Reds' O'Dea: Blame the players
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
|Ireland's player Darren O'Dea celebrate a goal against Andorra during their Euro 2012 qualifying round Group B soccer match at Estadi Comunal in Andorra October 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Albert Gea)
TORONTO - Festivus arrived early in Ireland this week — and an airing of grievances was in order.
Three months after joining Toronto FC, Irish international Darren O’Dea — in his own words — “put his neck on the line” in sorting through a number of annoyances, most notably the regurgitated negativity in relation to how the Reds are run.
“I can see what’s happening inside and outside the club and I think the negativity is far too much,” O’Dea said from Dublin.
“The negativity coming out in the press annoys me,” he clarified. “The press has every right when you’ve got the results we have, but the team should take the flack. The press seems to only write about the way the club is run.”
In short, TFC just concluded a season from hell, finishing bottom of the lot and securing a league-worst 21 losses. There was yet another managerial swap — a sixth in six years — and an unprecedented number of injuries that saw the Reds complete a 14-game MLS winless run to finish 2012.
In his short time at BMO Field, O’Dea is miffed as to why another target isn’t taking the brunt of media and barstool banter.
“I’m not putting any blame on the media, the fans or the club (for this season),” he said. “I’m putting all the blame on the players. The players didn’t perform.”
“You can blame people for bringing in the wrong players, but (we’re) given every platform to show (our) ability. It’s players who have been the only downfall of the club.”
That said, head coach Paul Mariner and director of team and player operations Earl Cochrane are currently on the hot seat. While scores of borderline enraged supporters had hoped to see moves made within the front office before the new year, most fans are open to issuing the duo a clean slate ahead of 2013 — and that’s where O’Dea’s neck enters the conversation.
“I believe Paul Mariner and Earl (Cochrane) are the right people that will get in the right players,” he said. “I know what the fans are like. I hope they back the new players that will come in. Once the new players come in, it’s all on (us).
“I’ve got no doubt in my head we’ve got the right manager in place.”
It’s what you’d expect him to say. But to willingly offer it up is a bit dangerous in the current climate, especially after the Reds won none of the nine games O’Dea started in after he arrived mid-summer.
“I don’t really care now,” he said. “All I care is that next season the manager and the staff … are going out to get the right players now.
“It’s down to the players. The way we’re treated and the way everything is done is spot on.”
But success in MLS is measured by playoffs appearances, Supporters’ Shields and league Cups, of which TFC has none.
And with pessimism at an all-time high, if O’Dea’s off-season confidence fails to materialize, Festivus will arrive quite a bit early in 2013 — and the Irish stalwart’s words will likely be rehashed.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near the level to go and win it, but getting to the playoffs? Definitely next year,” said O’Dea, without being prompted. “I can’t see how next year with the right players in how with six games to go in the season (we can’t) at worst be (in the playoff hunt).”
“If we lose, come and boo the players. If we win, come and cheer the players. That’s it — simple.”
Fitness continues to consume Major League Soccer’s conference finals.
In the East, the Houston Dynamo take a 3-1 aggregate lead into Washington D.C. Sunday afternoon, the story being Dwayne De Rosario being “healthy and ready to go,” according to United head coach Ben Olsen.
The Canadian international’s likely return won’t completely offset DC’s injury woes.
Honduran international Andy Najar will miss today’s game through suspension while all-star Chris Pontius remains a question. After departing injured in last week’s opening leg, starting centre back Brandon McDonald’s questionable status could see DC without three top performers.
The fifth-seeded Dynamo took a similar two-goal lead into Kansas City two weeks ago, defending for 90 minutes before escaping 2-1 on aggregate.
Trailing 3-0 to Salt Lake during last year’s conference semifinals, the Seattle Sounders pulled two back with 30 minutes remaining at CenturyLink Field.
Heading into the second leg of tonight’s Western final in the same predicament, Seattle will look to inflict similar damage on the visiting L.A. Galaxy, who are 90 minutes from potentially hosting MLS Cup for a second straight year.
But like in the East, both sides have a fitness concerns.
While Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Juninho are all game-time decisions for L.A, precaution is the last thing on their minds.
“I would much rather put myself on the line,” Donovan told mlssoccer.com. “You can worry about the rest later as opposed to hoping that we get through.”
The Sounders, who are expecting upwards of 45,000 in the seats, could be without play-maker Mauro Rosales, who is chasing match fitness after missing these playoffs with a hamstring injury.