It Takes Time
The TFC offseason signing with the most immediate impact will be Benoît Cheyrou - his classy touch and precise passing set him apart on the field. He is an upgrade in every way over Collen Warner. Damien Perquis is a calm defender who looks set to be one of the best Centre Backs in MLS. That's not to knock Sebastian Giovinco or Jozy Altidore, who both scored cracking goals in the Saturday match versus Costa Rica u23s, but it takes time to create chemistry. Gio's assist to Altidore was a good sign - but more time will undoubtedly make them better. With the attack seeming more or less set, TFC will be relying on the DPs to connect sooner rather than later.
Bloom on the Outside Looking In?
Saturday's starters did not include last season's stalwart Mark Bloom. Though the preseason is predominantly about fitness and creating chemistry between new players and flexing tactical muscles, the question that won't be fully answered until the first regular season game (whether that's March 7 or not) is this: Is Warren Creavalle TFC's presumed starter at right back? Bloom, who made 26 appearances - all starts - for TFC last season, had seemed a lock at the start of pre-season. No one had been signed to take his spot, and the back line looked set with the addition of Damien Perquis to fill Doneil Henry's vacated position. Bloom signed a new deal in January and seemed to be a big part of the team's plans.
Creavalle, who appeared 7 times for TFC last season after being acquired in the deal that ultimately landed DeMarcus Beasley in Houston. While the deal with the Dynamo is, in my opinion, a good piece of business, I have my doubts about Creavalle as a fullback in MLS. From what I've observed, he doesn't have the same kind of 1v1 defending ability as Bloom, nor is he as able to swing in accurate crosses. Admittedly, we haven't seen a lot of Creavalle at right back and obviously Vanney knows the player better than we do. Most of his appearances for Houston had him featuring in central midfield, breaking up plays and putting in tackles. In TFC's current favored setup, central midfield is occupied by Cheyrou and Bradley, with Warner and Delgado also vying to deputize. Despite my insistence, Creavalle seems likely to start and is slowly winning me over -- his play going forward on Saturday was improved, though the Costa Rican u23s are not exactly MLS competition.
Lovitz over Findley?
While Lovitz was also among the starters on Wednesday - and thus not a part of the presumed starting 11 for March 7 - he has impressed so far this pre-season. Vanney believes he can play on the left or right, an added bit of versatility that will undoubtedly lead to more than a few appearances. Robbie Findley, to me, has looked unfamiliar with his position and ineffective when coming down the wing, with very few crosses finding their mark. His work in the game on Saturday was improved as he adjusts to the team and the position. Again, in spite of my valid opinion, it seems like the spot is Findley's to lose. There's also the possibility that Luke Moore could start in Findley's spot, though that drastically reduces the amount of pace in the team. All questions start getting answered during the first game.
That first game is in everyone's minds now. With no Collective Bargaining Agreement, there will be no games. With the players committed to some form of Free Agency and the League committed to its Single-Entity structure there appears to be some distance to bridge if we're going to see teams take the field March 6 & 7. The CBA is covered in greater detail here.
- Expect Skylar Thomas, Clement Simonin, and Wes Charpie to sign USL contracts in the next few days. TFC II looks stocked and ready to play their inaugural season.
-With preseason in the books for all MLS clubs, don't forget to sign up for MLS fantasy and the WTR league.
-Here's hoping there's an amicable solution to the CBA woes and we start watching some soccer on March 7. Did I miss anything major from preseason? Just want to be angry in general? Comments below!