Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Facts on Frings

Article by Stephen Bickford

Torsten Frings is undoubtedly one of most recognizable figures in Major League Soccer. He’s a well-decorated player whose reputation precedes him, having won domestic league and cup titles in Germany, and winning a bronze medal at the 2006 World Cup. Once a world-class midfielder revered the world over, the Toronto FC fans quickly became enamored with their new potential superstar. They surely believed he’d be able to help lead the club to greatness with his combination of leadership, skill, and experience. Is the fans’ faith in Frings misplaced?

Since his arrival, Frings has just simply failed to deliver. In his “rookie” season in MLS, Frings managed just 1 assist in 13 games. Things haven’t gotten much better for Frings, nor for Toronto FC in 2012. Although scoring twice this season, his two assists as a central midfielder and ultimately the focal point of the entire squad is absolutely abysmal. One might argue that Frings simply isn’t an attacking minded player. While his role is mainly as a defensive midfielder he posted better offensive statistics for every other club he had ever played for, in a league far superior to MLS. Surely he should be succeeding at Toronto, with full backing of the fans, the FO and rarely playing less than 90 minutes a match. Yet there’s one major factor that is overlooked.

Torsten Frings is soon to be 36 years old. In the twilight of his career, he’s but a shadow of the player he used to be, and the fans don’t seem to recognize it. He’s slow, and lacks the fitness and the work-ethic he once had as a younger man. This was made even more apparent in Tuesday night’s 1-3 loss to Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Before the match started Fox Soccer Channel’s Brian McBride referred to Frings as the man, “pulling the strings” for Toronto. The only strings he could have been pulling were the ones to the noose wrapped around Toronto’s throat. He lazily lumbered around the field committing frequent turnovers and getting caught out of position defensively. Frings’ failure to win a tackle in the defensive half of the field even led to the game-winning-goal by Santos.

Toronto coach Paul Mariner didn’t hesitate to give his opinion on Frings’ role in the play by stating, “I don’t like people diving in. It's irresponsible. I don’t appreciate it.”

I’m sympathetic towards Toronto coach Paul Mariner. He just took his first head coaching job (in MLS) so the pressure to prove his worth is palpable. Here’s his dilemma: does he bench a fan favorite and risk further alienating himself from a fan base that is less than impressed with his performance? Or does he continue to play a player that the fans love for who he used to be rather than for what he is now? From a business perspective, Mariner really only has one choice. He’s forced to play an underperforming, aging player who contributes very little to the squad.

It’s really no surprise Toronto has the worst record in MLS this season. They’ve put all of their faith in their lackluster captain. He has been more of a hazard than help to his club this season; one that can’t seem to end soon enough for Toronto fans, players and staff. If Toronto wants to move forward and be able to challenge for the play-offs next season, they need to keep Mariner and show Frings the door. Toronto simply cannot afford to give any more chances to a captain who just doesn’t cut it.