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Spain 1-5 Holland

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Courtesy of Wikicommons/Football.ua

Holland avenged their World Cup finals defeat by thrashing the reigning champions in the second half.

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Diego Costa was deemed fit to feature in Vicente del Bosque’s 4-2-3-1 ahead of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Silva. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets played in the double-pivot.

Louis van Gaal started Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie upfront in his 3-4-1-2 with Wesley Sneijder playing behind the duo. Jonathan de Guzman and Nigel de Jong formed a midfield two, while Daley Blind and Daryl Janmaat operated as wingbacks. 

Despite starting the match well, Spain failed to cope with Holland’s direct approach that involved the midfield quickly facilitating the ball to their strikers behind the Spanish defence.

Holland with out the ball

The most intriguing talking point subsequent to kickoff was Holland’s approach without the ball. Usually teams would opt to defend in two deep banks of four and force the Spaniards to break them down, but here, van Gaal’s men held an extremely high-line and pressed in midfield.

Van Gaal aimed to pack central zones with hard-working players and limit as much space as possible for the Spaniards to work in. De Guzman and de Jong pressed Xavi and Xabi Alonso – who were both quiet – Sneijder worked hard to cut off Busquets’ passing lanes, and the surprising feat was the positioning of Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi.

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The two outside centre-backs man-marked Iniesta and Silva when they drifted infield to receive the ball; sometimes all the way into Spain’s half. Iniesta and Silva were often fouled and they struggled to turn due to the committed defending of de Vrij and Indi.

Likewise, neither Cesar Azpilicueta nor Jordi Alba got forward enough, as their was limited time in central areas to string passes out in these wide zones, while Janmaat and Blind closed the Spanish full-backs down.

Holland’s intent was to clog spaces in central zones to prevent the Spaniards from overloading the midfield and dictating the tempo of the match.

Spain’s shape

Spain, on the other hand, was more conservative out of possession, and didn’t rely on their high-pressing that has proved beneficial in recent years. Spain dropped into two banks of four with Xavi behind Costa attempting to close down the Dutch defenders.

The issue with Spain’s approach without the ball was that it lacked motivation and grit. At times, Holland easily shifted the ball from side to side, as the Spanish players failed to effectively close van Gaal’s men down. Silva and Iniesta also appeared disinterested in committing their defensive duties in wide areas, further allowing Holland’s wingbacks forward, while Robben and van Persie made runs into the channels.

Spain’s work ethic out of possession was the vast difference between Holland’s approach as del Bosque’s men were sluggish and lacklustre.

Spain attacks 

With both side’s opting to play with high-lines, the space to exploit was behind the defence. Spain, however, encountered two issues throughout the match.

First, Spain didn’t offer runners in midfield, and the only player aiming to get behind the defence was Diego Costa. Costa made several intelligent runs behind Holland’s back-line, and he appeared frustrated when passes weren’t played into his path. Jordi Alba was the other player that could have offered this threat but Janmaat kept the left-back quiet.

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Silva’s movement into central areas left gaps of space available on the right, but Azpilicueta was quite cautious with his positioning. Pedro Rodriguez would serve as a useful option on the right flank, as would Juanfran who displayed his adventurous running when he exploited Eden Hazard in the Champions League this season; but it appeared that Azpilicueta was preferred based on his defensive qualities.

Spain, however, did receive their opportunities when they occasionally bypassed Holland’s press, or the outside centre-backs were caught out of position. Xavi played two balls into Costa – one from deep and the other between the lines – but on both occasions the recovering Ron Vlaar broke up the play. Xavi’s third pass was the charm, and it occurred when the Dutch centre-backs didn’t come out to press Iniesta and Silva. The duo exchanged quick passes ahead of de Guzman and de Jong before sliding the ball into Xavi between the lines, and the Spaniard delivered an inch-perfect pass to Costa who was taken down and awarded a penalty.

An identical situation occurred in the latter stages of the half with Iniesta dropping deep into midfield – away from de Vrij – and Silva drifted to the left channel to make an unmarked forward run to collect the Barcelona midfielder’s sumptuous no-look pass, but he failed to beat goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with his delicate chip.

The Spanish attacking three exploited space between the lines frequently in the second half, but they weren’t on the same wave-length with Costa – who didn’t appear 100 per-cent fit – and their final ball was often underwhelming.

Spain struggled to play their preferred game due to Holland’s pressure, but with limited runners providing penetration, and the lack of conviction or a final ball in advanced areas, del Bosque’s men were bound to encounter issues.

Holland attacks

Van Gaal’s aligned his side to exploit the space behind Spain’s high-defensive line, and the warning signs were evident in the opening minutes. Alba’s poor chest pass in Spain’s half saw Robben slide the ball into Sneijder, but the Dutch midfielder fired his shot directly at Casillas.

Robben and van Persie were both caught offside on a few occasions prior to the latter’s opening goal, yet del Bosque was unfazed by their threat. The other worry was the combination plays on the flanks subsequent to Alonso’s goal that led to de Guzman and Blind delivering quality crosses into the box that surprisingly evaded everyone. The work ethic from Iniesta and Silva in these defensive errors were poor and Holland’s forwards were keen on drifting wide to create overloads.

Coincidentally, the buildup in Holland’s opening goals were identical, as Blind’s terrific long diagonals from the half-way line saw van Persie lose Ramos, and Robben sneak behind Pique to provide quality finishes. The quality of the finishing and deliveries were world-class, but the defending from the Spanish centre-backs was putrid.

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The two following goals were merely defensive errors – both by Casillas, while Azpilicueta deserves some blame for the third goal – but the final goal epitomized Holland’s attacking approach. Indi won the ball off Pedro and Sneijder quickly sprayed the loose ball into the path of Robben who outpaced Ramos before cutting back inside to grab his second goal of the night.

While Spain didn’t field enough options to exploit the space behind the defence, van Gaal possessed two forwards capable of punishing any side in the world under these circumstances.

Conclusion

There were evident flaws in Holland’s brave approach, but van Gaal’s decision to alter his preferred system reaped rewards.

“If I played with three attackers, my wingers would have chased down the Spain backs too much, that would be a waste,” van Gaal said.

“I played this system because I believe that we are not good enough to beat Spain with our normal 4-3-3 formation.”

Van Gaal’s approach maximized the pace of Robben, and prevented Spain from dictating the tempo of the match in a congested area. Certainly if del Bosque introduced runners, or Silva converted his chance prior to van Persie’s equalizer the match could’ve been different.

This serves as another crushing blow on Brazilian soil, yet the fact that it was preventable – del Bosque didn’t need to risk going 4-3-3, which created more gaps in midfield for Holland to penetrate on the counter – and could harm Spain’s chances of progressing out of the group.

Van Gaal pragmatically built his approach towards nullifying and exploiting Spain’s strengths, whereas del Bosque’s belief in his players and reluctance to stray away from their philosophy led to their downfall in a match that could’ve gone either way.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Published Work, World Cup 2014

 

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Brazil prove to be the REAL winners at the Confederations Cup

Brazil claimed their fourth Confederations Cup title with a convincing victory of World champions Spain.

It was a result many would have never predicted and it left football fans around the world with hope that Spain can be knocked off their perch. More so, the much-maligned Confederations Cup that takes place every four years, one prior to the World Cup, went against the cliché of being a pointless tournament.

Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed high quality football matches – the three matches featuring football minnows Tahiti were blowouts, yet even the small nation with a population of approximately 267,000 people gave us something to cheer about. A tournament consisting of Brazil, Italy and Spain was never going to disappoint, and although it looked certain that these sides would finish in the top three, it was never guaranteed.

This tournament was always going to be a great chance for Brazil and Italy to establish themselves as contenders for next years World Cup, while Spain was looking to covet the one trophy that has eluded them during their phenomenal five-year run – but the key question that needs to be raised is did these teams achieve their goals? And who was the real winner over the past two weeks?

Italy

Cesare Prandelli has done a remarkable job in transforming the identity of the Azzuri since taking over the Italian side. Reaching the European final last year was a fantastic achievement, but the Italians have taken a few steps back over the past 12 months. Prandelli’s obsession with a possession-based system has been no secret, and the Italian has been keen on playing in a 4-3-2-1.

The importance of dominating the midfield has become essential, and a midfield containing Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi is more than capable of achieving success. Surprisingly, besides the opening game against Mexico, the midfield trio failed to impress – they struggled against Japan, missed the Brazil match and were better against Spain, due to their lack of pressure.

Despite his mediocre displays for Roma, Daniele De Rossi has once again rose to the occasion under Prandelli – his ability to break up play, drop deeper to provide another passing outlet, spray positive forward and diagonal passes and getting forward to provide the final ball and score goals, displays why he’s one of the top midfielder’s in world football.

Along with De Rossi’s star performances, Mario Balotelli also demonstrated that he has the qualities to be a top striker at the international level. The AC Milan striker’s presence was missed in Italy’s final two games, as he played an integral role in the Azzuri’s attack. Balotelli’s ability to hold up the ball and turn on either side, along with his brute strength to shrug off defenders was key – it’s also key to highlight the two goals scored in three games played, one being a winner against Mexico.

Prandelli will also be pleased with Emanuele Giaccherini and Antonio Candreva – both men showcased their tactical discipline and awareness throughout the tournament. Giaccherini linked play with the Italian striker, got into dangerous areas throughout the final third, and his versatility to play in a wingback role against Spain was pivotal.

Candreva was the odd man out prior to the tournament, but injuries and suspensions earned the Lazio winger a place in the starting lineup, and he failed to disappoint. His performance against Spain was memorable – he sat back to protect Maggio, and on the attack he would drift centrally to receive the ball, along with relentlessly attacking Jordi Alba. Prandelli’s dilemma in finding suitable floater’s to play in his 4-3-2-1 may be solved with the emergence of Giaccherini and Candreva.

Surprisingly, Italy’s weakness throughout the tournament was their defence – the days of scoring a goal and defending deep as a unit may have past us. In five games, the Italians conceded 10 goals, keeping only one clean sheet against Spain. The Juventus trio in Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli looked comfortable playing in a back three, opposed to a back four, where they left large gaps available and made several errors.

Gianluigi Buffon patched up a few blemishes throughout the tournament with the three penalty saves he made in the third – place penalty shootout, but the errors made should never be overlooked. Like the Juventus centrebacks, Buffon looked a shadow of himself, and although it’s certain he’ll be in Brazil next year, questions must be posed on whether he should be Italy’s starting keeper for the future. With more games under his belt, Mattia De Sciglio has the potential to be a top-class left back in the near future, while Prandelli still faces issues on the right side. Ignazio Abate hasn’t been consistent enough, while Christian Maggio continues to thrive in a wingback role, but is a liability in a fullback position.

Some positives have come out of Italy’s Confederations Cup campaign, but Prandelli shouldn’t let their third place finish overshadow the issues that need to be addressed over the next 12 months. Prandelli has yet to find the perfect starting 11 for his 4-3-2-1 that he seems keen on playing in – but the Italians have displayed their tactical versatility to play in multiple systems, which is key at this level. If the Italians can address these issues heading into Brazil, there’s no reason why Italy shouldn’t be in contention to lift their fifth World Cup.

Spain

Out of the three contenders in this tournament, Spain looked to be the closest thing to complete. Del Bosque was disappointed to hear that Xabi Alonso would be unavailable for the entirety of the tournament – handing Javi Martinez, arguably the best player in that position this season, a chance to play in the double pivot with Sergio Busquets. Another surprise was the squad selection – many were expecting Del Bosque to select a younger squad, so the first-team could finally get a well-deserved rest, but to also implement a few fresh faces. Spain failed to lift the Confederations Cup, once again losing by a large margin – but unlike their 2-0 loss to the Americans in 2009, this time Del Bosque’s men were thoroughly out played.

Del Bosque stuck with a 4-3-3 throughout the tournament – Spain was now fluid in attack and creating more chances – but they were vulnerable to quick direct counter attacks. The reason why Del Bosque introduced the double-pivot upon his arrival was to prevent the likeliness of Spain being carved open on the counter – this made his decision to keep Javi Martinez on the bench peculiar. With Jordi Alba being one of Spain’s main attacking threats, this left del Bosque with three defenders and Sergio Busquets – Gerard Pique has declined over the past year, Alvaro Arbeloa a generally decent defender had a shocking tournament, leaving Sergio Ramos as their only competent defender.

This forced Spain to defend cautiously, along with the high temperatures and fatigue issues during the latter stages of the tournament. Nevertheless, Diego Forlan found space behind Busquets in the opener, Nigeria was allowed space in midfield to penetrate when Spain dropped into their shape, Italy nullified Jordi Alba’s threat by cleverly attacking the Spanish fullback and Brazil’s explosive direct counter attacks exposed del Bosque’s men. Del Bosque stuck with the 4-3-3, but it left Spain exposed, and the heat, along with the span between games hindered their chances of being successful in this tournament.

Another key factor was the injury of Cesc Fabregas – the Barcelona midfielder has finally secured a starting role, and was a key loss to la Roja. Fabregas provided Spain’s attack with an extra reliable passer/passing option, and his ability to find space between the lines was key. He was positioned narrow to allow Alba to surge forward, but he often linked play with Pedro Rodriguez, and got into advanced positions from midfield. His overall presence was integral to Spain’s fluidity going forward, which could have played a part in Spain failing to score in their final two games.

Spain has an abundance of world-class midfielders, but del Bosque has struggled to implement his top-class midfielders in Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata into the side. Both midfielders have struggled to adapt to Spain’s tiki-taka approach, often playing more direct balls, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s affected the balance and fluidity in the side – with the decline of David Villa and Fernando Torres, along with del Bosque not fancying Roberto Soldado, the balls provided from Cazorla and Mata haven’t been needed.

Is tiki-taka dead? Has Spain’s dominance come to an end? Both questions can’t be answered with full confidence, but it’s key to note that these same questions were posed after Spain’s defeat to the Americans four years ago – then they went on to win the World Cup and the Euro Cup two years later.

“I won’t make excuses – they were better than us and that is that. Sometimes it’s convenient to lose so you don’t think you’re unbeatable.” – Vicente del Bosque

Del Bosque’s decisions were stubborn, and he ignored the deficiencies that his side possessed – similar to Tito Vilanova’s situation against Bayern Munich this year, albeit Vilanova’s bench was much weaker. Based on the past, Spain should still enter Brazil in 2014 as favourites, but del Bosque will need to make some alterations to his system – preferably playing with a double pivot – if Spain intend on winning their second consecutive World Cup.

Brazil

Luiz Felipe Scolari had many critics to silence ahead of his second stint with the Brazilian national team. Scolari inherited a side that had failed to impress over the past 24 months, failing to make an impact in the Copa America, along with the loss to Mexico in the Olympics last year. In a nation where expectations are so high, Scolari had to not only convince his side that they were winners, but the fans as well.

One of Brazil’s main strength’s going into 2014 is their defence, which could explain why they only conceded three goals throughout the entire tournament. They relied on direct play from their fullbacks, David Luiz’ reliable passing out of the back and the leadership of Thiago Silva. Surprisingly, it was the offence that needed to be ironed out, as there were many questions about Brazil’s tactical discipline and awareness. Nevertheless, three of Brazil’s front four were superb – Oscar moved into pockets of space to receive and play incisive passes, Neymar showcased the talent he possesses scoring four remarkable goals and Fred’s ability to link play with the attacking three, along with leading the press was vital.

Scolari made one change to his starting lineup during the tournament, when Hernanes started ahead of an injured Paulinho. It was shocking to see Hulk start in all five matches based on his form and the fact that Lucas Moura was available – a player that offers more pace, danger in the final third, and has a higher tactical IQ than the Zenit St. Petersburg player. Brazil developed a perfect blend of defence and attack in their starting line up, and Scolari displayed his ability to make tactical alterations in matches – specifically against Uruguay.

Although, Brazil won all five matches, there are still some questions to pose. Brazil’s ability to take over games once their opponents settle has yet to be seen, and there was a heavy reliance on players such as Neymar and Oscar – Scolari can get away with a small bench here, but he’ll need to rotate throughout the World Cup and be able to cope if one of the aforementioned players is sidelined.

On the other hand, they scored 14 goals in five games, conceding four, and finished the tournament unbeaten. Scolari was able to find cohesion between midfield and attack, building a potential starting 11, which showcased his sides tactical flexibility. Brazil have been here before, but have failed to replicate their success the following year, and Scolari will need to do so if he wants to mark his reign as a successful one.

Conclusion

We now sit 12 months away from arguably the biggest tournament on the planet, and three potential contenders have showcased their progress thus far. Italy’s tactical versatility, Spain’s fluid attack and Brazil’s energetic starts were positive – but defensive errors, naivety in tactical changes, and failure to take over matches will be one of many flaws to fine-tune.

“Now I am able to dream that we have an idea, that we have a path ahead of us, and that we have a good team to play in the World Cup next year as equals with other strong contenders.” – Luiz Felipe Scolari

“But as far as the team is concerned, one thing that is important is that in the last 30 days we have beaten four former or current world champions: France, Uruguay, Italy and Spain,” Scolari said.

“We are a team still being formed, facing a lot of difficulties and I think this win upgrades the team, giving us more confidence. It’s something that will make us play in a different way,” he said.

Nevertheless, although no team has ever won the World Cup after a Confederations Cup triumph, Scolari’s men were the real winners over the past two weeks.

They found a distinct balance in skill, power and tactical awareness – luckily for the other 31 teams, a lot can change in 12 months.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in FIFA

 

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Kevin Payne & Ryan Nelsen: Toronto FC’s Breath of Fresh Air

Six seasons and still without a taste of post-season soccer; it simply isn’t good enough for the city of Toronto. After another season filled with jeers and a half empty home stadium, Toronto FC (TFC) finished the season in last place with 23 points, a massive 30 points out of a playoff spot. It was the team’s worst point tally since their inaugural season six years ago and a change in management was imminent.

Despite being crowned Amway Canadian champions last season for the fourth consecutive year, Canada’s first Major League Soccer (MLS) team has found life difficult in the North American league. TFC play their home games at BMO field, located at the Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. Players and managers have arrived and departed, but Toronto’s hopes of having a successful franchise has failed thus far.

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CBC soccer columnist Ben Rycroft says TFC’s underachievement begins and ends with their owners, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).

“The problem with TFC is that it was run by people who either didn’t understand the game, or [didn’t] understand the game in North America,” Rycroft says.

In late November, MLSE hired Kevin Payne as the first president of TFC. Payne’s role at the club is equivalent to Bryan Colangelo’s with the Raptors and Dave Nonis’ with the Leafs. Both men are in charge of issues on the court/ice, while Payne will be involved with issues on the field and the business aspects of the club.

Payne loves to build winning sides, as evidenced by his time with D.C. United. During his 17-year tenure as president of the Washington club, they claimed four MLS Cups and a Confederation Of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Champions Cup. Now his vision is to turn this organization around and provide the fans with a successful team. TFC has conceded the most goals in the league over the last two seasons; drastically improving the defence will be the first part of his vision for the club. Payne’s former club played a possession-based style of soccer, and the new TFC president would like to bring that mentality to Toronto, along with implementing a core system the team can grow with.

Sportsnet Managing Digital Editor, John Molinaro, says Payne’s track record in DC shows he has the pedigree to be successful at the club.

“He clearly has an eye for coaching talent and I think he has a good understanding of building a team,” he says.

The dismissal of Paul Mariner as head coach would lead to the surprise of the offseason: the hiring of Ryan Nelsen, who at the time was playing for English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers (QPR). He was chosen in early January as the man to lead TFC into the future. Along with making this team playoff contenders, Payne and Nelsen were tasked with changing the way the club handles transfers.

Last season, then-coach Aron Winter, tried to implement a tiki-taka style, similar to how famous Spanish side Barcelona play. This failed miserably, as Winter didn’t possess players capable of succeeding in such a technical system. Payne’s vision is also all about building a young core of talent that can improve every year.

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 With TFC making changes behind the scenes and in their philosophy as a club, are they headed in the right direction, that is, a club aspiring to win trophies?

Heading into their seventh season in MLS, the goal for TFC is to make their first playoff appearance. The move by Payne to appoint Nelsen, a 35-year-old, with no managerial experience, has left many optimistic fans puzzled. Rycroft admits that he was very skeptical with the Nelsen signing because he was still playing for QPR.

“He has no experience coaching, and generally a player that becomes a coach, does best when he takes over from playing with his old squad,” Rycroft says.

Although Molinaro feels one day Nelsen will become a good coach, he shares Rycroft’s concerns.

“He’s never coached before, he’s never taken any coaching courses or acquired any coaching badges, so he comes into this quite unqualified,” Molinaro says.

“Considering where this franchise is; after six years without a playoff appearance, it would have been a better idea to bring in someone with more experience and a track record of success,” he says.

Kenny Dalglish, Pep Guardiola and Vicente Del Bosque are a few coaches that have had great managerial careers after retiring from their playing careers.

“This is a different scenario. He got his start in the league, but it has been a long time since he has played here and the league has changed,” Rycroft says.

Although the Nelsen hiring was peculiar, there’s no guarantee that his tenure will be a failure.  Nelsen was arguably QPR’s best defender this season before his departure, and his experience as a player can surely have an affect on his players.

Rycroft says that Payne brings a soccer management background that Toronto FC has never really had.

“Payne has shown he has a plan, and as someone with a real soccer background you have to give him the benefit of the doubt for now,” Rycroft says.

“He has a plan and a vision, and so far has shown himself willing to make tough decisions to execute it.”

Payne has already made some key changes since joining the squad, including acquiring homegrown talents Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshmann in the MLS SuperDraft, along with allocation money.

The MLS SuperDraft is an annual event in which all teams select players that have graduated from college or have been signed by the league.

According to MLSsoccer.com, allocation money is a resource available to all clubs in addition to their respective salary budgets.

Soccer Newsday columnist Sonja Missio, says Payne is bringing all of his old chums with him, to build a team that he’s comfortable with.

“It’s clear that Payne has a vision in mind, I’m just suspicious as to what that vision is, and is he flexible to change it if or when it doesn’t work?” Missio says.

“It’s not just about winning games, it’s how he will, can, or should assist in the development of Canadian soccer culture in Canada,” she says.

In their six-year existence, despite the few good moments, TFC has consistently underachieved. The club has gone through seven managers in six seasons, and none have managed to win more than 50 per cent of the games during their respective tenures. The club is coming off its worst season since it was founded, recording only five wins, and their average home attendance decreased by 2000 tickets.

Former TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic stated in a January 2013 interview with the Globe and Mail that some of his teammates would laugh after games, even after defeats.

“It’s better for me to leave, to go somewhere else where I’m going to be appreciated,” Kocic said in the interview.

Aron Winter being tactically inept – not realizing this players needed a simpler system to operate in, Paul Mariner’s inability to cope with injuries to veteran players Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, and some questionable decisions regarding player sales from MLSE, including homegrown heroes Julian De Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario all played a factor in TFC’s recent poor form. Over the years, TFC has lacked experience, vision and stability behind the scenes.

While the players and coaching staff certainly deserve most of the blame for TFC’s downfall, Missio says MLSE didn’t properly assess the team they possessed.

“It’s like a family getting a puppy for Christmas and not being able to take care of it come February,” she says.

“Oh sure, it’s fun and exciting at first, but you have to know how to look after it…MLSE had all the best intentions, but they were in over their heads,” Missio says.

The introduction of a president has been a bright spot for the club. Payne has done a great job handling one of the club’s main issues recently, bringing in effective Designated Players; most have been well past their prime and not worth the expense. Heading into the new season, TFC was faced with decisions to make on these players, and Payne handled the situation well.

According to the 2012 MLS rules, the Designated Player rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose salaries exceed their budget charges.

This is where the allocation money gained in the draft comes into play.

Payne told the Toronto Sun, “The allocation money will allow us to potentially bring in a small Designated Player– a younger player but one with some real upside,” Payne says.

“We can now potentially bring them onto our team not as a DP any longer because we can buy their contract down with allocation money,” he says.

Last season TFC had three DP players, in captain Torsten Frings, 36, Danny Koevermans, 34 and Eric Hassli, 31. Hassli was brought in to provide depth in attack but spent most of the season sidelined due to injury, Frings, is the best midfielder on the team and Koevermans is the prolific goalscorer.

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Former Toronto FC midfielder Torsten Frings

The question Payne had to consider was, could the oldest combination of DP players in MLS lead this side to a playoff appearance in the near future?

The answer was no.

Hassli pushed for a move away from the club, and Payne was willing to let him go for a second round draft pick. Considering he was making $790 thousand US, roughly $370 thousand of which was affecting the club’s salary, it was a smart move.

Frings announced his retirement in February due to a hip injury suffered last season. He felt stepping away from the game was not only better for his health but also the team’s development.

Koevermans’ future still looms in the air as he recovers from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last season. Considering the limited options upfront, it would be suicidal for TFC to trade their most prolific striker. Since joining the club in 2011, Koevermans has netted 17 goals in 26 league appearances. Bringing in two young DP’s more likely attackers, and retaining Koevermans, and the experience he brings, would not only save TFC from more financial woes, but could also benefit the club in the short and long term.

There’s a lot of pressure, expectation, and optimism as the new MLS season unfolds. Die-hard TFC fans will be hoping to see the club do much better than last year’s dismal campaign.

Daniel Kwasny, a member of TFC’s supporter group, U-Sector, says that Payne and Nelsen will succeed, if MLSE don’t interfere with their plans.

“I feel that Payne and Nelsen’s arrival is a positive move for the club, and if MLSE allow them to see out this project, the team will be an MLS contender in the next three years,” Kwasny says.

TFC will need to perform at a higher level to gain back the large number of fans who have turned their back on the club, but the pressure will certainly lie on Payne and Nelsen’s shoulders.

“From what I’ve seen thus far, TFC have improved tactically, their work rate has increased, and we’re competing against the top sides in the league,” he says.

This new era can end in two ways: the first being that the team improves and potentially fights for a playoff spot. This would give the fans an incentive to back these two men and would certainly mean their long-term vision is working.

On the other hand, this season could turn into a nightmare, with similar results and continued struggles between coach and players. This would result in fan backlash; not only would we see more empty seats and fewer supporters, but it would also put a blemish on Payne’s outstanding track record.

“I would only expect them to be a bit more competitive this year and improve on what they did last year,” Molinaro says.

“In 2014 they need to be not only challenging but also making it into the post-season, because by then Kevin Payne would have had enough time to implement his plans fully,” he says.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Published Work

 

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