TORONTO - It’s time for the game to speak for itself.
There has been far too much Toronto FC talk about everything else but the game.
It began years ago with word spreading supporting TFC was a good time.
Good times — but nothing about soccer.
Heading into this season, talk shifted. For the first time really, pessimism about the team set in and rightfully so.
Unfortunately, that pessimism turned in speculation. Conversation started to revolve around speculative stories about backroom controversies, instead of where the shortcomings of the team lay and what could be done to remedy the issues.
In reality there’s not a whole lot to speculate at the club. It is what it is: A team and a club struggling to find its soccer identity.
Forget about conspiracy theories. Forget about nonsensical rumours and talk of injustice. Conversation as such is grossly exaggerated. This rumour-mongering simply distracts from the fact the soccer isn’t good enough at this point.
Perhaps we can blame the anything but soccer narrative on the marketplace we find ourselves in, having grown accustomed to the underachieving, underperforming, and uninspiring play of Toronto’s professional teams. Losing will do that to you.
And as of right now, the club is lucky distractions are everywhere. A life-long soccer player and fan attending a TFC game for the first time at this year’s home opener was shocked in telling me: “It was fun, but I didn’t realize the quality was this bad.”
Ouch — that’s the ultimate insult to what’s trying to be built in Toronto and the direction the franchise should go. And the problem is impressions like that are shared by many.
Major League Soccer was brought here not simply for the casual fan to gravitate to the game; it was also for the true soccer fan that has been supporting the game and teams from other countries for years. TFC was supposed to be their team.
MLS as a league is good enough. The team, as of yet, is not. And more and more of those with soccer acumen have lost their patience with the “spectacle,” the novelty act, and the subpar quality of the home side. The educated soccer fan-base in Toronto has become rather turned off by the nonsense or are choosing to turn away completely. Game-day ticket availability for this year’s home opener should signal as much.
The soccer community as a whole craves quality soccer and constructive soccer conversation. And the visitors on Sunday, the Seattle Sounders, provide the model.
The Sounders are the team with fan support TFC wishes it could be. In only their second season, Seattle quickly has gelled into one of the premier sides in MLS under the tactically sound tutelage and keen eye of head coach Sigi Schmid. Give the organization credit for luring a successful MLS coach to the west coast from Day 1. Consistency breeds success, and goes a long way in explaining TFC’s struggles, having four coaches in less than four years.
Aside from Drew Carey’s beer shower upon his last visit to BMO Field, there are a bevy of storylines heading into Sunday’s match.
Seattle will be out for justice after falling victim to two penalty calls against them, the latter of controversial variety in injury time, Thursday in a 2-2 draw at FC Dallas. TFC will have the advantage of fresh legs on the weekend, as fatigue certainly will be an issue for Seattle, playing again on the road on short rest.
Sounders designated player Freddie Ljungberg should be relatively fresh and lively, being a 77th-minute substitute at Dallas, and seemingly recovered from a groin injury.
Ljungberg and a potent Sounders attacking unit will be a good challenge for TFC’s defensive line, that hasn’t had a whole lot of time playing together. Canadian centre-back tandem Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora have looked capable defensively, but need to work on their distribution and communication to make the backline work efficiently.
More will be expected from Toronto’s own designated player, Julian de Guzman, to jump-start his mediocre start to the season. It’s not all on de Guzman, but the team needs more from their marquee player in keeping possession of the ball.