After making a huge off-season splash, Toronto FC prepares to start their eighth MLS season still looking for a first ever playoff berth. TSN soccer analyst Gareth Wheeler tells you everything you need to know about Toronto FC heading into 2014, while TSN soccer analyst Jason deVos tells you how they will succeed or fail during the new campaign. Gareth Wheeler: With great signings come great expectations. Toronto FC went from afterthought to main focus in an off-season of change. President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Tim Leiweke promised big things; a swift turn around in fortunes upon his arrival. Momentum has shifted from a lifeless entity into a resurrected being with true hope and an ambitious future; no easy task for the most futile franchise in Major League Soccer history. Seven years outside of the playoffs has taken its toll. Amidst the newfound excitement is an element of prove it to me. Big promises have been made before. The shock of what has transpired with upwards of $100 million worth of transfer and payroll commitments hasnt sunk in with most. Tim-squared, as in Leiweke and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko backed up their lofty words with decisive, calculated action. On paper, this looks to be the best Toronto FC side the city has ever seen. Now comes the hard part: sustained stability and on-field success. Neither are guaranteed, but the blueprint reads much clearer. The buzz is palpable across Toronto. The question most often asked from passionate or casual supporters alike, how good will this team be? Theres no straight-forward answer. Its easy to get swept up in the hoopla. Tickets have been sold and the team will be playing in front of a packed house at BMO Field once again. Theres a lot to be excited about and failing to make the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year would be seen as nothing short of a complete failure. Championship calibre talk however is premature. Striker Jermain Defoe and influential central midfielder Michael Bradley represent the two biggest moves of MLS off-season. With name comes substance, with Defoe and Bradley easily becoming the best two players in franchise history. They are that good and make TFCs roster comparable to top teams in MLS. Brazilian duo, goalkeeper Julio Cesar and promising striker Gilberto are a step lower on the wow scale, but entirely intriguing. Manager Ryan Nelsen has raved about Gilberto and believes the 24-year old can score more goals than prized acquisition Defoe. The return of Dwayne De Rosario represents a chance to rectify the wrong surrounding his previous hasty departure. The club at the time painted De Rosario as the bad guy disingenuously. Bezbatchenko has made clear this is a new TFC, set on doing business a different and better way. Extending the olive branch to the hometown boy made too much sense. Attempting to forecast how this team will do is fruitless. A MLS season is a marathon to begin with, never mind the added wrinkle of this summers World Cup. Notwithstanding injuries and/or factors out of the realm of control, here are three keys to success for Toronto FC in 2014. 1) Goal scoring: Bezbatchenko has said to anyone who will listen; his first job was to find TFC goal scorers. Sounds simplistic but only one team scored fewer goals than TFC last season. Toronto has been in the bottom five in goals scored in each of the last four years. The lack of a true finisher outside of the oft-injured Danny Koevermans was an indictment on team management. Without top goal scorers there is next to no chance of competing with the top sides and having regular success. It has been one of the many reasons for perennial failure to date. How many goals Defoe, Gilberto, and De Rosario will score will determine how far this team will go. Gilberto has already set a lofty, most likely unattainable goal of 25 tallies this season. Defoe should have little trouble adapting to MLS life, and 20 goals isnt out of the question. TFC lost back-up strike option Bright Dike through pre-season injury, Dike would have played a key role. Bezbatchenko would be prudent to bring in another goal scorer to compliment the bunch because you can never have enough goals in the team. 2) Back four: Cheap goals conceded have plagued TFC in recent seasons. The group last year was far too young, inexperienced and mistake prone. The group worked hard, but lacked cohesion and didnt do anything particular well. Justin Morrow and Bradley Orr were brought in to add experience to the back-line. The strength, or lack thereof, of this young group will make or break this team. Cesar as a leader at the back helps, as does Steven Caldwell as a steady, vocal force. Can Nelsen get this group playing as a unit? Does TFC have enough quality depth? And can young Canadians Doneil Henry and Ashton Morgan makes strides, finding consistency in their game? If the answer to these questions is yes, TFC will be in good stead. Age is no longer an excuse. 3) Team tactics: Nelsens first year as manager was a trying one. With very little talent, depth and a revolving door, six wins and the third worst points total in the league (29) was a predictable outcome. Evaluation of Nelsen as team manager is thus far incomplete. It surprised some Nelsen remained in the off-season of top-to-bottom change. And because of that, he remains the easy fall-guy in case all doesnt go according to plan. Another coaching change is the last thing this team needs - eight coaches in eight years speaks to the lack of vision or consistent direction. Players, no matter how good, cannot achieve in a current state of flux. It must be said the work-rate of the team under Nelsen was superior. Theres no question hes a natural leader and a well-liked figure. His man-management and tactical approach will be tested now he has better players and a year under his belt. The team generally lined up in a 4-4-2 last year. A level of formational flexibility will be required to get the most out of his assets, particularly finding the best spots to play De Rosario and Gilberto as dynamic attacking players. The hype is back at Toronto FC. Its been called A Bloody Big Deal. The only way that manifests is if the wins follow. For the first time ever at TFC, there is good reason to believe it actually will. TSN Soccer analyst Jason deVos weighs in on how Toronto FC will succeed or fail during the 2014 season. Jason deVos: Toronto FC will succeed if… …the stars align. TFC have made the single biggest offseason spending splurge in the history of Major League Soccer. Nearly $100m has been spent to acquire the likes of Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, Gilberto, Júlio César and Dwayne De Rosario, and the burning question is this: Will this make TFC a contender? On paper, the answer is yes. Toronto is significantly stronger now than it has ever been. They have the U.S. national teams best midfielder in Bradley, a top-class goal scorer in Defoe and Brazils number one goalkeeper in Júlio César. You wont find a stronger spine to a team in MLS. If those players live up to their reputations, Toronto FC will not only make the playoffs, they will be the team that everyone wants to avoid in the post-season. Toronto FC will fail if… ….they put the cart before the horse. Having better players is one thing; getting them to play together, as a team, is another. It will take time for TFCs crop of new players to gel, and until that happens, the microscope will be firmly focused on head coach, Ryan Nelsen. The jury is still out on Nelsens ability - as a second-year coach - to get the best out of the talented players he now has at his disposal. He tends to stick to his preferred formation (1-4-4-2), and has so far shown little interest in experimenting with various tactical approaches to the game. This can work if the players are all on board (Real Salt Lake is a good example), but only time will tell if this will be the case for Toronto FC. If the team struggles out of the gate, expect Nelsen to come under increasing pressure. 2013 finish: 6-17-11 (ninth in Eastern Conference). Did not qualify for MLS Cup playoffs. Whos In?: M Michael Bradley (transfer from AS Roma) , GK Júlio Cesar (loan from Queens Park Rangers), F Jermain Defoe (transfer from Tottenham), M Dwayne De Rosario (Re-Entry Draft), F Gilberto (transfer from SC Internacional), M Jackson (trade from FC Dallas), D Justin Morrow (trade from San Jose), D Bradley Orr (loan from Blackburn Rovers). Whos Out?: F Justin Braun (out of contract), M Bobby Convey (trade to New York), F Robert Earnshaw (option declined), D Richard Eckersley (trade to New York), D Jonas Elmer (contract terminated), GK Stefan Frei (trade to Seattle), F Danny Koevermans (out of contract), M Matias Laba (trade to Vancouver), M Darel Russell (option declined), M Michael Thomas (option declined), F Emery Welshman (waived). SuperDraft: D Nick Hagglund (1-10), MF Daniel Lovitz (2-24). Authentic Serge Ibaka Jersey
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. "I dont know where we would be without him," McClendon said. "Hes done a tremendous job for us and (Wednesday) was no different." Logan Morrison drove in two runs in Seattles big sixth inning, Young pitched seven strong innings and the Mariners beat the Houston Astros 5-2 to complete a three-game sweep.Fort Collins, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - Enjoying their longest winning streak since 1997, the 22nd-ranked Colorado State Rams settle in at Hughes Stadium on Saturday to host the slumping New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference play. The Rams are off to their best start since 1994 when the team opened with a mark of 10-1 under head coach Sonny Lubick. The lone setback on the schedule was a 37-24 loss to Boise State on the road in the second game of the season, a defeat that could keep the Rams out of the conference championship game if the Broncos are able to win out at this point. Most recently the Rams were in action on Nov. 8 versus Hawaii at home, capturing a resounding 49-20 victory, advancing to 5-1 in conference play for the first time since 2002 when the program opened 6-1 on the way to the league title. As for the Lobos, they are at the other end of the spectrum in the Mountain Division of the MWC, winning just one of six league bouts to this point. The team has a total of three victories overall, the other coming against Texas- San Antonio in early October. Last weekend, New Mexico took a run at Utah State in Logan but came up short in a 28-21 final, the squads second loss in a row and the fourth in five outings. The series is controlled by the Rams currently, 36-25, thanks in part to an overwhelming 66-42 victory by Colorado State in Albuquerque last season. The Rams have won four straight in the series, including three in a row in Fort Collins. Freshman quarterback Lamar Jordan did everything in his power to get the Lobos into the win column against Utah State last week, but it simply was not meant to be. He converted 8-of-18 passes for 154 yards and a score, but was also intercepted once in the close call. The signal caller ran for 80 yards, second only to Romell Jordan who tallied 96 yards and a score on nine carries. Defensively, it was Tevin Newman with a team-best seven tackles, Nik DAvanzo with a pair of sacks and SaQwan Edwards an interception that he returned 33 yards and six plays later, the UNM offense turned it into its first touchdown of the contest. We gave up too many big plays, said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. To come up here and win this game, we needed to play great defense and we couldnt do that. We are good enough to keep it close, but we arent good enough to win a game like this yet. The defense has been a concern of the Lobos all season long, with the team giving up 498.9 ypg, ranking 116th in the country in that department. The run defense has been the biggest issue as the group allows 276.7 ypg which is 122nd in the nation currently. The bad news for the Lobos now is that linebacker Dakota Cox, one of the nations top tacklers with 116 stops, is listed as questionable for this week due to an ankle injury. Behind Cox, the second-best tackler is David Guthrie who has 64 sstops, so clearly there is a huge drop off in that department.dddddddddddd On the offensive side, the Lobos are fourth in the nation in rushing with 318.3 ypg, but are generating just 87.3 ypg through the air (124th). Thrust into action due to the foot injury of Cole Gautsche, Jordan has done rather well given the circumstances, throwing for 699 yards and five touchdowns on just 50 completions. On the ground, it is Jhurell Pressley who leads the way with 873 yards and 11 TDs, but he is just one of several options that the Lobos are leaning on these days. As for the Rams, who have been out of action for a few weeks, they are finally taking the field as a nationally-ranked squad for the first time since 2003. As Ive said all along, its pretty cool that people are taking note of the good things happening at Colorado State University, head coach Jim McElwain says of the national recognition. This is just another step in the climb, and I just cant tell you how proud I am of this team. We have a long way to go, but Im happy for our fans, for this university and the people in the state of Colorado. Coach McElwain has the luxury of watching two players who may well be the best at their position in the Mountain West right now in quarterback Garrett Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins. Grayson is the first quarterback in program history to have three games with at least four touchdown passes in his career, all of them coming this season against UC Davis, Wyoming and Hawaii. Put it all together and the gunslinger is streaking along with 3,024 yards and 26 TDs on 65.6 percent accuracy. As for Higgins, he too is in a class by himself and was recently named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which recognizes the top receiver in the nation. It was very exciting to hear this news this morning, said Higgins of the announcement. It shows how much hard work really does pay off, and makes me think how blessed I am to have great teammates and coaches. I set high goals for myself and our team, and those goals can only be achieved with everyone doing their part. To be in this position is a dream come true. Higgins entered the week leading all receivers in the FBS with 142.2 ypg and 13 touchdowns, while placing second in receiving yards with 1,280. He has a school-record seven games with at least 100 yards receiving and his 14 catches of 30 yards or more also paces the nations receivers. In addition to Grayson and Higgins, the CSU offense is also supported by the exploits of Alabama transfer, running back Dee Hart who has 909 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. The Colorado State defense takes its cues from Aaron Davis who leads the group with 95 tackles, 18 more than his closest teammate, while Cory James steps in with 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss to pace the program in both of those department. cheap falcons jerseys cheap ravens jerseys cheap bills jerseys cheap bears jerseys cheap bengals jerseys cheap cowboys jerseys cheap lions jerseys cheap texans jerseys cheap colts jerseys cheap jaguars jerseys cheap chiefs jerseys cheap rams jerseys cheap dolphins jerseys cheap vikings jerseys cheap saints jerseys cheap giants jerseys cheap jets jerseys cheap eagles jerseys cheap steelers jerseys cheap 49ers jerseys
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