Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Toronto FC Roster Assessment Part 2/4 – Defence

This article is part two of a series, written by BTTN MLS correspondent Christian Medeiros.
Nana Attakora will be a key component of
Toronto FC's defence for years to come.
Toronto FC’s defense has been weak for the history of the club. They have struggled continuously in the pull together a cohesive backline, but last season was the first time that we had a consistently strong pairing at center-back.

 Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora were instrumental in finally raises the entire defense to satisfactory levels, but there is still work to do. Despite its improved defense, Toronto FC still let in a ton too many goals last year. TFC has only one experienced fullback, Dan Gargan and if the season were to start today, Toronto would essentially be screwed and without a doubt have MLS’s worst defensive unit.

A lot of this is due to the general weakness of the fullbacks, which undid the great work by TFC's two center-backs. Luckily, the worst of the fullbacks and defensive players have been cut already.

Garcia, whose age had really started to affect his play, was no longer useful to the club. Usanov and Hscanovics, who were brought in to play fullback at the beginning of the season, didn’t fare well either. The two eastern European defenders were totally outclassed in their roles, and left holes in Toronto FC’s defense. Both of them were also cut. If TFC’s defense is going to keep BMO field a fortress this coming season it will have to improve at fullback, especially left back.

Nana Attakora 3.5/5
He is truly a great young Canadian player, and has won the U-20 Canadian Player of the Year twice It has been great to see him grow with Toronto FC into a strong and confident center-back, from his early days as a developmental player. He has great fitness and strong positional aptitude. His ability to improve will also really allow him to fit in well to Toronto FC’s new system, whatever that ends up becoming.  Europe may also come calling in the future, but in the meantime he has a large part to play with Toronto. Don’t sleep on Nana Attakora.

 Adrian Cann 4/5
The Canadian defender was potentially the greatest addition to the roster last season. When he first arrived at the club, some in the industry were skeptical if he really was the solution at the center of defense but he has since proved the skeptics wrong. His experience and leadership have helped Toronto FC solidify the defense. The only knock one may have on him is that he isn’t too comfortable getting forward, which may not be so great in a total football system. His naming as Toronto FC Player of the Year was definitely justified, Cann will surely play an important role with the club going forward.

Dan Gargan 2.5/5
Dan Gargan is a bit rough around the edges but has a phenomenal drive to play the game. When he was playing right back he did a good job and was probably Toronto FC’s best fullback all season. His long throws add an extra dynamic to the attack and should be exploited even more in the future. He can play a number of positions, which is helpful if injuries set in. The new coaches want to play a more fluid and attacking system next year, so I’m not sure a right back in the model of Dan Gargan would be a key feature in that system. But if Toronto FC can’t pick up speedy attack-minded wingbacks, Dan Gargan will need to play a key role and I have no problem with that.

 Ty Harden 2/5
Ty Harden wasn’t featured too much last season, but when he was, he seemed like a pretty decent depth player. He will likely provide good defensive coverage next season, and add to the defensive depth.  He isn’t too mobile and lacks skill, although good improve into at least an adequate starting defender.

Emmanuel Gómez  ?/5
Gomez did not feature at all last season due to a season long knee injury. It is hard to say how he will play next season or how he will feature in next year’s squad. But in 2009 he was a solid defender with room for significant improvement.

Doneil Henry  2.5/5
Henry was the first ever academy signing and clearly is part of Toronto FC’s future. When he has played he has shown tons of potential and has done a good job in the defense. He will likely be a backup Centre Back next season, but in the future will take over the starting role.

Astone Morgan?/5
This new academy addition seems to have his share of potential. In the few games that he featured in for the senior squad, he seemed like a speedy fullback that liked to get forward. He could be the answer to the fullback problem, but only time will reveal his future.

Improvements Needed?
Yes! They're doing well with fantastic starting center backs: Attakora and Cann will serve Toronto FC well. 

Yet the depth in that position leaves something to be desired, Ty Harden and Gomez should have no major role on a team that plans to contend for a championship. The fullback position is obviously quite lacking. Astone Morgan is too young and inexperienced to be counted on. Dan Gargan is good at fullback but we can and should do better.

It’s imperative that TFC improve in defense because in some ways it has been their undoing in the past. If Toronto FC goes into the season without new fullbacks, the team is in serious trouble and blame must be heaped upon the new coaching staff.

Remaining BTTN Toronto FC Roster Assessment Schedule
Midfielders: Friday, January 14th, 2011
Forwards: Sunday, January 16th, 2011

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