Future looks good -- Johnston

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Toronto FC director of soccer Mo Johnston may not be stalking the sidelines during Major League Soccer games this season, but the fiery Scot still is in the middle of the action, only now it's behind the scenes.

With the squad coming off a game on Saturday in which nine roster players were unavailable because of international duty, resulting in a 3-1 loss to a beatable Chivas USA side, Johnston blasted his critics and praised his coaching staff yesterday in a sit-down interview.

"Look I see where some people are saying that (TFC) shouldn't have signed so many players with international commitments," he said. "But players like Julius James, Marvell Wynne and Jarrod Smith (who were called up by their national teams this past weekend) were not considered national team level players until after they came to us."

Johnston said that instead of being criticized by some in the league for his signing of young players, it should be recognized that TFC obviously has had a hand in developing them to be good enough to play at the international level.

"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "When you draft young players, you have to teach them the professional game, so there are growing pains and some might say it's better to sign only veteran players.

"Yet when these young players like Marvell and Julius improve to the point where they are of value to their national teams, those same people say 'Why did you sign an international knowing they would be called up?'

"Well you can't have it both ways."

Looking ahead, Johnston said there are lots of reasons for TFC to be optimistic, despite what happened against Chivas.

He points to the fact he holds three first-round draft picks in next season's MLS SuperDraft, as well as a war chest full of cash to go after players entering free agency.

RUN AT PLAYOFFS

"In fact I think we are very well placed right now to make a run at a playoff spot and to move even further forward next season," he said. "We've got three first-round draft picks, plus the allocation money ($3.5 million) from Maurice Edu's transfer to Glasgow Rangers."

Johnston said his hiring of coach John Carver has worked out well.

"He comes with a ton of experience," Johnston said of Carver. "Has he had his ups and downs? Absolutely. But I really like the direction that John has taken the club."

It appears Carver is thankful for the support he has been getting from his boss.

Yesterday Carver confirmed that the team his picked up the option year on his contract for 2009. He said the deal signals to him that both Johnston and team owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. are in agreement about the future prospects of the club.

"When you have a director of football and the team owner working with you, you have a healthy relationship," Carver said. "You can't be successful without that kind of relationship."

Johnston said that this does not mean there won't be changes in the team's roster, even changes before the current season is out.

"There are seven games left and 21 points to be had," he said. "And right now we're only four points back of a playoff spot.

"John and I are working the phone every day looking at adding players who can help us right now and in the future."

Johnston admitted, however, the building cannot be done overnight.

He said that TFC's opponent at BMO Field this week -- the Columbus Crew -- was a terrible mess in 2006 and 2007, missing the post-season both years.

"Look at what's happening in Columbus," he said. "The team hadn't made the playoffs in a couple of years and now they are one of the best sides in MLS."

That is what he sees as the future for TFC.


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