Toronto hopes to improve in 2013. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Toronto hopes to improve in 2013. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

We’re nearly done in our team-by-team previews here. The final week of the preseason is here and we’ll go up to Canada for the final two previews today. First up is Toronto FC.

What can be said about the Reds going into the 2013 season? First of all, its is a whole new group leading this team. Kevin Payne has stepped away from D.C. United to take over Toronto. Ryan Nelsen has hung up his boots with Queens Park Rangers to become the next coach for Toronto. Lots of player trades as well have gone one this winter but the team also drafted a couple Canadians too.

Where is this club going? Well, we know they can’t be much worse than last year’s bunch so onward and upward I suppose.

2012 MLS Record: 5-21-8 (10th in Eastern Conference), 23 points

[twocol_one]IN: 
Justin Braun (12/3/12 – trade from Real Salt Lake)
GK Joe Bendik (12/12/12 – trade from Portland)
Danny Califf (12/14/12 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2)
Gale Agbossoumonde (12/20/12 – weighted lottery)
Júlio César (1/15/2013 – free)
Kyle Bekker (1/17/13 – SuperDraft)[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]OUT: 
Adrian Cann (11/15/12 – option declined)
Ty Harden (11/15/12 – option declined)
Dicoy Williams (11/15/12 – option declined)
Oscar Cordon (11/15/12 – option declined)
Nicholas Lindsay (11/15/12 – option declined)
Keith Makubuya (11/15/12 – option declined)
Aaron Maund (12/3/12 – traded to Real Salt Lake)
Eric Avila (12/3/12 – out of contract)
Ryan Johnson (12/12/12 – trade to Portland)
GK Milos Kocic (12/12/12 – trade to Portland)
Joao Plata (1/30/13 – trade to Real Salt Lake)
Eric Hassli (2/4/13 – trade to FC Dallas)[/twocol_one_last]

Key Questions for 2013

1. Will the defense actually improve with Danny Califf, Julio Cesar and others? It almost has to right? Toronto was so bad last year defensively, it was a big reason why this team couldn’t get anything going for more than 30 minutes at a time. Their midfield had no shape, which lead to no defense. Toronto gave up a league-worst 62 goals … and 16 came after the 75th minute and 28 after the 60th.

Enter Cesar and Califf. Two gritty veterans that will improve this defense in 2013. Thankfully for the Reds they really had no where to go but up in the back.

2. Will Toronto free themselves of injured DPs? Both Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans are hurt and on the wrong side of 30. We know TFC has an open DP slot but my gut tells me they hold on to it for a while. If anything, they’ll want to buy out at least one of these two contracts and try to be able to have two DPs for the summer transfer window. Koevermans isn’t expected to be back until July and who knows if he will be nearly as effective as he once was when he was scoring goals left and right for Toronto (17 league goals in 26 games over two seasons).

3. Can Nelsen become a good manager? The lack of coaching experience is one thing but to go straight from the field to the coaching bench is another. It worked in time for Jason Kreis in Salt Lake. But will it work for a guy like Nelsen? Given the crop of players that he has, I’m not so sure of it yet. As long as the management in Toronto remains patient to the re-build of this club, I think by 2014 he could be good. Time will tell but as we’ve seen before, managers don’t tend to get a lot of it in Toronto.

Breakout Player for 2013

Luis Silva – The second year striker is set to be one of the few guys on offense that can carry a tune right now for the Reds. He’ll need to step his game up in a big way this season. I look for him to do just that.

Predictions for 2013

- Two DPs in this summer. I see them breaking free of Frings at some point this spring. A buyout, or something. He’s old and pricy and I’m sure the club can do a lot more with two DP slots rather than just one for the summer.

- Nelsen actually makes it through the entire season. I don’t see TFC being a big force in the East under him just yet but I think he’ll at least see a second season in Toronto. Progress.

- Kyle Bekker will be a ROY candidate. I enjoyed what I saw out of him at the Combine. And early on this preseason, signs look good that he’ll be a rookie of the year candidate.