Winless Toronto FC severely limited in options | Soccer | CBC Sports

MLSWinless Toronto FC severely limited in options

Posted: Sunday, April 8, 2012 | 11:53 PM

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Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter claims he is still building, but good teams build from a position of strength. (Mike Cassese/Reuters) Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter claims he is still building, but good teams build from a position of strength. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

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Get out of the way before it hits you. The revolving door is about to start spinning again in an attempt to prevent Season 6 becoming Season Sucks.

Get out of the way before it hits you. The revolving door is about to start spinning again in an attempt to prevent Season 6 becoming Season Sucks.

Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is a man running out of patience, trust and perhaps time. He did not mince his words after witnessing the most distressing week of his brief managerial career.

The former Dutch international is not a man to rant - at least not publicly. He has always struck me as a polite, respectful, thoughtful man who speaks barely above a whisper. His reaction, following defeat in Montreal, conveyed a dark message to some of those in whom he has put his faith and staked his reputation.

Firstly credit where credit is due. The Montreal Impact earned their first ever win in Major League Soccer because they were the better team on the day. They were more focused, determined, disciplined and hungry than their opponent.

The Impact are an expansion team and first-year franchises don't win many games. Montreal fans will celebrate the successes as and when they can. By and large Impact supporters are content their team is finally part of MLS and will fully play their part when they return to the more intimate and perhaps intimidating surroundings of Stade Saputo.

Toronto FC was an expansion team in 2007. It lost its opening four league games but no one cared too much because Canada had a team in MLS and a soccer specific stadium which was filled to capacity week in, week out.

TFC has lost its opening four league games in 2012 and some are past caring. Seats are readily available for every home game and frankly this team looks little better than the one Mo Johnston threw together five years ago.

But it should do by now. Winter is into his second year with the club - time enough to assess the mess he inherited and make most of the necessary adjustments. Significant injuries to captain Torsten Frings and goalkeeper Stefan Frei are unfortunate but every club has to deal with the loss of key players from time to time.

Reds still building

Winter claims he is still building, but good teams build from a position of strength. They do not panic buy in an attempt to paper over the cracks. His roster was set months ago knowing the team's continued involvement in the CONCACAF Champions League would mean an early start to the season.

Two experienced South American defenders were brought in to shore up the back line. One never made it to opening day and the other cannot defend - at least not at this level. Winter put his trust in too many players who cannot be trusted to do their jobs.

MLS is a league where bravery and commitment are at a premium. Physical and mental endurance are paramount in a world where truly gifted players are few and far between. It's about being proud and getting stuck in - not waiting for the ball to bounce and giving an opponent a chance he shouldn't have.

This is soccer 101. Toronto FC doesn't have enough players who are either willing or able to take responsibility. This is a team which commands little respect from its rivals - not even an expansion team whose coach left several starters on the bench and still won the day.

Winter may well want to make changes but his options are severely limited. The international transfer window is closed until mid summer which leaves him little choice. He can either trade within MLS or possibly sign players who are out of contract.

Neither is particularly appealing. TFC will have difficulty trading underperforming players for obvious reasons and free agents are generally out of the game for similar reasons. Finding players at this time of year who can make a tangible difference and keep it all within the salary cap is nigh on impossible.

Team must soldier on

So Winter and his management team must soldier as best they can. Frings will soon return to offer leadership, experience and quality and central defender Adrian Cann is almost healthy after nearly a year on the sidelines following knee surgery.

Danny Koevermans' first goal of the season may be significant. His header against Montreal was merely a consolation on the day but the Dutch veteran desperately needed a goal to get his season up and running. Having bagged one the proverbial floodgates may open in weeks to come.

What of Winter himself? Ultimately the buck stops at his door and a record of six wins in 38 MLS games is by no means a glowing testimony. Even the much-maligned Johnston achieved a better winning percentage. On that basis the ownership could fire Winter tomorrow but the ramifications might be even worse.

Yet another new head coach would bring with him yet another blank sheet of paper. And yet more promises of hard work and commitment. And suddenly it would be 2007 all over again.

Except without the fanfare - or the fans.

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