a trendy city. While I won’t focus on skinny jeans and white belts in this blog, I do want to tackle what could be the start of an alarming trend; blaming Torsten Frings for Toronto’s woes.

Frings’ is Toronto FC’s captain and highest paid player on the current active roster. He’s a 35 year old German International with more caps for Germany (79) than Toronto has in franchise wins over 6 seasons (65).

Coming on the heels of the collapse against Santos Laguna, Paul Mariner lamented in his post game press conference that he blamed Frings for the goal that led to the loss.

"I don’t like people diving in," he said. "If (you) dive in then you make a problem for (your) teammate and that’s irresponsible. I don’t appreciate it."

In today’s Toronto Sun, Kurtis Larson piled on with an observation that "Frings’ lack of pace and defensive poise was painfully obvious when Daniel Luduena danced around the German before walking into TFC’s box and bagging the winner." In this piece, he asks the question as to whether Frings will be shown the door or return for the 2013 season.

Fair is fair. Managers calling out players for missing assignments is nothing new. Though I seem to recall a far greater outcry when Aron Winter supposedly "threw his players under the bus" but I digress. Is this criticism for Frings on this play justified?

Diving in is indeed a sin in the soccer world. However, this was the 89th minute and we are talking about a 35 year old player. Santos had brought on speed through its substitutions and Mariner left two of his subs on the bench. He used just one of three available subs, despite protecting the draw. If a veteran player is gassed and the opposition is bringing pressure and speed, whose fault is it if the coach does not react?

Going beyond the game, Frings’ contribution to Mariner’s new forward first tactics are noticeable. He simply doesn’t touch the ball as often. In fact, if you compare the few games in which he was healthy under Winter this year to his progress under Mariner, Torsten touches the ball less times per game. A simple look shows the following 2012 per game averages:

Mariner

Winter

Distribution

Successful Pass

26.79

34.0

Unsuccessful Pass

14.1

10.3

Has Frings’ play dropped off and is age catching up to him? Or, as I have hypothesized, is the fact that he watches more balls go over his head contributing to the perception that he isn’t as valuable? Maybe it’s both.

The question as to whether Frings returns is a valid one. It is a question that should always be asked of designated players. Not to mention, what does Frings think of playing for this management team and the Front Office that trotted him out front of a subway station to be ignored by the masses in a viral video gone wrong? (I won’t link to it as I’m embarrassed enough for Frings).

However, the commentary that is bound to ensue over his ability needs to be had with both eyes open. You can’t blame an older guy for getting tired if you can’t use your subs properly. If you don’t have subs you can use, that’s not Frings’ fault. Similarly, if a player doesn’t touch the ball as often and doesn’t have teammates pressing forward in support, it is hard to criticize them for not contributing.

Follow me on twitter @Gardnerfanfuel and all of us @wakingthered

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