TORONTO — Whatever the outcome of Toronto FC’s remaining games — including Saturday’s match at Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) — they may have set themselves up for a good start to next season.
Holding midfielder Julian de Guzman feels that way about the team that was dramatically overhauled two months ago.
“I think it’s good that they were able to make their changes earlier this season,” the Canadian international said. “Usually, in previous seasons, they would do it offseason and they would start with a fresh team and they would start from scratch.”
But this year, several changes were made in July, including the addition of Designated Players Danny Koevermans, a striker, and Torsten Frings, a midfielder like de Guzman. The two have elevated a franchise that is nonetheless likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
“Now they started from scratch halfway through the season, built their team for the rest of the season and I think going into the next season, you’ll see a more complete TFC side,” said de Guzman, who was signed as the Reds’ first DP in September 2009.
Toronto FC have won their past two league matches, 4-2 at Columbus on Sept. 10 and 2-1 over Colorado at BMO Field on Sept. 17. They also defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 at BMO Field on Aug. 13.
Frings and Koevermans weren’t just acquired to fit into the style introduced by head coach and technical director Aron Winter; they were brought in to make the system work. Winter has used the 4-3-3 formation, and as the season has progressed, has been able to vary that with a 3-4-3, especially against teams that use a 4-4-2.
The addition of Frings, in particular, has allowed for flexibility. The former German international is able and willing to set himself up between the two center backs as sweeper when needed, and can step up into the midfield when that’s called for.
Having better players like Frings around him has helped de Guzman as well, and de Guzman feels the knee that underwent offseason surgery has become stronger as the season has progressed — another crucial factor in his solid play.
It leaves de Guzman in an optimistic mood.
“You notice in the past couple of months some of the performances we’ve put in — we beat Salt Lake, one of the top teams in the league at home — you can see that the guys are slowly maturing,” de Guzman said. “Everyone is understanding the system a lot more. With that maturity this is a huge signal for, I think, of a brighter future for TFC.”