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Final

Countdown to First Kick: 23 TFC's defensive struggles

As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.

23 – Toronto FC's league-worst negative goal differential in 2011

Toronto FC allowed four goals to Vancouver on opening day in 2011, setting the tone for what was one of the worst defensive seasons in MLS history.

By the time the dust settled at BMO Field in late October, Aron Winter’s side had given up an eye-popping 59 goals (1.73 per match) and registered a goal differential of minus-23, giving TFC the unfortunate distinction of owning MLS-worst totals in both categories. It also marked the first time since their inaugural season (-24) that Toronto had registered a negative goal differential in the double digits.

And despite those damning statistics – there’s no way to dress up either number – there is still plenty of hope on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario heading into 2012.

Winter would likely point out that his team was adapting to a new style of play in 2011 and the defensive pieces in place were not all of his own choosing. In 2012, though, Toronto will no longer have those excuses on which to fall back.

Reinforcements have come in droves. Center back Aaron Maund was one of the club’s two first-round SuperDraft picks, Jeremy Hall was acquired in a trade with the Portland Timbers and Geovanny Caicedo (LDU Quito) and Miguel Aceval (Universidad de Concepción) arrived from South America, while Richard Eckersley sealed a permanent move to MLS.

On the flip side of the equation, Kyle Davies and Andy Iro were released and Danleigh Borman left via the Re-Entry Draft. Meanwhile, Ty Harden remains in the fold and Adrian Cann is working his way back from injury, leaving Winter with a new defensive puzzle to put together starting March 7 in CONCACAF Champions League play against the LA Galaxy.

And although Toronto’s season will start with a focus on continental commitments, the fanbase will surely look at 2012 as the year the Reds finally force their way into the postseason.

If they have any chance of accomplishing that goal – some have labeled TFC a darkhorse as Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans enter their first full seasons in MLS – they must correct their defensive deficiencies. If that happens, the BMO Field faithful should have plenty to be happy about over the next nine months.

Toronto opens their MLS season at BMO Field on March 24 against San Jose.  GET TICKETS!

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