Sporting Kansas City will take on Toronto FC up at BMO Field tomorrow night. The last time the two teams met, Sporting Kansas City were able to come away with a 2-0 win at Livestrong Sporting Park, thanks to goals from CJ Sapong, and Julio Cesar (gotta love the goal from Julio).
In anticipation of tomorrow night's match, I had the chance to ask a few questions to Duncan Fletcher, the managing editor of the SB Nation Toronto FC blog, Waking The Red.
Duncan was nice enough to give me some insight on the Eric Hassli acquisition, the Julio de Guzman trade, and his thoughts on Toronto FC's 2012 season thus far.
For Duncan's questions and my answers, just head on over to Waking the Red by clicking here. A big thank you to Duncan for taking the time to give us some insight.
1. Eric Hassli hasn't had much time to completely integrate himself into this Toronto team since being traded from the Whitecaps, but he did score a goal against Portland, and he has shown that he can be a very good MLS player at times when he was in Vancouver. What have your thoughts been on his play for Toronto FC thus far? Do you like the Hassli acquisition?
I was very excited when we picked up Hassli, I always liked him for Vancouver, but I still have a sneaking suspicion that he might be one of those players who's really exciting, does a lot of good stuff, and that you love to watch, but doesn't really help a team win. Having said that, I've been quite impressed with him so far, he's clearly got a lot of skill, and has really shown off his ability to win a ball, hold it up and lay it off. Getting his first goal so early is very much a good thing, and he also set up a goal and created a few chances against Portland, he and Luis Silvaworked very well together.
The main thing he brings is his presence; he's a real threat that the opposition just has to respect. Danny Koevermans brought that same threat in a different way before his injury, and there's a real difference when neither of them are on the pitch, the opposing team just seems a lot freer to attack. In the 2 games Hassli's played, he's been subbed off (just coming back from injury) with TFC leading, and both times the opposition has scored the equaliser within 3 minutes, we don't have the depth on the bench right now to replace him without a significant dropoff in quality.
2. Julian de Guzman spent a long while playing for Toronto. Now that he's been traded to FC Dallas, what are your thoughts on his time at Toronto? Why do you think Toronto decided it was time to move on from de Guzman when they did?
It never really worked out for de Guzman, which is a real shame. There was a lot of giddiness and expectation when he first arrived, 2007 Gold Cup MVP, recent MVP season with Deportivo La Coruna etc etc,but he never really had the impact to live up to that perhaps inflated expectation. That's partly his fault, partly the situation he's been in, Paul Mariner was the 5th coach he'd played under in just under 3 seasons which can't be easy for anyone to thrive in. He had plenty of apologists among TFC fans, saying his DM position was a tough one to really be noticed in, and that it maybe wasn't the best use of a DP spot. Torsten Frings pretty much blew those excuses out of the window.
De Guzman often did look good, and overall, I think he made the team better, but not often enough to justify his DP spot, and (as confirmed in this recent interview) the club's been looking to move him on or just outright buy him out for quite some time now. They eventually found a willing partner inn FC Dallas, that trade was initially to make space for a DP centre back, Olof Mellberg, which made a lot of sense. Instead, after Koevermans was injured, we ended up with Hassli instead.
3. Up to this point in the season, who do you feel has been Toronto's MVP, and why? What are your general thoughts on how Toronto FC's season has went thus far?
It's difficult to say really, it hasn't been the type of season where MVP candidates jump out at you. Milos Kocic in goal has been a lot better than 42 goals against in 23 games suggests. He's faced a lot of shots, and done well to keep the damage down, though he's taking on a bit of a shellshocked look, understandably so. Torsten Frings is once again playing very well, he's still the player everything goes through on the pitch, and has improved his set piece deliveries and also managed to chip in with a couple of long range goals. Ryan Johnson has put in an absolutely epic effort up front, playing every minute of every game until he was recently subbed out in a 5-1 CCL laugher, then missed the last game due to playing for Jamaica but he's way too wasteful with chances up front for MVP consideration.
For the season up until now, I'll go with Danny Koevermans. He struggled with fitness and injuries to start the season, but once he got going, at the end of Aron Winter's reign and the start of Paul Mariner's, that's when TFC actually looked like a decent team. Under Paul Mariner, TFC play a more defensive game, they don't have much possession or create many chances, so you need someone up front who can make the most of them when they come along, and Koevermans provided just that. It's no coincidence that we look a lot less dangerous in the last few games after his injury. Eric Hassli's not a natural replacement, he's nowhere near as good a goalscorer, so it will be interesting to see how we play once he's fully fit.