Is This Preki’s Team Now?
Watching the game on Saturday got me thinking about how a team like Toronto FC that is on paper much weaker than 2009, with its three best players (DeRo, JDG and Attakora) out of the lineup, still managed to gut out a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution. The only conclusion I can come up with is that for the first time in the history of Toronto FC, we actually have a coach. And make no mistake about it, this is not Mo’s team anymore, this is Preki’s team.
Preki came to town with notoriety as a no nonsense manager who worked his teams hard and had an ability to get average clubs to overachieve. He had a reputation of playing defensive, positionally sound, possession based hard nosed football and he preferred players with a rough “studs up” kind of edge to their style of play. In the current iteration of TFC this is exactly the kind of club he now has. And the apparent preference that Preki has for the “plumber” style of player has allowed TFC to do better than many have expected to date this season in spite of Mo Johnston’s apparent poor management of the salary cap and wasting of precious allocation dollars.
Make no mistake, Mo’s past errors have made Preki’s job much harder than it needed to be at this point in his tenure with Toronto. With 11 new players in and 9 players out this was no less than a tear down of Toronto FC in the off season. TFC is paying significant salary dollars to the likes of Carl Robinson, and Ali Gerba and by all accounts does not have a lot of salary cap space remaining to improve the club this season. Maybe one or two more pieces is all that can be afforded.
Newcomers such as Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, Adrian Cann, Nick LaBrocca and Dan Gargan have been solid additions that are not breaking the bank when it comes to salary to TFC’s credit. And to a great degree these players appear to have fit in well with the Preki style of play. A Preki player needs to be hard nosed and yet versatile enough to fill in different spots on the pitch when necessary. All these guys can definitely do this. With the exception of Cann who now is a fixture at centre back, all of them have filled in at different positions in different matches.
If you would have told me at the start of the season that TFC would have been able to win a game with the lineup they fielded on Saturday I would have said you were certifiably nuts. Yet through good coaching and attitude the club managed to bag the three points on offer.
Early in this season Mo stated that Preki is identifying players he wants and Mo’s job would be to sign them and then “make the money work”. With this scenario unfolding Mo is in the unenviable position of not being able to take credit for any success Preki is able to achieve but will be on the hook if the club does poorly and misses the playoffs. If Preki is the only one who can take credit for an upside and Mo can only take credit for the downside, does this not make TFC truly Preki’s Team?