Saturday, March 19, 2011
Toronto FC 2011 MLS Season Preview
AP Photo/Darryl Dyck
Is there a team in more disarray than Toronto FC? In the club’s fifth year of existence it will be playing under its sixth different coach. Its star-player wants out and its 2010 team MVP left preseason camp because of a gripe about his contract. The team has still never made the playoffs.
And now there’s another team in Canada to steal talent and fans from the Reds.
Things can only get better from here for Toronto, right?
Aron Winter is the new head coach, a former Dutch National Team member. He promises Toronto fans that the team will play an attacking attractive style of soccer. And after having Preki, who some criticized as a drill sergeant coach, this new system should seem more fun and inspiring, especially as they finished fourth in the league in fewest goals scored (33).
He’ll have arguably one of the best midfielders ever in MLS, Dwayne De Rosario. He’s a two-time league MVP and he’s a clutch performer in both regular season and the playoffs. Last season he scored an MLS career-high 15 goals to go along with three assists. He’s the club’s all-time leading scorer.
The leading man, however, is unhappy. He says he feels he has outperformed his contract and deserves a new, more deserving deal. Part of that dissatisfaction could be because of how he has played and produced far more than Toronto’s two Designated Players (Julian de Guzman and Mista—now released). After scoring a goal in September last year, he mimed signing a check and mouthed “Pay me.”
This offseason he went on trial with legendary Scottish club Celtic. He did so, however, without the knowledge or permission of Toronto FC or MLS. They let him stay on trial once they found out though, but when De Ro asked for a short-term loan they immediately said no.
He isn’t the only one to want more from TFC management. Last season’s team MVP—who made around $65,000 in base salary—left training camp demanding a new contract. He returned eight days later, but there seems to be a problem here between the team’s top players and ownership. Did De Ro’s situation make it easier for Cann to make his statement? This is the kind of off-field extracurricular activity that could tear teams apart.
On the field, apart from these two, the Reds have a great starting goalkeeper in Stefan Frei. A good athlete in net, Frei improved upon his rookie numbers in 2010 posting a 1.32 goals against average and a 70 percent save percentage.
Frei will need to continue to improve because the defense has been pretty weak. Once again TFC allowed over 40 goals throughout the season. The team made a nice move in an attempt to improve its backline, trading for Nathan Sturgis, the 23-year-old defender that was on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
Along with Sturgis is Nana Attakora. The 21-year-old has been a member of the team since its existence. The hope is that his presence, although a young player, will be a stabilizing force as the team rebuilds and attempts to make the playoffs for the first time ever.
There is talent on this team, but there has been a lot of instability and in-house arguing. De Rosario says he won’t be a distraction, that he will play as if there was no problem, but if the team isn’t winning how happy will he remain?
The team has fallen short and underachieved with some solid lineups. With so much going on off-the-field it’s hard to imagine things straightening themselves out.
Aron Winter talks about taking the Toronto FC coaching job. Video from YouTube.