What’s going on at Toronto FC?

Dwayne de Rosario: one of Mo Johnston's better signings

Dwayne de Rosario: one of Mo Johnston's better signings

I’m not going to claim to be as plugged in as some other bloggers or mainstream media members but it is reasonably clear that Toronto FC is in trouble. Refreshingly, it’s not financial trouble (the behemoth that is Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment takes care of that). Instead, it’s far more basic: lack of on-pitch success.

The big news today is that Chris Cummins was let go after going 8-9-7 in 24 matches this past season, the worst of which was a 5-0 loss to the craptastic Red Bulls. The bigger news, if less obvious, is that Mo Johnston, the “architect” of this team, remains.

It is clear that Johnston’s reign has been marked by changes in philosophy and an absurd number of trades, the worst of which brought the incredibly bad Nick Garcia to Toronto. To be fair, he has made good moves, such as bringing in Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman. He has also drafted Stefan Frei and Sam Cronin, two very promising young players. So while he has made his share of bad moves – who hasn’t? – the problem is that he’s made too many of them. He never lets a team get settled. He hasn’t hired a coach that knows the league and its players and can implement his philosophy. It’s really too bad he didn’t hire Paul Mariner, who would have been an excellent head coach for TFC. As an aside, if the incredibly stupid Red Bulls don’t keep Richie Williams, he should be on the short list for TFC.

To me, there is one reason why TFC can’t be successful on the pitch. A solid keeper – Frei – with a good midfield and reasonably decent strikers gets constantly betrayed by the lack of skill on the back line. The defenders couldn’t handle the Puerto Rico Islanders in the CONCACAF Champion’s League much less a side with good strikers, like the LA Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders. It’s patently obvious that Johnston’s priority should be re-building the entire back line this off-season. A soccer team is at its best when it has a quality keeper and quality defenders. Johnston has one; now he needs the other.

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