TORONTO – Torsten Frings still considers himself a midfielder. Head coach and technical director Aron Winter says Frings is still a midfielder.
But once again – this time in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Tauro FC in a Group C CONCACAF Champions League match – Frings was back between the two center backs as a sweeper, or a “free man,” to use Winter’s term.
Frings played there in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Colorado and played there in the 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 13.
Winter said he uses that tactic depending on the strengths, and the playing style, of the opposing team.
“You can choose to play 4-3-3 with him between the two central defenders but we're always watching the strengths of the opponents,” Winter said. “In the first half especially, my central defenders went wide and he's the guy [in the middle] that you can play always, and he's calm and comfortable on the ball.
“It's an option, he can play in that role and he can play it well.”
Frings said there is a difference. He doesn’t run as much as the sweeper and does more directing. He says he’s glad to play the spot because the team has done well with him there when he’s been called upon.
“It's not my decision, it's the coach's decision,” Frings said through a translator. “I feel that the team likes that I play back there and we've been playing well with me back there. But at the end of the day, I am a midfielder and I'd like to play midfield again in the future."
When Frings plays as sweeper, the right and left backs can play more like midfielders on the wings. Right back Richard Eckersley and left back Ashtone Morgan say they both enjoy the freedom they are given in that formation.
Both used it to advantage in Tuesday’s win. Eckersley, who missed last Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to Pumas UNAM in Mexico City because of a red card suspension, played energetically on Tuesday.
“It gives us the freedom because of the extra man at the back,” Eckersley said. “It’s good for the fullbacks.”
Morgan, who has the speed to make dangerous runs up the wing, put in the cross in the 40th minute that eventually led to Danny Koevermans’ goal.
Frings and Koevermans joined Toronto FC as Designated Players in July and they will always be connected in the club’s history because of that.
On Tuesday, it was Frings preventing the ball from going in the goal and Koevermans putting it into the goal.