Turkeys at top of Toronto FC

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

There are more than enough turkeys to go around at BMO Field again this Thanksgiving.

Toronto FC is no bird and it sure is flightless.

Conceding in injury-time to draw the non-playoff San Jose Earthquakes after two weeks off is as poor of a result as possible.

Mathematically, the Reds may be still alive, but it flatters the third-year franchise.

Perhaps not making the playoffs again this year is best for the club.

Making the playoffs would give credence to the mish-mash approach to building the team from the technical side.

TFC has made positive moves but is in no way on the right track.

Saturday's game was a microcosm of the ills plaguing the franchise.

Nothing was surprising about the performances by the players.

Some moments of continuity and positive skill, overshadowed by frustration and inconsistency.

Most notably, a collective inability to bury a game by finishing goal-scoring chances reared its ugly head again. So did conceding their league-leading 15th goal in the last 15 minutes.

The latter doesn't happen due to a lack of fitness. It's a lack of a system.

And that's part of the reason Saturday's predictable implosion can be put on the coach.

Chris Cummins' first-team selections were questionable, even if he was up against the wall because of international duty and injury. But Nick Garcia and Lesly Fellinga (in the midfield) are hardly inspiring selections. Nor is Chad Barrett in any starting XI.

But it was Cummins' in-game management that was downright poor.

According to Cummins, his players wouldn't listen to him when he pleaded not to fall back too deep in the last 20 minutes.

Players turtle into a defensive shell when they don't have confidence in their system. The same goes when players have little faith in their coach -- they mute out instruction and defend at all costs. It's predictable, without a defined system panic will set in.

The players at TFC don't trust their system. They don't trust their coach. And they've come to not trust each other.

It is a must for the coach to make sure his instructions are heard and his game plan is executed. And if it's not being executed, it's his job to put players on the pitch who will.

Cummins didn't do this, making only one substitution -- an offensive player for an offensive player, at that. It hardly makes sense.

And TFC's tentative approach at home, after having two-weeks of preparation to face a team that played mid week, highlights the lack of leadership and direction in the team.

In fairness to Cummins, he should never have been the caretaker manager for a team with playoff aspirations to begin with.

He never was, nor will be, the man long-term for TFC.

Director of soccer Mo Johnston's neglect to establish team culture and technical direction continues to be his biggest mistake.

Squabbling in the team, general distrust and all-around disappointment in the way the team plays is the result.

GENERAL DISTRUST

Three head coaches in three years will do that to a team, if you can call it a "team".

The revolving door of players is one thing, but when there is no identity or scheme to fit, they are lost and the moves don't pan out.

This is more of an approach issue than a player issue.

It doesn't matter what players Johnston brings in -- without a coach with vision, TFC is being blindly led.

If Johnston is unable to fill this role, it should be questioned why he remains in his current role.

It took MLSEL far too long with the Leafs and the Raptors to recognize that change at the top was needed to develop a culture of success at field level. It's in process on the hockey and basketball sides, but most would acknowledge the blueprint is in place for future success.

The culture with the soccer team is not right. A playoff berth this year would not have changed that.

If a cultural change isn't made with the club, it's time to go cold turkey.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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