Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MATCH DAY 2 PREVIEW: TORONTO FC VS. NEW ENGLAND

Toronto FC heads into Gillette Stadium to face one of the best teams in the league over the last few seasons. Coached by former Liverpool great Steve Nicol, the Revs have reached the MLS Cup Final on 3 different occasions since he took over as coach during the 2002 season from Fernando Clavijo. The Revolution are far from one of the MLS glamour teams. Notwithstanding, they continue to produce the results year after year. Aside from a higher profile players or two like Taylor Twellman, the Revs consist of a workmanlike collection of players. The Revs coaching staff which also includes former English international Paul Mariner, have done an excellent job at identifying young talent over the years. They are known to recruit lesser known college players, found off the beaten path, and provide them opportunities to develop and succeed.

OFF SEASON: The Revolution lost key player Clint Dempsey in a $4 million transfer to Fulham of the Premier League. One of America's rising stars, Dempsey scored a wonderful goal against Ghana in the World Cup in Germany. He was named Honda's US Male Player of the Year in 2006. When a transfer to the Premier League did not materialize last summer, things turned sour between Dempsey and the Revolution. Dempsey spent most of the MLS Cup Final in Dallas riding the bench. For Toronto's sake, I was hoping for more turnover in New England. Rumours had Sharlie Joseph of Grenada very close to moving to Glasgow Celtic, Trinidadian Avery John to Queens Park Rangers, and even star striker Taylor Twellman to Odd Grenland of Norway.

Reports suggest MLS All Star Sharlie Joseph is extremely unhappy with his current situation in New England. While he received a substantial raise not too long ago, he remains severely underpaid for a player of his quality. Although his contract is again being re-worked, it's apparently not happening fast enough. Trade scenarios have been floating around as a result. It was also rumoured that Joseph declined to take on the recently vacated captain armband due to his current situation. Joseph's quality, caught the eye of Glasgow Celtic last summer during an exhibition at Foxboro. Celtic made a reported $1 million bid for his services at that time, which was turned down. Another reported bid, rumored to have been double the original amount, was made during the January transfer window, which was again declined by MLS. The financial gains of moving to Celtic, and taking a portion of a decent transfer fee aside, how many chances will a player from a small island nation get to play for one of the most prestigious clubs in the world and Champions League?

LAST MATCH: New England is coming off a 1 -0 loss to the Chicago Fire at frigid Toyota Park in Chicago. In a highly entertaining match, both teams played wonderful flowing soccer all night. While New England started slowly, they became more daring and dangerous as the game wore on. Like Toronto, the Revs were unlucky not to finish some fantastic opportunities. Due to several key injuries, the Revs started three rookies against the Fire - Adam Cristman, Gary Flood, and Wells Thompson.

INJURIES: New England could again be missing several key players. Sharlie Joseph, Khano Smith, Michale Parkhurst, Daniel Hernandez, and captain Joey Franchino did not play in the season opener. While Joseph and Bermuda International Smith resumed training this week, there has been no word on Hernandez, Parkhurst or Franchino. I don't expect them in the starting lineup on Saturday. Captian Franchino has been granted a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons. While he made an appearance in the second half last week, Pat Noonan, is still recovering from a sports hernia procedure and is not yet at 100%.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Taylor Twellman was quiet last week. Look for him to be hungry on Saturday. I felt Andy Dorman was in fantastic form last week against the Fire, their best player in my eyes. Both Steve Ralston and Pat Noonan are quality MLS players at their respective positions.

THE SQUAD

KEEPERS: Toronto faced a brick wall in Brad Guzan last week in California. Things won't get much better this week. New England is home to Matt Reis, one of the top keepers in the league. Reis served many years as a backup in Los Angeles and New England, has developed into one of the best starting keepers in MLS.

DEFENDERS: The Revs played with a makeshift defence last week as Michael Parkhurst was unavailable. James Riley played centrally, with Trinidadian International Avery John and Jay Heaps on the flanks. I felt Riley did a wonderful job organizing the middle against the Fire. Heaps was a two sport athlete at Duke University in the 1990's. A fantastic all round athlete, he was a walk on with the famous Duke Basketball team. Heaps who hails from the Boston area, saw a couple of former Duke Basketball Alumni, Brian Davis, and Christian Laettner, become part owners of DC United in the off season. Although not the tallest player, Heaps is very good in the air, and can be dangerous on set pieces and corners and will jump in on the attack.

MIDFIELD: Without Sharlie Joseph in the lineup the midfield should be led by Englishman Andy Dorman and MLS original Steve Ralston. Ralston has established himself as one of the most consistent, yet underrated players in league history. Depending on his health, Sharlie Joseph might see time on Saturday. Joseph is a quality player, and simply one of the best players in the league at his position. They will be joined by Jeff Larentowicz who is quickly establishing himself as a solid MLS midfielder. First round draft pick Wells Thompson was solid in his MLS debut, and may be yet another future MLS prospect discovered by Nicol and Mariner. An option off the bench is young Arsene Oka from the Ivory Coast, who brings tons of pace.

STRIKERS: Taylor Twellman is one of the top strikers in the league. Since returning from Germany, Twellman has been amongst the most consistent scoring threats in all of MLS. He narrowly missed out for a spot on the 2006 World Cup team. Nicol started rookie Cristman up top against the Fire. If Pat Noonan is healthy enough to start, he will be yet another potent threat. Rookie Adam Cristman a University of Virginia product, earned the start in the season opener, alongside Twellman.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: If Toronto can neutralize the New England midfield, namely Andy Dorman, and contain explosive Taylor Twellman, they will have a good night. Depending on the injury situation, New England may again resort to starting several rookies which will bode well for Toronto. Chicago did an excellent job at exploiting the inexperience of Flood and Thompson, leading to an early goal that held up for the 3 points. Again if Toronto can contain Dorman, who looked really impressive last week, it will be a competitive game.

PREDICTION: 2-1 in favour of New England. A prediction I would be more than happy to lose.

Enjoy the match folks. The pregame show featuring Brian Budd, James Sharman, and Paul James at 7:00 pm on the Score.

6 comments:

Nick said...

What a beatdown tonight. You guys need some good americans or south americans asap. In this league, slow anglos don't cut it, and, frankly, Mo should know that already. With NY getting Angel now and Columbus getting Barros Schelloto, I will be surprised if TFC win more than 5 or 6 games. Too slow, too dull, too predictable, too anglo. On the bright side, things can only get better...

arsenalist said...

Man that was a tough game to stomach. That 3-5-2 is suicide. No way an inexperienced defense can play that against the Rev

Anonymous said...

what a bunch of crap last night...Buddle is garbage.

www.footyclips.com said...

We should switch to the normal 4-4-2 these positions are not working at all. As for last nights game atleast this time we lost to an opposition with some class (unlike the Chivas that look just as bad as us). There were periods that we looked on top but we didn't have the ability to finish. We need a forward that can take the game and just score for us like Twellman did. Maple Leaf sports has the money, maybe they should buy Radzinski as our designated player if Fulham is relegated.

Anonymous said...

Buddle, Canizalez have to go...Nagamaura too. Based on last nights game, this will be a very long season. I'm sure not one of the 14,000+ season ticket holders will make every game if this is the quality of play we will be witnessing.

Moe Biggs said...

I have a feeling that TFC will go nowhere with Mo in charge, poor play aside the team showed a very apathetic attitude last night. It seemed like only after the score was 0-3 did they start to show a bit of aggression.

Toronto needs to make a change right away, maybe a 4-5-1 with Casey as a target man. The Revs rans right through the middle unopposed all game, the score could have been even worse.

Buddle and Eskandarian also seem to get no support, it was painful having to watch Buddle try to dribble 3 players everytime he had the ball. I sincerely hope he sits out for a while.

I wouldn't bank on Radzinski either, I remember seeing an interview with him not long ago where he said he wasn't ready to "end" his career by going to MLS...so screw him. The EPL rejects that Mo brought over aren't cutting anyway..