TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 25: Dwayne De Rosario #14 of Toronto FC reacts to the final whistle as San Jose Earthquakes celebrate the win during a MLS game at BMO Field September 25 2010 in Toronto Ontario Canada. Convey was awarded a penalty kick which he scored on. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
At one point in the season it was thought that Toronto could edge in and be the third team from the East. They have talent (2 DPs, 1 should be a DP, 1 good young Keeper). They have a fan base (4 years of sell-outs, with further planned expansion).
What they don't have is wins; thereby playoff appearances.
Jeremiah stated that they were headed for a fall. They did. Their Goals For of 1.00 per match (15th of 16) finally has caught up to their low shot totals. Stefan Frei can't stop every shot, and so their Goals Against Average is a pedestrian 9th. At the bottom of the table in Shots and Corner, 2nd to last in Shots on Goal, and 3rd to last in Fouls Suffered they aren't generating offense from run-of-play, nor for set-plays. They are a broken team.
How did Toronto FC start the season as a team that looked like a Tier Two candidate and end the season clearly out of the race (math says they are in, but to quote Ben Rycroft "there is no hope here" that to end my appearance on It's Called Football)? Duane Rollins and I talked about some of the troubles of Toronto outside of that interview as well.
It starts with roster churn so frequent that to graph it would look like Class V white water rapids. The churn even went into the coaching staff, as SSReporters pointed out in his FanPost - 6 coaches in 5 years. Seattle is facing a team that is down, and who knows when it will be up, as they continue to lurch around grasping for chances without commitment to long-term projects or goals.
This year they made a change not just at coach, but the fired their General Manager as well. But they were still in the hunt. Why then?
Fan anger reached a boiling point following the home loss to DC United. The team clearly wasn't good enough and many people were openly talking about not renewing their season tickets. The moves were made in reaction to that.
With Preki the players and assistant coaches essentially revolted. They weren't playing for him anymore.
Duane Rollins of the 24thMinute points out that the upper levels of the organization made these changes due to fan, player and coaching unrest. They likely should have made the changes because the indicators were there that this was, and still is, a team that doesn't have the depth of talent to compete, nor the stability to develop it at the senior level.
What they do have are three players who should be a catalyst right up the spine. Designated players at Center Forward and Center Defensive Mid frame one of the five greatest player to ever play in the league - Dwayne De Rosario. Yes, he's that good. But the two that frame the play of the roving CAM/WF are having issues in MLS. Both came from the top flight of Spain, but their performance in the US/Canadian league is pedestrian.
Julian De Guzman is a Canadian International. He's capable of playing as a CDM, or a CM. Unlike the Sounders Osvaldo Alonso, or other strong players of similar ilk (Joseph, Beckerman) you won't ever see him pop up in awards conversations.
He's clearly TFC's most gifted tactical player. However, his game has struggled a bit at the MLS level. I've talked to UEFA level coaches that have told me that he has "slowed down" his game and as a result he is less effective. He's also a small guy (listed at 5'6" - maybe with the hair. He's probably closer to 5'4" and about 135lbs. He gets muscled off the ball a bit in MLS.) Still, when he shows up and the game has some width he can be very good. He plays better against better teams -- his best game of the year was probably against Cruz Azul.
Rollins shows that JDG's biggest weakness is size. Fredy Montero small. Yet, in MLS the CDM is supposed to be an enforcer. Someone to shut down some fairly large forwards. He's also aging at 29, and doesn't have the speed to keep up with the faster forwards. At this stage, he's an incomplete player who probably needs to move to the box-to-box role with a solid, true stopper behind him.
Toronto though also lacks scoring punch. They have DeRo, and their number two scorer in history is Chad Barrett (thanks again to SSReporters). Chad is a serviceable player in MLS, but probably best as a third option. So Trader Mo went on the hunt for quality with his empty DP slot and a wallet that could afford it. He found Mista. A few Spanish national team CAPs, time with several clubs in La Liga with nearly 100 goals.
In MLS? 544 minutes, 5 starts with 4 sub appearances earning 1 assist. He's only 13 shots in that time, with a paltry 3 being on goal. That's a bust, DP or not, but his contract is up at the end of the year. Why is this man on the team? Rollins again;
It was a shot in the dark to address a critical lack of finishing. When Barrett went down with injury and then Santos right after TFC only had two strikers -- O'Brian White and Fuad Ibrahim that, to put it charitably, are struggling. They needed a striker and Julian played with him at Depor. He has brilliant touch on the ball, but is slow, slow, slow. I actually don't mind the signing as it is just a half season contract and was worth the gamble. I'd take him back at $300,000, but not a DP, actually. A full season might make him an 8-10 goal scorer.
Sure, it could have been that he will adjust after a slow start. We can look at Blaise Nkufo to see that it takes time to fit into a team in mid-season. Toronto also acquired Maicon Santos, who has looked strong in Red. But who ever plays in front of DeRo must put their shots on frame. Mista isn't that answer.
So, what the hell Toronto? A city with the second strongest fan support has those fans planning revolts against the ownership group, and even MLS, by boycotting the MLS Cup Final that they get to host. I don't know that that is the answer, but I do know that another house-clearing of players certainly is not.
Find a coach with a system that emphasizes DeRo. Surround him with players that can work off and for him. Stick with it for 2 years and finally make the Playoffs. Another year of wholesale changes will lead to another year of suck.