Toronto is not known for its successful sports teams these days. The Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the Blue Jays, the Argonauts and of course, Toronto FC, all failed to make playoffs in their respective leagues last year. Three (Leafs, Raptors and TFC) of the five teams are owned by MLSE. It is really no wonder that fans of the various Toronto sports teams lay the blame at MLSE’s doorstep for the meltdown in Toronto sports.
But it may not be MLSE’s fault…not entirely anyway. As a Toronto FC supporter I can look at this as partially our problem as well. Toronto FC supporters are very vocal and demand changes whenever something goes wrong for any short stretch of time. There is very little patience within the supporter groups and many people feel that after three long seasons the results should be rolling in. Unfortunately, our demands have probably negatively impacted this team more often than they have been of any benefit.
Read the collective wrist-slitting on the supporter forums after any perceived underachievement and you can come to understand how connected MLSE truly is to their supporters.
MLSE reads all about upset supporters and hits the panic button. Players are jettisoned and signed without any thought as to what they might actually contribute. Julian de Guzman, the underachieving designated player, is the poster child for this. He was signed in the middle of last season when the club already had more central midfielders than it needed.
The club has now gone into all four seasons of its existence without a set roster. Players have been continually added at the last minute and the first month of the season becomes a new preseason where the players get to know the other players. This defeats the entire purpose of the actual preseason. This year, Toronto FC’s preseason consisted of a bunch of trialists playing (most of whom never signed) alongside a handful of the players who actually did start.
So how does the club remedy this problem?
The first action is to fire the one who has largely been responsible for this over the last 3 seasons. Mo Johnston really does need to go. If anyone failed as often as he had in any business other than football they would have been dropped and never touched again in that field.
The second action the club needs to take is to give Preki time to build his squad. He can (and has) deliver(ed) results when given the time to build the squad he wants and needs. Preki has a larger payroll than he ever had at Chivas USA and has been given this tool so he can get Toronto to playoffs.
The third action, and arguably the most important action, is to bring in an executive who actually knows the game of football to oversee the club and ensure that it is headed in the right direction.
And supporters? The supporters need to stop panicking. Sure there have been a handful of players (Garcia and Velez being the most prominent) that the supporters have been right about. But for every Velez, there is a Buddle, a player who shouldn’t have been jettisoned.
TFC supporters need to calm down. The season is likely going to be another long one, but the shouting isn’t going to do anything valuable. All it will do is set the club up for another year of an unset roster and a lack of clear direction.