Category Archives: MLS

TFC panders to its fans

Jürgen Klinsmann

A couple of days ago, I read with interest the report that Jürgen Klinsmann was on his way to Toronto. He had been hired as an consultant (or adviser, whichever term you prefer). The term itself is interesting. In and of itself, “adviser” is a meaningless term, especially for a team with neither a general manager nor a coach. The question, then, is two-fold: first, what is TFC trying to do here? Second, what about Klinsmann’s desire for control?

It seems relatively obvious that TFC is pandering to its fans. By appointing Klinsmann as an adviser, it gives the illusion of action when, in reality, there was none. In short, TFC did nothing, except pay for a plane ticket and possibly some wages, with this appointment. I’d like to think that the club’s fans are a little savvier than MLSE thinks and are not, in fact, fooled by this appointment. Klinsmann should be given a proper title and a proper place in the organization if ownership wants to prove it’s doing something.

Now, how much control does Klinsmann actually have? Famously, the lack of control is why he is not currently the manager of the US national team. Apparently, Bob Bradley is more pliable (what that says about Sunil Gulati and the USSF is another post). So what’s Klinsmann’s role in Toronto? Is he going to hire the GM and manager and then step aside? Something tells me that’s a no. Klinsmann wants to be on the sideline. He wants to be in control. Will TFC’s players respond to someone with no real title? His name guarantees instant respect, but his odd ways might rub some players the wrong way (though he did have success with Germany in 2006).

Klinsmann is, in my opinion, a talented manager. He has a lot to learn (don’t we all?), but he should be given a chance. If TFC wanted to make a bold step, it would hire him in an official capacity. As it stands, Klinsmann is smokescreen, designed to distract people from looking at the fact that the organization is in shambles.

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MLS goes to a 34-game schedule

Don Garber, MLS Commish

When Vancouver and Portland join the league next year, Major League Soccer will go to a 34-game schedule. Each team will play all other teams other twice.

Now, since we’re on the topic of change, it’s time for MLS to ditch the conferences and, if all goes well, the playoffs. There’s no good reason not to go to a single-table league at this point (and that won’t change when the league expands to 20 teams in the near future).

Of course, the league also needs to expand the rosters and make it easier for teams to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League and the completely inane Superliga (which needs to be ditched, but that’s another post).

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TFC cleans house

Mo Johnston, former Director of Soccer (CP/Chris Young)

The final nail in the coffin was a loss to the league’s worst team. It’s not really a surprise that Toronto FC lost to DC United, but the way it lost. United outclassed a team it had no business beating.

High expectations and low results were the hallmarks of Director of Soccer Mo Johnston’s 4-year stint at TFC. Given all the resources TFC provided – especially money and a rabid fan-base – Johnston could not build a winner. Perhaps the reason is as simple as his inability to make a plan and stick with it. He traded players days after acquiring them. He cut players left and right. On the other hand, Nick Garcia is inexplicably still employed. I’m flummoxed.

Preki came to Toronto with a reputation for making lemonade out of lemons. He got a hard-working Chivas USA team to the playoffs multiple times using hard work rather than star power. But he had to go, for a couple of reasons. First, there are reports that his tough guy act had worn thin. Second, and more important, he was Johnston’s pick. Whoever the new Director of Soccer is, he’ll want to bring in his own coach.

Until then, Nick Dasovic gets the thankless task of trying to reorganize the team. I wish him well, but I can’t see how he’ll be around next season. Whoever the new Director of Soccer is needs to develop a plan, stick with it, and clean house. TFC fans deserve a good team.

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Toronto FC 2-1 Chivas USA

Dwayne De Rosario tangles with Ben Zemanski of Chivas USA on 7 August 2010

Toronto FC General Manager Mo Johnston is an interesting man. He’s constantly tinkering with his roster, sometimes for good, mostly for ill. One of his moves that belongs in the former column is trading Brian McBride to Chicago for Chad Barrett. Now, Barrett has been maddeningly inconsistent since 2007, but some sort of switch was flicked this year: he’s scored 6 goals in MLS, including one in yesterday’s victory over Chivas USA.

For about 70 minutes, TFC dominated Chivas. Aside from two stretches at the beginning of each half, Chivas never really had a chance. Which is par for the course at BMO Field (TFC are unbeaten there this season; now, the road is another story, but I digress).  The Reds even scored off a set piece (Nana Attakora scored his second career goal on an insanely long throw-in; I was impressed by the beginning and the end of that play). Chivas converted a wrongly-awarded penalty kick after Barrett’s second half goal had put them up by two.

Still, TFC isn’t perfect. Before the game, Preki was asked what the squad needed to improve. He waffled and mentioned wing players, which is a legitimate concern. From my point-of-view, TFC needs consistency. And scoring. Shockingly, the former leads to the latter. I like the new additions (Mista and Maicon Santos) because they bring energy and creativity to the attack. Johnston needs to get rid of Nick Garcia, because he sucks at everything. Attakora shows signs of developing, which is good. Hopefully, there are players in the TFC Academy nearly ready to push for spots on the big club.

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Márquez joins Red Bulls

Rafael Márquez joined the New York Red Bulls on 2 August 2010

Mexican captain Rafael Márquez officially signed with the New York Red Bulls on 2 August 2010, joining ex-Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry in the Big Apple. “Coming to New York and playing in Major League Soccer was a chance that I could not refuse. I am committed to doing my very best to help the Red Bulls in their playoff push this year and compete for championships in the years to come,” Márquez said.

This is good for both New York and MLS. For New York, it adds a defensive stalwart (Márquez is both a center back and a defensive midfielder) and a leader at the back to augment Henry and Juan Pablo Ángel up front. Hopefully, for Red Bull fans, Márquez can help the team into the playoffs and, more significantly, help turn around the club’s middling history. The key is that he needs to stay healthy, especially since MLS is notoriously rough. For MLS, attracting a star in his prime years is an excellent step. It’s especially interesting that he chose MLS over the Mexican league.

Henry is off to a nice start with his new team. Márquez must be hoping for a similarly good beginning.

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Return of the New York Cosmos?

Pele in his spiffy Cosmos uniform

So this is from the New York Post, which isn’t the most reliable source in the history of the world, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless. Apparently, Pele, among others, is attempting to bring back the New York Cosmos from the dead. I think that’s a spectacular idea because MLS could use two New York City-area teams (the league could also use teams in St. Louis, Portland, Montreal, and Vancouver – but adding all of them goes over 20 teams, which is probably the optimum number).

So, why would this happen? First, MLS wants it to happen. Commissioner Don Garber has said in the past that he wants two NYC-area teams. Second, it makes financial sense, too (with the right backers, of course – NASL is an object lesson in how to screw up a league). Third, players will want to play in NYC. For every Guillermo Barros Schelotto, there’s a Thierry Henry or David Beckham. Resurrecting the Cosmos would also be a nice nod to the game’s history in the United States and give the league the an established franchise in the guise of an expansion team.

I don’t see any flaws in this plan, beyond MLS’s timetable to add teams slowly and deliberately. I also think that MLS should cap the number of teams at 20 (I’d consider raising it to 22 for the right markets, namely those mentioned above). In short, if the finances are there, I don’t see any reason why the Cosmos can’t come back from the dead.

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Márquez to join Thierry Henry in New York

Rafael Márquez scores v. South Africa (Getty Images)

Well, probably. If you believe the reports.

Though the man himself remained non-committal, it’s a rather poorly kept secret that the New York Red Bulls are interested in signing him, especially now that he won’t have a transfer fee.

Even though Márquez is 31 and has been hurt more or less all the time for the last two years, this is a good move for New York and for MLS. Márquez is by no means finished as a player and his quality and versatility will help the team. His name recognition and pedigree will help the league.

I think it speaks volumes that Márquez would rather go to New York than return to Mexico to play for Atlas (his original club) or, say, América. It says that MLS has to be taken seriously, at least by continental stars.

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