I've got good news and bad news: the good news is that preseason is over; the bad news is that preseason is over. With a lot of new faces, injured players and players still rehabbing their way to match fitness it was a bit of an inconsistent team that took to the pitch for each game and today's starting XI was likely the closest to what we'll see next Saturday in Vancouver. So let's see how they did!
Starting the game were: Joe Bendik, Richard Eckersley, Danny Califf, Darren O'Dea, Justin Davis, Reggie Lambe, Johnathan Osorio, Jeremy Hall, Emery Welshman, Luis Silva and Taylor Morgan. The Reds lined up against a mostly full strength Sporting KC who did not field or have any trialists on their bench. Other than the single goal allowed that's the big positive to take away from this one; they almost held their own against a full strenght MLS side. In fact one of the best MLS sides. However, having said that I can't imagine that SKC really felt the need to pressure the Reds too much; it is TFC after all.
This starting XI finally saw the expected CB partnership for 2013 of O'Dea and Califf start the game. And other than the goal from newly minted DP forward Claudio Bieler in the 23rd minute, they broke up any SKC attacks until O'Dea's ejection in the 57th minute. After that Gale Agbossoumonde came on (for Taylor Morgan of all people, I know, I know) but was then slotted back with Califf to prevent any further bloodshed on the scoreline.
From the twitter reports (and ensuing game report from TorontoFC) this appeared to be a closely contested match with Silva and Lambe getting several attempts during the first half of play. Along with what appeared to be a lot of end to end play was a fair bit of scuffling.
O'Dea and Nagamura got into it early with a bit of shoving and shouting, Davis was cautioned for a rough challenge and then O'Dea was given his second yellow for a high elbow to the head. Whether this is a sign of both teams taking this final preseason match very seriously or just getting amped up for the match on 9th is anyone's guess.
Ashton Bennett was the early attacking sub and seemed to inject some life in the TFC attack; but he and eventual subs Kyle Bekker, Emery Welshman and Andrew Wiedeman were unable to put anything past Jimmy Nielsen.
Other than managing to keep SKC's tally to a single goal - shining light! - the thing that really stands out is that with Justin Braun still out nursing the knock he received earlier in the week, is that TFC boasts not a single striker to it's name. Does this pave the way for Taylor Morgan? You have to think so given the complete lack of options the club has up top. Luis Silva is not a striker and performs best when he can be slotted behind as an attacking midfielder. And the rest of the wing (what few we have) players are the same - they're better when they can create chances.
It's obvious that what few strengths TFC possess at the moment they don't include attacking the opposition goal with any consistency - however should the back four of Ecks, O'Dea, Califf and Ashtone Morgan stay solid with Gale Agbossoumonde and one of the defensive trialists (and oh yeah Logan Emory) available as depth then while they may not score a lot of goals, they also may keep a lot more out. Which compared to last year's worst in MLS totals just about anything would be an improvement.
Preseason is over and MLS First Kick is just seven days away...seven days. Let that sink in for a minute. In less than a week Toronto will be taking to the plastic pitch in Vancouver against the Whitecaps. Unless training this week goes spectacularly well and a number of injured players are given the OK to step on the pitch then it's likely going to be an ugly start to the season for our Reds.
We'll have lots of previews (both of the season and the game variety) for you to peruse but hey, why wait - do you think TFC came out of this preseason having progressed in any area? I'll give a nod to the defense; I do think they're better - but elsewhere? Umm, the jury is refusing to return a verdict on that one. Let us know what you think in the comments.