By DAVID CHERNISH
Finally, soccer sports fans around Toronto have hopes of seeing a playoff game in Toronto, as Toronto FC (TFC) started off the season strong with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
TFC made big moves in last year’s winter transfer window, bringing English striker Jermain Defoe from the Tottenham Spurs and American-born midfielder Michael Bradley from AS Roma.
Defoe didn’t work out the way Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) President Tim Lieweke hoped, as a year later the striker and his mother demanded a transfer back to England, where TFC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko shipped him off to Sunderland where he signed a three-year contract. TFC got American International striker Jozy Altidore in return, who scored two goals in the team’s 3-1 win versus Vancouver Whitecaps in the season opener.
Cody Doucet, a 22-year-old from Welland, Ont., and a member of TFC’s supporters group called the Red Patch Boys, loves what Altidore brings to the team.
“He’s a beast. Simply put, the guys a Mack truck out there,” Doucet said.
“He is big, strong and very smart on the ball and off of it as well.”
This move gives TFC some reassurance that the striker will be here to stay longer than Defoe because Altidore is American and is now close to home.
Despite Altidore, the Reds went out and acquired Robbie Findley due to Brazillian striker Gilberto wanting out, and the Reds have returning strikers Luke Moore and Brite Dike. They all will create havoc on Major League Soccer (MLS) defences.
In addition to Altidore, the MLSE brass went on a smarter spending spree than last year, adding depth to its midfield and defence.
A key addition to the midfield is 28-year-old Italian international midfielder Sebastian Giovinco, who moved to Toronto after the team acquired him from Italian powerhouse Juventus F.C.
The team also went out and acquired France’s playmaking midfielder Benoit Cheryou, who brings a veteran’s presence to the Toronto team.
“Our midfield was a bit shaky the first half but in the second half they settled down well and started to be cohesive as a unit that is Bradley Cheyrou Osorio and Giovinco controlled the ball well and proof was at half time a rare feat was accomplished,” he said.
“Cheyrou I’ve been singing his praises since preseason. I think he’s one of our best pick up this year, such a talent on and off the ball as well, very smart in terms of where people are.”
A 4-4-2-diamond formation that consists of the two central midfielders acting as a defensive midfield, which is Captain Bradley and an attacking midfield, where Giovinco will be placed. The two outside midfielders completing the diamond are Cheryou and Canadian Jonathan Osorio.
The team added 30-year-old Polish international defender Damien Perquis, who will play alongside 34-year-old centreback Steven Caldwell. TFC also added former Seattle Sounders defender, 22-year-old Eriq Zavaleta, which improves the depth of the back end. Young defender Nick Hagglund had a fantastic season last year, and will most likely work as a spotter for the aging Caldwell.
The starting outside defenders are last year’s standout Mark Bloom and the consistent Joe Morrow. With Bloom being scratched in the first game and undergoing off-season surgery, Warren Creavalle was penciled into the right outside position and played an okay game, participating in the full 90-minute game while attaining a yellow card.
“In terms of defence it was mediocre at best,” Doucet said.
“Caldwell got ran around multiple time by not only their wingers but their forwards as well, I like the guy but he needs to step his game up or be replaced and that’s the sad reality of football.”
Doucet says Bendik played very well, making six saves, which was great versus Vancouver.
“Also, side note, Perquis was a beast, absolutely loved his performance out there, if he keeps it up he not Caldwell will be the key at CB,” Doucet added.
The depth in the d-core is better than last year but is still the weak point of a strong ‘on paper look’ for TFC squad .
The goaltending is the same as last year, with Joe Bendik the go to guy and Chris Konopka the back-up with 20-year-old Quallin Roberts waiting in the wings to strike.
I truly believe if Toronto FC can stay healthy, they will be successful they will make the playoffs and push to get into the MLS cup final. Toronto FC’s next game will be March 29 against Real Salt Lake.