There were a lot of players who were either first half of the season or second half of the season players, and there's a big disparity between where they ended up in the Toronto FC Top 40 countdown. This is the highest any of the first half players got, and I'm delighted to say the best rated player from that time, by a big margin, is number 12, Alan Gordon.
Average Ranking: 15.045
Highest Ranking: 7
Lowest Ranking: 23
Duncan: 8. When the trade with Chivas that brought Alan Gordon to Toronto was announced, my first thought was who? That was followed by the realisation that he was the player who broke Adrian Cann's nose in 2010, so him arriving on the same day Cann ended his pre-season hold out made me chuckle. A bit of research showed some mediocre stats over just over 100 MLS appearances with L.A and Chivas, so I came to the conclusion that he was just your average bog standard MLS level forward, albeit of the type we desperately needed, a fair trade for the bog standard midfielder he was traded for, Nick Labrocca. Labrocca of course went on to have a great season with Chivas, making the all star squad, but it was still a fair trade, because to me Alan Gordon was one of the best players we had all season.
I really liked Alan Gordon. He had the obvious 'big man up front making defenders lives difficult' thing going for him, which will always endear a player to me, but it soon became apparent he had much more to his game than that. For the 4-3-3 formation to be effective, the Centre Forward has to be able to act not just as the battering ram, getting on the end of crosses to get shots and headers on goal, but also needs to be be able to drop deep and act as a pivot for the wingers or midfielders to make runs around. Gordon's ability to hold the ball up and link with other forwards or attacking midfielders and his intelligent movement, dragging defenders out of position to create space for others to move into was far better than I would have expected, and a perfect example of what was needed.
Want more evidence, here's Seattle Sounders commentator Arlo White's scouting breakdown of TFC before we played the Sounders in April, a large chunk of it (from 1:45 onwards) focusing on Gordon and all the stuff I was just mentioning.
He even misses out Gordon's contribution to Tony Tchani's goal from that game against Columbus. Tchani was sent through on goal, and where was Columbus' best defender Chad Marshall? Out of position after following Gordon into midfield, that's where. Before we played Seattle again in June, Arlo White once again did a scouting report and once again, it was focusing very much on Alan Gordon and his spatial awareness.
Of course there were three factors that stopped him from being as crucial to TFC's season as all this makes it seem like he would be. First of all is obviously the players he had to work with. Most of his appearances came in the early portion of the season, after Dwayne de Rosario had left, but before Joao Plata had made his way into the team. This meant he was mainly working with Javier Martina, Alen Stevanovic and Maicon Santos, and no matter how good you are at linking play and creating space for others, those others have to have the ability to exploit it. If he'd played with De Rosario, or even Ryan Johnson coming in from the wing or from Attacking Midfield he could have had a bigger impact.
Secondly, there were the injuries. After scoring against Chivas and San Jose, he missed the games against L.A and D.C, where TFC ended up looking pretty impotent up front, before coming back for the 45 minutes against Columbus that were featured in that video. He played in a few games straight, but re-injured himself in the return leg against Edmonton, the foolish decision to play the first team with a 3-0 lead in the bag from the away leg backfiring in the worst way possible. After missing over a month, he came back for the game in L.A, and had a huge effect, scoring twice, including a spectacular injury time equaliser. The difference with and without Gordon in attack was noticeable, but he went on to miss even more games with injury.
The third factor was the arrival of Danny Koevermans. No matter how well Gordon had played, he was understandably always going to be second best to Koevermans, and in the salary cap world that is MLS, you can't be having one of your best players sitting on the bench, and so he ended up as trade bait, going to San Jose in the deal that brought the more versatile Ryan Johnson to town. With San Jose, he again missed time with injury, and was another player who criticised TFC in the media, saying the club mismanaged his injuries, making the situation worse.
In a different time, and with a bit more luck, Gordon could have gone on to be a TFC legend, he certainly had the game for it, a new Danny Dichio with a more lethal scoring touch. As it is, he'll be a minor footnote in club history, one of the few bright spots in a very dark few months for TFC, before we got to see the real benefit of the Winter rebuild.
Dave: 12. For me Gordon is a player about whom I am left thinking if only he were able to stay fit. I just think about some of the goals that he was able to score and wonder what it would have been like if he could have partnered Koevermans up front for the team. In the end his injuries made him surplus to the teams needs and he was sent off in a trade but before that he scored a 94th minute equalizer against the LA Galaxy which I will not soon forget!
Keaton: 15. Alan was cool, but injury prone. Ideal striker in Toronto. Played a gritty game, and knew how to score goals in MLS. He came at a weird time. I'm happier with Johnson anyways.
Blindfolded Tank Driver: A solid MLS striker. Replaced expertly by Koevermans.
Canadian Texan: If healthy he's a force...IF healthy
Devon Taylor: A lot of injury problems, but played great at times. The game in LA against the Galaxy is a lasting memory of the season for me.
The Yorkies: Mr. Glass
Macs_Daddy: Effective when not injured
JC_Plante: Loved cheering for him and hated to see him leave, but would have been riding the bench, he being the poor man's Danny K.
James: Would have been higher (16), but didn’t want to stay, liked his toughness though, that goal vs. LA will live long in the memory.
Kristin: Loved his grit & ability to hold up the ball.
Alex: Played hard when with TFC, was willing to ignore his one bad-mouthing post-trade
Peter Meraw: Great when fit, but injured too often to be considered reliable.