TORONTO - The post-game expression of Toronto FC interim head coach Nick Dasovic said it all.
Daso sat down behind the microphone, took one look at me, we both shrugged our shoulders, smiled, and his head hit the table.
Then came the groan of disbelief from TFC’s manager. There was nothing he could say. Saturday’s finish was as ridiculously improbable as heart wrenching.
The soccer god’s had their way with Toronto again Saturday. An added-time goal by Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer, going forward on a corner kick, denying TFC their first-ever victory over the Columbus Crew, is one of the most harsh scripts that could be written.
The goal was one of those moments where the universe stood still and let the unthinkable happen. Toronto FC has blown its share of late leads over the course of four seasons, but a goalkeeper in the attacking end has never delivered the dagger. But when it rains it pours.
Credit hours of “unnecessary” practice with the ball at his feet for a goalkeeper, giving Hesmer the ability to control, look up, aim and shoot. It wasn’t pretty, but 100 games into his Major League Soccer career and never a sniff at goal before, you know Hesmer wasn’t wasting the dream opportunity.
The moment seemed in slow motion, but nothing could be done to stop the crushing inevitable. The day would end in Toronto FC disappointment, like so many others before. But I guess these days; “disappointment” is a relative term around these parts.
And while it will go down as one of the most jaw-dropping, surreal moments at BMO Field thus far, it’s crushing nonetheless.
It’s crushing to the players, who worked harder than their playoff-bound opponents for 90 minutes. The Reds were undermanned. No Dwayne De Rosario. No Adrian Cann. No Stefan Frei. No problem until Hesmer unkindly intervened.
Up against a run of poor form, it didn’t matter. The players took it up themselves to play for each other. They played intelligently.
They played with an edge. And they deserved better.
And they played for the fans; the same fans that turned a usual difficult environment for opposing sides to venture, into a place where the only thing harder than their chants were there feelings.
TFC supporters are hurt by management, and rightfully so.
An all-too inappropriate reminder about the contentious season’s ticket renewal period flashed over the big screen pre-game, doing nothing to win over the fans showing up to protest Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. and its money-making regime.
Thus, it wasn’t surprising that despite a performance where TFC left everything on the field; boo-birds still reigned down after the final whistle. Plastic cups were hurled. Dissention and dissatisfaction were shown. And the whistle snapped the surreal of Hesmer’s goal back into reality.
And after the fans had left BMO Field, one banner remained hanging over the empty grounds: Winning Before Profit.
Here I am, staring out on to our very own soccer specific stadium, with our beautiful city in the backdrop on a picture-perfect October’s day for soccer, yet the moment was one of epic paradoxical proportions.
A day as such, with professional soccer of our own, should have been a celebratory occasion. Instead, the product has been tainted. And the idea Toronto FC could be the leader of Canadian soccer now seems a distant memory. And that’s sad.
The message has been sent loud and clear to MLSEL; it’s time for the business and the way it manages its soccer entity to completely change. Start fresh. Start new. New blood is needed. Not old faces and old influences.
It has been said jokingly that Mo Johnston is among the consultants in the search for a new general manager. But maybe we shouldn’t be laughing at all. Is the line of thinking that far-fetched considering this organization?
Better the devil you know. Perhaps that’s why agent Barry Maclean is still field level with all the MLSEL/TFC suits pre-game.
The nonsense must stop. It’s time for the club to start over. Out with the old, in with the new.
Players come and go. As do coaches.
The fans are here to stay, unless you give them reason not to. It’s time management cuts its fat and gets the proper people to right the ship.
If not, we may as well make like Daso, banging our heads on the table knowing frustration is part and parcel of being at Toronto FC.