Once in a while you have to get away for a bit in order to get a sense of perspective back that can be so easily lost when you eat sleep and breathe something you are passionate about, in my case of course Toronto FC. And my chance came this weekend past with a camping trip down the coast to Lake Erie with a lot of great friends. As my tent didn’t come equipped with a flat screen or for that matter a satellite dish I was relying upon text messages from some good friends to keep up to date on the live goings on in Kansas City and I had to wait until Monday before I was able to watch the game in its entirety and what to this point in retrospect felt like just another inevitable MLS road loss. So no post game video blog for this one folks.
And what a few days away from this TFC thing reminded me was that getting too upset about every little setback, or loss, or stupid play… take your pick… was not something I really want to continue to do. I go to the games and spend a lot of time sharing my thoughts (such as they are) with you the reader because I love doing so. The minute that this thing is no longer the fun and enjoyable activity it is for me is the day that I find something else to do with my time and my money.
Perspective can also allow one to accept certain inevitabilities. And here are some inevitabilities I am okay with. The Reds are not going to make the playoffs. They won’t be the worst club in the league once the season ends but they will not be far off of it. Again not much more than I expected going into the season. I do think that the club will be a much better team at the end of this season then they were going into it. Players have come and gone and more are probably coming (more on this later) and TFC might set a record for dressing the most players in a single season before this MLS campaign is over. These are all realities I have come to terms with.
However there are a few things that I am not prepared to accept, even with a renewed sense of what I hope is perspective. The first one is a lack of pride or effort. On too many occasions last Saturday night some TFC players to me looked like they were taking the night off. I get the playing in 100 degree heat/humidity and the fact that it is a big ask to play two games three days apart in some of the hottest days in recent memory. But even allowing for these circumstances too many TFC players had their heads down and were going through the proverbial motions in Kansas City (particularly in the first half) for my taste. As a paying customer and dedicated supporter of this club is it not to much to ask of the players wearing the badge to take as much pride in wearing the badge as many of us do? Toronto fans will support a player to the end if he is playing with heart and passion, even in a losing cause.
The other thing I am getting a bit sick of is what seems to be an unnecessarily tactical rigidity on the part of Aron Winter and his coaching staff. This almost slavish adherance to the 4-3-3 style of play in just about every different set of circumstances the club finds itself facing on the field is an approach that is starting to make less and less sense to me each time I see it. I am no expert on football tactics but it does not take an expert to see that circumstances on the field of play can change from game to game or for that matter minute to minute. Last Saturday in Kansas City was a great example of just that. Sporting KC was (and still is) on a roll at home and early on in the match it seemed to me that the Reds were being either outnumbered or out-hustled in the midfield and that they were giving up too many good scoring chances as a consequence. Could Winter have not pulled one or even two players from the top line of the 4-3-3 to reinforce the midfield and seen what could have come from trying the 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 formation for at least a while?
I do not think that having at least some tactical flexibility when the circumstances call for it is going to put Coach Winter’s grand design to totally reinvent this team back to any significant degree over the long term. What very well might put things back is continuing to lose match after match after match in what is at the end of the day a results oriented business. I want Aron Winter to have time to carry through to its logical conclusion what it is he is trying to do here. What I fear is that he might not be given the time to do what is needed if the results on the field do not start to turn around soon. And leaving points on the pitch or not taking full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves due to nothing more than almost a kind of headstrong fixation on a specific style of play can often be a sure fire way to lose your job in this kind of business.
Finally I want to write a few words about Dan Gargan, now that he has left Toronto FC. Dan came to TFC on opening day last season and in 45 games and 10 substitutions he is now 9th overall in total appearances for the team over four and a half years of existence if you can believe it. How sad a commentary on the fortunes of this young club is the fact that a player here for a season and a half is in the top ten in total appearances? Dan hopefully will find work in MLS as he is a hard working plumber type of player who can definitely fill a role for a club looking for a piece who can fulfill a number of roles off the bench. As his salary cap hit is only roughly $70,000 releasing him now only frees up about $35,000 in cap space which is not a huge sum on a salary cap of $2.6 million. What releasing him does mean to me is that a free roster spot now exists for another signing of yet another new player which must be the inevitable result of this move. Thanks Dan for the heart and pride you showed each time you walked onto the pitch for Toronto FC.
Perspective is important. I need to keep that in mind after most games where im frustrated beyond belief. Just want to put in my 2 cents regarding the 4-3-3 formation, and Winter’s rigidity in sticking with it. My opinion is the 4-3-3 can work in MLS, but this is the most difficult formation to learn, and we will have to take some losses while the players adapt to the system. We can not dump the system and revert to 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 once we start losing, or else the team will never learn the 4-3-3 well. Its just going to take time, and probably will mean will have to sacrifice any chance of playoffs this season. The long term gains will come though, and next season I think we have the potential to be an exciting team, and make a strong push into the playoffs. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.