What Serie A could offer MLS
For two of Canada’s MLS teams, looking ahead to 2014 there will be questions raised as to who will be the focal point of their respective attacks. Toronto FC have been anemic for most of the season, however, Montreal have not had that issue as Marco Di Vaio has carried the load and propelled them to the top of the Eastern Conference. With Di Vaio’s future looking uncertain, and a huge void to fill at Toronto FC, Serie A is a resource both sides will likely explore in the coming offseason to either improve or maintain offensive output.
Looking at the state of Toronto FC’s attacking options moving forward, they truly just have Robert Earnshaw as a quality striker following the departures of Jeremy Brockie, Maxi Urruti and including the season-long injured Danny Koevermans.
Bringing on another viable forward is key for head coach Ryan Nelsen to maintain his formation featuring two strikers. Otherwise, he will have to drop one striker in favor of another midfielder switching to a single forward system. Tim Leiweke has made it known TFC are looking at an international name to become their next Designated Player, and Serie A is a location said to be where they are exploring.
Some might argue that Nelsen could switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation in which Jonathan Osorio could play in front of the two holders releasing him from the defensive responsibility he actually had playing as central midfielder paired with Matias Laba and now Jeremy Hall.
It could make sense but Osorio is right now Toronto’s best option as a deep-lying playmaker, so taking him off from the neutral zone of the field could be a little risky. As central midfielders, Nelsen could allow both to go forward (Laba and Osorio), alternating their positions. Also, Osorio is at his best when he can come from behind supporting the attack, so this could be the better approach.
If adding another striker is out of question, another option could be to bring on an attacking midfielder to play as the link between midfield and attack, leaving Osorio and Laba ahead the defensive four. If you want to add an extra man to play a ball control brand of soccer the rarely utilized Kyle Bekker may deserve a pick. A midfield central trio of Osorio-Bekker-Laba could be capable of keeping the ball and good enough to protect the back line as well.
Montreal have put all their eggs in one basket this year with Di Vaio and it has paid off. However, age is a factor as well as apparent family issues, heading into next season and after Di Vaio there does not look to be an option that can net 15 goals needed to keep the Impact as dangerous as they’ve been this season. There should be little debate that Marco Schallibaum will need to ensure another striker of high quality is brought in for next season.
That said, here are list of players that both Toronto FC and Montreal should consider for next year that could help their attacking options. While they might not be the international names that Tim Leiweke has touted, they should certainly be of the quality to excel in MLS and that would serve Montreal as well should they need to replace Marco Di Vaio.
Although he’s 35-years-old, he has some gas left in the tank and his career as striker speaks for itself. Now a free agent, he's had a total of 302 Serie A appearances and netted a total of 183 goals during his whole career, eight years of which has been played with Lazio where he scored 105 goals. Rocchi is a player both TFC and Montreal supporters could welcome into the team. He’s suited to play as a centre-forward in a three-man offensive attack or as first or second striker in a 4-4-2 formation.
Vincenzo Iaquinta was part of the Azzurri squad that won the World Cup in 2006, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Ghana. Following some impressive seasons with Udinese, where he scored 73 goals in 207 appearances, he was signed by Juventus. During his stint with Juventus he has seen limited playing time and mostly as a backup. Despite that, he still was able to manage 30 goals in 86 appearances. Well-suited for the fast-break, he can play as centre forward or fielded wide open in a three-man forward line.
Robert Acquafresca was targeted both by Hull City and Sunderland this summer. He had very good seasons in Cagliari scoring a total of 24 Serie A goals before he moved to Genoa as part of the deal bringing Thiago Motta and Diego Milito to Inter. He did not find space there so he went back to Cagliari before joining Bologna. A central forward who is very good at holding onto the ball, he’s also well suited to play short passes. Despite his size, at 6’0, he’s not at his best as an option for headers.
The technically gifted Fabrizio Miccoli would be a nice addition to either club. Previously linked to Australian side Melbourne Victory just before the news that he has signed with US Lecce - a third tear Italian club, but still a club that Miccoli supported for his whole life. The former Italian international had a long stint with Palermo. The project to rebuild his hometown club has failed until now with the team that dead last with three consecutive losses from the first three game played. In the 179 games he played for his former club, he scored a total of 81 goals. Miccoli is a forward that was very important for all teams in which he played. He can pass, shoot, and dribble and take set pieces turning them into scoring opportunities. He would be a good second forward playing alongside, or even replacing Robert Earnshaw up front, and could improve the abilities of Andrew Wenger, Daniel Paponi and Andreas Romero.
Sergio Floccari is a 31-years old forward that went out of favour with his club, Lazio, but he has a lot of skills. Good holding the ball, strong in the air, technically gifted enough, the Lazio forward has one year remaining on his contract and is available for a low fee. He could be the target man Nelsen is looking for, or a player that could add depth to Montreal’s attacking options.
Cyril Thereau could boost Toronto's offensive phase playing through the middle of the pitch as an attacking midfielder or as second forward. The 30-year old, 6’2 Frenchman forward showed his worth last season with Chievo, netting 11 goals in 37 appearances. Chievo have spent the summer waiting on several potential Serie A suitors before to renewing his contract.
Michele Tossani is a football tactician with a Ph.D. in History. Michele resides in Florence, Italy and is a tactical analyst for Futbol-Tactico.com