Toronto FC 2013 Top 36 Countdown: Number 5 - Robert Earnshaw

aaaaaand, there goes the hamstring. - Martin Bazyl Photography

Lethal, then a lot less lethal = 8 goals in the season, that equals top scorer and that equals 5th place, 'the best of the rest' outside a clear top 4. At Number 5, it's Robert Earnshaw.

Average Ranking: 6.23
Highest Ranking: 2
Lowest Ranking: 17

Duncan: 6. Another of those older British players Kevin Payne warned us about, on the downslide of his career, Earnshaw was never the less brought in and signed up during that panicky week before the season started, though at least it was sensibly just as a loan in case things went wrong.

To start off with, it couldn't have gone more right, the promise he showed in the first game in Vancouver was delivered in the next few games, 2 against Sporting Kansas City, one against Montreal and one against L.A, he was on fire. 2 of them were penalties of course, but the other goals, both capitalising on bad backpasses showed impressive opportunism and lethal finishing. Another goal in Philadelphia in April had him at 5 goals in his first 6 games, right at the top of the league's scoring charts, all on just 19 shots all together.

We all should have known it wouldn't last, Earnshaw has always been a streaky scorer throughout his career, and so he inevitably hit a cold streak, the next 7 league games saw 0 goals on 22 shots. Pay enough attention with hindsight and you can see it happen. First to go was the luck, there was still some quality shots, the confidence was there, but it just didn't quite happen, he hit the bar, the side netting and the post against Houston, he hit the post in Montreal (it's the first highlight, I wouldn't watch the rest if I were you.). After that, well maybe the confidence was gone as the shot quality dipped, Against Colorado, TFC actually played a decent road game, keeping it tight and really limiting the Rapids chances while getting their lethal top scorer 2 great chances. Sadly, he didn't get a good shot off with either of them, the first saved too easily, the second scuffed over the bar from about 8 yards out, he also just missed a difficult opportunity to get a foot on a shot across goal, and another chance he created for himself saw only a very weak shot, and a defensive blunder meant it ended 1-0 to the home team.

What had changed? Was it as simple as an inevitable cold streak? Not necessarily, a factor in it was a lack of service as (the Colorado game aside) he really didn't get that many chances after TFC switched away from the lone forward high pressing style they started the season with. You could argue the goals against SKC and L.A were from bad giveaways, but they were both mistakes that were forced by TFC applying pressure and denying time, and Earnshaw was alert enough and quick enough to anticipate and pounce on the errors. Sadly that style was more or less abandoned and though you'd think switching to two up front might actually help Earnshaw out, and maybe with a better quality strike partner it would have, that wasn't the result at all.

For a long time after that, he really didn't look like scoring, and the lack of chances seemed to affect his play as if he became more selfish, more desperate to try and do something on his own given the lack of help he was getting from his teammates. Even when he did score, against DC, in game 14 of the season, over 2 months since his last goal, it seemed more like the ball just bounced off him and went in rather than a well placed header, though the skill (and a bit of skullduggery?) to outjump the much taller Brandon MacDonald shouldn't be overlooked. Sadly that wasn't the start of another streak as injuries played havoc with the next couple of months, he'd miss a few games, come back for a few, miss a few more, and it wasn't until September that he played another full 90 minutes. Even when fit, Andrew Wiedeman or Jeremy Brockie were often preferred as his season seemed to be fizzling out.

He got another goal, against Chicago, very well taken with admirable composure to wait for the desperately lunging defender to lunge completely out of his way and a deadly finish, waiting for the goalie to commit first that suggested his form might well be back.

Sadly he managed to injure himself in the process and so missed more games before making his way back into the team late on and providing one last highlight with the winner against Montreal, a skillful deflection from close in. That took his tally for the season to 8, sadly more than enough to be TFC's top scorer. Who knows, maybe if the goals against DC and Chicago hadn't been followed by injuries they might have started another hot streak that would have taken him into double figures.

As of the time of writing, he finds himself in that curious off season netherworld. His option wasn't renewed but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't be back, just that there's negotiations going on. Much like Darel Russell and Bobby Convey, I wouldn't be averse to him coming back if it can be worked out. His playing time would mainly be determined by the success of the DP hunt, but injuries, DP bubble wrapping based rotation and the World Cup should all mean he'd get a few starts here and there and he certainly wouldn't be a bad option to bring off the bench. Hey, if you want to rest Jermain Defoe without having to change around the formation and tactics, then Earnshaw's a pretty hand guy to have in the understudy role. I hope the Tims can work something out with him.

To close, I'll present this, that Earnshaw himself put up on Instagram, without comment.

Dave: 5. His hot scoring start to the season was lovely to see and it gave some reason to hope early in the year but that hope faded as quickly as his scoring touch. Earnshaw did not seem to thrive under the pressure of having to basically carry the entire scoring load for the club but he does still have a proven track record of scoring goals and that could make him worth keeping around if they can bring in a better partner for him up top.

Armen: 2. Eight goals and plenty of awesome media quotes gave TFC fans another iconic goal celebration to look forward to.

James: 13. High expectations were not always met, went missing for a large chunk of the season, that said adapted well to MLS in his first season - needs to learn to play through a summer.

Kristin: 5. Mr. March (and October) - early scorer of goals and seeming replacement for Koef in the early goings. However, a very lengthy dry spell, a few injuries, an inability to trust his teammates (although in many cases could you blame him?) and two shiny new attacking DPs on their way (not to mention Bright Dike on board) and well, is he really worth keeping around?

a_miller16: Played very well in March and briefly led the MLS in goals. Showed flashes of good play when he wasn’t hurt. Could be a starter next year depending on who they bring in. Good guy though and would like to see him back with TFC.

Bruce Harding. Started the season off great, a lot of injuries, decent season though.

Colin Freebury: Scored goals, worked hard, unfortunate injury.

Elusivecart:Great poacher, but needs more consistency.

Ferantez I don't like this guy… But he is our top goal scorer… sadly… someone needs to tell him that football is a team sport… He either plays with his head down once he gets the ball or he is selfish, neither is good.

Hoddle: Earnshaw - he was our leading scorer I guess, but 8 is a pretty poor tally for that category.

Ignirtoq: #takeTheSummerOff

Izaac: Did what he had to… often injured and thus not better than 5.

JD: He 'scored' the most goals for us this year, so I had to put him in the top 10, but I won't be too sad to see him go. We need consistency up front, and he just doesn't have it.

Jon Spratt: Went through a long goalless drought, but I think he's still capable of bagging more goals than he did this year.

Killinghurst: Our leading goalscorer. Will only benefit from more attacking minded players. If only he could pass the ball.

Mark_HSV: Very streaky player, but he ended up top scorer with 8 goals. This is tough to do on TFC. Gave us some hope at the beginning of the season at least.

Michaelvee: Earnie took off like a rocket, toyed with our emotions, and pointed out that TFC is a pretty uncreative team. His team leading 8 goals doesn't exactly inspire confidence that he's a top striker for this league, but I like him all the same. If he stays healthy, I think he hits double figures next year.

Mweezy: Started very well, but service was a problem, not his problem, but still an issue.

Prizby: If a season was two months long, than Earnie would have been #1 in my books, but alas his ranking slipped to here (8)just as his form slipped; love the flip celebration with the swing of the arm.

Red Wine Roz: He cracked the top 10 due to his March/April form. Needs to play like it's spring all the time.

Robert Snider: An exciting addition in the beginning. Kind of depressing when reality set in. I'm still not sure if the problem is the lack of support he suffered from or he just can't pass the ball to anyone.

Schtevetown: The long drought and injuries marred the season, but still 8 goals and a right-sized contract mean I would want him back to cover for our post World Cup arriving DPs.

Shel soccer Don: He can score goals. Might have gotten selfish when the losing started. Certainly worth bringing back.

Spence Snell: Wasn't spectacular, but ultimately led the goals category and was one of our few strikers who could (from time to time) finish.

The Yorkies: "Mr. March" has adapted to Canadian weather as he doesn't score during the summer.

Tim: Goal leader who would also track back and defend. A true pro.

TimmerJ_75: Didn't live up to hype, but best forward this season!

Tyler: I don't like Earnshaw. I think he's selfish and doesn't play well with the team, so it is begrudgingly that I list him as number 6 because he still managed to score the most goals.

Yohan: TFC's top scorer is one of most inconsistent strikers to play for TFC. Seemed to need 4 good chances to put 1 away. Now that his pace seems to be mostly gone, he will need to show more consistency in finishing if he deserves a roster spot, especially when the DP strikers come in. Still waiting for him to celebrate a goal beside the Bruno Mars advertisement board in the South End.

Number 4: Jonathan Osorio

Number 6: Doneil Henry

Full Top 36 Countdown

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