April 23, 2012
Will he stay or will he go?Loss to Fire drops Winter's win total to six from 40 MLS games
By Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency
TORONTO - How much longer does Aron Winter have?
With just about every embarrassing record in sight -- worst start, most goals conceded in a season, longest playoff drought -- at a certain point the madness has to end.
Since MLS expanded its calendar into March in 2009, reaching the month of May with zero points seemed a near impossibility.
But with a difficult fixture in Salt Lake City five days from now, the Reds might accomplish just that.
While some insist on stability for a club that has undoubtedly seen its fair share of managers exit through the revolving doors at BMO Field, Winter's job security shouldn't be based on poor decisions made prior to his arrival.
The Dutchman's stubborn insistence to stick with a system that has seen the Reds concede an unprecedented number of goals has many questioning the club's entire setup -- and whether Winter will see out his three-year deal.
With the masses divided, the club's front office must be decisive.
If TFC's current regime is indeed the future, let it be known. Otherwise, drastic measures need to be taken in an effort to save the season.
NUMBERS DON'T LIE
Since Winter took over in 2011, the Dutchman has six wins from 40 league games -- and an appalling 33 points from a possible 120 … On the way to securing just 27% of available league points, the Reds have never won in April under their second-year manager … Toronto has conceded three or more goals 14 times through 56 matches with Winter at the helm and have secured just 11 clean sheets -- two of which were to lowly FC Edmonton … TFC has conceded two or more goals in half its matches since the start of last season for a net goal difference of -28 … With at least 30 matches remaining in 2012, the Reds have conceded 23 times in all competition. In comparison, the L.A. Galaxy conceded just 28 times in league play a season ago.
'I'M A MIDFIELDER'
Before Saturday's match, Torsten Frings admitted although he's more than happy to play at the back, he's "a midfield player."
Despite being more influential in midfield Saturday, there's no indication Winter is set to make the move permanent.
"It's a possibility," the Dutchman said. "But it's also possible that he could play in the back."
But in a move that hasn't prevented goals -- the Reds have conceded seven times in seven halves with Frings in defence this season -- why keep the World Cup veteran at the back?
"Now we can say maybe (I'm) better in the midfield," said Frings, when asked Saturday if he's more influential in there. "I played a couple games in the back and we played well and we won some games. After 3-2 we had to change something."
Moving the German forward provided a number of quality opportunities Matt Stinson simply wouldn't have created.
After dusting off the Sun's 2012 season preview, the prognosis isn't good.
Through six league games, the Reds haven't fulfilled any of the feats they needed to meet in order to make a run at the post-season.
With Ryan Johnson's luck all but dried up, Danny Koevermans has been a non-factor. Before being saddled with a groin injury last week, the Dutch target remains a fraction of the poacher that led the team in scoring a season ago.
In addition to persistent issues in defence, a lack of goals has led to another slow start. In 2011, Toronto secured a disappointing eight points through its first 10 games -- a record Winter would kill for on zero points from a possible 18, especially after making pre-season comments he'd love to retreat from.
"We’ve got that feeling," said Winter, when asked if he'd finally found a pair of difference-makers at the back. "Especially with the centre-left defender and centre-right defender … They’re very good players — (Geovanny) Caicedo and (Miguel) Aceval … With Caicedo and Aceval, (we’ve) reinforced the defence."
After conceding a club record 59 times through 34 games last season, Toronto is on pace to concede 74 times in 2012 -- an astronomical figure that would shatter the MLS record for goals conceded.
During his post-game conference, Winter was asked Saturday why he failed to find a reliable centre-back before start of the season.
"We brought a player in like (Geovanny) Caicedo, but it didn't work out because at the moment he wasn't happy."
That's not what I heard.
“It wasn’t (Caicedo’s) decision by any means,” a source in the club's front office told the Sun last month. “We didn’t really see what we expected to see in him."
Six years in, the club has yet to find a first-choice central defender capable of releasing Torsten Frings.
Worse, there seems to be an ongoing disconnect between the club's manager and top brass -- which apparently can't come to terms with why certain players are released or picked up.