Here we are then, over 3 months since last we had to suffer through 2012's own special kind of suck for TFC, a season that ended with defeat in Columbus, and fittingly enough it's our 'fierce rivals' from Ohio who provide the opposition as TFC's preseason finally sputters into life. The game will be streamed (which you'll be able to find here at Waking The Red tomorrow along with our usual game thread commentary/nonsense) so we'll all be able to see the improvement/continued trainwreck and get the first idea of in what special way 2013 is going to suck for TFC.
Without that visual evidence yet, it's seeming a lot like a repeat of 2010 and 2011's type of suck, at least to start the season. Last year, doubts over a very short preseason were cast aside due to the genuine optimism of the good run at the end of 2011, and the upcoming CCL game. The 2 years before that though both saw TFC coming off disappointment and an ensuing purge of players, with alarmingly low numbers of actually signed up players ready to go at this point, which both times led to panic signings just before the season started.
2013 was already looking that way when we did our pre-pre-season depth chart a couple of weeks back, though we presumed it would steadily improve. Instead, since then Eric Hassli and Joao Plata have gone, making things look even more threadbare. Hopefully these games, 3 of them, unless we do well and advance to the final, will help us see which of the trialists and supplemental guys can step up and join them.
What we see in defence should at least have relevance to the regular season as in Stefan Frei, Richard Eckersley, Danny Califf, Darren O'Dea and Ashtone Morgan, we have an established back 5 that will be out there in Vancouver barring injury or some kind of shocking new signing. They've been together all preseason, so should have a bit of familiarity to them. It'll be interesting to see how well Califf and O'Dea can work together, whether Eckersley's time at centre back last year has given him a new appreciation for defensive responsibility and positional awareness as he claimed it will, and whether Morgan can look better defensively than he did for Canada a couple of weeks back.
The answer to all of those questions will probably depend greatly on the rest of the team, I can't help but think if those 4 are left to their own devices it'll get rough pretty quickly. Will Ryan Nelsen and Fran O'Leary be able to instill the team wide defensive commitment we haven't seen since the days of Preki?
In midfield and up front, well, it's more about individual performances than how the team as a whole looks as you'd think there's a lot of changes that are still to come. Does Torsten Frings still have what it takes? Can Kyle Bekker continue to impress? Is Justin Braun ready to assume the centre forward position he currently has by default? Are Joevin Jones and Nicolas Cabrera worth signing up? Other fun questions we may or may not get answers to; who are the fatties that came into camp out of shape? Is Eckersley burnt to a crisp in the Florida sun yet? Can Daniel Fabrizi bring that fresh new team smell back?
It seems harsh to expect too much from a preseason game, we should definitely avoid swift judgements, but really, there's only 3 weeks until the season starts, and only 2 more games scheduled so far. There may be more here and TFC have talked about adding more games, which is definitely a good thing, there's lots of work to do. Let's hope there's still plenty of new faces to work into the squad as well.
There's been 3 months for the self loathing to fade, replaced with tentative optimism, then confusion, then creeping doubts, the sort that only blind faith can stop from developing into full blown panic, along with an alternately calming and depressing realisation that it's really all about 2014 and beyond. There's still plenty of questions and concerns, but for now we can just enjoy that TFC is back. We've got 8 months or so for all that sort of worry, for now it's about the first opportunity to sit back and watch some live TFC football. Despite myself and against all reason and better judgement, I'm excited for that.