Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Toronto FC's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 5-21-8 (23 points); 36 GF / 62 GA (-26 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Stefan Frei, 2. Joe Bendik, 3. Quillan Roberts
Strengths: Frei was one of the better goalkeepers in the league until injury ended his season before it started last year. One benefit of the injury is that he increased his upper body strength during his rehabilitation from a fractured left fibula and torn ankle ligaments that required surgery. In his return in preseason, he suffered a broken nose near the end of the first half against the Columbus Crew. It required surgery but he isn’t expected to miss much time. Bendik comes from Portland where the goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack, formerly in the same position at TFC, has a similar philosophy to Toronto goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr so the transition has been easier for him.
Weaknesses: The one thing Frei might need to do better is command the box on corner kicks and crosses. There is also the matter of needing time to ease back into competition after missing all but a March 7 CONCACAF Champions League game last year and now part of preseason. Bendik lacks experience, so that could be a concern if he is required to play significant time. He played just five games (three starts) for Portland last season.
Wild card: Frei needs some time to come back from last year’s leg injury and his broken nose this preseason and will likely be eased into games, leaving Bendik with more early season playing time than expected.
READ: 2013 Toronto FC Preview
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Richard Eckersley, 2. Jeremy Hall; CB: 1. Danny Califf – Darren O’Dea, 2. Doneil Henry – Gale Agbossoumonde; LB: Ashtone Morgan, 2. Matt Stinson
Strengths: O’Dea and Califf have the potential to solidify the central defense, which has been a clear trouble spot in Toronto, once they have time to learn each other's tendencies. Both are experienced and have played at the international level. Acquiring Califf allows Eckersley to return to his natural right back position where he can use his ability to make runs into the attacking zone. He was used at centerback for a large portion of last season. Morgan has the ability to make strong runs up the left side, deliver effective crosses and should continue to improve.
Weaknesses: Morgan is young and is still learning to use his speed to better advantage on defense. His one-on-one play could improve. Eckersley could make better use of his runs. Califf is 33 years old and that could be a factor over the long season should his body not comply with the stresses of a long season.
Wild card: Agbossoumonde, whose rights came to Toronto in a weighted lottery, continues to develop on the potential he showed early in preseason and becomes a big factor defensively.
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Emery Welshman, 2. Kyle Bekker; CM: 1. Júlio César, 2. Matt Stinson; CM: 1. Terry Dunfield, 2. Torsten Frings, 3. Kyle Bekker; RM: 1. Reggie Lambe, 2. Jonathan Osorio (unsigned)
Strengths: Júlio César brings a strong resume as a holding midfielder and played last year with Sporting Kansas City. If Frings can return to the form he had before his hip injury, still up in the air as he has returned to Toronto to rehab and looks unlikely to return by March 2, it would be a plus as he enters his final season. Dunfield was an inspirational player last season and will be needed again in what is a skimpy lineup at this stage. Lambe can provide some skill from the flank. Welshman is a rookie who was a forward at Oregon State, but has been used on the outside in preseason where he can provide speed. Bekker was the third pick overall in the SuperDraft and has impressed with Toronto and with Canada.
Weaknesses: Frings is a huge question mark as he returns from hip surgery. Lambe is in and out, playing one game well and the next one not so well. The lack of depth is glaring as the rebuilding process is obviously not complete. The midfield will be stronger if Luis Silva plays there instead of being forced into the forward’s role that he occupied late last season and during preseason.
Wild card: Whether Bekker and Welshman take to the pro game immediately and give the Reds a lift. Both have talent, it's just a matter of when they'll be ready to put it to good use.
Depth Chart: 1. Luis Silva, 2. Justin Braun, 3. Andrew Wiedeman, 4. Taylor Morgan (unsigned), 5. Ashton Bennett (unsigned)
Strengths: Danny Koevermans has scored 17 goals in 26 league games. But the problem is he is not expected to return to the lineup until late June as he recovers from knee surgery. His return would be huge. Silva is better as a creative midfielder, but he has skills that are as asset anywhere he plays. Braun showed that he can score, 17 goals over two seasons (2010-2011), with Chivas USA but hardly played last season for Montreal and Real Salt Lake.
Weaknesses: Koevermans can’t get back soon enough because the front line is thin. Meanwhile, help is needed. Silva scored five goals last season, Braun none and Wiedeman two. The goals must come from somewhere.
Wild card: If Supplemental Draft pick Morgan carries on his early preseason form, makes the team and provides some spark for the sparse front line, it would be an inspired pick by Payne.