Preki still has much work to do

The Globe and Mail

If Preki had any illusions as to how difficult his task would be in turning Toronto FC into an MLS contender then he had a real taste of reality on Saturday. After a decent performance and result against Dallas on Thursday night, the follow-up was a surprise letdown.

Nevertheless, if preseason games are about getting answers to questions then both Preki and Director of Soccer Mo Johnson would at least have plenty to talk about after today's display. Utilizing four trialists in the first half definitely impacted the team because aside from left-back Nane Joseph, who at best is a project, the others (Dan Gargan, Peter Ijeh, Kosta Bajic) are clearly not for this level.

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Game Notes

• The first half saw two good goals from New York designated player Juan Pablo Angel. His first came from a powerful header direct from a corner. All set-play goals from corners should be preventable and therefore this will be an issue for Preki

• The second was a breakdown in defending shape with trialist Gargan being caught naively out of position. Driven ball to near post was finished again by the impressive Angel.

• TFC did not create any clear-cut chances in the first half in part because the front two were out of their depth. It was a problem for TFC because any good build-up play was wasted. When the ball needed to stick at the strikers' feet it did not. As a result there was nothing creative in the final third.

• The 4-4-2 formation allows for defensive compactness but the correct pieces in the right slots were missing in the first half. Dwayne De Rosario was ineffective going forward because he focused on his defensive role as a wide midfield player and had no one to link with when in possession. Could also have been just a poor outing for him but he is certainly more productive in an attacking role.

• Central midfield duo of Julian de Guzman and Sam Cronin were poor and will likely not work during the season as neither can penetrate the final third with off-the-ball runs; nor are they direct enough when in possession (need a Tomas Rosicky or Cesc Fabregas brand of player here) and neither looked a naturally developed defensive midfielder, at least on this performance.

• Back four were again suspect in both halves. No Nana Attakora in the lineup was a loss.

• In the first half, Nick Garcia and Ty Harden were unsteady and both full-backs were trialists who proved unsure of themselves.

• Brennan out wide was steady but unspectacular.

• In the second half, TFC were better going forward throughout as a result of more experienced forwards. O'Brian White was more mobile and looked threatening at times. Ali Gerba was better than the first-half options up front but he still fails to show any savvy in how to play the forward position effectively.

• After coming on for De Rosario, Martin Saric at least showed some spirit and class on both sides of the ball. De Guzman was red carded for a bad/clumsy tackle on Angel which summed up his and the team's overall performance.

• Emmanuel Gomez and Marvell Wynne were reasonable in the second half, but TFC should know by now what they will and won't get from Wynne. No changes here. Gomez is a project because he is athletic and committed and meets the minimum defending standards of MLS.

• While not as prominent as in Thursday's performance, winger Vincent Kayizzi looks to be worth keeping around for a while.

• In addition to conceding four goals, goalkeeper Stefan Frei was forced to make a couple of good saves. Will be another busy season for him unless players in front of him give him better support and have better performances than this.

• New York Red Bulls displayed an impressive combination of defensive discipline, clinical finishing, and confident possession play which highlighted their progression from 2009's dismal season.

Major Concerns for TFC

• Defending at the back and in central midfield was poor and will continue to be a concern unless TFC find different options.

• No real driving force from any player. Frightening lack of spirit and enthusiasm.

First Half Lineup (4-4-2): Frei (gk); Nane, Harden, Garcia, Gargan; Brennan, de Guzman, Cronin, De Rosario; Bajic, Ijeh.

Second Half Lineup (4-4-2): Frei (gk); Nane, Harden, Gomez, Wynne; De Rosario (Cronin), de Guzman, Cronin (Saric), Kayizzi; White, Gerba.

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