TFC's troubles coming to a head | Soccer | CBC Sports

MLSTFC's troubles coming to a head

Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 | 10:02 AM

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TFC’s Torsten Frings tossed away the captain’s armband on Saturday, clearly frustrated at picking up another injury so soon after recovering from the last. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
TFC’s Torsten Frings tossed away the captain’s armband on Saturday, clearly frustrated at picking up another injury so soon after recovering from the last. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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In a results-oriented business the team owners would have no choice but to bite the bullet and relieve the TFC coach Aron Winters of his duties should the team's free fall continue.

I have no problem admitting my shortcomings. I love food but I can't cook. I take pride in my home but I'm a hopeless handyman.

In the same way I would never suggest style is my strong suit. But even I know there are things you simply don't wear - they're out of date and inappropriate. Like leg warmers or bell-bottoms or the t-shirts I spied on a couple of fans leaving BMO Field following another loss over the weekend.

The message took me back. Back to a time when the home of Toronto FC was regarded as a fortress by its loyal supporters and visiting teams alike. A time when a win in Toronto was viewed as a major scalp by many of Major League Soccer's more established franchises.

You'll remember the slogan: "This Is Our House."

It was a challenge and a warning to unwelcome guests who would dare to steal points from TFC without first having to endure a mighty scrap. These four simple words were writ large on the back of the departing t-shirts.

A fashion faux pas? Did they not get the memo? They are clearly living in some delusional time warp where their heroes still turn up week in, week out and, more often than not, give as good as they get.

When a few dozen DC day-trippers can be heard from beginning to end from across the park there is a serious problem.

The travelling fans had plenty to shout about. Their team controlled much of the contest and scored two well taken and well deserved goals. Toronto's favourite soccer son, Dwayne de Rosario, was an eye witness to history as his former club crashed to its eighth straight loss - the worst ever start to an MLS season.

It's not that long ago since DeRo wore the captain's armband for TFC. Say what you like about his perceived financial greed but no one can question his commitment or his quality in MLS. He is a passionate Canadian and was a proud captain of his hometown team.

Like De Rosario, the armband has moved on. The honour, for that is what it should be, has fallen to Torsten Frings. Less than 20 games into his MLS career the former German international, Bundesliga winner and World Cup finalist, must be wondering what he's let himself in for.

He's hurting. The medics can fix the pain in his shoulder just the same way they fixed his hamstring but they can't give him anything for the pain of leading a losing team. When forced from the field on Saturday Frings tossed away the captain's armband, clearly frustrated at picking up another injury so soon after recovering from the last.

Like an autumn leaf it fell to the turf and lay there untouched for a few seconds. Frings did not look back as he headed straight down the players' tunnel. The gesture, though I believe accidental, summed up how far this once "model franchise" has fallen. Strong leadership, on and off the field, is key to any successful sports team. Toronto FC is wanting in both areas.

Winter won't change

Aron Winter has set out his stall. The TFC coach has changed his line up but will not alter his football philosophy. I admire him for sticking to his guns. After all, it was the way he was taught and the way he played the game at a very high level. But this is not Holland or Italy. In North America he simply doesn't have enough players who are technically good enough or intelligent enough to execute his plan.

Inevitably confidence is crushed and losing becomes a habit. Winter's team is no longer playing to win - it is playing not to lose. It is group of individuals trying desperately not to concede the first goal rather than taking the game by the scruff of its neck and imposing itself on the opposition.

Eventually Toronto FC will win. The law of averages dictates it is bound to happen sooner or later - maybe as soon as Wednesday when Montreal comes to town hunting a place in the final of the Canadian championship. That would be the Impact team which is unbeaten in its last four games and hasn't allowed a goal in the last three.

Winter won the Canadian championship in 2011. Losing it on home soil in 2012 would have to be the final straw. In a results-oriented business the team owners would have no choice but to bite the bullet and relieve the polite, likeable Dutchman of his duties.

If the rumour mill is to be believed, Steve Nicol is waiting in the wings should the axe fall. The former New England boss enjoyed a highly successful partnership with TFC director of player development, Paul Mariner during their five years together with the Revs.

The house, once filled with boisterous fun, is still standing. But it is in urgent need of major renovation by a reputable contractor.

Does Mike Holmes know anything about soccer?

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