Writing about why Toronto FC suck often feels like taking a gander at Bruegel’s Triumph of Death and summing it up in a single, 140 character Tweet (Well, if one were to do this, it might read: “Lots of dead peasants, a couple of fires”, which would be the TFC equivalent of “Sack Aron Winter”). In other words, where to begin?
Right now the Toronto FC soccersphere is in self-accusatory meltdown. It’s a little vulgar to compare to it to a disaster involving the death of 1514 people, but in many ways the old Titanic metaphor is as apt as ever. There are those who are still in denial over the state of the club, and are firm in the belief that Captain Winter needs only a year more to become Jason Kreis, get the boiler room flooding under control, and be on course for New York by morning.
Then there are those who want to blame Julian De Guzman for being one of Major League Soccer’s least effective DPs or just bash Ty Harden all day long, which strikes me a little like going after the watchman for not pointing out the iceberg a little faster. And finally there are the supporters who want to go after the engineers for constructing an unsinkable ship that sinks, which would cast Toronto FC’s owner investors Maple Leaf Sports Ampersand Entertainment as the White Star Line.
When one considers everything together, it’s mud. While his most recent post-loss remarks—”It’s not only concentration it could be also quality, it could be focus, it could be everything”—make Aron Winter sound like a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing, they’re also true. But if the problem with Toronto FC is everything, it’s also nothing. So. Where to begin, if there’s a place to begin at all?
Take Kyle McCarthy’s deconstruction of Winter’s Dutch revolution. He hits all the pertinent points—Tom Anselmi ceding the hiring of the technical staff to Jurgen Klinsmann’s consultants, the dressing room revolts, the culture clash between Mariner’s MLS pragmatism and Winter’s idealism, Winter’s inability to adapt—Rumsfeld-like—to the reality of the situation on the ground.
You almost start to see a picture forming before you reach the muddled end stamped “solution:”
As Groundhog Day approaches, the executives at MLSE would do well to finally take heed of the all too simple lessons they have brushed aside since the club started. Only a clear and coherent operating structure on and off the field will set the Reds on the path to consistent success. Until those underpinnings are finally acquired or the current technical staff is arranged in a manner to create that cohesive working environment, the Reds will merely just chop and change their way through players who simply do not have the infrastructure in place to produce the desired progress.
“All too simple lessons” indeed. While a “clear and coherent operating structure” and a “cohesive working environment,” plus the “infrastructure” to “produce the desired progress” sound sure good, one has to consider that MLSE and Toronto FC want these things too, much in the same way any company wants these things.
And here we run into the classic problem of the journalist/blogger who criticizes a faceless, inscrutable institution like MLSE (or indeed the Canadian Soccer Association). I don’t know one iota of information on Larry Tannenbaum’s failings, or Tom Anselmi’s, or what MLSE isn’t doing that other similar ownership groups—the ones that help their teams win things—are. An adequate, precise explanation of exactly what sort of “operating structure” and “cohesive working environment” TFC would need not to be a giant pile of dung has yet to cross my path.
It’s safe to say too that, from a profit perspective MLSE isn’t doing much wrong, seeing as they were only this year purchased by the two largest telecommunications companies in the country practically high on thoughts of the gobs of money spilling out in every direction. This is not to fuel the tired conspiracy which holds that MLSE wants their teams to suck because fans will pay anyway; it’s a point of fact. And it means that so long as MLSE is financially successful, they aren’t going to fix what from their perspective ain’t broke.
And so we know nothing more about what exactly Toronto FC and MLSE “need to do” in order for the club to make the fucking MLS playoffs for the first time in five years. You can’t sack MLSE. Or maybe reform it, but then how? Or maybe fans should stop going to games because MLSE will sell their investment on to someone else more capable? Or maybe bring back Preki because like Winter, he just needed a little more time? Or better yet, get De Guzman out, that’ll help. Or is Koevermans fitness? Or maybe Paul Mariner should be coach. Maybe we need to get in Steve Nicol? Or perhaps we should do whatever Sporting KC is doing. Or maybe Winter will be Jason Kreis next season after all. And so on and so on and so on, until the fields are set on fire and death collects whatever’s left.