Photo from CBC.ca
With yesterday’s deal for Carlos Ruiz, Mo Johnston has proven once again he can make a deal to keep his team ahead of the curve or in this case from falling off the curve. Major League Soccer has very few proven consistent goal scoring talents. TFC had one in Jeff Cunningham, but now has acquired Ruiz still playing well enough as an international to bang in goals on a routine basis for Guatemala and someone who has excelled previously over multiple seasons in MLS.
Toronto’s flirtation with British based players has been costly. Many players from England second division, the Championship are unprepared to play in MLS because of issues of artificial pitches, altitude, travel, and poor training facilities in North America. No one will assume that the players coming from Britain do not have the quality tom compete: Darren Huckerby has proven even a semi washed up player in England’s second division who has never been capped by his national team can be dominant in an expansion induced watered down MLS. But footballers that arrive from abroad must understand what is involved in playing in this league beyond simply the football.
Mo Johnston has finally begun to look within MLS and to cut ties with some players signed from the British Isles: Gone are Andy Welsh, Colin Samuel, and Laurent Robert and instead Amado Guevara and Carlos Ruiz two proven MLS commodities who understand what is involved in being successful now anchor TFC.
Toronto can make the playoffs this year and have the skill level required to compete for MLS Cup. In John Carver, the Reds have an accomplished tactical manager who quite honestly can out think most managers in MLS. But some problems still remain. Mo Edu’s move to Rangers leaves a huge whole in the midfield and TFC is still not doing a good enough job brining in Canadian talent. Canada currently has a deeper and better player pool than anytime in its history including in 1986 when the Maple Leafs qualified for the World Cup, but TFC seems reluctant to tap into that well of talent. As the sole MLS side in Canada, TFC could be consistently one of the best teams in MLS as Vancouver and Montreal have consistently been in USL by focusing on Canadian talent which at the very top of the player pool is arguably superior to even American talent. But no effort has been made by TFC to my knowledge to bring stars like Ali Gerba, Rob Friend or Atiba Hutchinson back to MLS. Instead the focus of TFC for a year and a half was on players playing football in Britain. This instinct reared its ugly head again with the signing of Johann Smith last week whose two years in England qualified him for Toronto’s ultimate litmus test.
The move to acquire Ruiz is an outstanding move but for TFC to reach its full potential it needs to make more moves to bring in Canadian players and curtail the club’s fascination with British based players.