Toronto FC continued it's preparations for the 2012 season with the first game of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston on Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
With some of the very few officially signed players missing through injury (Julian De Guzman still, and now also Dwayne De Rosario with what was described as a tweak) or through contract disputes (Adrian Cann), the game provided plenty of opportuntities for those looking to impress enough to nail down a position in the squad or the starting line up just over 12 months from now.
Mikael Yourassowsky joined Nana Attakora in central defence, with Dan Gargan at right back and academy player Ashtone Morgan at left back. Another academy kid Oscar Cordon joined Jacob Peterson and Nick Labrocca in midfield with Joao Plata and Javier Martina playing upfront with Maicon Santos. Plenty of substitutions meant appearances for a few other new signees, trialists and academy players, including Andrew Ornoch, previously rejected but back for a second try, and Nathan Sturgis, trying to work his way out of the coach's doghouse after not impressing in Turkey.
So how did it all look, well not great frankly, but that's ok, we've got over a year to be working on things. Sloppy defending led to Chicago scoring after 6 minutes, but aside from that Yourassowsky looked alright in the middle, making a couple of really good tackles in the second half. Attakora looked comfortable bringing the ball out of defence, and in general, the team was passing the ball about and keeping possession nicely, though they definitely lacked a cutting edge.
Chicago allowed that to happen really, happily letting Toronto pass it around in their own half while blocking things up in midfield in front of their defence. That tendency was increased after Chicago had a player sent off after 35 minutes, but even then, TFC, curiously still playing in practice jerseys rather than the official new kit, created very few chances against the ten men. It's obviously very early, and though we didn't look great, there were a few moments here and there yesterday where you could see the potential of what Aron Winter's trying to do and what it could all become with an improved squad, even adding De Guzman and De Rosario back into the line-up should make a big difference.
Fortunately there's plenty of time to give the current trialists a fair go and see which of them has what it takes to make the starting lineup for First Kick a year or so from now. Those who don't make the grade can be replaced between now and then, maybe in July when the European transfer window opens. Also the 40 odd practice games we'll have in 2011 will give plenty of opportunities to blood the youngsters from the academy, giving them valuable experience for when it counts. All in all, pre-season's off to a good start and the future is certainly bright.
What's that? How's the squad looking for the 2011 season? Oh, believe me, you really don't want to ask that question.