Know Your Enemy: Toronto FC

The other Men in Red (photo: metronews.ca)

On The Fire’s man in Philly and resident MLS professor Stephen Mangat is back and open for business…

The Chicago Fire take on Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers Toronto FC this Wednesday. So for the third and final time this season, let’s see what the Reds are all about…

Cue the theme music!

Fall is in the air. The mornings are brisk and pleasant, weekends are packed with a full slate of sports, and the kids are back in school (except in Chicago – hiyo!). Another reliable sign of the autumnal season is Toronto FC at the bottom of the MLS standings.

With 21 points, 30 goals scored and 48 allowed in 27 games, TFC is rooted to the bottom of the table. This isn’t by accident. Not only is this team terrible, but the whole franchise is a mess. Let’s take a look at why TFC is garbage and how the Fire will serve them a Chitown beatdown come Wednesday…

literally…

Missing players

Even at full force, TFC isn’t very good. And with about a dozen guys out or questionable this week, Toronto pretty much sucks. Terry Dunfield, Ashtone Morgan, Ryan Johnson, Dicoy Williams, Reggie Lambe, Stefan Frei, Danny Koevermans, Ty Harden, Torsten Frings, and Freddy Hall are all out on Wednesday, while Eric Hassli and Doneil Henry are questionable for the Fire’s second scrap at BMO Field this season. To make matters worse for the Reds, almost all of these guys would be on the pitch vs. Chicago if available for selection. In case you’re wondering, the aforementioned players are out or questionable due to injury or international duty. Right now, TFC resembles a Canadian M*A*S*H unit.

From left to right: Hassli, Morgan, Harden, Williams, Lambe, Frei, Koevermans, and Frings. Dunfield, Johnson, and Hall were on patrol and thus unavailable for this photo.

Tactics

Toronto play a pretty basic 4-4-1-1. They have speed on the outside, ball winners in the middle, and big guys in the back. Honestly, this formation is about as basic as it gets and shouldn’t pose any surprises for Klopas and company.

Goalkeeper

Ziveli Milos!

Stefan Frei is the usual #1, but he’s hurt. Freddy Hall is second, but he’s on international duty with Bermuda. I’m guessing Milos Kocic will be in goal. Normally, Milos is well-rested as he rides a lot of pine. But his wife recently gave birth to triplets (seriously) so the Serb will be shot on Wednesday. Paul Mariner will have his kit man stash an emergency fifth of slivovitz behind the net for when things get bad.

Another match for Milos!!!!!

Defense

The Toronto defense isn’t terrible when it comes to personnel, it just sometimes appears as if they have never played with one another before. When I saw them hit the pitch against Philadelphia this season, the entire team looked clueless about how to defend at all, with the defenders holding a high line and the midfield and forwards sitting back. It was suicidal. One would imagine that the introduction of Paul Mariner as coach (see below) would shore things up, but TFC are still shipping goals – 17 in the past 10 competitive games. So maybe their defenders are the problem? Well, awful or not, they’ll set up in an orthodox flat four – except that on Wednesday they’ll be missing some players (see above) and even the stalwart Irish Darren O’Dea might not play because of international duty.

Midfield

In the midfield, Toronto have a bunch of hard workers who aren’t that great with the ball. They’re epitomised by Terry Dunfield, a Canadian who puts in a solid effort but isn’t going to scare anyone when he has the ball. Plus, Dunfield probably won’t be available because Canada plays in Panama City on Tuesday.

The midfield is usually led by Torsten Frings, but he’s injured and won’t play. Either way, Frings has been pretty poor this season and TFC won’t be missing much with the German down for the count. I guess you could say that somefrings been missing from his play this season and Torsten ain’t what he used to be.  But to be fair, the Die Mannschaft vet’s getting older, so these frings are bound to happen and all good frings must come to an end.

The two players to watch in the midfield are attack-minded rookie Luis Silva and winger Ryan Johnson. Silva’s been inconsistent this season but he can make a difference – albeit in flashes as opposed to controlling a game. Johnson is a big, fast guy, but he’ll be on the Jamaica squad for Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier vs. the USA in Columbus, so I doubt he’ll play on Wednesday in Toronto.

Offense

Up top, Toronto are now toothless thanks to injury. Normally, TFC would rely on big men Danny Koevermans and Eric Hassli, but they’re hurt. So Paul Mariner’s going with small and speedy Quincy Amarikwa (5’9″ 180). Amarikwa will probably be supported by Silva in attack. The only other thing to note is that Amarikwa isn’t that good — he was let go by Colorado this season and wasn’t retained following a trial with NYRB, who then shipped him to TFC with the quickness.

Coaching and Front Office

TFC is an organization in shambles. From 2007-2010, the club was run by former Scotland international Mo Johnston. With Johnston as GM, TFC was at the bottom of the table save for 2009 when they missed the playoffs by a mere point. Having gone through four coaches in three years (he was one of them), The Reds booted Johnston. Management brought in Aron Winter at the beginning of 2011, but after losing nine of his first ten matches in 2012 the Dutchman didn’t let the door hit him in the ass on his way out. Former NE Revolution assistant (and England international) Paul Mariner is in charge now, but TFC still are crap. It seems the Toronto front office simply has no idea how to build a successful team. It’s a real shame because they’ve had great fan support since inception. Perhaps that’s why rumors of a Peter Wilt courtship are swirling about…?

So how does this Canadian sh*t sandwich affect the Fire? Simply put, your Men in Red will be playing an under-strength version of the league’s worst team. If you own a house, take the deed and wager it upon a Chicago victory. Come Thursday you will have two houses and a Fire squad with three more points.

You and the Fire on Wednesday. Bet the farm (and the house).

And finally Fire fans, I’m not going to wish you good luck this time because you don’t need it. See you Friday for a look at the squad you actually have to worry about this week…

———————————————————————–

-ADDENDUM-

Here’s an amusing post on “2013 season ticket renewal tag-lines” from The Yorkies, a TFC supporters blog. On The Fire likes their style. Big ups to @srgiaco for throwing us a bone. RUFF!

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