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What we learned from Toronto FC’s massive achievement

CONCACAF Champions League - Toronto FC v Los Angeles Galaxy

CARSON, CA - MARCH 14: Goal keeper Milos Kocic #30 of the Toronto FC makes a save, as Robbie Keane #7 of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Torsten Frings #22 of the Toronto FC look on in the second half during a CONCACAF Champions League game at The Home Depot Center on March 14, 2012 in Carson, California. Toronto FC defeated the Galaxy 2-1. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Today’s “To Do” list:

Write about Seattle losing. Check.

Write about Los Angeles losing. Check.

Write about bigger issues as they relate to CONCACAF Champions League and MLS. Check-arooney.

Well, that about covers it, right?

Oh, wait! Darn. I guess Toronto is still alive in this thing.

Forgive me and my kind for not paying proper heed to TFC’s massive achievement, past an early morning congratulatory mention, anyway. The Canadian sides deserves better. So let’s get into three quick things we learned about Aron Winter’s vastly improved side in last night’s Crusher in Carson:

  • When Toronto got Ryan Johnson last year in a trade from San Jose, I wondered if he fit the technically oriented ways of his Dutch boss? On one hand, Johnson can play out wide, essential in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. But he’s more of a blunt object than typically seen in systems better suited for smooth passers and men who understand the best practices of creating individual space. But, proving once again that coaches generally know more than journalists, I think I get it now: last night I could see what Johnson brings, a ton of heart and want-to. He adds a useful balance, because all the technical craft in the world isn’t going to mean of hill of beans without enough desire attached to the effort.
  • Milos Kocic has proven to be more than a competent backup to goalkeeper Stefan Frei. In fact, Winter’s bold choice to go with Kocic in California proved spot on. The 26-year-old Serbian kept his Reds in the game (and in the tournament) with two exceptional second-half saves. Kocic proved he was up for the job of backing up the well-regarded Frei last year; could he be taking the next step now?
  • Torsten Frings is the leader Julian de Guzman just doesn’t want to be. Both are quality players. Both are Designated Players, in fact. But they aren’t even close in what they donate to the larger cause. It always seemed that de Guzman, the first Canadian to play in Spain’s La Liga, had ample talent and know-how to survive in MLS. But he never rises beyond ordinary status. He never quite stamps “focal point” on himself and the results are usually … “meh.” Frings, on the other hand, put in a Man of the Match performance last night, one dripping with guidance and authority.