BMO Field

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.

Comments (10)

  1. On the ” clear and coherent operating structure” point that the blogger makes… I thought that was what Anselmi put in place after the unclear and incoherent operating structure in the Mo Johnston era…. Winter outlines the style of play and applies it from academy to frst team (Dutch man Rongen ensures kids know it from birth). Marinet finds the players. Pretty clear to me.

  2. I thought they were 0-6 because of the friendly they are plaing against Liverpool in 3 months? Was I misinformed?

  3. Mariner hasn’t found the players, which was his job description- where are the central defenders? It seems that the Mariner-Winter combination sucks, from afar its hard to say whose fault it all is. Blow it all up? Don’t really think so because the team competes and while there seems to be ‘problems’ in the dressing room, the players do not seem to be going after each other as was a bit more obvious in the deRo period. They do have moments, either parts of matches or whole nearly whole matches, where things are going ‘right’. Then mental error, disaster and the game goes out the window. The mental strength of the team has been a problem for 6 years, never the same cause/reason, but there is always ‘that’ moment for TFC.

    • “Blow it all up? Don’t really think so because the team competes and while there seems to be ‘problems’ in the dressing room, the players do not seem to be going after each other as was a bit more obvious in the deRo period.”

      It’s not the players vs players…yet. But it is clear from the postgame mood and comments that there is a clear disconnect between the coach and the players and that usually ends in the coach hitting the road, for better or for worse.

  4. Come on Richard, you know that all they need is a world-class centreback.

  5. Great painting…………

  6. Hold the phone.

    The status of Toronto FC has certainly been highly scrutinized of late. And an 0-6 start to a season is an embarrassment for any professional team, in any league, in any sport.

    However, it seems many supporters have quickly forgotten the teams recent success in the CONCACAF champions league. A semi-final appearance is nothing to scoff at and definitely warrants a healthy alottment of praise.

    The fact of the matter remains that this team is simply not good enough to compete for a playoff spot. There isn’t enough quality, let alone depth and a whole host of other issues (alluded to in the article) that clearly lay this out. A meaningful cup run may be all Toronto FC fans have to look forward to/reminisce over season in-season out for the immediate future. But Winter’s stubborn plans to build a team in line with his ethos and continue pushing through academy players while not neglecting to improve the conditions for fostering their development is laudable and should not be discounted. If we, as a franchise, are truly committed to success (long-term success, not crashing out in the first round of the playoffs every year from now to kingdom come) then time is the only answer.

    It may be easy to poke fun at the blind faith and hopefulness of “one more year” proponents but the truth is that silverware and legitimate achievement will only grow out of continuity and a responsible club tradition that sticks to their guns and backs players (and members of the management team alike) that are in our corner.

    So yes, the club need to make the fucking playoffs for the first time in 5 years! And we can’t stop reminding ourselves and everyone else of that fact, because to accept otherwise would be destructive and would lead to complacency. The key is to keep in mind that a decision has been made here: Winter is the man with a plan. It may not be a perfect plan. But its our plan. And no amount of dissention is going to improve our situation.

    Patience is of the essence – something seriously lacking in North American sports culture.

    • Even amongst clubs that are youth development heavy, teams don’t just let coaches run a terrible string of results and say that they are developing for the future. He seems to be unable to motivate a group of players he personally selected, so I have little confidence that we’re suddenly going to be sitting on some kind of mass of youth talent that will save the day.

      Furthermore, some teams in MLS are running academy teams as good or better than TFC AND getting results for their first team. So it’s not a “you want youth talent, you have to wait” type of scenario.

      Never confuse the architect with the builder. Aron Winter is nothing more than the latter, and can be replaced.

    • “Patience is of the essence – something seriously lacking in North American sports culture.”

      It’s lacking in all contemporary pro team sports culture, not just North America.

  7. Now, after getting that long winded rant of my chest, I must return to cramming 4-months of psychology nonsense into my footy riddled brain before a 2pm final exam tomorrow and pray that graduation follows…

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