tBG) On paper, this team should be a very formidable opponent. What happened? Why hasn't the talent (Michael Bradley, Gilberto, Dwayne De Rosario, et al) produced results on the field?
WtR) Let’s get the excuses out of the way first. Their schedule has been terrible, they played just six matches through the first two months of the season and then had a run of ten matches in 33 days (or so) spanning from the end of June to the start of August, which coincides with much of the poor run of form.
Add to that the various injuries and the lack of true depth – better than previous seasons, but still nothing to sing about. The World Cup saw Michael Bradley absent – and apparently he used up most of his running there – then there is the fact that the rebuild was not completely done in preseason. Players kept coming in and leaving in the midst of the season – Luke Moore, Collen Warner, and Dominic Oduro in, Issey Nakajima Farran, Alvaro Rey, and Gale Agbossoumonde out (at the time it was said they had a surplus of centre-backs, which has proved to not be true).
That is a fair bit of in-season tinkering; all of those factors have led to a side that does not know each other’s tendencies, which is a large part of why it really has not clicked yet – though at times, it has looked good.
Bradley has looked a little disinterested of late – he’s now into a full-year, more-or-less, of being in-season and the post-World Cup drop should hardly be a surprise. Gilberto has actually found his feet recently – he was riding a four-game scoring streak into Saturday, which has him tied for the second-longest in team history.
Dwayne De Rosario falls into a different category, he, like many of Toronto’s peripheral guys, have not gotten enough regular minutes to get into match fitness yet, which means that when they are called upon, they are not quite sharp enough. Take the more reliable teams in the league – Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Sporting Kansas City for example – each of those coaches is sure to weave in players, even if it is just scrap minutes at the end of a match, so they are ready when needed.
Even with the high-profile acquisitions, it takes time for a side to gel, and this is a side that is still a work in progress, one that has hit the reset button once again. And after all, three players do not make a team.
tBG) What do we know about Toronto FC's new manager Greg Vanney?
WtR) Vanney, eh? Well, I very vaguely remember him as a player, that’s about it. The academy has been nearly as much of a revolving door as the first team has and he hasn’t been around long enough to really create much by way of waves.
It does seem odd to replace an inexperienced coach with an even more inexperienced one – one would hope that if this really was a decision that Tim Bezbatchenko had really been weighing for some time there would have perhaps been some other candidates, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
The one thing he does have going for him is that he is an MLS guy; he’ll know the teams, the players, the other coaches, and so on. Nelsen was never really that, despite his experience with the league, he’d been gone too long, run in different circles.
There is a history of Vanney’s type doing well – take Jim Curtain for example, who has done a pretty good job in my estimation - but anything further than that will come in time.
It was equally strange that he was not named as an interim; it could just be semantics or perhaps that when he was brought into the academy this was always a possibility.
tBG) Will Toronto make the playoffs?
WtR) Yes, they will. The East is going to be a scrap, but Toronto only has two more double-game weeks – against Philly here and another at the start of October, so they should be able to focus on taking it one game at a time.
Hopefully, this little ripple – and by TFC standards, it was hardly the most epic of events – will clear out whatever bad blood there is in house. And hey, there’s always the possibility of a new-coach bump, so be forewarned.
Predicted lineup: Very tricky given it will be Vanney’s first match and all the injury issues that abound, but here goes: Joe Bendik in goal; from right to left – Mark Bloom, Nick Hagglund, Doneil Henry, and Ashtone Morgan across the back; Dominic Oduro, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, and Jonathan Osorio through the middle; Luke Moore and Gilberto up top. The Morgan pick is a bit out of left-field, but he and Danny Cruz do not get along, so it may be more wishful thinking – hoping for a bit of passion on the pitch - on my part.
Predicted score: I’m going to be optimistic and shoot for a 2-2 draw; before coming home and winning on the weekend.