Feb 20, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.
No. 10 in the East is Toronto FC:
Significant additions and subtractions: Ryan Nelsen took over for Paul Mariner (who had taken over just a few months earlier from Aron Winter) in one of the truly bizarre coaching shifts yet seen in MLS. New club president Kevin Payne, the polarizing architect of so much that was good and so much that went wrong previously at D.C. United.
Canadian international Kyle Bekker was the third overall MLS draft pick.
Julio Cesar has moved north from Sporting Kansas City, and may play a significant role in the center of the park.
Strengths: Torsten Frings is a skillful, determined leader who adds valuable versatility – so long as he keeps himself healthy and motivated. The German veteran has only recently returned to Toronto, where he was either in rehabilitation, sorting out personal business or perhaps … well, who knows what? There seemed to be some whispers of discontent, and isn’t that just what this team in high transition needs?
TFC gets a huge boost if goalkeeper Stefan Frei is back to his 2011 form (after missing most of the 2012 season due to injury).
Pressure points: The roster isn’t where it needs to be, even Payne admits it. That’s why he’s been gathering up allocation money for the next move. Or moves. Let’s go with “moves.”
Reading too much into preseason results is always a dangerous thing. That said, it was not been a good preseason for TFC. And then some. Perhaps unfavorable results aren’t a surprise considering the teams’ top two players remain on the mend. And Justin Braun’s injury over the weekend is alarming, especially considering how much of the scoring burden he needed to tote pending Danny Koevermans’ healthy return (which isn’t happening anytime soon).
Cesar is a useful player, but he’s not anything close to Frings in terms of leadership and gumption.
None of these preseason woes would resonate as loudly if not for the club history, for the yawning gap that has always existed between TFC and the field. In a league where over half the teams make the playoffs each year (well over half in some of those seasons), TFC has failed to qualify for all six years of existence. The ongoing organizational flailing has been a huge beat-down for TFC supporters, who once showed up in waves. We see more and more empty seats around BMO Field, which is a doggone shame.
Jeremy Hall has a central midfielder? Hmmm. He’s been a right-sided guy through his entire career, and he’s been adequate at best there. It seems like a big stretch to play the man on the inside now – and it probably says something about TFC’s that flagging roster strength at the moment.
Difference maker: It’s Koevermans, but there is a huge asterisk here. The Dutch striker (pictured right), sizable and skillful, looks like a Golden Boot candidate when at his best. He has 17 goals in 26 appearances for the club, which is righteous production. But can he be at his best coming off major knee surgery? He’s not even expected to be on the field until June – and the Reds could be too far behind by then.
Potential breakout player: The club expects big things of Bekker, the third overall pick in January’s draft. He has played in the middle (as Bekker does for Canada) but also on the flanks for Ryan Nelsen’s team.
Bottom line: Given the injury concerns with Frings, Koevermans and Braun, it’s hard to be optimistic, especially over the season’s first 90 days.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
Mexico’s top two teams reach halftime of their two-legged final, with leg two kickoff next Wednesday in Toluca.
Apr 15, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT
The top four remain unchanged, while Houston, New England, and Portland make big shifts on this week’s chart.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT
Thoughts from NBCSN’s analysts as will as footage from Rodgers’, Martínez’s speeches at Anfield.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Three LA Galaxy players join two members of the Columbus Crew in our Best XI.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT
Gunners go back into the top four, but can they hold off Everton?
Apr 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Four soccer players rank amount the world’s top 25 earners.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
Columbus’s Costa Rican international is the latest player to donate to MLS Works.
Apr 15, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT
The Gunners overcame a Matt Jarvis opener to take their second win of the season from the Irons.
Apr 15, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
Klopp to take over at White Hart Lane?
Apr 15, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Last week’s hat trick couldn’t snare our honor, but two goals in Dallas made the Sounder star this week’s best player.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
Can the Clarets join the Foxes in the big time?
Apr 15, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
A story from The Daily Beast deals with many obstacles faced by the girls, including some prevailing belief that they shouldn’t even watch sport, let alone play soccer.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
The Gunners and Hammers are putting some London derby bragging rights on the line this evening at the Emirates Stadium live on NBCSN and online NBC Sports Live Extra
Apr 15, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
West Ham last took a point from Arsenal in an October 2009 draw, and hasn’t beaten the Gunners since an April 7, 2007 win at the Emirates.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT
MLSSoccer.com’s “MLS Insider” series brings a strong video on the anniversary of Matt Reis’ heroics at the Boston Marathon bombing.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
His speech was equal parts soccer fan, Merseyside resident and fixture in the game.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT
Let’s say you’re dating your ex-teammate’s ex-wife and spend a lot of time with his kids. What’s a super scummy idea before your team plays his?
Apr 15, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Former Villa player Gordon Cowans and current back-up keeper Shay Given have been “temporarily promoted.”
Apr 15, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
Images from around Twitter, covering the 25th anniversary memorial to those who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
Apr 15, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Atletico won last year’s edition, with Barca topping the tourney in 2012 and Real claiming the crown in 2011. Who do you have winning the Copa del Rey?
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