TFC, Cummins part ways

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:13 AM ET

Chris Cummins is going back to his close-knit family in the U.K., leaving plenty of loose ends behind with Toronto FC.

Despite lots of talk about making the MLS playoffs and giving something back to its fans, TFC spent yesterday cleaning out lockers and wondering where it all went wrong.

Manager Mo Johnston, departing coach Cummins and the players took their lumps, while some unnamed players, referred to as "bad apples," were also brought up in conversation.

Cummins took the fall yesterday, with Johnston saying his contract won't be renewed after he was pressed into service when John Carver quit in April. In separate media scrums at BMO Field, Johnston and Cummins praised each other, while hinting at dissenting views on why the club finished the season 10-11-9, blowing a trip to the playoffs on the last day with a 5-0 collapse in New York.

"The way we failed was hard to take," Johnston said.

"I won't say I didn't come to (Johnston) with some concerns," Cummins said.

The season boiled down to Cummins' inability to push the right buttons on the pitch, protect late leads or motivate the team for a string of big games, while Johnston rushed him into the job and gave him inadequate resources for a balanced lineup.

"I'll take it on the chin, 100%," Johnston said of taking heat. "We did a good job at the draft (landing Stefan Frei, Sam Cronin and O'Brien White), signed Julian de Guzman and got $5 million for (transferring) Maurice Edu. But at the end of the day, it's not the playoffs and I understand that."

Johnston still will be getting his much anticipated two-year extension, with a slight raise. Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., says the deal almost was complete and that despite the stunning letdown in New York: "This is a young team ... We won't be blowing it up".

Johnston thought he'd made the right call picking Cummins after letting him run the team for a couple of games with Carver in the stands. Now he's looking for the team's fourth coach in as many years and promises to do his homework.

"We're going to get someone with experience," Johnston said. "I think other coaches will jump at the opportunity to come here."

Johnston said Canadian assistant Nick Dasovic and the rest of the staff are staying, but Dasovic was not ready to be a head coach, nor would the recently retired Danny Dichio be considered until he gets a proper coaching license.

Cummins claimed he was going home at the end of this season regardless of the team's finish, mostly because visas for his wife and teenaged sons fell through and the family had been separated for months.

But he couldn't hide his disappointment at how poorly dressing room dynamics had evolved. At the end of the New York game, Cronin spoke up about the need for change of attitude at next year's camp, shocking Cummins that a young player would feel he had to address the topic.

'EXAGGERATED'

"I didn't come here to be liked, but what I didn't like was players putting the knife in somebody," Cummins said of a rogue element in the room. "I told the players: 'I do wish 95% of you well'. Every dressing room has (players with issues). You have to deal with them. You treat them with respect ... Maybe I shouldn't have. If there were bad apples in the room, that was my responsibility."

But Johnston called the apples angle "exaggerated," while veteran players Dwayne De Rosario and Jim Brennan said the main problem was some haven't yet learned how to win yet.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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