Toronto starts from scratch again
Real Salt Lake's
Only one team has more points today than Real Salt Lake, the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Galaxy are coached by
Just below those teams in the Western Conference standings today sits FC Dallas, a side on a team-record 15-game unbeaten run. Coach
Anyone see where we're going with this? Think about those humble beginnings as we trace a brief history of Toronto FC, a fourth-year club that made big news with a pair of high-profile dismissals earlier this week, 24 games into the current season.
For four years,
And he wasn't great at it. But Johnston is a convivial fellow who gets along with everybody and was once a respected player, one who even had a place in history as a Catholic player at historically Protestant Scottish giant Rangers. So even when his wandering assortment of player swaps and acquisitions failed to bear fruit, he generally continued to get the benefit of the doubt. He's Mo Johnston, he knows what he's doing. Right?
And yet the results never measured up, which was maddening for a merry band of fans who loved Toronto's newest pro team and showed up in droves to prove it. The stadium rocked -- even if the team was frequently stinking up the joint.
At any rate, it wasn't about personnel churn. It wasn't about looking for the next magic pill of a player.
Preki managed to make steak from a hamburger budget at Chivas USA. It wasn't the tastiest steak -- his teams made the playoffs but never won there -- but it was edible. So he came to Toronto in the offseason and started filtering. Always an unyielding authoritarian, he ran off players whom he deemed unwilling to put in the necessary work.
Upper management at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, a group with a proven ability to make money in pro sports but a less-distinguished mark of building winners, had seemed to get it right.
Until they got it wrong. They "cleaned house," in the popular vernacular, earlier this week by firing Johnston and Preki. So we'll never know if the Preki Way would have profited over the longer haul.
The dismissals deserve to be examined individually. Johnston, frankly, had his chance. His inability to develop a doctrine of pick-and-stick became his undoing; he was never able to select a bunch of players and then leave it all alone long enough to grow into something. BMO Field was practically a bus depot at times under his watch; the club used 29 players in Johnston's first season as director of soccer, in 2008, a number that approached an MLS record for player transiency in one season.
The bottom line, of course, was in a failure to guide the franchise into the playoffs. No MLS team yet has required more than four seasons in existence to break the postseason seal. And just one club previously has missed the playoffs four seasons in a row, as TFC seems bound to do.
But to fire Preki just 24 games into his first season? That's almost as bad as D.C. United's wildly premature dismissal of
Preki's 7-10-7 record is better than Kreis' mark or Hyndman's mark over the same entry period, and just a little worse than Arena's. TFC's positioning in the playoff chase (ninth, or one out of the playoff zone) is a problem. But what did management realistically expect?
Preki was a no-nonsense authoritarian, and he's not an easy man to play for. But all this talk of player mutiny and how Preki "lost the team" sounds rather dubious. Every team has a few malcontents. They are usually the ones sitting on the end of the bench, mumbling to anyone who will listen about how the coach doesn't know what he's doing.
The bottom line is that players can't make these choices. That's inmates-running-the-asylum type stuff. Upper management picks the coaching staff. The coaching staff picks the players. It's that simple. The whole thing breaks down when it doesn't work that way.
Let's hope this isn't a trend, this premature unseating of coaches on a wobbly platform of unrealistic expectations. The mess at BMO, like the mess at D.C. United, took years to create. And it won't be mopped up in a week or a month. Red Bulls assistant
This isn't the MLS of five years ago. And it's certainly not the MLS of 10 years back, when a team in a ditch could be extracted much quicker. Organizations are further down the line now in terms of figuring it all out. Most of them, anyway.
Williams admitted that he had no special knowledge of Toronto's situation, only that he had read the same reports of player discontent.
"You never really know about these situations unless you're inside the locker room yourself," Williams said. "But I can tell you that what happened at D.C. was ridiculous. You have to give guys a chance."