– Toronto FC Transfers, Trades, Signings & Rumors

January 19, 2010, 3:41 AM
Filed under: Mo Johnston, Toronto FC

It’s a long-standing truism of footie coaching that, regardless of what system you play, the spine of the field — the centre halves, the centre mids and the forwards — have to be taken care of first.

If a team has a good spine but weak wings, it can narrow up. Players can even adapt more easily to moving into unfamiliar wide roles. Plus, finding wings and fullbacks is a lot easier than finding natural goal scorers and defensive standouts.

As the MLS season approaches, it’ll be interesting to see how Toronto FC ensures the spine of the club is in place. Not only will the related personnel moves be key factors in any TFC playoff run; they’ll also likely determine whether general manager Mo Johnston keeps his job after three unsuccessful seasons on the pitch.

TFC has been a team without a solid spine from day one. Looking back, as fans are at this time of year, there’s a lot of temptation to qualify TFC as being a loser from the first when compared with the sterling squad Seattle put together last year, or the increasingly impressive first-year offering so far from the Philadelphia Union.

The truth, however, is that Toronto’s first year roster had some really good players in it: Ronnie O’Brien, Paulo Nagamura, Richard Mulrooney and Conor Casey all at least had a cup of tea in town before heading elsewhere.

But it’s telling that, whether he blames roster restrictions or not, Johnston couldn’t provide a stable pair at either centre half or striker all season. If not for Carl Robinson’s excellent first year, we can only imagine how much more bleak some of the early beatings the team received might have been. Andrew Boyens? Marco Reda? Adam Braz? This was going to be his team’s defensive “spine”?

That’s what this off season is about. He has talked at length about TFC putting the right pieces in place. But without respecting the spine of the club — without building a backbone that works for whatever tactical approach head coach Preki takes — the club will be wilting by the all-star break, and Mo may be looking for work.

Seattle worked because of five key signings: Kasey Kellar, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Osvaldo Alonso, Freddie Ljunberg and Fredy Montero. That was the team’s spine. The rest of the squad could be built based on competence and work ethic, not star quality.

Philadelphia is impressing, but for different reasons, and it may show in the win-loss column this year: it’s picking up future stars, but so far has an expansion-club core in the middle of the pitch. So while Philly’s draft escapades looked impressive, Danny Mwanga will have to score a whole lot of first year goals to make up for the team’s shortcomings.

Last year, TFC was only four wins from competing for the Supporters Shield and one point from making the playoffs. Now it faces one unanswered point for 2010: can Mo Johnston build TFC a spine?

Source: Click Here

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