Even though Toronto FC completed their pre-season game schedule with another loss and yet another outing without scoring a goal, there were actually some positives. Starting with, finishing the game with eleven players.
There was also the defensive shape of the team which for the most part was well organized and then the back four who looked steadier than they have throughout training camp.
The reality though, is that unless director of soccer Mo Johnson can bring in a few quality players before next week's opener against Columbus Crew then the start to the season with be a tough one. Even if they were to pull off a few important signings there will be a bedding in period which will take time.
On Saturday in Charleston, Toronto dropped a 1-0 decision to defending champion Real Salt Lake in the final game of the Carolina Challenge Cup pre-season tournament.
For the most part the team looked compact and they certainly worked hard for each other. Their ability to counter attack was good because they had pace in important areas - up front and out wide. Nevertheless , the thought of dropping off defensively, all season, in order to set up the counter attack posture, is a little daunting.
When TFC went a goal down they were not as comfortable chasing the game and their ability to maintain possession while moving forward positively, was unconvincing. The game against DC United and now this outing versus RSL has highlighted the gap that exists at the moment between TFC's ability to create scoring opportunities, in comparison to their opponents.
In addition, their ability to maintain composure once they regain possession is still missing and so is their cutting edge in the final third. The final pass is very poor.
However you cannot build Rome in a day. Maybe Preki can in three months.
Needs to be more commanding when defending from corner kicks. Control of the six yard box is his responsibility. Aside from that another comfortable outing.
Steady performance. Good defensively. Delivery of forward passes needs to be better as does his final pass when in the attacking third. Mind you, may be risky for him to get forward to often as TFC will be vulnerable on the counter. Nana's pace is crucial at the back and so he and Preki need to be smart.
Has been the recipient of plenty of criticism but he has not buckled, shied away from responsibility or made an excuse. That should earn some respect and today's performance was steady if not stellar. The problem TFC have is that you cannot have both centre backs lacking pace and agility. It is asking for trouble.
A good outing for Harden. Uncompromising with his 1v1 defending and never really put a foot wrong. Good in the air and physically strong. Appears to have a good mentality. Not comfortable on the ball and therefore he needs to play to his strengths while camouflaging his weaknesses. Playing simple when in possession is the requirement.
A steady but not spectacular outing from the captain. You get the impression he is coasting a little, may be subconsciously saving himself for down the road of what will be a rigorous season. Defensively decent when called upon and potentially a threat when he gets forward. It's a shame he was not younger with the legs and engine to go every time (Cabrini of yesteryear!) because he looks dangerous. Better for Brennan to get forward more often than Nana.
A decent performance from the youngster but appears uncomfortable on the right as he is naturally left footed either that or he is just bad with his right. Getting physically stronger though and will mature with time. Needs to be better in the final third when completing final pass. Should get himself in scoring positions but lacks the power and energy to get there regularly, if at all.
Julian de Guzman
Something not quite right here but a decent performance nevertheless. Makes the team tick when in possession but at times Julian over play's without being affective. Needs to be more direct which is a repetitive comment in this section. Nevertheless it is a reality, otherwise he will be wasted. Whether with Cronin or Saric his role as it stands now is just about the same and so his defensive workload in the defending third is significant. Surprise substitution maybe Preki is getting frustrated.
Okay performance. Work rate and endeavour were good and generally plays simple when in possession. Nothing special though against a higher quality opponent. Over the 90 minutes Johnson and Beckerman outcompeted de Guzman and Saric. Needs to correct this fact at least defensively otherwise he will struggle to be useful for TFC in the MLS.
A steady performance from a steady player. Nothing special but everything he did was reliable whether playing wide or centrally. He is a balancing player for TFC at the moment because he can do the grunt work without too much fuss. Problem is if you have Cronin playing in your starting line-up as a wide player then it is indicative of the weaknesses of the squad as his athletic/technical profile for the position is not conducive for dynamic forward play. Translation not quick enough. Nevertheless still an important player for the team because he has a winning mentality and after last season he now has experience under his belt.
TFC's best performer today. If ever there was going to be a break through it was going to come from Dwayne. Lively and spirited but on his own he could not create any significant chance. It is important he does not get frustrated through what will be a difficult period otherwise TFC will really struggle to score goals.
Always looks like he has the potential to be dangerous but so far has failed to deliver. Quick and lively but on today's performance at least his touch on the ball was poor. Never looks like scoring or even shooting for that matter. Needs off field guidance on how to create space by being more mobile - be crafty! It is too easy at the moment for opponents to defend him.