What can you say about a team that only has seven total shots on target in eighteen games from the midfield? Either the team is playing some weird 6-1-3 formation or the team is very bad. TFC haven't played a 6-1-3 this year, so yes, they are very bad. Despite only doing slightly worse than projected in the standings, the team has done it in a very boring, and in many ways, a scared fashion.
Let’s be honest. Like Johnston, Preki, Klinsmann (to a different extent), Winter, and Mariner, MLSE have been scammed again by a coach who was totally unprepared and provides zero assets to the club, as well as by a new President and General Manager whose greatest skill is knowing when to leave a sinking ship. DC United, who by the way last won the title almost 10 years ago, are probably the only greater disappointment this season than the Reds.
Why does this keep on happening? Well part of this is easily blamed up top by a group of individuals who are stuck between knowing nothing and thinking they are making the right decision. Although in this situation, despite their great support, I can almost blame the fan base as much as anybody.
I joined twitter two years ago, and since I happen to watch most Toronto FC games when on television, I tweet along with the hashtag #TFClive. I try to be funny, I try to be smart, but mostly what I am is honest. During these last two seasons I've made many comments directed towards Toronto FC ineptitude and acquisition of players such as Cann, Plata, Johnson, Lambe, Henry, Bekker, and Welshman, with the basic point these players are what they are and in many cases not good enough for MLS. In almost every case I will get a counter tweet saying “these players are great”, “why am I hating”, and so on, with the greatest back and forth being about Aaron Winter's 4-3-3 and how Toronto FC is developing themselves to be the next Barcelona.
After looking in the mirror and realizing our mistakes I'm now willing to start over, and based on the current dismantling of the team it seems Toronto FC wants to this as well. In comes Tim Leiweke, the man given a lot of credit for the turnaround of the LA Galaxy. A team who missed the playoffs three years in a row from 2006, to finishing last during the 2008 season, and now has won back to back championships. In Toronto’s case there is already talk about bringing in a huge DP with Diego Forlan being the name on everyone’s mind. Let’s continue with this optimism and try to figure out how Toronto FC can become a competitive team going for the championship in the foreseeable future.
Admittedly, Toronto FC are worse off than LA were in 2009. The 2009 Galaxy had a 27 year old Landon Donovan and Alan Gordon, they also drafted Omar Gonzalez and AJ De La Garza during the 2009 SuperDraft, and took Sean Franklin 4th overall the year before. On a side note, I ask all who follow MLS closely, wouldn't Andrew Farrell, Carlos Alvarez, Kekuta Manneh, Deshorn Brown, Walker Zimmerman, or Dillon Powers look great in a Toronto FC jersey right now? They also brought in of course David Beckham, as well as some quality MLS players in Donovan Ricketts, Mike Magee, and Todd Dunivant, orchestrated by probably the greatest coach in American soccer history, Bruce Arena.
My first suggestion for the big fix, with long term success, is the need to bring in someone who understands the league and player development to coach and run the team. My view has always been current Maryland soccer coach Sasho Cirovski would be the perfect fit for Toronto, although now I'm thinking the problem is too big for him. Toronto would have to spend a large amount of money to steal a Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid, Dominic Kinnear or even a Jason Kreis from one of the successful teams in the league.
Second it’s the DP, and let's for argument sake say it is Diego Forlan. Personally, I think he would do well in MLS, although I question that he can be convinced to come. Currently, he is one of the top goalscorers in Brazil Serie A, who will be a championship contender this season. He is also making a reported $2.5 million US dollars to play in Brazil. If he was to come to Toronto the biggest question in my mind is who will provide a partnership service to him? If I was in charge, I would also attempt to bring in a companion player, hopefully not a DP. Forlan’s current teammate at Internacional, Andrés D'Alessandro, is a good example. Or the Portuguese international Simao Sabrosa, who played many games with Forlan at Athletico Madrid and is now a bit time player in Spain, is potentially another great choice.
Andres D'Alessandro is a 32-year old Argentinean attacking midfielder who has been playing with Forlan’s current club Internacional since 2008. He was voted South American player of the year in 2010, leading his team to a Copa Libertadores championship. Prior, he played for River Plate and San Lorenzo in Argentina, Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Portsmouth in the Premier League and Zaragoza in Spain. Overall, he's played 359 career league games scoring 69 goals and 66 assists. He also played with the Argentina National Team 28 times. He still is Internacional’s captain and if Toronto is able to get Forlan, there is no reason D'Alessandro wouldn't have an interest as well.
Simao Sabrosa, who is 33, would be known by anybody who follows Portuguese soccer, being capped by his national team 88 times scoring 22 goals. For his club career, Simao has played for Sporting, Barcelona, Benfica, Aletico Madrid, Bestiktas, and most recently Espanyol, scoring 122 goals in 456 games, mostly from an attacking midfield or winger position. Simao played with Forlan between 2007-2011, which were Forlan’s most successful seasons in his career, including a UEFA Europa League championship in 2010. Simao is on a yearly contract with Espanyol so could leave on a free if he chose to do so.
Other lesser known alternatives who provide the same skill sets at a much cheaper price could be Argentinians Juan Eluchans and David Ramírez, Paraguayan Carlos Paredes, Uruguayan Mario Regueiro, Polish player Sebastian Mila or Egyptian Mohamed Aboutreika, only to name a few. Yes, all over 30, and in many ways looking for a pay day, but have also had successful careers including their recent season and whose main skill has been one of a threat and provider from midfield - something Toronto FC’s current side lacks the most.
So we now have the nucleus of team who can improve the overall return from players such as Earnshaw, Koevermans, Eckersley, Caldwell and Laba. Although one of the smartest things the LA Galaxy have done in their team development is let the young players play and through this experience these players have become MLS ready. So my new look Toronto FC side would be GK: Bendrik (Frei); Defenders: Morgan, Agbossoumonde, Caldwell, Eckersley; Midfielders: Laba, Osorio, Convey (Bekker); Attackers: Forlan, Simao/D'Alessandro, Koevermans (Earnshaw).
The other key is that the MLS is not a sprint or a marathon. It’s about being successful at the right time. With the playoff system all you need to get during the season is somewhere between 40-44 points, which means Toronto would need 10 wins in the final 16 games. This would also make Toronto the hottest team going into the playoffs, which has proven to be a great omen for MLS championships.
Last season the MLS Cup final was played between LA and Houston who finished 8th and 9th during the regular season. Now will this happen or is it even possible? Probably not, but the moral of the story is Toronto FC needs to look at the big picture and make drastic changes with a proven track record. Now is the time, in the midst of another overhaul, instead of thinking it's doing something right, failing, and putting us through another horrible attempt, because at the current pace soon enough there will not be any team, or fans, at all.