It has been a long wait for MLS fans to see their clubs back out on the pitch. With the offseason coming to an end and all clubs back training, it is time to assess Toronto's side in preparation for next season.
Like a few other MLS sides, Toronto's season starts extremely early this year. The first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarter Final against the LA Galaxy will be played in Toronto on March 7, 2012. This will certainly be an extremely difficult fixture, as LA has retained all the big pieces from its MLS Cup winning team this past year.
Depth and Breadth
Despite lacking the star power that other teams possess, it is clearly evident that Toronto finally possess something they have lacked since their young beginnings: depth. Toronto has quality and proven depth in nearly every position on the pitch.
They also have two very capable designated players in Frings and Koevermans and a wild-card third in De Guzman. Frings and Koevermans both proved their value in the later stages of last season. Frings provided leadership and the ability to control the pace of the game, and Koevermans saw immediate success in front of goal.
The goalie situation in Toronto is certainly a luxury to have. Currently, both Stefan Frei and Milos Kocic are vying for the starting job. Fans will certainly be content with whoever wins this role. The goalie "problem" is simply that Toronto has two keepers that should be starting in this league. Look for one of these keepers to be used as trade bait if Toronto feels they have a missing piece.
Frei too has long been rumored to move overseas. If this at all a possibility, this might be the perfect year to cash in on Frei's talent.
Toronto has a few new faces in training camp this winter, drafted, purchased and traded to enhance this side. There has been a great deal of hype around Toronto's first-round draft pick, midfielder Luis Silva. Silva, if anything, brings more youth and depth to an already crowded TFC midfield. Silva made an impressive start for Toronto in the preseason friendly against the University of South Florida, scoring a brace and two assists to help Toronto win 5-1.
Hopefully, Silva can develop to become the centerpiece for the future. With the likes of Oscar Cardon and Matt Stinson showing promise last season, Toronto's future looks certain to be already a part of this team.
Toronto also brought in Bermudian winger Reggie Lambe. Lambe has been dubbed a carbon copy of Joao Plata—if Lambe does pan out like Plata did, then Toronto should have two very speedy wingers to complement their attack.
Defense is another area that Aron Winter has addressed. With Cann and Williams still question marks in terms of health, a number of defensive options have been acquired to provide help. Geovanny Caicedo, Aaron Maund, Jeremy Hall and Miguel Aceval have all been brought in to secure Toronto's obvious defensive problems.
Toronto has a number of new faces to the squad; however, unlike the past five seasons, Toronto has secured its core group. Consistency is important and I am sure both the players and fans are thrilled that there have not been wholesale changes to this side.
Toronto will look to improve upon another dismal MLS season. Fans will be poised to achieve a playoff birth, whatever the outcome this side looks built to compete with any MLS club on any night. While there are still some glaring question marks in the center of defense, hopefully one of the many listed names can earn a spot and perform.
Winter has systematically addressed needs and filled them this offseason. It will interesting to have an early look at the product against the reigning champs this March.