TFC chasing same goals

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

"There's a lot of work to do," said Mo Johnston, Toronto FC's director of soccer.

No kidding. Year 4 doesn't get any easier than the first three for Johnston.

TFC's failure to make the playoffs has been well documented, as has criticism of Johnston.

"I've been criticized my whole life. I'm a big boy. I can take it. I work hard every day and if I wasn't good enough for the guys above (at MLSEL), changes would be made," Johnston said.

When asked to grade his three years at TFC, Johnston gives himself a "C". Distractions have run amuck TFC's on-field performance, namely FieldTurf, personnel failing to settle, and a revolving door of head coaches.

Through it all, Johnston remains full of promise and the goal hasn't changed.

"The playoffs are a must for the team. We were so close last year and were left with a bad taste in our mouth," Johnston said.

"Winning the Canada (Voyageurs) Cup is a bonus, but we play for the MLS Cup -- that's the goal."

Stability is the key for TFC. That process began with Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevi. Any lingering locker-room distractions from last year will be a non-issue.

"If you're the head coach, you have to stand up, make noise and rectify the issue," Johnston said. "It's a clean-slate with Preki, and if there's a bad egg, he'll be weeded out easily."

As for the roster, the makeover hasn't even begun. MLS and its collective bargaining negotiations have been extended to Feb. 12. Until a new CBA is chiselled out, it's unclear where the salary cap will sit and how roster spots will be affected.

So making contractual commitments are on hold. Instead, waves of trialists will be brought into camp in the coming weeks. Preki has been instrumental in European recruitment, but if the money isn't there to spend under the cap, player plans will be thwarted.

It has been confirmed former Portuguese international, central defender Jorge Andrade will be among those on trial. Andrade will arrive at camp Feb. 8.

The former Deportivo la Coruna and Juventus player has pedigree but brings more questions than answers, having his career derailed by serious injury.

Andrade broke his kneecap in 2007 and suffered the same injury the following year. Four surgeries later, the 31-year-old has struggled to return to form.

Finding a centre-back remains paramount for Johnston -- the majority of trialists will be at the position, with a good number of strikers coming in as well.

"Preki's a 4-4-2 guy. We all know we need to bring in a goal-scorer and a defender, and probably a player for wide-left. Preki was desperate to bring in Jacob Peterson to play outside right. We've done that, now I'm looking at other options."

Forward Chad Barrett will not be ready for the start of training camp, breaking his fifth metatarsal while training with the U.S. men's national team. Also, centre-midfielder Carl Robinson's future is up in the air.

Reports have linked the Welshman to the New York Red Bulls. Robinson was rendered redundant by the signing of Julian de Guzman, who essentially plays the same defensive midfield position.

"Carl's name has kept popping up in trade talks. It will be up to Carl and Preki how he fits in. If he doesn't, we'll try to move him."

Reports also have surfaced Manchester United will land in Toronto on their summer tour. Johnston confirms there have been talks, but the situation is complicated this year schedule-wise because of the World Cup.


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