Friday, October 25, 2013

RNO: TFC's current direction raises concerns and little optimism

Canadian Men's National Team

Posted by Aaron Nielsen,
August 3, 2013
Aaron Nielsen

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I will freely give my opinion, and I'll even be a smart ass, but what I don't tend to do is get angry about anything, especially if it's out of my own control. Except in the instance where the mistake is not only hurting the one who is making it but also all the people who care for it. This is my current view of Toronto FC with the continuous talk of improvement and new players, the releasing of parts, be it draft pick or players for allocation money, and the team's most recent signings.
I will admit being angry at Toronto FC reminds me of knowing a drug addict who you watch deteriorate: first you laugh about it as you don't think it's serious, then you ignore problem as it's embarrassing, until it reaches the point of sadness where there is little chance of reclaiming lost days of past, while those hopes and great expectations deeply affects those who feel obligated to care about it.
My anger goes beyond the losing team, the fact that season tickets for Bayern Munich (among other teams) are cheaper than Toronto FC, and the fact management has gone out of their way to kill the once exciting atmosphere that was once the talk of the league. My anger is the fact by that management's choice in actions are making the situation worse not only for the short term but the foreseeable future as well.
Without even mentioning the marketing/business departments, and concentrating purely on the field, my anger comes from the fact that I, or I could imagine almost anybody who attends games and understand the basics of MLS, could do a better job. Hiring an experienced coach who understands the league, drafting the most high profiles players at each draft, signing and trading for players who have a proven record of success in the league, and if you are going to bring players in from abroad, you bring in someone you have heard about or at least playing on a club you heard of.
Toronto FC rebuild number twelve (I'm sure many have lost count, but assuming two every season) seems to be following the most recent, and short term success of the Montreal Impact. The basic idea being any player in Europe is better than an American/Canadian, work from defensive standpoint because you can't lose in a 0-0 scoreline, and then hopefully bring in a DP striker who you'll rely all your offense on. If he scores a goal a game you have a chance to win, and if he's a bust you can blame the team failures on him. This is not aimed as a criticism at Montreal as I wrote in my preseason write-up of the Impact that they are an MLS experiment with many things I like. Patrice Bernier has been a star in the MLS, while Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta were two of the top players in Italy while playing in Serie A.
In my preseason synopsis of the Impact I wrote it’s great to sign experienced players, but in a restricted budget environment it is hard to be consistently good if your team lacks depth. Personally, I like some of the moves the Impact have made, although I still predict Montreal to struggle to make the playoffs this season. The big worry is if the experiment doesn't pay off, with a club developed in this fashion, "where do you go next?"
So far in 2013 the experiment has paid off and Montreal have been the surprise team the first half of the season, although they are still only 5 points ahead of the teams out of the playoffs, and with the CONCACAF Champion League games to play I still have concerns about them making the playoffs. The other difference between Montreal and Toronto is despite my concerns, Montreal still maintains some core MLS/North American depth in Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp, Collen Warner, Jeb Brovsky and Andrew Wenger, while Blake Smith has been a useful draft pick playing seven more games then Kyle Bekker and Emory Welshman has combined for Toronto.
This might not be important to the fan watching the team play, however, this is key in building a long-term successful MLS club and by doing Toronto's current model in signing of average foreign players over college-based players means you sacrifice assets and team consistency. The main reason is most American/Canadian based MLS entry players drafted sign a three year contracts with the club, while foreign players sign for a season and some even for 6 months.
Which means American/Canadian based college players who sign to these long term contracts can be traded to other teams for attributes, where foreign players leave on free transfer and in many cases in MLS history will return to where they came from once an opportunity presents itself. So by ignoring MLS precedents and not taking advantage of the MLS system, each season you are basically left with an empty shell of a team and now you have to try to fill a roster each season with a bunch of foreign and semi-pro players that no one has ever heard of before who will accept 50K a year to basically eat minutes.
Which brings me back to Toronto. If you remove the foreign players on short contracts the only living things left in the TFC shell are Matias Laba, a holding midfielder at best under the name of a DP. Bobby Convey, a player making 200K and based on good MLS economics will most likely be cut at seasons end. Jonathan Osorio who has been the story of 2013, although has only played 853 minutes and only had five shots on target, and at this point still hard to tell what he would be as a full-time, season long regular.
Ashtone Morgan, who I still feel has potential but looks like the next one to leave with the signing of Jonas Elmer, and the disappointing and falling stock of Gale Agbossoumonde, Kyle Bekker, Emery Welshman and some might even say Doneil Henry. TFC also has no 2014 MLS draft first round pick which they traded to Vancouver, no third round pick which they traded to Kansas City and no player eligible for Homegrown status. Even the much maligned Chivas USA, who very much are in the same boat, still has Dan Kennedy, Carlos Bocanegra, Tristan Bowen, Carlos Alverez, Caleb Calvert, Josue Soto, and Jose Correa.
So based on teams assets, it's very difficult not to look ahead and say next season Toronto FC will be very much like this season's team: a collection of current roster players trying to keep a job in football or a new crew of out of work players across small teams and leagues in Europe and South America, chosen by a team with no proof of proper scouting and a league who is equally as bad at recruiting players.
Which means either another horrible season in the bottom of the league or the paying of multiple millions of dollars for a high profile DP. Although even then, based on league history, expect the team to be average at best and again most likely missing out on the playoffs. Unless there is drastic change performed by a miracle worker, from what we have to work with expect the future to be difficult as well.
Worst of all like the drug user metaphor, expect MLSE to pretend everything is fine, give more and more false promises and continue to lower the expectations from the people who care. Yes, I'm angry because Toronto FC and MLSE have an addiction to failure and they are not only hurting themselves but upsetting people who's only wish is for Toronto FC to succeed.

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