TORONTO - Toronto FC has branded this season with a ĎVí. Itís year five, and Roman numerals seem appropriate considering the ineffectiveness of both the outdated numeric form and the teamís performance since entering MLS.
In letter form, ĎVí is less than appropriate. Victories have been few and far between. The effort to put together a winning team has hardly been Valiant. Prior dealings have been done under a Veil of secrecy and discontent. And the resulting response has been Vociferous.
The perceived Villain, Mo Johnston, is now gone. And the club and its supporters remain Vigilant to turn things around.
Whatís in the past has to stay there. New professional management at Toronto FC has brought a professional attitude to the club. The tone is different and the hope is results will follow.
Itís easier said than done for Head Coach Aron Winter and his group; short on Major League Soccer experience but high on aspirations. The goal is to win now, but the main priority is to win later.
Yet, a forgettable past has bred a hunger for immediate results. Those with such a craving will be left unsatisfied. Toronto FC is not in a position to win ó yet.
Forget the letter ĎVí, the talking point among Toronto FC faithful remains the ĎPí word. Playoffs. The fact Toronto FC has never qualified for the post-season combined with the City of Torontoís incessant desire to be mediocre enough to make the playoffs without actually being championship quality, perpetuates such talk.
And thatís why the ĎPí word needs to be banned. Please. No more talk of playoffs until the team proves otherwise. Take the lead of former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, Jim Mora Sr., ďPlayoffs?! Donít talk about Playoffs!Ē
The average fansí expectation for the team to compete is understandable. Toronto FC is in uncharted territory, being the failed expansion team thatís remained out of the playoffs for the longest stretch in Major League Soccer history. Those who have staunchly supported the team despite on-field failures and raised ticket prices deserve better.
But once again, thatís the past. And the new management crew is in the process of cleaning up the mess. Itís a rebuild; an out-an-out dismantling of the disorder that resonated before.
ďThe brutal assessment, whichever way you want to slice it ó itís been a failed team,Ē said Director of Player Development Paul Mariner. ďYouíre not going to turn it around overnight ó we all think we can, but the only thing we can say to fans is give us a bit of time, we do know what weíre doing. Itís a work in progress at the moment.Ē
Winter and staff have spent the better part of two months discovering what they inherited. Players not in the plans have been jettisoned elsewhere, with more to exit still to come.
ďItís still evolving,Ē said Mariner. ďPlayers either take to it or donít take to it. We want to get some stability, but we also need to factor in we need some help on the playing field.Ē
Rebuilds require patience. The mind-set at Toronto FC is that itís advantageous to cultivate young playersí talents from within the club, give them experience, and hope they develop with the system.
Winter is happy how his young players performed in training camp. Toronto FC prefers what they have in-house; evident with home grown signings of academy graduates Oscar Cordon, Matt Stinson, Ashtone Morgan and Keith Makubuya Thursday.
Winter wonít rush his young players, but a club vision has been set. And itís something that should have been set years ago. The lack of an established on-field vision has been Toronto FCís biggest failure, until now. Five head coaches and a revolving door of players later, management finally gets it.
ďI signed a contract and in the three years or so Iím here, I want to win prizes and succeed,Ē said Winter.
There is no guarantee his methods will bring success. And for Winter in 2011, itís a case of if you donít have the horses; you canít run with the herd. His stable is far short on quality, but in his eyes the best is yet to come.
Year ĎVí will be a lot of things for Toronto FC. Progress is Vital, but playoffs are not.