Carver's juggling jigsaw pieces
Monday, March 17, 2008 | 06:17 PM ET
John Carver would never cut it with the Diplomatic Corps. Fortunate, then that diplomacy is rarely called for in his line of work.
“That’s the worst we’ve played,” the Toronto FC coach tells me on the practice field at Charleston Southern University, referring to his team’s performance in the Carolina Challenge Cup opener against San Jose - a game mercifully cut short by a lightning storm on Saturday evening.
Carver doesn’t mince his words; he calls a spade a spade and gives a straight answer to a straight question. He bellows at his players and commands their attention while acting as referee/instructor during inter-squad scrimmages.
When he spots a move he doesn’t like, Carver brings the action an abrupt halt with a shrill blast on his whistle and barks his objections in a concise and deliberate way. Once he’s got the message across loud and clear, play resumes.
Carver’s trying to fashion a defining shape to the team so that players are constantly alert. The object of the exercise is to ensure players make safe choices in defensive situations, while going forward there is always more than one option for the man in possession of the ball.
A good striker hard to find
The business of assembling this complex human jigsaw into an efficient unit in a limited time and on a limited budget is taxing. Trialists have come and gone as Carver and manager Mo Johnston attempt to add both depth and impact to the roster ahead of the trade deadline in mid-April.
Of those currently in camp, Puerto Rican defender Marco Velez appears closest to winning a contract. An accomplished central defender, who can also operate at right fullback, Velez can provide competition for the likes of Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall and rookie Julius James.
However, top of Carver’s wish list is a goal scorer. “We need a striker,” he states with some urgency in his voice. He understands and shares the fans’ frustration at the lack of fresh talent, but assures me they are working night and day to try and resolve the issue.
Finding a solution will cost money - the striker’s art comes at a premium and in soccer, as in life, you generally get what you pay for. The good news for Carver is that there is cash in the kitty, but he also knows the clock is ticking.
Not much time to be diplomatic, but then again “JC” wouldn’t waste time on niceties. He wants the jigsaw finished - the sooner the better.
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About the Author
Nigel Reed lends his extensive experience, passion and knowledge of the game of soccer to his role as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s Major League Soccer broadcasts.
Reed has more than 20 years experience covering soccer, most notably a five-year stint from 1999 to 2004 where he was a host and producer for the English Premier League for BBC. He also covered English Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton for BBC Radio and provided analysis for both BBC TV and the BBC website.
More recently, Reed served as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s coverage of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He also hosts The Soccer Show for the Toronto sports radio station the Fan 590.
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