Amidst the abundant and inevitable change that cloaks Toronto FC there is a call for stability.
Players spoke with the media and cleaned out their lockers in the wake of Saturday’s season-ending win over D.C. United.
The players’ message: Don’t gut the team, even if it did finish with nine wins, 35 points and out of the playoffs.
Management’s message: We’ll see.
VIDEO: Nick Dasovic reviews the season on GOL TV Canada.
Let’s look at the most immediate change, or potential change.
Dwayne De Rosario, the league’s third-most productive goalscorer declined to discuss his contract issues which was an odd take for a player who made a cheque-writing gesture after scoring a goal at home. Clearly De Rosario feels underpaid at a salary the Major League Soccer Players’ Union website pegs at $375,000. Just as obvious is the fact he has another year on his deal.
“Dwayne is valuable piece of this club,” was all Interim GM Earl Cochrane would say on the matter.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi also spoke, saying the company had listened to what disenchanted supporters were saying about the team’s mediocre play as well as conditions attached to TFC tickets.
“I think we got disconnected from the fans,” Anselmi said. “But we heard them when they said the team wasn’t living up to expectations and we agreed. The price of tickets and the volatility of tickets in the package was an issue and we agreed with that too.”
The team moves forward without a permanent coach and director of soccer. Preki and Mo Johnston were fired Sep. 13. Anselmi said the club has contracted a consulting firm to find the best chances. It seems unlikely the team will keep interim coach Nick Dasovic as the head man. The job of choosing a coach, Anselmi said, falls to the club’s incoming director.
“The new boss will make all the decisions. What does the team want to be, what kind of style will we play and who are the people best suited to get us there?” he said.
Anselmi agreed with his players on one key element. Succesful organizations, he said, have continuity through the roster and front office.
“We haven’t been stable enough the last few years,” he said.
“We need more stability,” said Nana Attakora. “Three head coaches (John Carver, Chris Cummins and Preki) in four years is not the way to get things done.”
“If you look at the succesful teams, they kept a good core from top to bottom,” said defender Dan Gargan.
Player after player re-iterated how pleased they were to play in Toronto. The facilities, parent company and fan support are first-rate, they said.
“I was only here a short time, but it was wonderful for me,” said Maicon Santos. “I love being with these guys. I do want to stay around and I hope I do.”
“I figure if you don’t want to play here, you’ve got a problem,” Gargan said. “There is great fan support, a great organization. I’m excited to be part of Toronto FC going forward. Our work isn’t done.”
Finding where the wheels came off wasn’t a tough job. The club was on a roll with three wins and a draw when the World Cup scuttled the league for three weeks. The team would then win four of its final 19 games.
“There was a break down mentally and physically after the World Cup break,” said defender Adrian Cann.
That might have been a function of the schedule. team without a great deal of depth, Toronto played a grueling schedule: 30 MLS matches, eight CONCACAF Champions League preliminary and group games scattered over the continent, four Nutrilite Canadian Championship tilts and even an international friendly against Bolton.
“In that situation, it’s very difficult to compete for a playoff spot,” said De Rosario.
“You go into the pre-season with 12 players,” said defender Julian De Guzman. “It was a rough start. We played 43 games in seven months pretty much using the same 15 guys.”
But behind the call for change is the reality. This is the club that extended the team’s playoff drought to four years. Supporters have yet to see a playoff game in four years of trying. Attakora said he understood why supporters are angry.
“I don’t blame the fans. They have supported us and we haven’t gotten to the playoffs.”