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.
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.
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.
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.
TFC celebrates Dwayne de Rosario's goal
I am talking, of course, about 12 September 2009.
The Designated Player, Julian de Guzman, has been officially introduced and is in Toronto. The only reason he didn’t play against Colorado was that paperwork wasn’t completely finished. For the record, he will wear number 6, meaning the useless Nick Garcia will have to change numbers.
And, perhaps more importantly, TFC defeated Colorado by a score of 3-2, meaning they are still in the playoff hunt with five games to play. Hopefully, de Guzman will suit up for all of them. Goals from Dwayne de Rosario, Nana Attakora, and O’Brian White led the Reds to victory.
Julian De Guzman (ISI Photos)
With the news that Danny Dichio retired yesterday, the path is cleared for Toronto FC to sign its first ever Designated Player (DP); and that player will be Canadian international Julian de Guzman.
First, a note on Dichio. Rob Longley’s tribute says it all: the journeyman striker will always have a place in TFC fans’ hearts not only because he scored the team’s first goal (in its fifth game in the 24th minute, the reason Dichio is still serenaded in the 24th minute of every TFC game) but because he gave a complete effort in every single match. And if there’s one thing Canadians appreciate from their sports figures, it’s effort.
The real story, though, is Trader Mo Johnston signing himself TFC’s first ever DP in Julian de Guzman. Make no mistake: this is a coup. No matter what the cost is (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can afford it), it’s worth it. De Guzman is a talented holding midfielder who is a stalwart on the Canadian national team (that’s not really saying much but it still counts for something); as such, he’ll provide vision and intelligence in the middle of the pitch. He still won’t be able to make up for Nick Garcia’s boneheaded plays but he should help forestall some of them.
I’m not sure when de Guzman will make his debut; I assume sometime in the next couple of weeks (he was a free transfer, so he can be signed anytime, not just within the transfer window). The upshot is that TFC now has the two best Canadian players on its team: de Guzman and Dwayne de Rosario. This is a good thing.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores v. TFC (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
We’ll start over at SI.com, where The Limey has their Premiership season preview. They predict the top 4 will be Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. I agree that Chelsea is probably the best team in the Premiership this year, esp. given how they looked on their US tour. I’m not convinced that Arsenal will be in the top 4, though I’m unconvinced that Manchester City will put everything together soon enough. Fergie agrees with me.
Real Madrid crushed Toronto FC 5-1 in a friendly on Friday night, a result that is only a surprise to those who are idiots. On the negative side, TFC got run out of the park. On the positive side, they got run out of the park by a vastly superior team and they looked far, far better than they did against Puerto Rico last week. That’s pretty much par for the course for Toronto sports: play to the level of your competition.
Michael Owen was left out of the England squad. The folks at F365 were somewhat surprised by that. I am not, mainly because Capello’s policy is to not select players who aren’t fit. A good run of form for Manchester United will put him back in consideration, methinks.
In sad news, Espanyol captain Daniel Jarque died of heart failure. He was 26 years old. RIP, Daniel.