Preki should feel vindicated

The Globe and Mail

(JIM URQUHART)

Maybe Preki will sleep with a wry smile after Toronto FC's 4-1 loss to Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night.

After being taken to task in the media and undermined by two players he used as captains during his very short tenure in Toronto, he would have the right to feel vindicated. Where leadership and class was required by his players it was once again trumped by a selfish, self-serving approach. What chance does Canadian soccer have of being successful if this is the approach of our supposed top players?

Story continues below ad

Under the circumstances of the previous 36 unsavoury hours, the first game under new head coach Nick Dasovic was destined to have plenty of talking points.

Toronto FC should really have been 2-0 ahead within 15 minutes as they high pressured a surprisingly complacent Real Salt Lake back line. Playing two at the back when they attacked in the early stages was almost a suicidal risk for the team from Utah as they teetered on collapse against a smothering TFC counter attacking approach.

Nevertheless, once Real Salt Lake found their balance and Toronto FC's initial adrenaline was punctured it was a more realistic comparison. The biggest difference in Dasovic's approach compared to Preki's would be when TFC had possession. They looked to stretch the opposition with wide players staying wide and more numbers getting forward.

It freed up space for Julian de Guzman who played more like a European defensive schemer. The problem is he still could not get the job done because defensively he is so poor in one-on-one situations. He is simply misplaced as a defensive midfield player and Dasovic should know more than anyone as he was one of Canada's best all time players as a defender or defending midfielder. There's no point in de Guzman connecting passes if on the flip side he gets beat defensively every time.

It is a major issue for Dasovic to solve otherwise he will sink in this risky, rather opportunistic coaching assignment.

On the night the rookie TFC head coach looked naive with his idealistic approach for the resources he has at his disposal. The downside was there for all to see as the Real Salt Lake team, aside from scoring four goals, would have had three more were it not for the reliability of TFC's best player, Stefan Frei.

Mista getting sent off for a complete lack of discipline, a non-existent performance by Dwayne DeRosario and a clumsy challenge by Nick Garcia were the real negative moments of another difficult night for Toronto FC.

The positives, aside from Frei's quality display in goal, would have to be the performance of Ty Harden and Maicon Santos who both looked fresh, hungry and reliable in their positions.

The biggest highlight of the night however goes to RSL's Will Johnson who set a standard for the future of Canadian players. Busy, energetic, passionate and full of ideas he is much more of a benchmark for Canadian players of the future and for World Cup coach Stephen Hart to hang his hat on. There are two ironies that stand out with Will Johnson however. He makes $80,000 a year and he was developed in the United States.

Meanwhile, next up is Houston Dynamo for Toronto FC who, while they are not currently on the same level as Real Salt Lake, will nevertheless be motivated to do well as they will not want to finish bottom of the MLS. You can bet former TFC player Adrian Serioux will be motivated to do well against his old club.