What is it about Toronto that causes management to run sports teams into the ground? Maybe it’s the water.
After all, the Leafs are off to their worst start ever, the Jays have been awful for years, the Argos are a mess and the Raptors will probably find a new way to disappoint the fans.
Yet, the 2009 edition of Toronto FC was supposed to be different.
TFC were on the cusp of making history with their first playoff berth in their short existence. It was set up beautifully for them. Toronto just needed to win against the worst team in the league and they were in.
Instead, they came out and laid an egg, losing to the New York Red Bulls 5-0.
Maybe Toronto sports fans should just stop believing in anything.
After the fact, rookie midfielder Sam Cronin commented on the team’s morale.
“More so than anything we need to change the culture here, make it a winning, passionate group next season. I think it starts with a mentality and a kind of psychology of the team,” he told GOL TV after the team’s disappointing loss to New York.
That quotation says a lot. First, the fact a rookie had to come out and tell the media there isn’t a lot of leadership on this team speaks volumes of the player chemistry. It says that maybe captain Jim Brennan is past his prime and isn’t the fiery leader this group needs. More importantly, it also tells me the players brought in don’t fit together. And that falls squarely on the shoulders of general manager Maurice Johnston.
You could argue this failure is head coach Chris Cummins’ fault, which a lot of people are doing. After all, he just got fired while Johnston received a vote of confidence from the owners. But a coach is always handcuffed when he doesn’t have players that fit into his system.
This season, Johnston brought in several players he insisted would solve the team’s problems. Despite that, all season, he failed to get a consistent striker, a decent central defender and a winger who can cross the ball.
Yet the team has several legitimate central midfielders. That’s great, because they are all talented players. But you can’t play De Rosario, Julian De Guzman, Carl Robinson, Cronin, Amado Guevara and Pablo Vitti at the same time, so why bother having them all on the same team?
With all due respect to Cronin, who had an excellent rookie campaign, why didn’t Johnston draft talented central defender Omar Gonzalez instead? It’s always been a need, and Toronto already had Robinson, who plays the same position as Cronin.
Let’s also remember the fact that Mo spent a ridiculous amount of money to bring in some of these players. The team is currently facing salary cap issues this off-season because of it.
The worst signings were those of Ali Gerba, Vitti and Barrett, all of which were brought in to score goals, despite the fact that Gerba never played and Vitti and Barrett couldn’t score on an open net.
But didn’t Johnston insist these guys would solve all of TFC’s goal scoring problems? It gave us a warm fuzzy feeling at the time, but it was entirely unfounded. I hope he was lying to everyone to get people off his back, because if he truly believed what he was telling us, TFC is sunk.
Looking at next season, Toronto still has the same needs. But now, they also need a quality coach and must function better as a unit.
To do that, TFC needs a general manager who knows the league, can properly identify the team’s needs and has an eye for talent. Plus, it would help if he could collaborate with the coach before actually signing anybody.
In three years, Johnston has proven that he can’t successfully do any of those things. So while the team will be competing next year, hopefully Johnston won’t be in charge.