Bad decisions behind bad TFC seasons

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 PM ET

TORONTO - “The team has been a home run from Day 1, where we have to go next is, we have to deliver. We expect to make the playoffs this year.”

Those were the words of optimistic Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executive vice-president and CEO Tom Anselmi back in March.

But Anselmi’s Toronto FC came nowhere close to delivering.

Instead of earning a playoff berth or even fighting to the wire for a spot as it did last season, Toronto FC took a massive step back, basically taking itself out of the picture by mid-September.

With three poor seasons a memory and the MLS Cup coming to Toronto for the first time next month, this season was supposed to be different.

Instead, TFC’s loyal fans were and continue to be forced to suffer through what might be the team’s worst campaign yet.

Until this year, no MLS team has ever missed the playoffs its first four years of existence.

Only in Toronto — only under MLSEL where making money hand-over-fist and a ton of notches in the L column are the only constants — could this happen.

How is it possible that the Seattle Sounders can make the playoffs out of the far tougher West in each of its first two seasons in the league and actually look like a darkhorse contender to win it all while Toronto remains in shambles?

The answer lies in smart ownership, soccer acumen and top-notch hiring and player evaluation abilities. Seattle has all of those in spades, while the Reds are listing in the wilderness in all regards.

Both teams have rich owners, but Seattle’s money-men hire the right people and simply get the job done.

Seattle’s lineup is littered with bargains and designated player money has been spent wisely, allowing the club to overcome colossal mistakes like letting sniper Sebastien Le Toux get away in the expansion draft.

When DP Freddie Ljungberg refused to give an honest effort, two-time MLS Cup winning head coach Sigi Schmid gave him the boot.

Hiring Schmid — a proven winner — was a master stroke, unlike Toronto’s revolving door at head coach.

Toronto also brought in the far inferior Mista as one of its DPs and then allowed the petulant striker to become a distraction.

The other DP, Canadian international Julian de Guzman, is extremely talented and the team is far better with him on the field than without him, but his impact in MLS is far less than it is in other leagues of a higher class.

He just isn’t suited to this style of burly, boot-it- anywhere soccer and is not able to justify his team-high salary when other defensive midfielders are doing a comparable job for a fraction of the cost.

Money has not been spent wisely to boost the attack and overpaying others has created another distraction in the form of disgruntled captain Dwayne De Rosario.

It is easy to blame the sacked ex-GM Mo Johnston for all that ails the club.

But, while Johnston deserves a huge amount of criticism, MLSEL should not be let off the hook.

They let Johnston operate in a power vacuum, making mistake after mistake with nary a word of criticism. They let him do all the hirings and all the inevitable firings.

It seems, with Johnston and former head coach Preki gone, TFC fans are finally turning on ownership.

A recent story on the club’s own website outlining changes to the season ticket package was littered with dozens of comments ripping the franchise and the corporate behemoth for having the gall to raise prices.

Recent matches have been far short of sellouts and while the team claims the season seat waiting list is large, we will see next year how true that is.

This has gone from a feel-good story to another MLSEL catastrophe.

And nobody can be confident that they will be able to clean up the mess.


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