Thirteen points from the opening 10 games represents a four-point deficit on the 2008 Toronto team that sprang quickly out of the blocks but ultimately lost its way between July and September.
The 2009 edition has earned only three wins compared to five at the same stage a year ago. Yet, curiously, the goals-scored column is exactly the same. Toronto FC have scored 13 goals in their opening 10 games — matching the total achieved 12 months ago.
This past weekend Toronto FC passed something of a milestone. According to official MLS statistics, Chris Cummins’s team broke through the 100 barrier in total team shots on the season — it’s 101 to be precise, or roughly 10 shots per game on average.
Of those goal attempts, 27 have come from Chad Barrett (tied for third in the League) and of those 27 attempts, 13 have been on target (also tied for third across MLS). All promising stuff until one considers the final product: two goals in 10 starts is not something that will please Barrett nor the fans for whom goal-scoring has been, and apparently remains, an issue in the franchise’s third year.
In my opinion, it’s not so much a question of Barrett being a poor finisher as much as others simply being better. Brian McBride, for example, tucked away his sixth goal of the season Sunday at BMO Field from 18 shots overall; Josh Wolfe of Kansas City enjoys a similar strike rate and both have played a game less. Barrett continues to work hard to improve himself and thereby benefit the team, and frankly does not need me or anyone else to amplify the pressure he already puts on himself.
Vitti worth the investment?
Much has changed in the last year — including the man who picks the team — but there can be little debate Cummins has a stronger roster from which to select than his predecessor. The homecomings of Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux from Houston and Dallas, respectively, have added creativity up front and solidity at the back. Mo Johnston’s rookies, Stefan Frei and Sam Cronin, are already showing maturity beyond their years and experience.
Another Super Draft selection, O’Brian White, is nearing fitness and, if reports are accurate, he can be expected to boost the goal tally in the second half of the season.
For some, White’s debut cannot come quickly enough. Just how he will adapt to life as a professional after such a long rehab from ACL surgery is anyone’s guess, but with Danny Dichio getting ready to hang up his boots for good and Pablo Vitti still firing blanks, the former U-Conn striker may have an important role to play before the current campaign reaches its climax, never mind the years ahead.
At some point in the not-too-distant future Johnston must make a decision on whether Vitti is providing value for money. Granted, the Argentine is on a non-guaranteed contract, but while he remains on loan from Independiente he’s taking up a sizeable chunk of cap space for a player who, despite his obvious ability, has yet to score or provide an assist in nine MLS appearances. Johnston must be beginning to wonder if the money could be put to better use elsewhere.
Toronto FC’s on-field inconsistency continues to frustrate me as a fan, but I do sense the product is moving forward albeit at little more than a snail’s pace. Chances are being created, but soccer is all about taking your chances. Another game has gone where one team did and the other, demonstrably, did not.
Meanwhile, back at the stats, let’s project forward. At this rate Toronto FC will finish the regular season with 39 points — a total good enough for New York to squeeze into the playoffs in 2008. The Red Bulls rode their luck all the way to the MLS Cup final.
Which leads me to ponder: does lightning strike twice?
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