The holidays are in full swing, and the three Canadian MLS clubs are all hoping for some good fortune. Goal.com Canada's editors have put together a list of wishes for each team.The holiday wishlist is as much an end-of-year tradition as awkward family reunions and drunken office parties. The Canadian clubs in Major League Soccer will be hoping that the season will bring them each some good new toys, as all three will look to make improvements in the standings in 2013.
Although the teams themselves likely have a long and far-ranging array of items that they are hoping to find under the tree, Goal.com's Canadian editors have pared down the list to three wishes per club.
1. Di Vaio living up to his reputation
Five goals and three assists in 16 starts is a respectable points tally, but it just doesn’t cut it for a forward that has one of Serie A’s best ever scoring records and that is one of the highest paid players in MLS.
Marco Di Vaio, the Montreal Impact’s first ever designated player, needs to step up his game in 2013. The service will need to be better, but it’s not like he was lacking the chances either, for he did squander many good ones. It did him take some time to acclimate, especially with having to return to Italy on a few occasions for match fixing hearings, but there won’t be any excuses next year.
Fifteen goals and six assists shouldn’t be a lot to ask for.
2. Midfield additions
With 21 players already under contract for next season, sporting director Nick De Santis will be looking to add quality rather than quantity to the roster this offseason. De Santis has already suggested that the Impact’s priority will be signing a creative midfielder – either a winger or a central midfielder.
Over the course of last season, it became clear that the Impact were very dependent on Felipe. When the Brazilian wasn’t playing, the team looked very predictable and had a difficult time moving the ball about.
A deeper midfielder, with a wide range of passing, could really add another much needed dimension to the team.
3. A healthy backline
Perhaps academy product Karl Ouimette, who was impressive during the club's postseason camp in Italy, will get his chance to really break into starting lineup. That would certainly make the fans happy.
1. An injury-free Stefan Frei
After Stefan Frei went down to injury in the early part of 2012, TFC turned to now-departed backup Milos Kocic to do the heavy lifting between the posts. And while Kocic did an admirable job in his first real season as a starter, it was evident that the Reds weren't quite satisfied with the goalkeeping situation at BMO Field.
An extended trial given to Freddy Hall only made the situation look bleaker, as the Bermudan looked well out of his element despite ample opportunity to prove otherwise. With Kocic gone to Portland, Frei - along with new understudy Joe Bendik - will be looked upon to bring up the standard on Toronto's last line of defence.
2. Depth, depth, depth
When everybody was healthy, TFC actually looked like a passable side. Unfortunately for Toronto, an MLS season is a long and gruelling affair, and injuries are part and parcel of the roller coaster that constitutes a full campaign in North America.
Once the bigger names went down, seemingly like dominoes, TFC's depth - or lack thereof - was found out in short order. Head coach Paul Mariner bemoaned the fact that he had to field, in his opinon, seven or eight players in each game who would otherwise be backups.
The offseason brings about opportunity to reload and recharge, and Mariner's words will ring hollow in 2013 if several MLS-level "everymen" aren't brought into the fold.
3. Big contributions from the Designated Players
New TFC president Kevin Payne proclaimed at his introductory press conference that the days of older DPs at BMO Field are over, but the reality is that the Reds have three high-priced 30-somethings locked into contracts for 2013.
All three of Danny Koevermans, Torsten Frings and Eric Hassli have shown that they can be hugely influential for Toronto when healthy, but they also showed that the injury bug gets harder to escape when the body gets older.
With a top-heavy roster led by the three DPs, TFC is going to need to get a lot of mileage out of its older veterans if it wants to make a run for the postseason.
A statistical category isn’t something that’s generally included on a list like this, but as the lowest scoring team to qualify for the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs with just 35 scored all season, it needed to be done.
The Vancouver Whitecaps simply must find ways to score more goals. That could mean changing personnel by bringing in more creativity in the centre or finish up top – or it could mean a change in philosophy.
2. True wingers and a bit more East to West rather than long-ball desperation
If head coach Martin Rennie does opt to change things up, a little more patience in possession might yield more fruit. Perhaps the best way to spread the field wide and open up the opposition would be to go after two true wingers – one for each side.
While Camilo and Omar Salgado will be touted as left-sided options, neither are natural wingers and this to a certain extent contributed to the team’s narrow approach going forward. On the right, with the departure of Dane Richards, the need is even more pressing – so expect a move on that front from the club over the offseason.
3. A clear No. 1 goalkeeper
Will Rennie stick with Brad Knighton? Or does Joe Cannon still have a future with the club?
It’s looking likely Knighton will be the man, and if that’s the case Cannon wants to go. So the ‘Caps will likely need to sign two goalkeepers – a No. 2 or a competitor for the No. 1 shirt, as well as a No. 3 to replace the released youngster Brian Sylvestre.