It’s probably too soon to call Toronto FC’s 2012 season a failure.

There are 30 games left in the MLS regular season plus a Voyageurs Cup to defend. An oh-for-four start to the league—and just one win in eight overall—is bleak, but not impossible to overcome.

A rational fan should understand that. However, TFC fans ceased being rational sometime around 2008. The Reds do that to people. After all, Saturday’s loss to Montreal was the 79th all-time defeat to Toronto in less than six full seasons. Considering TFC plays in a league designed to promote parity that’s abysmal.

So Toronto fans can be forgiven for lacking hope that the bad start is a mirage and that good times are still to come. At the conclusion of the Montreal game, the travelling support couldn’t even be bothered to boo. The prevailing mood in the Toronto section was numbness. Of course the Reds gave the Impact its first win. Did anyone think any other outcome was possible? If they did, they must not have been paying attention.

In the early days of the club most of the attention was focused on the fans. They were a rowdy bunch that defied the stereotype of the suit wearing, passive Toronto sports fan. The club wasn’t very good, but that was to be expected from an expansion team. People would go to BMO Field just to see the nuts sing and dance in the southeast corner of the stadium.

It was cute for a while. When those same fans remain the most entertaining thing on display in that stadium five years later, it’s not.

And, make no mistake, more often than not they are. If this club doesn’t figure itself out soon they might be the only fans in the stadium before long.

Toronto FC is at a crossroads. It has survived losing seasons and fan unrest up until now, but if things don’t turn around soon the team will face something far more dangerous: indifference.

You are already seeing it. At the first two MLS games there were tonnes of empty seats in the second deck. The announced crowd—and there have always been questions about whether what’s announced reflects what’s actually in the stadium—showed close to 3,000 empty chairs. You can expect a similar number this Saturday against Chivas.

And God help the club if it tries to raise ticket prices when the one year freeze ends at the completion of the 2012 season.

The failure of MLSE’s other major sports properties—the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA’s Toronto Raptors—clouds the situation even further, as does a suddenly hot again Toronto Blue Jays, who are attracting many of the young party crowd that used to go to TFC games.

The solution to this is simple: the team needs to win. But how do you do that if you are TFC? There is nothing simple about that and that’s the biggest challenge facing the club in its efforts to reengage its fans.

Reds fans are more than frustrated by the losing. They also feel hopeless about the future. They understand that there is no easy fix. It’s clear that the only thing to do now is to wait it out and see if Aron Winter’s plan works.

It was easier when there was an identifiable villain. When Mo Johnson was in charge TFC fans could point to him and say if only he were gone all would be better. Well, he is gone and it might be worse.

Winter’s no villain. Actually he inspires neither hatred nor excitement amongst the faithful. No one has quite figured out whether he’s on the right track (although results might suggest that he isn’t) and everyone understands that it’s too early to pull the plug on him (but fears that too much damage will be done if he’s given too much time).

So, Reds’ fans wait — stuck in a MLS purgatory hoping that there is a way out. And wondering if anyone will still care by the time TFC finds it.

Comments (21)

  1. With the misery of our sports franchises in Toronto the common denominator is MLSE. As long as they are in charge, these teams will never see a championship product. They don’t know what it takes to be a successful sports organization, and never will. Suits don’t win you championships.

    • How will Bell/Rogers differ from MLSE?

      • I think you mean how will bell / rogers differ from Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. MLSE still exists in entirety.

        I don’t think there will be any changes really…

      • Bell/Rogers are just partners of MLSE.

        Until a proper sports person takes over, its just not going to happen. Look at the Football clubs in europe, aside from United, the teams that are operated by “non-football people” tend to not prosper, unless they bring in football people to actually run the show.

        All of the suits at MLSE/Rogers/Bell are great at making money. But I highly doubt many of them have ever won anything competitively in sports – even at a novice/amateur level.

        I wouldn’t trust someone to do brain surgery on me if he wasn’t a doctor, yet his redeeming quality was that he “bought all the best tools to do it”.

        I’ve over used quotes – for that I apologize.

  2. This is spot on. Exactly how I feel about the situation right now.

  3. “it’s probably too soon to call Toronto FC’s 2012 season a failure.”

    Ya think?

  4. That’s what happens when you have poseurs as fans.

    Soccer has had poor pro soccer WHEN they even had it for the past 4 decades.
    The Blizzard were awful in the MLS and died mercifully and the Lynx hung on for a few years but there hasnt been a continuous soccer presence that loves the game and understands the ups and downs of a team.

    out of the blue, a team showed up on the doorsteps and instant fandom… seemed strange.

    Montreal and Vancouver have cultivated a following and implicated themselves in the footballing communities (Saputo having spend lots of money on youth and amateur soccer). The process felt less forced when they moved to a higher league. Fans had gone through 2 decades of highs and lows in the CSL, A-League, etc.

    What did Toronto have?

    >People would go to BMO Field just to see the nuts sing and dance in the southeast corner of the >stadium.

    >hot again Toronto Blue Jays, who are attracting many of the young party crowd that used to go to TFC >games.

    People who went to party, NOT watch football.

    And now those people have found another place to party, why should you be surprised?

    I will say this: even with a bad team, Toronto has done wonders for canadian soccer with the amount of young talent they have nurtured. I dont think the MLS does anythnig to help the canadian game grow, NO COUNTRY can succeed without a league of their own,… its not just the top 25 players in the country that make a program strong.
    Toronto I read had something like 8 homegrown players on its squad. Montreal has Patrice Bernier who played with the club dozen years ago. They have ZERO spots on their 30man roster for their young players. Zero.

    As a canadian soccer fan who is involved at all levels of the game, TFC might be doing wrong on the field but they are doing good for canadian soccer.

    • excellent post garry, and spot on DR…i think most who follow TFC would agree w/ both of you…were in a tough spot, but not for a lack of trying. and the spin off from what TFC does in general (academy, promoting Can players, etc) helps the canadian game more than we realize.

    • Garry wrote: “The Blizzard were awful in the MLS and died mercifully.”

      Blizzard now writes … Gary, what the hell are you talking about?

      MLS came into existence 1994. The Blizzard never played in MLS. They played in the NASL, NSL, CSL and the APSL between 1979 and 1993 when the club did eventually shut down when ownership discovered that there was no chance of the club getting into MLS.

      Additionally, the club made the NASL finals in both 1983 and 1984. Sadly, they lost both but to say they awful is a statement made out of pure out and out ignorance.

      Next time, do some research if you would like to be taken credibly.

    • to that point though, if they were a good team you know it would help the Canadian national team even more. The fact of the matter is when the CSA decided to play all their qualifyers in Toronto they could’ve really used TFC to help them build buzz for ticket sales.

      I bet right now they look back at that decision as a wiff. I get it, players prefer to play in Toronto, but with a good team in Vancouver, the Whitecaps are building more buzz for soccer than TFC is in their respective markets.

      Secondly, calling fans Poseurs is a little harsh. This is a market full of people with no tie to a local soccer team, if their first 3 years of experience with a soccer team is generally negative it’s hard to blame them for not showing up after a while. You need to appeal to the average fan and the best way to do that is to win. Toronto FC basically had 5 years where they leafs sucked, the raptors sucked and they Jays were mediocre to capitalize on and create a deep, loving fan base…and they blew it. Look at Seattle: Seahawks suck, Mariners suck and they lose their basketball team, they put together solid results and everyone jumps on board with the Sounders. I have no doubt in my mind Toronto could’ve done the same had they simply been good.

    • The Blizzard were not in the MLS they were in the NASL and the team didn’t die the league did.

  5. For the past six years I have sat in my seat at BMO Field watching the same re-occurring nightmare over and over again.

    At first, I attributed it to growing pains and a lack of talent, but as the years have progressed, I have become more and more disillusioned with the direction of the club. It is becoming harder and harder to justify paying for season tickets when there is a clear lack of results. There is a significant lack of passion on the pitch as well as on the stands. While we were all so excited during the early years, now many of the supporters are frequently late and there is a significant change in the atmosphere from Year 1.

    I thank god every day that there is no relegation in the MLS or else Toronto FC could find themselves playing in my intramural league within 2 years.

    Does the blame really lie with MLSE? Can a group of talented individuals really be so ‘piss-poor’ at sports management? The results have not been encouraging. Where does a Toronto sports fan turn to? Are we becoming Buffalo, Cleveland, is it getting that bad?

  6. Patience is a virtue. Arsenal didnt win their first major trophy for the first 30 years of their existence. So far we have waited 5 and change and have won three trophies, one CCL semifinal and have almost made the playoffs. It could be alot worse.

    • In the actual MLS it literally could not be worse. we are on the worst 5 year run historically of any team. And don’t get me wrong, I love the team, but it’s getting harder and harder to convince friends it’s worth attending.

  7. Anybody else thinking they should’ve just given Dero his money???

    • Of course they should’ve paid DeRo. Even if it meant you had to go as far as buy out the last year of JDG’s contract in the off-season just so you could make the cap balance out.

      There are a few MLS “lifers” who are incredibly productive that you absolutely have to pay and keep. Obviously Donovan is on another level but still, guys like Wondolowski, Le Toux and DeRo are consistent goal scorers in a league that is low scoring. You do not throw these guys away.

      Look at what has happened to Philly this year after they ran Le Toux out of town. If you have a guy that can produce in this quirky league, you do not get rid of him. Even if he acts like a douche at times, you have to just put up with it.

      You think DeRo would fit nicely as the CAM in the 4-3-3? It’s just too obvious.

    • DeRo with money would still have been locker room cancer.

  8. Mariner set up the spin for this season during an interview in the offseason where he stated that club had little cap space flexibility with 3 DPs o the payroll. When I read between the lines of that statement I’m left to believe that he would prefer to have only two DPs.

  9. Add a piss poor stadium … from expensive beer to lack of urinals …

    Quit being a season’s ticket holder two years ago … went to half season last year to I’ll pick the game I want to see in person buyer (long range weather forcast watching).

    This article could of easily been written a couple of years ago …

    Not rocket science … build it (win) and they will come …

    So easy to just turn the channel instead of watching a gong show …

    The whole organization is a gong show from top to bottom …

  10. It is a debacle.

    I find it hard to even watch it on TV now. I used to drive 2 hours to see the games.

    In their defence, although they are losing they are playing a more attractive style of game then a couple of years ago. I remember some of those away games sent me into depression how little energy they had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *