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  • 2011 TFC season review - Part I: What went right


    It’s easy to be negative about Toronto FC. A 6 win, 15 draw and 13 loss regular season and MLS record fifth straight season without playoffs will do that. However, to only dwell on the bad would be disingenuous. There were moments of joy and reasons to be positive about the Reds in 2011. In part I of CSN’s season wrap-up we look at five reasons to smile as Toronto heads into its sixth off-season.


    1 - 8-2-2

    Yes, the MLS record was bleak, but it was a different story in cup competition. There, the Reds were a positively spectacular 8-2-2, winning their third straight Voyageurs Cup and advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in club history.

    Both of those accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. The final game of the Canadian championship was a special day for the supporters and one that was quite unexpected at the time. Remember how poorly Toronto had been playing in the run up to the game and recall that this was a makeshift line-up featuring many players that would either be gone or reduced to bit parts by season’s end. Yet, the Reds managed to fight back from a goal down, see a legitimate goal taken away, and somehow capture the cup (Maicon Santos’ late equalizer in Vancouver in the first leg should also not be ignored – it was every bit as important to the Cup win as was the game at BMO).

    Winning the Voyageurs Cup was the first bit of life TFC showed in 2011. And it set up the bigger story that would follow.

    You should not dismiss the difficulty of getting results in Latin America. Everything is against you – the climate, the travel, the fans and, often, the referees. Yet, TFC managed to fight through those challenges (dealing with adversity never having been Toronto’s M.O. in prior years) to win two vital road games in Central America. A gutsy draw at home against a very good Pumas club combined with a pedestrian, but effective, three points at home against Tauro set up a winner take all game against Dallas in the last week of the season.

    It was the type of game Toronto rarely plays in and, when they do, never wins.

    The Reds won comprehensively. In doing so they gave fans something very rare indeed – hope.

    2 - Milos Kocic

    It’s long been assumed that Stefan Frei would be moving on eventually and when he did TFC would find itself with a major goalkeeping problem.

    But, that was before Another Save for Milos...

    It was a shaky start. Kocic was the goat late against Real Esteli, when his mistake gifted the visitors a goal late in the first leg of the CCL preliminary round. However, after Aron Winter showed confidence in the young keeper for the second leg, he repaid that trust by leading the club to a win in difficult surroundings.

    Winter essentially handed the CCL to Kocic and he made the most of it. Eventually, when Frei took a knock Kocic took over the No 1 role with the club, a job he kept even when Frei was healthy at year’s end.

    Suddenly, TFC has the benefit of keeping riches. Even if Frei moves on they are confident in Kocic’s skills and there is evidence that he will only get better. That give TFC the advantage of knowing that they have an asset in Frei that can be moved if it makes sense, or can be kept around with the idea that the competition for No 1 will make both players better.

    3 – The TFC academy

    The contributions of Matt Stinson and Doneil Henry were significant. Add the biggest breakout of all -- Ashtone Morgan – and you have three regular contributors from a relatively young academy program.

    The contributions justify the $20-million investment MLSE is making in the academy and is example A, B and C for why fans aren’t totally foolish for thinking better times are ahead for this club. Simply put, if the academy continues to produce at the rate it is the Reds will have a leg up on clubs like New England, Columbus and others that have invested a fraction of what TFC has in the academy.

    However, it goes beyond the long term. All three players (and we shouldn’t forget Nicholas Lindsay, who missed the year with injury) look to play bigger roles in 2012. For TFC fans that care about the amount of Canadians playing for TFC, that’s something to be really positive about.

    4 – Danny 2.0

    Since 2007, Toronto has lacked two key parts to any successful football club – a marquee striker and a glue centreback. If the second half performance of Danny Koevermans is any indication you can cross marquee striker off that list.

    With nine goals in just 11 appearances, Koevermans was on an absurd pace (28 goals over a 34 game season, which would break the MLS single season record). No one expects him to go a whole season at that rate (at least they probably shouldn’t), but the pace gives every indication that Koevermans should be able to at least continue on the same scoring rate he did at PSV. Using his numbers from Holland, you can expect a 13-15 goal year from the Dutchman in 2012, which would put him in the Golden Boot race.

    If he does that, the playoffs aren’t that big of a reach.

    5 – 8-8-4

    That would be Toronto’s record in all competitions from July 27th (the start of the Champions League) through to the end of the year. To talk about Toronto’s season without acknowledging that the club only lost four games in the last three months of the season (and only two in league play) is unfair.

    It’s also missing more than half the story. Understand that the two league losses both came off of CCL games and were on three days (against Chicago) and four days (Chivas USA) rest.

    It’s likely that many observers of the team will miss or dismiss the late season form when handicapping the team.

    That would be a mistake.

    From March to mid-July Toronto was one of the worst MLS teams of all-time. Since then, not so much.

    So, don’t try and tell us it was all negative. It was some negative though and we’ll have more on that tomorrow in part II of the CSN season wrap-up.

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