Never mind the Koevermans injury; Toronto should stay the course, pursue a center back

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Last week, when it came to reinforcing Toronto FC’s roster, manager Paul Mariner was all about adding a heady and steady defender.

Today he’s shifted the target sights.

The shift is all about Danny Koevermans’ season-ending injury, of course. This really is a painful kidney punch around BMO Field; the Dutch scorer was soaring.

Overall, TFC’s reversal of form has been a joy to watch, if only because the long-suffering fans around Exhibition Place need and deserve something better. So, how does the latest injury blow alter Mariner’s marquee man chase?

He told the Globe and Mail: “We’re trying to do some things but decent strikers don’t grow on trees in world football, never mind in MLS. Let’s see what happens.”

But I have to wonder about the wisdom of this focus shift.

I know it stings like the dickens for the folks in Ontario to hear this, seeing as we haven’t even reached the MLS All-Star contest, but it’s just too late for a TFC playoff run in 2012.

Even Mariner has said as much, telling me two weeks ago that he’s not thinking “playoffs” necessarily. He just wants TFC to be a better team. That’s not a post-season concession speech, exactly, but Mariner is smart enough to see the table and recognize the nearly impossible climb that a playoff breakthrough would require.

TFC would need to be rather amazing, while several clubs still ahead in the standings would need to collapse like a bad hedge fund.

So, back to that centerpiece defender, the one of the “heady and steady” variety:

There are some good, young defenders around BMO. For instance, 21-year-old Ashtone Morgan is developing into a highly capable left back.

Hard to say if there was much substance last week to the Olof Mellberg talk. But the Sweden international (pictured above) and former Aston Villa man looks like the kind of player and leader who could groom young talent around him. He’s 34, which isn’t great. But he’s available on free transfer, which is. Great, that is. It makes him low-risk – depending on his salary price, at least.

Either way, the focus around BMO should remain on finding a quality center back. MLS clubs with good center backs win; clubs with a flimsy central defensive core are usually bound for the bottom.