Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honeymoon Over for Winter?

Well it seems the patience of Toronto FC "observers" and particular the media that cover the team on a regular basis has finally worn out.

Last night's 0-0 tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy, admittedly a poorly played affair, appears to have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back with fan sites, podcasts and regular media all coming to the conclusion that the Aron Winter chapter of Toronto FC development is the same or worse than all that has preceded it.

I guess the "best buy" date for the reconstruction project known as Toronto FC is about five games and being unbeaten in the last four counts for nothing for those who that want it all and want it now. Perhaps it is the odorous corpses of Toronto sporting franchises in other sports that have folks ready to write off a franchise started from scratch just five years ago.

The problem is the facts for those willing to look at them don't support their abandon all hope who enter here mentality.

For your consideration:

At the same point in the season (after five games) previously only once has Toronto had more goals for, seven in 2008 as compared to six this year and they have never allowed fewer goals ever in the first five games of the season (six) then they have this year. The six points they have this year is second only to the nine earned in the first five games of 2008 so despite what people seem to think progress is being made.

Most people would admit that solid soccer teams are built from the back and despite injuries, down right poor play and adjustment to a new system this team is off to their best start ever defensively and are only likely to get better. Four of the six goals against came in a wide open season opener in Vancouver which means in the four games since that blip the team has given up two goals in four games... those are pretty good numbers.

Yes Stefan Frei is a large part of the reason for this but you know what? That's his job and he does it well. When the rest of the team in front of him starts to get it this could be the best defensive team Toronto has ever fielded. That would be a major step towards the goal of post season play.

Now this does not mean there is not massive room for improvement - obviously there is and that is no more obvious to anyone than Aron Winter and his management team. What's needed now however instead of rushing in another airlift of players is a bit of a settling period. A chance for players, coaches and management to gel play and train together a bit and see what exactly they've got moving into the summer transfer season in Europe.

If at that time needs can be identified and filled do you really think people like Paul Mariner and Aron Winter will hesitate to do so? Seems unlikely having seen what we have from them so far.

One question often asked is where are the goals going to come from? The answer I suspect will be variety of sources - as Mariner himself has said " someone will step up, they always do." That is exactly what a successful "team" needs. Nothing easier to shut down than a "one trick pony" and that is what Toronto FC has been for the past couple of seasons.

People are also questioning the no nonsense, team first management style of Winter that has seen him publicly dress down players, sit them when they are not playing well and most noticeably move people on when they did not put team before self.

All that can be said to that is - it's about bloody time. The inmates have been running the asylum in Toronto since the beginning and look what it has brought us. Not much. Finally there is someone who is calling the shots who knows that as much as it is the easy way out to be a "player's coach" at some point someone has to make the tough decisions, be responsible and hold the players accountable for the product on the field.

The team we are seeing now, I suspect, is not the same team we will be seeing in August but unlike the past revolving door policy - the door has been replaced with a more constrained portal and approach to moving players in and out of the roster and their will be no changes simply for the sake of change. The youngest team in MLS needs time to grow and mature as a unit and for once the right kind of people are in charge of the program.

I'm much more confident in giving this management team a dozen games minimum before we start saying same old shite different coach. To me the changes are both obvious and subtle and slowly but surely are beginning to show maybe not in style of play so much but in approach and as mentioned in results as well.

It may not be obvious on the results side but if you told me before the game last night Winter once again would have to significantly change his starting lineup with Alan Gordon injured and Maicon Santos ill, Julian de Guzman making his first start of the season and Dan Gargan returned to the lineup in place of Nana Attakora I don't think I honestly would have said we're taking a point from this.

To me that's the most obvious change in the team. Despite the newness and unfamiliarity of the back line the team has managed to luck into and steal points that would have escaped them in the past and instead of having four losses in the opening five they've managed to pick up three ties they would have found a way to lose in the past.

The progress is there for those willing to look for it - for those not willing well their attitude is hardly worth catching.


  1. Anonymous7:09 PM

    While it's true that many fans and supporters have either given up or are dangerously close to giving up on TFC's ownership, I think many of us have absolutely no problem with giving Winter and his crew a season or two to turn things around. More than anything, we're aware that rebuilding this club won't happen over the course of one or two months, and therefore generally agree that Winter should be cut the appropriate slack.

    Simply put, most fans and supporters have much of our criticism reserved for MLSE and the decisions made by the executive board, not Winter and his staff.

  2. Rabid fan here, just wanted to say I'm behind Winter 100%. And the sentiment is shared across the board. I'm not sure who it is that you are referring to in the second paragraph, but it doesn't represent any fan I know.
    And the LA game was not poorly played.

  3. Was the writer of this article really at the LA game? If so, did the writer actually watch the game and not his/her handheld device during it? After 10 minutes of the game, it was quite obvious that Winter tactically fielded a team to get a point. After all, we were playing last year's finalists who so happen to be still a very strong team. Remember how many goals were let in during the last 10 minutes of previous seasons? Most true football fans know that the turnaround of a team's fortunes is not overnight. Note well that we have a much better team than last year and are actually playing more attractive football with even some of last year's derided players. These players are playing much better now thanks to the new management team, a momentous task that requires subtle interaction skills to elevate players, previously working under the previous poisonous regime, to their best capabilities. How many times have TFC missed the playoffs by just a couple of points or even just goal difference? The new management is not only bringing a "winning" attitude to the club, but a positive one too, even if that means getting a single point. Writers of articles such as this ill-informed one should do the same or find something else to write about that they understand and appreciate.

  4. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Since MLSE controls most of the media in Toronto, TFC has been treated with kid gloves for the best few years.Real fans could see that the Rose was off the bud for TFC last year, empty seats everywhere, you could not give tickets away, and now we have the 2 for one deals and free TFC tickets at all these discount ticket places, when you buy a large pizza or something like that. TFC is in 5th place in TO regarding TV ratings and their not getting any better. It's funny since the Raptors fan base is also very low and their TV ratings suck to, but the media won't comment on that either

  5. David Bailey1:38 PM

    Well said Bill. Up until last night's disaster v Dallas, the club had shown improvements in one way or another every week. Last night was a step backwards but hey, it happens. Even the best teams in the world lose 3 nil once in a while.

    There are those out there who are already calling for Winter's ouster, a line of thinking too difficult to comprehend, but progress is progress and I look forward to seeing continuing improvements as this year goes on.

    Nobody said this was going to be easy.