Starting this week, MLSsoccer.com will look back at the 2011 season team by team. We continue our 2011 in Review series today with Toronto FC. Click here for the full archive.
It was another rebuilding season for Toronto FC with a familiar result: no playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Head coach and technical director Aron Winter, director of player development Paul Mariner and assistant coach Bob de Klerk took over in early January and had to do the rebuilding on the fly.
The controversy around star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario’s salary dispute with the club ended on April 1 with his trade to the New York Red Bulls. But the real rebuilding started in July when the roster was overhauled in a flurry of trades and signings to provide players better suited to Winter’s 4-3-3 formation.
An improved team saved something from the season by winning a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals that will match them against the LA Galaxy in March.
Best Moment of the Year
Playing superbly, the Reds scored a 3-0 road victory over FC Dallas on Oct. 18 to go through to the CCL quarterfinals. Dallas had won the three previous meetings 1-0 during the season, two in league play, but Joao Plata scored twice in the second half at Pizza Hut Park to add to a first-half goal by Danny Koevermans, one of the key midseason additions.
Worst Moment of the Year
A 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 28 was the first time TFC had conceded six goals in a game and was their worst home defeat. By the 11th minute, they were two down and the score was 3-0 at the half. The Reds scored twice early in the second half, only to fall back again. It was obvious changes were needed.
Dutch forward Javier Martina scored two goals in the 2-0 victory over Portland on March 26 in the home opener at BMO Field, but his second one will stand out as one of the best in Toronto FC's history. In the 70th minute, ‘keeper Stefan Frei sent a dropkick his way. Martina attacked it on the first bounce and buried a sublime volley past an outstretched Jake Gleeson.
Frei saved a game TFC tried to throw away with his stop on Chicago's Daniel Paladini on a breakaway in a 2-2 draw on May 14. Paladini was through on goal after the Fire had erased a 2-0 disadvantage, but Frei miraculously raised his left hand to the ball, robbing the Chicago player and preserving the point.
Midfielder Torsten Frings, one of the two Designated Players (with Koevermans) added in July, made every player around him better with his stabilizing influence. The former German international also was used as a sweeper playing with the two central defenders when TFC went to a 3-4-3 against certain opponents. He handled the assignment well and without complaint.
Not only was Frings a huge presence on the pitch, his influence on the younger players was profound. That was another reason the 34-year-old was signed. Among the other significant newcomers who joined the team at midseason were Koevermans and Ryan Johnson. Defender Richard Eckersley and forward Plata contributed mightily as newcomers for most of the season.
1. Shore up the central defense. Season-ending injuries to center backs Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams created a hole in the middle of the back line. That brought Ty Harden into a regular role and resulted in a trade for Andy Iro – both played nearly every game the rest of the way. With the timing of the return of Cann and Williams, reinforcing this spot is a necessary.
2. Improve depth overall. Playing for the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and in the CONCACAF Champions League with the traveling involved in addition to a 34-game schedule stretched the team. More depth will be needed as the Reds play the CCL quarterfinals in March. Adding Jeremy Hall is a good start.
3. Sharper defending on set plays. The Reds allowed nine goals in the league this season after corner kicks. They also allowed a late first-half goal on Aug. 25 in a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas in a CCL Group C game after a long throw-in. Two days later in league play, they gave up a late tying goal to San Jose after a long throw-in. It happened too often and needs fixing.