After two years after gradually becoming less and less Canadian Toronto FC is finally getting the message. As Canada’s sole first division professional football club, TFC has been a disappointment to some fans north of the border the in its first two seasons due to a lack of commitment to promote Canadian players.
Having seen a team made up largely of Canadian players (Montreal Impact) eliminate a team primarily composed of players from the United States and British Isles in last year’s Canadian Championship, perhaps weighed on Mo Johnston’s mind.
This off-season we’ve seen TFC acquire Dwayne DeRosario and Adrian Serioux. DeRo is arguably the best player to have ever suited up in MLS. A four time MLS Cup winner his signing in 2001 by the league turned the San Jose Earthquakes from five year laughing stocks into MLS Cup Champions. DeRo has also been the heart and soul of the Canadian National Team for years.
Adrian Serioux was training last week in Florida with FC Dallas and is still in Florida (in the same hotel ironically) this week with TFC. The tough minded scrapper, Serioux is a solid MLS player whose best known for his hard foul in 2007 on David Beckham. Serioux will help solidify the Reds defense, which has been shaky at times the last two seasons.
A year ago it seemed as if TFC went out of its way not to sign Canadian players. Andrea Lombardo, a Toronto native was waived, and Will Johnson was not pursued when he made public his desire to return to MLS. Johnson signed with RSL and played a critical role in getting the Utah club within an unlucky post of playing for the MLS Cup.
At the same time TFC pursued players from the British Isles like Rohan Ricketts, Laurent Robert (who is French but played his club football for years in England) and Paul Dickov. The former two players were signed by TFC for a high salary figure and while Ricketts eventually settled in, Robert who had played for Coach John Carver at Newcastle did not and was eventually waived.
Mo Johnston finally gets it: TFC is a Canadian team and with a large amount of Canadian talent at its disposal, Toronto should always be among MLS’ best teams. The football talent pool in Canada is deeper than ever (including in 1986 when Canada qualified for the World Cup thanks to several veterans of the NASL) and if TFC continues to hone Canadian talent, the club will be one of MLS’s best going forward.
Both Montreal and Vancouver have proven over time that in the second flight USL, having Canadian oriented teams is a competitive advantage when the American talent pool has to be split so many different ways. Factor in the passion for the game in Toronto, North America’s most cosmopolitan city and you have the recipe for a winner.