Montreal – Vanney – And The Future
Sadly I won’t be in Montreal on Thursday to watch Toronto FC’s first ever MLS playoff game against the Impact. The big question is will I be at BMO Field on Sunday to see TFC’s first ever HOME Playoff game?
Honestly I don’t think so.
And it deeply pains me to write those words.
Take your pick from any or all of the following: road form, poor coaching, defensive ineptitude, Baldermero Toledo, Dider Drogba, smoke bombs, that fucking bell… Any or ALL of these things might be what ends Toronto FC’s 2015 season on Thursday, a season that started with renewed optimism… for me at least.
I also thought the same way back in 2009 ahead of what became knows as the Montreal Miracle. To this day I still regret the fact that I had a pair of tickets for that game – our first ever trophy! – and decided at the last minute not to go because I thought there was no hope to come back from a four goal deficit. Yes hope exists and in a one off game anything can happen. But it is hard for me to get past all of that and think that the Reds are anything but massive underdogs.
Here is a look back at that special night.
Now I don’t want to look back today on what has come before in 2015 when arguably our most important game in franchise history lies just ahead of us but its real hard to square away where this team finds itself today versus where I strongly feel they easily should have been going into the playoffs, in a top two finish in the conference.
I for one place that blame squarely at the feet of Greg Vanney (and to a lesser extent Tim Bezbatchenko). If a coach who apparently knew as a player how to defend could have found a way to make TFC’s collective defending bad – BAD instead of TERRIBLE – the Reds would not have found themselves having to go to Montreal on Thursday hoping for a miracle to take place a second time. A Bad TFC defense would have seen the Reds not drop points late to NYCFC this summer (that crazy 4-4 result). A Bad TFC defense would have seen the Reds perhaps not concede three to New England at home in September in spite of controlling most of that match. Instead of a Bad defense we are saddled with a Terrible one.
Vanney had over a year – A YEAR – to find a way to make our defense go from atrocious to even less than league average (in hindsight that would have been massive progress for Toronto FC) – and yet he could not find a way to do so. Offensively we scored 58 goals in the 2015 campaign – a massive upgrade on the 44 goals the club scored in 2014, however under his tenure the goals against actually went up season over season from 54 last season (yes Ryan Nelsen was responsible for a lot of that) to a numbingly embarrassing 58 this year. Greg Vanney has presided over six clean sheets in his 44 game tenure as TFC head coach. During that same 44 game period he has presided over his club conceding three or more goals on NINE SEPARATE OCCASIONS!
I simply find myself looking back on the miracle that was Seba this season and thinking how totally TFC it would be for us to waste arguably the finest statistical single season performance in league history on a meek exit from the playoffs in Montreal of all places.
If by some miracle the Reds pull this off on Thursday and play at home this Sunday versus the Red Bulls in an actual playoff game many of us can actually attend then the post mortem on the 2015 campaign might look slightly different once it all comes to an end.
Many might preach consistency this coming off season and say that changing/firing managers season after season is one of the primary reasons why the club finds itself only getting into the post season for the first time in season nine. But I would respond to that argument by saying that the one thing TFC has never tried in its existence is hiring a manager with MLS EXPERIENCE. Mo, and Preki did not have much experience as managers. Cummins, Carver & Winter probably never saw a MLS match before managing one. Mariner was a towel boy for Steve Nichol – never much of a coach himself in retrospect. And Nelsen was still playing for QPR when we drafted him in. Vanney was a neophyte as well.
I ask this simple question – is there anything – ANYTHING – in the actions or skills that we have seen from Greg Vanney this season that give you any hope that he is the man to right the ship defensively for this club and steer them forward to success? I say 44 games in charge is well long enough to see that hs is NOT capable of doing so.
When the season ends (hopefully not on Thursday!!!) I want TFC to drive a dump truck full of money up to (for example) Bob Bradley’s house and beg him on bended knee to reunite with his boy and come to Toronto to help once and for all correct the single greatest mistake that since day one has held this club back – not having a manager with MLS experience who can find a way to address at its core LONG term the defensive shortcomings that seem to hold us back from success year after year.