And Now On To Preki
Yesterday I made my feelings known about Mo Johnston and his future with Toronto FC in this space and today as promised I want to move onto Preki. And Preki’s case is much more complicated. Unlike Mo, I honestly do not know how I completely feel at this point about Preki and if he has a future with this club in the years ahead. In my opinion he is a much more complicated character than Mo is and in his time here (and previously at Chivas USA for that matter) he has shown glimpses of both character assets and character flaws that make deciding what part he has in the future of the club that much more difficult to figure out.
First off, I think that the hiring of Preki as coach for this season was arguably one of the best pieces of business Mo Johnston has ever done in his tenure with Toronto. It can even be argued that there was almost no better choice out there for 2010 than Preki to coach the club. Why you may ask?
Remember back for a second if you will where this club was over the winter months and into the 2010 pre-season. The salary cap was a shambles and there were little to no significant funds available to re-tool the club. Players were being jettisoned. Significant dissention apparently existed in the dressing room. The club that was to be fielded in 2010 was going to be without a doubt weaker on paper then TFC 2009 was. Toronto needed more players that were cheap, a rotation system to get the most out of the roster, and they needed a system of play that would give them a fighting chance to get results. Preki provided all three. “Bargain” players like Dan Gargan, Nick LaBrocca, Martin Saric and Maicon Santos were brought in (likely either directly by Preki himself or on his recommendations). Players like Amadou Sanyang and Gabe Gala were getting meaningful minutes in games they would not get in 2009.
The club, after a bit of a slow start, found a way to grind out wins that previous incarnations of the team were unable to. Things were tightened up at the back. The club secured silverware in the Voyageurs Cup (against arguably weaker Vancouver and Montreal sides from 2009 granted) and advanced into the group stages of the Champions League for the first time. And here we are in September and TFC is still in the hunt for a playoff spot for the first time in club history. Again I ask you to think back to those dark days in March of this year and ask yourself if you were told then that TFC would have accomplished these things by the start of September would you be happy with the results? I for one would have been pretty pleased. And Preki should fairly get the credit for what has been accomplished this season so far. The success the club has had may have even set expectations perhaps a bit higher then they should have been for league success all things being equal. But I digress. That is a topic for a future blog.
So a club made up of primarily plumbers in spite of deficiencies in talent is still in the hunt in September.
In the future, assuming that things overall get better for TFC on the talent front the question that many fans are asking is if Preki is the right kind of coach to manage a club with more talented players. And anecdotally it is the opinion of many that he is not. His well publicized spat with Amado Guevara in Chivas and the issues surrounding the employment of Designated Player Mista this season in Toronto begs the question if Preki is the kind of coach that can man manage the kind of talented players that all successful clubs need to have.
Preki and Mo are friends. They go back to their playing days in Kansas City and Mo convinced Preki to come to Toronto. Preki is Mo’s guy. And if Mo goes at the end of this season what happens to Preki? And the somewhat unique (by MLS standards) situation where TFC has a Director of Soccer that brings in players that the coach may not necessarily want (again Mista is a possibility here) does not appear to be the ideal way that a guy like Preki prefers to operate. Now Preki is in my opinion in the enviable position of being somewhat insulated from criticism for the results this year considering his relative short tenure in the job. Mo of course is in the opposite spot. Preki will get most of the credit for success and Mo will get most of the stick for failure. That is of course what four years of not making the MLS playoffs gets you.
If I was a betting man, personal opinions aside, I think it’ll take a miracle to keep Mo Johnston employed with Toronto FC at seasons end. If he goes then the question of what happens to Preki remains. Is he rewarded with his job and Mo’s job? Does TFC hire a new GM and let the new soccer boss decide his future? Is he canned in some sort of total housecleaning?
As I have stated previously Preki has shown a talent for getting good results from less than talented squads in MLS. Depending on scale of the mess Mo leaves behind I think Preki’s talents are going to be needed here for at least one more year. Four seasons and four coaches is a bad enough precedent is it not? Five years and five coaches is an even worse statistic to contemplate. Based on the fact that it is likely a good number of players with this club may not be around in 2011, and based on the fact that it may take a year or more to really get the talent level where it needs to be on this team I think that keeping a coach around that has a track record of getting relatively good results from les than ideal squads is just about all we can ask for at this stage.
Preki stays in 2011. It is not the ideal scenario but it is the best of a bunch of even worse ones.