June 8, 2009
Mo must take the blameTFC woes rest on his shoulders
By GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA
More losses, more problems. Issues on the field and off. Players and fans speaking out against the club.
To say Toronto FC has had a bad week is an understatement. To say it wasn't coming would be a lie.
For a team we've been told is the model for all Major League Soccer clubs, things couldn't look worse.
The proof of a successful team is in the win column -- not on the balance sheet -- and with only 11 points from eight home games, there isn't much proof.
With players fed up with the FieldTurf and the organization's apathy towards their complaints -- and a growing number of lacklustre performances -- the shine is wearing off TFC.
The club also has all but failed in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. And the poor quality of product falls on one man -- director of soccer Mo Johnston.
While the business side of TFC has always been in check, the soccer side has not. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. -- an organization with all kinds of business acumen but very little from a soccer perspective -- trusted Johnston to put together a winning team. And, in what is essentially a one-man show, Johnston has failed.
And thus, the franchise has failed. Call him the Rob Babcock or John Ferguson Jr. of soccer, Johnston simply hasn't done a good job.
It's not just the broken promises of highly touted new recruits or the failures of Chad Barrett that has made his collection of work disappointing.
Some of Johnston's other failures include quitting on North American players all too quickly -- for every Euro-bust like Laurent Robert and Andy Welsh, a North American player has been overlooked too quickly.
Edson Buddle, who scored the match winner for the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday, was deemed not good enough for TFC. So was MLS leading goal-scorer Conor Casey. And the list goes on.
There may be a hint of disrespect toward the North American development model in Johnston's team building.
Just because a player played in Scotland doesn't mean he's better suited to MLS. That doesn't bode well for TFC's latest reported recruit, Scottish striker Jamie Smith.
A merry-go-round in the coaching department -- three coaches in three years -- isn't the way to establish stability for a franchise. If Johnston had his eyes fixed on the director of soccer role before taking the coaching job, then that's neglect on his part.
The most important role on the team is its coach, and is Chris Cummins the right man long term? That's debatable. Was he the best possible candidate for the job after John Carver? Absolutely not. Is it Cummins fault what's going on now? No way.
Not securing a designated player -- this was the surest way for Johnston to make a big splash and show the organization's comittment to putting a winning team on the field -- has proven harmful. Promises of a designated player have gone unfulfilled, and seem sketchy at best. Until the designated-player spot is used, Johnston leaves himself open to criticism.
A roster put together without tactical consideration? It's the sum of its parts that makes a team click, and Johnston's team is missing some vital organs.
The team acquires the talented Amado Guevara but gives him no players to use on the wings. The team had a disastrous 2008 defensively, and Johnston brings in only one defensive reinforcement?
An unhappy Dwayne De Rosario not only has to compete with the brutal playing surface, but only has one reliable targetman in Danny Dichio, who we're told cannot be relied on for 90 minutes at this point in his career.
Making things worse, Cummins clearly doesn't trust the depth of his squad, and players have become fatigued as a result. Johnston's scouting and player recruiting have been sub-par at best.
These shortcomings, combined with terrible operational decisions, such as making grass for a friendly a priority over having grass in actual competitive matches, make what's going on a joke of epic proportions. The worst part for Johnston and TFC is the viewing public is taking notice.
Johnston can no longer hide behind the veil of newness. TFC can no longer hang its hat on the passion of supporters.
TFC isn't the Maple Leafs -- failures, broken promises, and maltreatment of the fans will not be tolerated.