2011 TFC Headlines
With 2011 about to end I thought it would be interesting to try and encapsulate month by month some of the more consequential/historic moments from Toronto FC’s fifth season in one post. I wanted to try and put a cap on a tumultous year by trying to step back and try and take a look at everything that happened on a high level in teh search for some perspective. After doing so I feel that we all sometimes forget how far in a lot of ways this team has come in these last twelve months. Yes indeed there is still a hell of a long way to go (and a number of mistakes and problems cropping up along the way) but there is so much more to look forward to in 2012 than there was this time a year ago when we take a look at the big picture.
The Champions league Quarter Finals, a full season for Frings/Koevermans to leave their marks, relative management stability, a 2012 team that is likely deeper and more able to play the “Winter Way” than the 2011 team was, a state of the art Academy facility slated to open, and perhaps most importantly a feeling of relative calm and normalcy around the team that has pretty much been a team of anything but since 2006.
- Aron Winter, Bob de Klerk and Paul Mariner get to work and take over from interim GM Earl Cochrane with a press conference on January 6th. It took Consultant Jurgen Klinsmann and MLSE roughly one hundred days from the firing of Mo Johnston and Preki to hire the new troika in charge of TFC.
- DeRo and whatever you want to call his trip to Glasgow was (Loan, Tryout, Unsanctioned Trip… take your pick) came to an end with his return to Toronto on January 17th. On Media Day (January 26th) the tension between the club captain and the club became very public with DeRo threatening in front of the cameras to walk if his contract concerns were not addressed.
- Promising youngster Nicholas Lindsay who graduated from the Academy to the first team in 2010 was ruled out for all of 2011 after hurting himself in a snowmobiling accident. Word is that his injuries (and two surgeries in 2011) are still not giving him a time frame for a comeback and may be career threatening.
- The 2011 MLS SuperDraft sees TFC pick up what eventually became spare parts in Demetrius Omphroy and Matt Gold and with the last pick in the draft took a flyer on a tiny man from Ecuador named Joao Plata. Every other club in MLS passed over Plata at least twice before TFC got to him.
- The Dutch Invasion continued with the signings of Soolsma, Martina and Bouchiba to contracts. Only Soolsma played significant minutes in 2011. Martina was waived and Bouchiba only came back from season long injury in October. The jury is I guess still out on these signings to a degree.
- The Reds flew off to Turkey for a pre season training stint/team bonding session with matches against strong opposition in Partizan & Red Star, both of course from Belgrade, and Dinamo Zagreb respectively. Many the triallist came through the door on that trip. Few stayed behind.
- The full MLS schedule came out and many in the TFC supporter’s group movement lamented the few chances there would be for road trips with most games to regional rivals being on weekdays or too late in the season.
- The Reds kicked off the pre-season in earnest at the Walt Disney Classic with a loss to the Houston Dynamo 3-2.
- In what eventually became a tempest in a teapot defender Adrian Cann leaves camp over a contract dispute, however he unceremoniously returns a week later and makes a public apology and signs a new contract. Later that spring Cann suffers a season ending injury and only now does it appear that he might be ready for 2012 as his rehab is apparently going well. How different 2011 would have been if he had not gone down so early is a question we will never know the answer to.
- Nick Labrocca out – Alan Gordon in. Labrocca goes onto the All Star game with Chivas, Gordon gets hurt and is traded to San Jose later that season and badmouths the TFC medical staff on the way out the door. Gordon to his credit did score some nice goals for TFC, particularly that goal of the season candidate deep in injury time that stole a point in LA versus the Galaxy.
- Pre season preparation ended on March 11th with a total TFC record of one win, two draws and five defeats in pre season preparation matches.
- On March 17th Morgan, Cordon, Makubuya and Stinson sign on with TFC first team as they all graduate from the TFC Academy.
- TFC gives the Vancouver Whitecaps perhaps their high water mark of the season by handing them a 4-2 home victory over the Reds on March 19th on Vancouver.
- The Reds returned to frigid Toronto for the March 26th home opener versus Portland where they won 2-0. Javier Martina reached his high water mark with a wonder volley he was unable to match again in TFC colours. Martina was subsequently released in November.
- The DeRo saga finally ends with his trade to New York on April 1st. Thousands of Tweets and message board posts flood the Internet (at least the TFC portion of the Internet). TFC gets Tchani, Borman and a draft-pick in the deal. Only the 2012 draft-pick remains. DeRo goes onto an MVP season and TFC fans still are asking how and why it all went so very wrong.
- Aron Winter tries to go all “European” on the Toronto media when he tries to ban the press from the dressing room in contravention of MLS policy and North American sports journalism precedent. This soon ends with a public edict from MLS commissioner Don Garber that chastises Winter for trying to bar access.
- On April 18th MLSE announced plans to build their new Academy/Training Facility at Downsview with $20 million of club monies being used to make it happen. Slated to open in 2012 the Academy will be based there permanently and will play its games from that facility and the first team will train there. Once built it will rival anything of its kind in North America.
- In the first of many truly heartbreaking losses, particularly at home this season, the Reds fall to DC United and have to put up with the insufferable douche that is Charlie Davies taunting the supporters section after scoring.
- TFC kicks off defense of the Voyageurs Cup with a win away to Edmonton 3-0, all but securing their place in the two legged final versus the winner of the Montreal v Vancouver semi final.
- The Reds suffer crushing defeats to Seattle, Chicago and in the largest home defeat ever recorded in five years of history when they lose at BMO Field to Philly 6-2.
- The Reds did secure a trip to the Voyageurs Cup Final for the third year running after dispatching FC Edmonton in the second leg at BMO Field 1-0.
- The finals of the Voyageurs Cup got underway in Vancouver with the Reds securing a 1-1 draw and a vital away goal in the first leg at Empire Field thanks to newly minted captain Maicon Santos.
- Soon after on May 25th the second leg of the V-Cup final is called off with the Whitecaps leading the match 1-0 due to a massive thunderstorm and torrential downpour in Toronto making it impossible to continue the game safely. Vancouver instantly becomes the whinging/conspiracy theory capital of Canada. The game is rescheduled to July to coincide with a Vancouver regular season MLS trip to Toronto.
- Alen Stevanović, on loan from Italian Serie B is recalled to Italy after a less than impactful third of a season stay with TFC scoring no goals in twelve appearances.
- TFC heads to the bottom part of the MLS standings in June with only one win, two draws and three losses in the month, scoring only four goals. They never get close to a playoff position again in 2011.
- Word starts leaking out of the imminent signings of two high profile Designated Players, Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans upcoming in the summer transfer window.
- CONCACAF announces that the Canadian Champion would have a relatively easy ride to the Champions League Group Stages with a matchup with Nicaraguan side Real Esteli.
- After a delay longer than a month due to scheduling conflicts TFC finally secures the Voyageurs Cup on July 3rd after a 2-1 defeat of the Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field. Dan Gargan memorably brings the Cup onto the Capo stand in the south end.
- TFC comes down to earth four days later after an embarrassing defeat away in New York versus the New York Red Bulls 5-0.
- The moving van starts its work in earnest in July. In – Dunfield, Johnson, Iro, Griffit, Robinson, Koevermans, Frings. Out – Gordon, Peterson, Attakora, Tchani, Gargan
- TFC defeats Real Esteli 2-1 at home to kick off CONCACAF Champions League qualification.
- The player clean-out just about comes to an end with Maicon Santos heading to Dallas in exchange for Eric Avila and a 2011 international roster slot. TFC becomes first MLS team to ever trade two captains away to other MLS clubs in the same season.
- TFC gets the job done in Nicaragua and beats Real Esteli away 2-1 to get into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the second year running. TFC is entered into a tough Champions League group with FC Dallas, Pumas and Tauro FC of Panama.
- The Reds start their group stage matches in the CCL with a 2-1 win away to Tauro in Panama.
- After the second torrential downpour/thunderstorm of the season at BMO Field the FC Dallas Champions League game is rescheduled to the next morning. In front of only hundreds and not thousands of fans the Reds lose 1-0.
- Former TFC stalwarts Dwayne De Rosario and Dan Gargan come back to haunt the Reds in games this month. DeRo scores a hat trick as his new DC United side draw TFC 3-3 and Gargan scores late for Chicago Fire in a 2-0 home win.
- In a strong effort up and down the field Toronto FC finally defeat the Columbus Crew away in Ohio after a hard fought 4-2 victory to secure their first ever win versus Columbus and secure the Trillium Cup for first time in five tries.
- The Reds get smoked against Pumas in Mexico City 4-0 in a lopsided Champions League defeat on September 14th. A week later they defeat Tauro 2-0 to keep their CCL hopes alive.
- Danny Koevermans scores two to propel TFC to a 2-1 home win versus MLS Cup champs Colorado Rapids on September 17th.
- In an excellent overall effort TFC draws heavily favoured Pumas 1-1 at BMO Field on September 27th to give themselves a chance to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League with a result in Dallas in October.
- The month ended with the second annual set of Town Hall meetings between club staff and supporters. Winter, De Klerk, Mariner and the Business side of TFC/MLSE took dozens of questions directly from fans.
- Already mathematically eliminated from the MLS playoffs in September, the Reds go undefeated in October winning one and drawing three overall in all competitions.
- Danny Koevermans continues his goal scoring pace, netting three October goals in four matches.
- In arguably the biggest TFC game since the defeat in New York in October 2009 TFC soundly defeat FC Dallas away 3-0 on goals from Koevermans and a late brace from Joao Plata to secure second spot in the Champions League Group stage and a trip to the quarter finals in 2012.
- Season five officially ends with a home match versus New England that ironically has a number of parallels to the season ender from season one in 2007.
- On November 8th CONCACAF announced that TFC would be playing MLS Cup Champions Los Angeles Galaxy in March in the Champions League Quarter finals with the first leg to be played in Toronto.
- The Reds lose no one to Montreal in the MLS Expansion Draft. Danleigh Borman is lost to New England in the MLS Re-Entry Draft after his contract option is not picked up by Toronto. a 2012 draft pick is all that remains from the DeRo trade.
- Fringe players Martina, Zavarise, Gold, Omphroy and Viator are released by the club.
- TFC acquires young defender Jeremy Hall from frequent 2011 trading partner FC Dallas in exchange for a late round 2013 draft pick on November 29th.
- CONCACAF announces the date for the first leg of the Champions League quarter final games to take place on March 7th 2012.
- Later that month TFC finally end speculation and debate and announce that the Champions League match could be played at the Rogers Centre on FieldTurf. Weather and fan safety are given as the main reasons for the decision to play under the dome.
- Former Ipswich and Bristol Rovers winger Reggie Lambe signs with TFC on December 7th. A Bermudian International, Lambe is noted or his pace and skill on the ball.
- TFC Academy Director Stuart Neely leaves the club on December 5th, surprising many observers with the sudden move. No replacement has yet been named.
- And in a move that may have far reaching implications for the future of the club, on December 9th Media Giants Rogers Communications and Bell Canada Enterprises buy out the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund and become co-majority owners of MLSE the parent club of Toronto FC.
- TFC deals Nathan Sturgis to Houston On December 28th for a conditional draft pick in what is likely to be a 85K salary dump.
- TFC announces they are “working hard” to retain the services of Joao Plata and Richard Eckersley who were both on loan this past season. No word yet on if they have been successful.
Hopefully if I do this little exercise again at the end of 2012 I will have a post that is considerably shorter than this one turned out to be.