The well-worn life adage “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” is almost always an on-the-money assessment of spectacular collapses.
In Toronto, the football club that many credit with starting MLS supporter culture when they joined the league in 2007 is famous for their staggering incompetence. In a league where over half the teams competing make the playoffs, Toronto – a big market team with money – hasn’t made it once in their first seven years.
The club has had more seasons than coaches, and more last-place finishes since they’ve been in the league than any other franchise – and until now, no one outside of Canada has cared all that much.
See, Toronto was a small club. Then, MLSE and Tim Leiweke happened, and they became a loud, smashing, “Bloody Big Deal”.
For the first time, Toronto got big – and they fell hard in the wake of an insipid 3-0 home defeat at the hands of New England Revolution that puts their spot in the playoffs in real jeopardy for the first time all year.
Manager Ryan Nelsen, who swung and missed again tactically on the night then ranted at his general manager while falling back on his playing reputation to give his criticisms a degree of credit.
Predictably, Nelsen was sacked the next day. The story out of Canada’s biggest city was that while Leiweke, team President and CEO was in the former New Zealand captain’s corner, general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and Nelsen didn’t get along.
And with Leiweke, MLS’ head kingmaker who turned the LA Galaxy into a dynasty and put Toronto on that same road, resigning his position at MLSE effective next June, Nelsen’s departure was only a matter of time.
In fact, many said from the beginning that Nelsen’s departure was only a matter of time. Even for a club like Toronto that is prone to self-destruct in the most spectacular way possible – hiring an active player with no managerial experience to lead a young team with incoming stars and major expectations was overly bizarre.
But that’s what happened when Nelsen was hired while he was playing for QPR in early 2013.
Simply put, Nelsen was, predictably enough, not up to the job. He scrambled all year tactically, failing to find a solution in a central midfield with a player to compliment lynchpin Michael Bradley. The team was unable find defensive stability, and a series of high-profile trades were of no help.