Talking to the Enemy: Toronto FC

In “Talking to the Enemy” we take the time to ask questions of other sites on the FanSided Network who represent an upcoming opponent for Sporting Kansas City. We’ll ask three questions and the opposing site will ask three questions of us. This Sunday (I mean, Soccer Sunday!) Sporting KC will take on Toronto FC.

Toronto currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, tied with New York City FC and two points behind the Montreal Impact. Sporting KC are currently tied for first place with the San Jose Earthquakes out West.

Representing Toronto FC will be Anthony Gallo from TorontoReds.com. We’ll start with his questions for me.

1. Sporting KC have been a dominant and consistent club for many seasons, why is that?

There are a few reasons for this in my opinion. It starts with the ownership group. Since the re-brand to Sporting Kansas City from the Kansas City Wizards, the team has been under new ownership (technically a bit longer than that). Sporting Club have shown a propensity to manage the team correctly.

Sporting is a small market team and they run their team smart. Unlike Toronto FC, the Los Angeles Galaxy and NYCFC; Sporting will never be the team spending millions of dollars on players. Since that is the case the team has to build intelligently.

That brings me to my second reason. Head coach and technical director Peter Vermes. Ownership brought him on and he has a system that he sticks to. He finds players that fit his 4-3-3 formation and makes it work. In fact he may have the best pieces for his formation in years. A goal scoring center forward, actual wingers who can deliver service to the CF, perfect midfielders for each role as well as a strong back line.

Vermes and company also understand when it’s time to let a player go. Do we miss Uri Rosell and Krisztian Nemeth? Absolutely, but Sporting KC sell those players and buy new players to stay within the salary cap. Sporting are built as a team with fewer stars, but it works. We’ll probably never get our Giovinco, but they still find a way to win.

Aug 29, 2014; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer (14) and midfielder Graham Zusi (8) celebrates sporting a goal against Houston Dynamo at Sporting Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman/Sporting KC-USA TODAY Sports

2. Besides Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, is there anyone else TFC should watch for?

If you are asking who is going to score goals, then you’ve probably covered your bases. Of course it’s always possible that any number of players could score, but Dwyer and Feilhaber (if healthy) are probably the most likely candidates.

If I can only name one player to “watch out for” it would be Roger Espinoza. He has been all over the field the first two games of the season. He isn’t likely to score a goal or even assist on a goal, but he is likely to cause the pressure that leads to a turnover that in turn leads to a goal.

It’s evident how important Espinoza is when he went out injured last August. He missed the remainder of the season and it showed as Sporting started to fall apart late in the season. Let’s not forget that Sporting KC were in the running for the Supporter’s Shield before that injury and subsequent collapse.

3. The first two matches saw SKC win by one and up a man, how you would rate the clubs performance so far? Did they deserve those results?

Deserve is such an interesting word. I’ll tackle each game separately. The game against the Seattle Sounders was definitely sloppy. Sporting were on the back foot for a bit in the first half but had started to turn the tide when Seattle was dealt the red card and went down a man. After that Sporting dominated possession and did score a bit of a lucky goal (rain + new turf + Stefen Frei = three points for SKC).

As for the Vancouver Whitecaps game, it was a completely different story. Sporting were already up 2-0 when the ‘Caps got that red card. Sporting entirely let off the accelerator and relaxed way too much. They did threaten goal a few times, but were so relaxed they gave up a counter that led to a penalty kick. That being said, Sporting completely controlled the game despite the momentary lapse.

It should also be noted that both games featured backup heavy lineups due to preseason injuries. Sporting KC were without either new winger in their starting lineup (Brad Davis and Justin Mapp) in addition to missing MVP candidate Feilhaber and starting left back Seth Sinovic. The team is getting healthier, but Benny could still miss the Toronto game.

Now for my questions to Anthony.

1. Sebastian Giovinco had a fantastic debut in MLS in 2015 and he’s off to a great start in 2016. Can he be stopped? If so, how (I won’t tell anyone, I promise)?

Okay if you promise. It won’t be easy to stop a guy we call the ‘Atomic Ant’. His speed, dribbling and set piece capabilities are just crazy. Clubs last season didn’t know what to make of Giovinco, but this season I have noticed that clubs already know that he is one of the best MLS players ever, so now they will be putting extra focus on him. The Red Bulls almost shut him down completely, until the end, and NYCFC tried to do the same.

He is smaller than other players, so if you really want to bother him, you are going to need to push him around and show who is boss. But that could earn you a red card and an early shower, so you decide what to do? I’m just glad he is on our side.

2. Excuse us Western Conference people who don’t watch the East enough, but we all know Giovinco, Bradley and Altidore. Who don’t we know on Toronto FC that we should?

The three DP’s are our key players, but others like Canadians Jonathan Osorio and a guy most Western Conference fans should know Will Johnson, are important players as well. Marky Delgado has shaped into a good player after he was picked by TFC in the 2014 Dispersal Draft when Chivas USA folded.

In defence, two of our newly signed defenders, Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour, have been playing some good football. Along with left back Justin Morrow, who has been a very consistent player for TFC since he joined in 2014.

Besides those players, our 2016 ninth overall pick Tsubasa Endoh grabbed the attention of both the coaching staff and the fans, after starting in almost every pre-season match and playing some smart football. That earned him a contract with the first team, and so far, he look’s be a good player.

Oct 17, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney reacts to a refereeing decision during the second half against Columbus Crew at BMO Field. Toronto lost 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

3. Toronto have finally gone an offseason without firing their coach. How relieved are the fans and what are the expectations for this season?

Well this is actually our second season without firing a coach, so kudos to us! I think its good to keep Greg Vanney around longer than one season. I think consistency is what slowed us down for the first 10 years, and when a manager failed, another one was brought in, and so on. Some fans aren’t happy with Vanney, as the hashtag, #VanneyOut, appears time to time, but that’s typical in a big market.

I like how our general manager, Tim Bezbatchenko has handled the coaching situation, not putting blame on Vanney and not getting frustrated when we don’t win a lot. Building a winning team takes time, and I believe Vanney has shaped this club into what suits his style.

The club has high expectations as usual. Fans want TFC to not just make the playoffs, but win a match and at least make it to the conference finals. Some say to win the cup, but I would be perfectly fine with a conference final match.

That sure gives us a better idea of what to expect from Toronto FC and what to look out for. Be sure to tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Sunday to catch all the action in this early season game between what appear to be two of the best teams in the league.

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