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  • Winter might be getting somewhere



    And now, Toronto FC fans are starting to see how this whole Aron Winter thing actually fits together.

    A 3-0 road win against an expansion tier-two team down to ten men for an hour may not be the truest test one might long for, but there was a lot to like in the way TFC approached – and won – their opening Voyageurs Cup match in Edmonton.


    The lineup, for example. Julian de Guzman got the night off, which makes good sense given that he’s playing more and more, and still not fully fit coming off his injury. Regulars like Adrian Cann and Javier Martina got the night off, but there were no glaring, obvious holes in the starting eleven Winter rolled out there.

    And here, we’re getting to something. Preki, a year ago, would have benched his goalie, called up the academy, and rolled the dice with a team full of second-stringers both Mo Johnston and his favourite player agent swore up and down could play the game, man, honest!

    What we saw at Commonwealth Stadium last night was that, while Toronto’s front-line talent may or may not prove to be better than last year’s, the players filling out the roster all have specific skills, and are all there for actual football-related reasons.

    Early on, I loved how Toronto’s attackers were playing when Edmonton had the ball. Striker Alan Gordon and attacking mid Maicon Santos were constantly harrying FC Edmonton defenders trying to break out of their own zone. This aggressive forechecking was augmented neatly by TFC Academy grad Oscar Cordon, who looked very comfortable out there – and might even have had two goals on the night with a bit more experience.

    And tiny, relentless gadgetback Joao Plata ran the ball all night, stretching defenders till they snapped. And laying off tasty, dangerous passes to his mates.

    Santos had some gruesome miss-hits, but hit the scoreboard hard for a pair of goals. Gordon was a royal pain in the ass for Edmonton all night, bagging one and unlucky not to have more.

    At the ever-shifting back, newcomer Richard Eckersley showed – again – that he is very capable of getting forward, and keeping attacking plays alive after that appear to have broken down. Winter desperately needs a right back who can do that, as fan favourite Dan Gargan continues to struggle, and look badly out of place in the new Toronto set-up.

    Not that Edmonton rolled over. Not at all. Even playing a man down for the last hour, they still found ways to test Toronto’s back four, and worry starting goalie Stefan Frei. There’s another change, folks. Preki would have rested Frei. And though TFC got decent ‘keeping from the backup spot in cup matches a year ago, Frei made a couple of important saves in this one, continuing his recent string of confident, agile, soaring shot blocks.

    There was no Raivas Hscanovics getting burned out there last night. No goalless Mista eating a roster spot and guzzling back money shots without ever seriously scoring.

    Instead, we saw useful pressure attacking, good hustle in the midfield, strong, confidence-building run-outs for Cordon, Plata and Eckersley, and a well-earned and much-needed night off for de Guzman.

    The 3-0 scoreline renders next Wednesday’s V-Cup rematch at BMO Field largely irrelevant, but it will be another good chance to boost the roster depth – and a terrific moment to come down at watch if you’ve never actually seen Toronto FC play live on the Toronto waterfront.

    Good effort, lads! It’s nice to know there’s a plan out there that’s worthy of the name.


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