May 27, 2011 MLS--Scouting Report: Toronto Still Looking For Identity In 2011 (from philadelphiaunion.com)
Scouting report: Toronto still looking for identity in 2011 Philadelphia seek first road points since season opening win in Houston By Kevin Kinkead philadelphiaunion.com May 27, 2011 The Philadelphia Union head to Toronto on Saturday, following a bizarre turn of events at BMO Field. Toronto FC hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps in an important midweek matchup – the finals of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. But torrential rainfall and lightning strikes postponed the match twice, before it was finally abandoned with 30 minutes to play. It means that Eric Hassli's 22nd minute strike is wiped out, the aggregate reset to 1-1, and the match rescheduled for July 2. Both sides will have to wait for a second chance to claim the Voyageurs Cup, and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. For Toronto FC, their attention now turns to the Union. Toronto currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, on 12 points through 12 games. They've showed flashes of brilliance this year, but are struggling to find consistency. In league play, the Reds most recently drew 0-0 with Colorado. Union manager Peter Nowak was impressed with the road result. "They've played a number of games lately and gotten good results," Nowak said on Wednesday. "You don't go to Colorado and dictate the play like they did last weekend. They are getting better, and the confidence comes with the results. They played a good game in Colorado, dictated the play against the MLS champion, and that says something about them." Changes at the top Toronto is a franchise trying to find its footing. Having failed to make the playoffs in each of their four years in MLS, sweeping changes were made in the offseason, from top to bottom. Head coach Aron Winter is the sixth man to lead Toronto FC since 2007. The Canadian side has already gone through five head coaches and one interim head coach since joining MLS. Winter is a former Ajax star, with experience coaching in the reserve ranks of the Dutch champions. German legend Jurgen Klinsmann, rumored to take Bob Bradley's job with the United States national team, instead took a role with TFC, becoming a special consultant for the club. Retired Toronto players Danny Dichio and Jim Brennan stayed with the club as assistant coaches. They're in charge of the Senior and Junior academies, respectively. The offseason objective was to rebuild from the ground up and create conditions for future success in Toronto. Changes on the field Toronto FC traded Dwayne De Rosario to the Red Bulls on April 1. Much like Chicago, who the Union just beat 2-1 at home, Toronto have made wholesale changes to their roster. The biggest move was the trade of captain Dwayne De Rosario, whose relationship with the club deteriorated over his two-year tenure. Toronto's all-time leading goal scorer, De Rosario became a polarizing figure amongst TFC supporters and management – with money at the forefront of the controversy. But the trade only expedited TFC's rebuilding ambitions. The Reds landed Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman from New York in exchange for their disillusioned superstar. Winter secured an experienced outside defender in Borman, and a bright young talent in Tchani. Tchani was the second overall pick in the 2010 MLS Superdraft, taken by the Red Bulls after the Union selected Danny Mwanga. Veteran Alan Gordon also came in via trade with Chivas USA in exchange for Nick LaBrocca. In an earlier move, the club picked up Nathan Sturgis for a first round draft pick. Winter's link to the Netherlands resulted in three Dutch signings. He brought in Javier Martina, Nick Soolsma, and Elbekay Bouchiba. Foreigners Alen Stevanovic, Dicoy Williams, Joao Plata, and Richard Eckersley also entered the fold. And a number of players were released. Among them: Raivis Hscanovics, Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, and designated player Mista, who made just nine appearances for Toronto. Early Results TFC started off well enough, going 1-1-3 in their first five games. They found themselves in second place in the East early on this season. They haven't been consistent though, failing to put together back-to-back wins this year. On the positive side, however, they also have not lost back-to-back games. They are the quintessential example of a team trying to find an identity. The mixed results can largely be attributed to Winter's tinkering with the lineup. The Dutchman has experimented with a number of different combinations this year, preferring to employ a 4-4-3 shape. Gordon started well in Toronto, claiming two goals and an assist through five games, but he reaggravated a groin injury and has missed time recently. He's listed as questionable for Saturday's match. Maicon Santos, the Brazilian forward, is the team's leading scorer with three goals in league play. He's added a few more goals in the Canadian Championship as well. Santos inherited the captain's armband from De Rosario, and also leads the team with 20 shots on goal. Plata and Martina are the other threats in the final third. Martina has two goals in 11 games, and the 19-year-old Plata has two goals and two assists in eight appearances. Joao Plata has been a spark plug for Toronto's attack. The pair most recently played up top with Soolsma against Colorado. In the game prior, a 2-2 draw with Chicago, Santos started with Soolsma and Plata. The four have been rotating at the top of the 4-3-3. Midfielder Jacob Peterson has 11 starts this year, but is recovering from a hamstring injury and will not play on Saturday. On Wednesday night, Winter went with a midfield of Stevanovic, Tchani, and designated player Julian De Guzman. De Guzman has been better in the center of the 4-3-3 this year. Adrian Cann leads the Toronto defense. He's played 988 minutes this year, starting all 12 games. Dicoy Williams seems to be Winter's most recent preference at the other CB position. Eckersley, Borman, Dan Gargan, and Ty Harden have all seen time on the back line. Nana Attakora, who has been with the team since 2007, appears to have fallen out of favor. He's seen little time this year and is involved in contract issues with the club. Field Conditions There's no telling what kind of conditions we'll see at BMO Field on Saturday. Wednesday's rain completely saturated the pitch, swallowing the ball and making it difficult to string even a few passes together. The Canadian Championship final was originally rescheduled for Thursday morning, but the July date was agreed upon when both sides realized that field conditions had not improved overnight. Due to the Canadian Championship, Toronto has already played seven games in May. Saturday's match will be their fourth in just 10 days. But Winter's constant changes, and depth on the roster, seem to suggest that his side will not be as worn out as some would expect. A number of TFC players have seen quality playing time this year, unlike other MLS squads with a more defined starting XI. For Nowak's side, it's about imposing the Union style of play on a team that sits near the bottom of the East. Philadelphia can create separation at the top of the table by claiming an important road win against a conference opponent.
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