Since the inception of Toronto FC in 2007 to the present cast of players in 2014 there has been one very noticeable and consistent fact. As individuals or as a unit we have never learned the concept of defense, averaging over 50+ goals against us in each season played. Our worst year was 2012 when the team conceded 62 goals in a 34 game schedule as opposed to Sporting Kansas City who won the conference with only 27 against. Championship teams only concede on average 25 - 30 goals per season. For TFC to reach even a play-off spot this coming 2015 season they must find and sign at least two or three QUALITY DEFENDERS.
In the past we have had quality players like Carl Robinson, Maurice Edu, Marvell Wynne, Torsten Frings, but very little in the way of supporting cast around them which leads me to the BRADLEY scenario. MICHAEL BRADLEY is the lynch pin for this team. His role should be in front of the back four directing play around him and closing the gaps in midfield, not roaming around the field trying to do three or four players' jobs as he was doing in a number of games last year..
At the moment our back line looks like this:
Very seldom have our goalkeepers been able to win matches by themselves but in Joe Bendik we have a steady if not spectacular shot stopper. If he wants to improve himself that would be great but more of the same will most probably be the norm for 2015. Mark Bloom and Justin Morrow are definitely MLS calibre full backs, Nick Hagglund is a good third centreback with Steven Caldwell the established number one if he stays healthy. Certainly not the worst case scenario but not exactly awe inspiring. As I have previously stated, a midfield that include Dominic Oduro, Jackson, Jonathan Osorio Kyle Bekker, Collen Warner et al have not given much support when we are defending, leading to more pressure and resulting in too many mistakes with goals against being the end product.
A solid defense is a crucial part of a successful team. If opponents are unable to score they cannot win, so maybe in 2015 the motto for TFC defenders should be "they shall not pass". Defense wins championships so for the team to move forward this has to be a priority for Tim Bez and coach Greg Vanney.
When Ryan Nelson was hired I thought that he would impart the wisdom garnered from his experience of 180+ English Premier League and international games onto our players. One would think that with all of his accumulated knowledge we should have been a solid unit at the back. Unfortunately he was found wanting in the coaching department and the team still leaked goals.
Now we have Greg Vanney who also was a top defender in his day with a 13 year career, 10 years in MLS, 3 years in France with 36 caps for his country. What I would hope is that with his playing experience plus the coaching ability that he has shown so far in his career is that he knows how to impart this knowledge to the team as a whole but especially the defense.
With playing our first 7 or 8 games away from home due to the expansion of our BMO playing field this could be doubly critical for the early part of the season in terms of results.
I am sure that management are very aware of the deficiencies in the current roster and are scouring the globe to find suitable players at reasonable cost to take us forward. However, football clubs around the world are waiting for January 1st 2015, ready to sign up the next wave of saviours. Let's hope we don’t get left behind AGAIN. There are any number of good enough players out there, it just remains to be seen whether any reach Toronto.
No one player can win a game. Certainly Michael Bradley can improve our chances but we need a solid quality supporting cast to get the job done. Over to you Mr. Bezbatchenko and Mr. Vanney. Good hunting for those 'quick thinking', 'stay on your feet', 'defensive-minded' quality defenders a.k.a. Justin Morrow, that we need. Managing the cap is Tim B's job but the evaluating of talent and establishing a cohesive squad that takes us to the promised land rests squarely on the shoulders of coach Vanney and his assistants. We live in hope.