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Thursday 13 December 2012

Thoughts on the Recent Trades at Toronto FC

    Yesterday Toronto FC completed their second trade of the off-season sending Ryan Johnson and Milos Kocic to Portland for goalkeeper Joe Bendik, allocation money, and the third pick in the 2013 SuperDraft.

    It comes as little surprise that two of the more non-committal players from the end-of-season pressers have made their way out of the city; neither extended the usual platitudes to Head Coach Paul Mariner, with Johnson almost dismissive of the possibility of a return.

    It was well-known that with three extra mouths to feed Kocic was looking for a raise and desperate to continue his development with regular playing time.

    Added to that, the duo were two of the few players on the chopping-block that had genuine trade value in the league.

    In Portland, Kocic will find it tough to find the starting role he so desires.

    Behind number one Donovan Ricketts, who surely can’t have as bad a season as he did last year, and in front of highly-thought of New Zealand International Jake Gleeson there is a risk that Kocic will find himself again in limbo, not able to wrestle the top spot, while losing his backup role to a younger keeper.

    Though prone to the odd mistake, Milos proved himself this season.

    Thrust into the starting role with injury to Stefan Frei, the Serbian could hardly be blamed for the side’s lacklustre season; his frank interview style and obvious desire to win – and subsequent disappointment in defeat - were refreshing given the apparent malaise of the club.

    He still needs to perfect his often wayward distribution and, as other TFC keepers have, looked shell-shocked at the defending in front of him as the season wore on, but this past year was a breakout one for the twenty-seven year old. 

    Best of luck to Milos and his young family as they partake in the next stage of his footballing career; enjoy Portland, seems a good town.

    Johnson, a Jamaican international, was a force for TFC this past season. The iron man appeared in nearly ever minute and provided some of the few moments of genuine pleasure with stunning strikes against Seattle and New York.

    In many ways Johnson was his own worst enemy, pairing those snippets of pure class with a dogged inconsistency. For all he provided, too often Johnson simply drifted out of matches and his wayward finishing was extremely frustrating.

    That seesawing - excelling when not expected and failing at the easiest of chances - plays on the nerves of fans, fanning expectations that will be left unfulfilled.

    Space and time plays a large role in footballing success. Johnson excelled at the spatial aspect, using his pace and physicality to get into good positions, but time was his enemy – namely choosing the wrong touch or option when given too much of it.

    That being said, it is lamentable that yet another capable MLS professional will be walking out the exit doors at BMO Field; what odds on him finding the score-sheet against TFC when they visit Portland in 2013?

    Thanks for the memories Ryan and best of luck against every side save TFC next season.

    In return Toronto acquires twenty-three year old goalkeeper Bendik, who appeared capable but inexperienced, as he struggled for minutes behind first Troy Perkins, then Ricketts.

    The shift from Kocic to Bendik and news of the release of Bermudan keeper, Freddy Hall, creates a vacuum in the goalkeeping depth-chart.

    Frei will retake his starting position with a return to fitness and Bendik looks likely to be the primary backup, but neither he, nor academy graduate Quillan Roberts, are ready to challenge for the starting position, leaving the side with a severe lack of a tried and tested number two, which will be of concern should Frei face any setbacks or be injured again.

    The acquisition of the third-overall pick in this season’s draft is a particularly interesting development.

    Two selections in the first three is a great way to stock the club with some promising young talent, but also opens up the possibility of moving the first-overall pick without raising the ire of fans, should the right offer materialize.

    The prospect of trading future value for savvy pros in the interest of getting better now, given the playoffs-or-out mandate for the Paul Mariner-Earl Cochrane regime, loomed large, but with the transition to the Kevin Payne-era, perhaps that short-sightedness will be forgone.

    Previously, Toronto shipped defender-midfielder Aaron Maund to Salt Lake in exchange for Justin Braun.

    This trade has the potential to be highly regrettable.

    Braun, interestingly enough, was spotted by former TFC Coach, Preki - then with Chivas USA - at an amateur tournament held at The Home Depot Center in 2008. He was invited to preseason and eventually signed with the club, tallying nearly a goal every four games in his four seasons in Los Angeles.

    Particularly memorable was his three-goal performance against New York in 2011, but since then Braun has struggled mightily, first in Montreal, arriving in a trade from Chivas, before being jettisoned out to his hometown, Salt Lake, midseason for a conditional draft pick, where the struggles continued.

    Allowing Maund to leave is the continuation of a pattern in Toronto.

    Too often TFC has given up early on young players and too often players that leave Toronto have flourished.

    Salt Lake seeks talent that is undervalued and underappreciated in other markets and offers them a chance to shine. The likes of Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, and Nick Rimando, not to mention Kenny Mansally and Kwame Watson-Siriboe from last season, were all undervalued at previous clubs only to excel, showing their true value, under the tutelage of Jason Kreis and company.

    Maund failed to show the quality that saw him drafted twelfth overall out of Notre Dame in the 2012 SuperDraft during his time in Toronto, but any rookie trying to thrive in the confusion that was this rendition of TFC would have struggled to gain a foothold, let alone prove his worth with the tactical confusion and general failings of the side.

    The dropping of Johnson’s salary, acquisition of allocation money and the potential to acquire one, if not two, top Generation Adidas players – whose contracts do not count against the salary cap – will be extremely important for Toronto as they seek to rebuild the side with the salary constraints created by having three designated players occupying a large portion of the allowed budget.

    MLS, more than other leagues where finance is not as strictly regimented, sees a lot of roster turnover in each off-season.

    Thus far Toronto has parted ways with goalkeepers - Freddy Hall and Milos Kocic;  defenders - Adrian Cann, Ty Harden, Dicoy Williams, Jeremy Hall, and Aaron Maund; midfielders -  Eric Avila and Oscar Cordon;  and forwards - Ryan Johnson, Andrew Wiedeman, Keith Makubuya, and Nicholas Lindsay.

    Thirteen players from a roster of thirty out the door - already a significant amount of change for the club to deal with; it will be interesting to see how the rest of this winter plays out for Toronto FC.

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent weeks, the offseason torpor took hold strongly with life occasionally getting in the way.

Thanks to those who made it out to the second annual POV-FS Xmas Drinks – a good time was had by all.

Hopefully, POV-FS will be back to regularly scheduled programming for the remainder of the winter season, as old regular features are revived, new ones conceived, and yet to be posted thoughts on some of the events of this past season are brought to the forefront.

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