TFC's to-do list

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

In a virtual must-win game in Chicago Saturday night, Toronto FC came up short, drawing 2-2.

Blame can't be put on Dwayne De Rosario, who scored his team-leading 11th goal and added his team-leading seventh assist.

With a mountain to climb, it's looking more like TFC's influential leader De Rosario will miss the playoffs for the first time in his nine-year Major League Soccer career.

With just three games to go -- all against teams lower in the standings, and the teams sitting between them and a playoff spot having considerably more difficult schedules -- TFC will need to take care of business and get some help.

Still, whether it be horrendous marking and decision-making by defender Nick Garcia, tactical and formational short-comings of rookie coach Chris Cummins, or too much kick and run, there are no easy games for TFC. Meaning playoff qualification looks dicey at best.

Director of soccer Mo Johnston will have a busy winter filling the holes on the team, including finding natural wing players and defenders who understand the merits of remaining goal-side.

But right up at top of the checklist will be taking care of De Rosario from a monetary point of view.

On last Tuesday's Casino Rama Grill Room, De Rosario admitted last winter he was of the expectation he would be TFC's designated player before requesting a trade from Houston. TFC and MLS balked at the designation, putting De Rosario between a "rock and a hard place", forcing him to settle on a "reasonable" contract.

When asked if the ability to renegotiate was part of his contract, De-Ro responded: "No, but yes."

In no way was De Rosario trying to stir the pot. He was being honest and candid, saying what other players feel but don't have the guts to say.

De Rosario wants to get paid, and who can blame him? He's not only TFC's top player but has been among the top handful, if not MLS' best player for almost a decade. Any concerns about age and productivity are misguided. At 31, De-Ro has legs left. He'll be a contributor for years to come.

Not only does his productivity speak for itself, but his flexibility from a tactical perspective makes him that much more valuable.

And off the field, his charitable work speaks for itself, being nominated for the Jefferson Award for outstanding public service by an athlete. (go to dwaynederosario.com for more info)

If TFC doesn't meet his contractual expectations over the course of the next year, Canadian MLS expansion sides Vancouver and/or the pending Montreal Impact would salivate over homegrown talent such as De Rosario.

Bottom line: TFC can ill-afford to be known as a club that can't keep its best players happy.

The league plays a role here as well. It's up to MLS, when its collective bargaining agreement expires Jan. 31, to establish a model with a kinder salary cap and a means to reward its best players.

Stay the course

Toronto councillor Mark Grimes doesn't see any reason for a change of course when the grass at BMO Field issue goes to City Hall this week after Mayor David Miller's announcement he will not seek re-election.

Miller was a supporter of grass at BMO, and so is Grimes.

Grimes also sits on the board at Exhibition Place that has pushed the issue to City Hall.

He did however acknowledge whenever MLSEL enters the decision-making fold at City Hall, ears are raised and backs are put up against the wall.

Especially in this case, when so much public monies were provided with the expectation BMO Field will continue to be used for public use.

With uncertainty at City Hall, you just hope some politician doesn't try to put his/her own political ambitions ahead of a movement widely called for by the public and professional sectors alike, by vehemently opposing the change.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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