Since 2007, Toronto FC have tried to do things differently. They have signed players that few other MLS sides would consider, hired coaches that would never get an opportunity elsewhere, and tried to play systems—most famously Aron Winter’s Dutch 4-3-3—rarely used in the league.

It hasn’t worked. MLS rarely rewards those clubs that think outside the box. It’s more of a copycat league, where a lot of what worked in 1996 still works in 2013.

Based on today’s MLS SuperDraft, it appears that the Reds are still trying to forge their own path.

Holding the No 1 and No 3 picks in the draft—normally a position that fans and teams dream of—the Reds spent all day playing hot potato with the slots. First they moved No 1 to No 4. Then No 4 to No 10 and finally No 10 to No 16.

So, what did they receive for all those swaps? A star player?

No. They got money—allocation money, that odd asset unique to quirky MLS. It’s hardly the type of thing that inspires fans.

And it’s not what most MLS teams have typically sought after in pas SuperDrafts. TFC essentially told MLS to take its draft and, well, put it somewhere where the sun don’t shine. They chose to take the opportunity to nab proven college players and flip it for more risk. The allocation can be used to sign players from overseas, or to pay down the salary cap. Regardless of how they use it, they have yet to do so. The pressure is now on Kevin Payne to use the money to make Toronto better.

The Reds’ history however is not promising in that regard.

It would have been far less risky for Payne to go down the conventional route. In North America, fans will give teams a lot of leeway in the player drafts—the promise of youth is more alluring than the reality of the present. Walker Zimmerman, the highly-rated defender that went No 7 overall but who was ranked No 1 by many teams, may never work out. However, TFC fans would have likely given him lots of time—they would have talked him up and believed in his potential. They would have ignored his mistakes in 2013 and argued for patience.

Now, Payne must deliver immediately. Very few fans in Toronto will be satisfied with promises of saving allocation money for a rainy day. They are going to want to see a warm body in TFC red and they are going to want to see him yesterday.

Even with the two selections TFC did make in the draft, they are taking a risk. On the surface it would seem like a nice PR move by TFC to select two Canadians in Kyle Bekker at Mo 3 and Emery Welshman at No 16, but Canadian fans are notorious for being less patient with Canadian players.

It’s as if the fans don’t trust that the Canadians are good enough to go that high in the draft and therefore view the selections cynically; it’s about pandering, not team building, in some people’s minds.

In fairness to Toronto, the draft today isn’t what it was even five years ago (and, for that matter, Kevin Payne should not bear the sins of Mo Johnston/Aron Winter/Paul Mariner). The MLS academies are gaining a greater influence on the MLS player pool, which has made the draft class weaker. Prior to being fired, Mariner was on record as having said that this was the worst draft class that he could remember. Although he wasn’t directly involved in the draft today, he would have based that opinion on the staff that Payne utilized. So, it stands to reason the Reds were less than enthusiastic about the draft.

Still, the moves today were a risk—the type of risk TFC has made in the past and that has never worked out.

Reds’ fans are hoping this time will be different.

Comments (11)

  1. Who says TFC will use the allocation money on overseas players.

    Lousy spin on the draft, Rollins.

  2. That the 433 is rarely used in MLS is a myth.

    • Exactly, more than half of the teams last year used a 4-3-3 or a similar 4-2-3-1.

      • Was talking more about the style of 4-3-3 not the simple fact teams are playing with three midfielders.

        RSL, for instance, plays a 4-3-3 on paper, but in truth it’s more of a diamond mid with a withdrawn forward and a box-to-box guy supporting two wing players.

        SKC started in 4-3-3 as well, but its formation was about upward pressure, not possession.

        What TFC was trying to do was play a highly technical, possession-based system. That *is* exceedingly rare in MLS.

        • And how did Vancouver play at the star of the season? And Portland? Colorado? Chicago?

  3. Geez Duane, stop writing articles that people misread and then go on to comment what you actually said.

  4. Pizzola says its +275 for tfc to make playoffs…..

    By 2024

  5. Good points but I see it opposite as you on this one Duane. If I was going to be pessimistic, signing the Canadians seems like a positive PR move. And since any player in the draft is a risk, I feel like getting the allocation money is a way of hedging their bets.

    I’m happy with the result of the draft, and I’m still willing to be patient with the team since Payne has come in. That being said, I didn’t renew my tickets for this season, so my patience is more on the emotional support level than the financial level.

  6. “Proven college players”

    Bit of an oxymoron

  7. I think Bekker will become a good pro. I thought he looked really strong in the holding role for the U23s. I hope he does really well. I’m pretty sure he’ll have a really long honeymoon with the TFC supporters because if he doesn’t meet expectations quickly enough most of the fans will simply blame it on other players around him, so I expect to see a guy like Silva to get thrown under the bus (I’d say Dunfield but I expect he’ll mainly be on the bench or perhaps even gone after Payne has had a good look at the squad in preseason).

    But I think drafting these two young Canucks is a solid move by the club and I hope they both make a big impact.

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