Mo should thank Cummins

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

TORONTO - So, we have a former coach going on air to criticize his former boss. And people seem surprised.

What am I missing here?

In fact, Chris Cummins, who was dismissed from the TFC coaching post after the 2009 season, may have helped embattled Reds’ director of soccer Mo Johnston.

How? Cummins talked to Kristian Jack of The Score Monday about his poor relationship with Johnston. Cummins let the cat out of the bag about problems in the dressing room between Canadian and American players, and said that his boss often meddled in his coaching selections.

Johnston has vociferously denied Cummins’ on-air claims.

But, Cummins has forced Johnston and his bosses at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. to circle the wagons. In this situation, when someone airs dirty laundry, you have to back your guy. So, MLSEL needs to publicly support Johnston.

Remember, that MLSEL COO Tom Anselmi had been putting not-so-subtle pressure on Johnston, demanding that the team show improvement in 2010. He called Johnston out at the MLS Cup announcement.

Anselmi said Johnston would be accountable for wins and losses. But now that the conversation has switched back to the dressing-room soap opera, the agenda has been changed. It’s all about Anselmi needing to protect his director of soccer and MLSEL from snipes.

Johnston shouldn’t be threatening to sue Cummins. He should be sending him a giant thank-you card.

Love him or hate him, Johnston’s two major critics of note are a former interim coach who admitted he didn’t have the strength of character to tell Johnston to stay out of the dressing room and Ali Gerba, who falls only slightly behind Carlos Ruiz in terms of all-time TFC striker flops.

Part of the problem comes from the longstanding air of mystery that surrounds TFC’s dressing room. TFC has never been as accessible to the media as the Leafs or Raptors — so there is a real culture of rumour and speculation that exists around this team.

But, there are divisions in every dressing room. It’s impossible to put 20 people on a team and expect them all to be best friends. Good teams get over the schisms. Bad teams gripe about them.

There are the married guys who like to head home after games and the single guys who want to spend a few hours out celebrating.

There are the guys who played at rival colleges coming through the ranks and can’t put that away.

There are guys who resent the coach and guys who love the fact he’s giving them so much playing time.

Players aren’t Vulcans. They can’t simply bite their tongues and go to work stoically.

So, it’s no surprise that TFC’s dressing room wasn’t all smiles. No dressing room is.

What we do know is this is a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons — in a league in which patience is not required. The New York Red Bulls made wholesale changes after finishing dead last in 2009, and are in first place in the East in 2010. Chicago won a championship in an expansion year.

That’s what a low salary cap and a global talent base from which to choose players will do; it allows teams to build much more quickly than in the so-called Big Four leagues.

Yes, the way that veterans like Adrian Serioux and Carl Robinson were shipped out of town in 2010 were PR nightmares; fan favourites were sent packing in cold, calculating fashion, enough to spur the Red Patch Boys to issue its own press releases thanking these players.

But, pardon me for suggesting picking at the scabs of seasons past is an endeavour that only helps Mo Johnston.

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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