If you had told any Toronto FC fan last season that the club was going to have trouble keeping all its strikers happy in 2009, they would have laughed in your face — or dumped a beer on your head. Either would have been a proper reaction to such lunacy.
2008 was the year that Jeff Cunningham was run out of town, Danny Dichio (TFC’s leading scorer) watched much of the season sidelined with a concussion and a stadium’s hopes fell to the slender shoulders of 17-year-old Fuad (I’m no longer Abdus) Ibrahim.
Mercifully, Chad Barrett provided some much needed relief in the second half of the year — but strikers were a rare commodity running the plastic pitch at BMO in ’08.
But, as they say, it’s a whole new year. Toronto announced this week the acquisition of long sought after Argentine striker Pablo Vitti. The 23-year-old was impressing Toronto brass as far back as July in last year’s friendly against Independiente — in which he scored the game’s only goal.
Vitti, fleet footed and possessing plenty of flair, has struggled to produce results the last few seasons, but is now Toronto’s go-to striker.
Which begs the question — where does everyone else fit in?
Barrett’s relative consistency last season, mixed with his mountain of potential, makes him the obvious choice to start alongside Vitti.
Dichio re-signed with the club in the off-season and took a pay cut to do it. As a guy towards the end of his career, and one of tremendous character, he will likely accept whatever role is asked of him, but if he’s healthy and fit he will want to play.
Ibrahim, who at times last year showed that he could be a future force in the MLS (or abroad), still requires a fair amount of development to mould that promise into something tangible — hard to do if you’re the third or fourth striker down the line.
And that still leaves recent draft picks O’Brian White and Kyle Hall — Canadians who, with the elimination of the MLS reserve division, will both be hard-pressed to find a proper role on the squad.
It’s hardly the worst thing in the world to have too much of a good thing, but Toronto coach John Carver will find himself juggling lineups as much as he is juggling egos this year — and it’s hard to say which will be the tougher job.