Déjà Vu All Over Again?
“…All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from them…”
Sir Winston Churchill
My good friend Duane Rollins over at the 24th Minute does a great job today on his blog of putting some context onto the draw TFC secured this weekend past at home versus Salt Lake City and what has to happen for TFC to have a shot at the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history. He also boils down where he feels the results need to come from if Toronto is to have any chance of getting to the “second season” for the first time. I recommend you read what he has to say. Here is the link:
As I mentioned in my video blog from yesterday it all is going to come down to TFC finding a way to address their woeful form away from BMO Field and bag some points on the road from clubs that are (due respect to them) quite beatable. DC United away and Chivas USA away are games that TFC can be competitive in. Houston, having a disappointing season by their usual standards, can be picked off at home as well. And for that matter so can Chicago. And holding serve at home goes without saying if Toronto is to have any chance of getting to the post season.
If I was writing this blog a year ago I would have essentially said many of the same things yet the playoff picture then looked a little better on paper than it does now. After 21 games last season Toronto was on 30 points while at the same point this season they are on 27. Oddly enough with nine games to go in both campaigns TFC faced six games away from BMO Field, the same scenario of course exist this year. TFC is seven goals behind their tally to date in 2009 and of course the road record to date in 2010 is considerably worse than in 2009. Defensively Toronto has tightened up significantly than in 2009 with the Reds conceding six less goals in 2010 than at the same point a year ago.
In those last nine games last season Toronto FC only won twice, and both of those winning matches were at home. There were three draws, including one at home and of course there were four losses, all on the road. In those six remaining road games last season Toronto was outscored 12 goals to 3 and was only able to secure a draw in Seattle and another single point in Chicago.
Yet in a lot of ways TFC was better positioned with the personnel they had in 2009 to make a playoff run than they are in 2010. Midfield maestro/creator Amado Guevara was still here. Carl Robinson, Jimmy Brennan and Danny Dichio were providing experience and leadership. Stefan Frei was as good in 2009 as he has been in 2010. Julian De Guzman was bedding in. Dwayne De Rosario was putting the ball in the net. TFC crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League before the group stages against Puerto Rico Islanders meant that there was not the schedule congestion that there is this season to contend with. And yet they still found a way to not make it. Coach Chris Cummins was blamed for much of what happened when TFC crashed out of the playoff hunt in 2009. So were disappointments in the player ranks such as Ali Gerba, Pablo Vitti and Nick Garcia to name but a few. Mo Johnston came in for significant criticism for player moves that did not work, allegedly meddling with the day to day running of the club on the field, and of course for choosing to let Cummins remain as coach even though he was both untested and inexperienced. And there were questions of the dynamics in the locker room and personal problems alleged between certain players impacting the product on the pitch.
In 2010 TFC is still struggling to score on the road notching only seven goals compared to seventeen for all of 2009. That is a drop of 0.36 goals per game averaged over a full season. Away goals conceded have improved year over year to only 16 so far compared to an ugly 32 in 2009. Without a doubt these numbers do not lie. Toronto FC is a significantly less talented side offensively than in 2009 yet the club is generally better coached, is much better as a team defensively and is generally in more games late this season than last season.
So here we are. Déjà vu all over again. The club is roughly in the same point today as least season at the same time. The nature of the club on the pitch has been completely overhauled from one season to the next with only ten players still on the roster from 2009. Creative players are out and plumbers/grinders are in. In 2010 TFC faces a remaining schedule that looks like the same schedule that saw TFC win only twice down the stretch in 2009. As Duane eloquently stated earlier today it all comes down to those “winnable games” away from home. If Toronto FC can’t find some way to get a couple of wins from Chivas, Chicago, Houston or DC United then it did not deserve to get into the playoffs in the first place.