One of the questions often asked about any sports team in any sport league is whether preseason means anything? Do preseason friendlies or exhibition matches do anything for the team’s confidence or development? Is it really important for the team to win?
If you are a good, experienced team then a sojourn in the sunny climates of somewhere tropical is usually just a way to get some fitness back and gain your touch again. For a wayward franchise like Toronto FC this preseason might be the most important one ever. Judging by the results and the news coming out of Florida, the preseason for TFC has been horrible.
The results lead me to believe that the team is in trouble. TFC lost to the Columbus Crew in the opening match of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic 1-0. Then bumbled and stumbled to a 3-0 victory over a third tier team in Orlando City S.C. Went back to facing MLS competition and got totally outclassed by the Philadelphia Union 3-0. Finally in a sixty minute scrimmage could only manage a draw against tiny Rollins College. Pundits would tell you that TFC didn’t have their full squad available for most of the games. I would tell you neither did the other clubs. TFC didn’t develop a style of play or didn’t look like a cohesive unit. Goals were hard to come by and the club’s depth was non-existent.
Judging the preseason in terms of players and squad development: it has utterly been a failure. General manager Kevin Payne admitted, as his squad was on its way down south, that the roster was short. He needed to add a minimum of five quality players. So what he has done is brought in a bunch of trialists and some academy players to fill that gap. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly if you are a TFC fan, trialist Taylor Morgan, not only will get a contract but he might get the start in the opening game for the club.
Starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei is out with a broken nose. Danny Koevermans timetable to return hasn’t changed and he won’t be pulling on a TFC uniform until June. Justin Braun, one of the veteran strikers left on the club, went out with a head injury in one of the preseason tilts. Young Doneil Henry is on under 20 duty with Canada and unavailable. not to mention the others out with niggling injuries.
Then old reliable, Torsten Frings, not really, had to make an unscheduled trip back to Toronto to recover from an injury. This started the rumor mill about his status with the club. I am sure this is exactly what management wanted to hear struggling to sign players. As the week went on more and more players came in to show their skills for the club. The revolving door of the squad makes building a team or building any sort of chemistry impossible. Team trips are what they are. You work hard, play hard and build a team. None of that has happened.
It’s hard to see any positives come out of the Florida preseason trip. Even new gaffer Ryan Nelsen wasn’t around to see all the matches as he had to go back to England. It was reported that he went on a scouting trip but my own sarcasm towards the club leans towards Nelsen going home to finish packing. Scouting who would be my question? It’s not like they have brought in the best available trialists. The list is long but no one is worth mentioning. Nelson should have used this trip and the matches to decide a style of play, a team concept, his lineup and work on his abilities but none of these occurred.
It has been a no win, nothing done, nothing accomplished type of preseason. Payne and Nelson were supposed to change the attitude and the culture of the club. Unfortunately it has been much the same as previous years and sadly the fans of the club might just get exactly what they have been getting throughout the history of the club: ineptitude.
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