Back on the night of Toronto FC’s very first regular-season match – away to Chivas USA on April 7, 2007 – I first encountered TFC fandom in the form of a roaring, stomping, chanting horde of U-Sector at the Madison bar on the northern edge of the University of Toronto campus.
On TVs all over the vast drinking establishment, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in locked a playoff-qualification death match with Montreal down at the Air Canada Centre. When the Habs scored that pesky fifth goal, U-Sector’s response was instantaneous.
“6-5! We’re gonna win 6-5!” they sang, making the entire upper floor lurch like a boat in rough seas with their rhythmic stomping.
With yesterday’s signing of on-loan Argentine youngster Pablo Vitti, fans of Toronto’s MLS squad might want to practice up that song.
I’ve got a feeling we are going to need it.
Not that the acclaimed young netbuster from Independiente is going to be an automatic scorch scorer in the Upper Americas. Vitti, in fact, has been struggling for quite some time, and is joining TFC after a somewhat indifferent loan spell in the Ukraine. His potential is clear, but he’s not an automatic choice to start for Our Reds.
There might be an expectation problem here, fans. I think it all started because the Vitti rumours broke at the height of the Designated Player talk. TFC was said to be digging for a DP, and here came word about Vitti. The two things crossed, and a lot number of fans are waking up this morning thinking Vitti is the DP, and a playoff spot is assured.
No, and no.
But clearly, there’s potential. Toronto FC is now certainly a team that can push the ball upfield, and attack opposing nets with impressive frequency. Vitti’s youth and promise up front, in the mix Chad Barrett, Danny Dichio and Abdus Ibrahim, with a fleet, daring midfield fired up by Dwayne DeRosario, Amado Guevara and a side order of Rohan Ricketts? With Marvell Wynne and Jim Brennan constantly pushing forward from the fullback spots?
This team is going to score.
But … !!
Any team that pushes forward that much is going to get burned on the counterbreak. There’s a fair bit of speed across this league, and TFC goalies are going to have to stand in for more of their share of multi-pronged opposition avalanches. That throws monumental pressure on – the centre backs.
Marco Velez and Tyrone Marshall continue to hold those critical spots, despite being spotted and criticized all last year for poor positioning, bad turns and positioning that was – how to put it nicely? – original. Maybe they get a boost from future Canuck star Nana Attokora-Gyan. Maybe Kevin Harmse steps back, swallows his temper, and closes some of the chasm. Maybe an unemployed journeyman from the third tier of English football ….
Heck, just find some guys who can move their feet and get their bodies in the right place occasionally!
This is a team that is going to get scored on.
I only hope TFC coach John Carver can resist the temptation to go with three defenders at the back. The few times that was tried last season were nightmarish. Also, starting goalie Greg Sutton has a history of concussions, and any netkeep doing serious time behind three defenders is eventually going to get kicked in the head.
MLS, of course, is a league where every team will always have a hole. But when your entire roster is built for going forward, and you have nothing you can count on at centre back – well, opponents are going to score some long, painful and hideously optional goals.
There is still time to fill the hole, I suppose. Perhaps even money, since Vitti is in town on a loan deal and certainly not getting DP bucks.
Don’t expect a whole lot of nil-nil soccer this season, TFC fans. And keep that 6-5 chant song handy.