TFC isn't that good -- Real-ly

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

It's back to normal for Toronto FC. No high-profile matchups on the horizon. No more CONCACAF Cup competition. And no more reason to believe TFC is anywhere near true playoff contention.

Real Madrid coming to town provided a nice little escape from reality. But the reality is, TFC is not a very good team. Breakdowns in defensive organization and bad marking happen whether you play Real Madrid or Columbus. In reality, the politics and extra-curriculars around the team get more press than actual, honest critique of quality of play.

Give Real Madrid credit for giving Toronto soccer fans something to smile about; give it full marks for its entertaining, professional approach to the friendly.

The short-term benefits of the game are easy to see -- the match brought in more than $10 million in economic activity to the city and was an invaluable experience for the younger TFC players.

But it's fair to question how much benefit the friendly will have for TFC in marketing its brand and players.

TFC's biggest challenge since Day 1 has been convincing the masses and soccer fans alike in the GTA that Major League Soccer is a league worth following.

Soccer fans are out there -- we know that. And I would dare to suggest that after hockey, soccer is the second most followed sport in the GTA. But interest in the North American brand still lacks because it is deemed sub-par.

A tired-looking, mediocre TFC side -- playing its fifth game in 19 days -- getting walked over by a Real Madrid team classy enough to keep it in first gear so as to not embarrass the homeside does nothing to dispel that notion.

MLS, and TFC in particular, has a long way to go.

CAP HURTS

It's nearly impossible to attract the best players to North America under a salary cap of $2.5 million US. In addition, the league moved away from its development model, getting rid of reserve teams and cutting down roster sizes after last season.

MLS commissioner Don Garber must push for changes on both fronts.

But TFC plays a part here, too.

The team simply isn't good enough, in organization, tactics and personnel.

Last week, TFC should have been taken to the ringer for bowing out of the CONCACAF Champions League. Instead, the coverage was all about Real Madrid -- a convenient distraction.

So now, TFC is left chasing a playoff spot while not looking anywhere near playoff form. TFC's point total suggests it is in the playoff mix, but the competition holds games in hand and a three-game Western road swing -- that has historically been a struggle -- suggest otherwise.

Making the playoffs was the goal of management and players heading into the season. Anything short of that will be deemed a failure.

And, at a time when not enough has been achieved competitively, well-placed rumours of a contract extension for director of soccer Mo Johnston start circulating.

Sources say the announcement was to be made at about the same time as a decision by TFC's Julian de Guzman was to be made.

Now that de Guzman still is MIA, and TFC embarrassingly falls to Puerto Rico, nobody should be expecting that announcement anytime soon.

And who is to say Johnston deserves that extension anyway? Where is the accountability?

If on-field performance were the sole indicator, there is no way Johnston should get an extension.

RIGHT COACH?

While Johnston somehow maintains his tight grip within Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the future of his interim head coach Chris Cummins is very much up in the air. And it's getting harder and harder to make a case that he is the right man going forward.

What kind of team is TFC under Cummins? I'm not sure any of us can answer that.

Cummins is well-liked by his players, but that doesn't necessarily mean he is well-suited as head coach at this stage in his young career.


Photos