Aron Winter Says TFC Is “Complete”
“We are happy that finally we are complete and can be focused on having a good pre-season and to be ready when the season starts.” Aron Winter to TFC-TV (January 30th)
Change, whether in life, relationships, employment or football, can happen real fast however the results that flow from change sometimes take some significant time to pass in order to manifest themselves. And things have definitely changed at Toronto FC.
Case in point from a TFC perspective is the quote above from Head Coach Aron Winter in a conversation with TFC TV this week where he officially announced the formal acquisition of left footed Chilean defender Miguel Aceval, who by all accounts is the forty second player now playing with the club in pre season training, fighting for thirty roster spots. In the club’s short history never has there been a more settled and better prepared training camp than this one and the numbers clearly back up that assertion… And I am not just talking about the number of players actually in camp. What I am talking about is the fact that the team has made most of the transactions they are apparently going to make at least for the start of the Champions League and MLS campaigns at such a relatively early time months ahead of the usual TFC pattern up to this point.
To prove this assertion I went back and took a look at pre-seasons past for TFC and recorded how many players were signed, acquired or brought in after the official start of pre season in each of the last five years and the total was a staggering seventy five players or an average of fifteen players per season brought in after camp started. That’s only three players short of what a full dressed roster would be for a match! I did not even bother looking at how many players left as I was just interested in how the club in each of these past five years planned ahead for the season(s) ahead. And being that many players short at the start of camp season in and season out can’t have done anything but make the job of the managers and of the players to bring any sort of success to Toronto that much more difficult.
This year in comparison only Eckersley, Caicedo and the aforementioned Aceval were not in camp at the start of the pre season and for Aceval it only took about a week after the start of camp for us to see the obligatory shot of him holding up the shirt with the manager on the club website. And remember a number of these moves were challenging ones to pull off. Plata and Eckersley had complex contractual issues to iron out for example. The club had by calculations I saw from most TFC pundits not a lot of salary cap or allocation space to work with so getting to this spot ( being essentially done with roster moves this early) was far from an easy exercise.
On average five times more players were brought in after the start of training camp in all the previous seasons TFC existed than in the one ahead of us. There are of course no guarantees in this sport (or in life) and the best laid plans can often end up failing. But seriously how can this be any worse than what we saw in previous seasons before Winter and company came to Toronto? Frankly it could be argued that this is one of the more encouraging signs we have seen in a long time.
No single story speaks to the ineptitude of what came before with TFC than the story of Dan Gargan and his first game for the team, signed to a deal on the very morning of opening day in 2010 and in what sounded like a scene from some bad made for TV movie was literally getting his kit on in a cab on his way from the airport to Crew Stadium in Columbus so that he could arrive in the second half of the game to sit on a bench that did not have enough signed players under contract to fill an eighteen man roster. There were never enough players in pre-season camp in 2010 for the players to play a single eleven on eleven scrimmage to prepare for the season ahead and today the club could almost play two full scrimmages at the same time simultaneously based on the numbers in camp.
If ever anything speaks to the promise of this club in 2012 it is this. There was a decent core in place from the end of last season with particular strengths in goal and in the midfield with emerging talent up top backing up a talented DP poacher. Now most of those pieces are returning and on paper the club may have finally given itself competitive depth in defence that can see it be a competitive MLS side for the first time since 2009 and perhaps make its first playoff appearance.
If there is ever anything to be most excited about the 2012 season I for one think that this is it. The 2012 opening day roster will be made up of from the players we already have here, and not from journeymen getting changed in the back of a cab on the way from the airport to the stadium!
Progress at last!