Immediately following Saturday’s 2-1 loss against the Galaxy, I sped up to Woodbridge, Ont., to attend the 2009 Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Among those honoured was the Canadian team which made it to the World Cup Finals in 1986.
Many of the players on that team have already been welcomed into the Hall as individuals since its inception in 2000, but this was a chance to pay tribute to the unit as a group and a timely reminder of what can be achieved through real teamwork.
Tony Waiters’ national heroes didn’t win a game or score a goal at Mexico ’86. That’s irrelevant. Just getting there was a minor miracle in itself. I’ve heard the cynics carp the only reason Canada qualified in the first place was that the Mexicans were hosting, but what I didn’t appreciate until the weekend was, at that time, there was only ONE qualification spot on offer through CONCACAF.
In other words Canada had to battle and claw itself to the very front of the regional queue – there was no prize for finishing second. Compare that to the current system where FIFA welcomes up to four teams from this part of the world for its global showpiece.
Teamwork, dedication, determination, belief, and some talent are among the reasons Canada gloriously and memorably achieved its goal. Those qualities are surely the hallmark of any successful team, yet Toronto FC seems unable to grasp the concept on a consistent basis.
Error prone defensively and challenged offensively, Toronto FC is an enigma which sometimes struggles to master the basics. Yet I refuse to believe there is insufficient quality in this franchise to be competitive in Major League Soccer.
Dwayne De Rosario must be beginning to wonder if he made the right decision to come home – the emotional pull was impossible to ignore, but from a professional perspective, frustration is written all over his face.
The frustration is easy to understand even from my vantage point. We know this team can perform and can score goals. It just doesn’t perform often enough nor score goals often enough. Search for a definition of “Unpredictability” in the dictionary and there might very well be a team photo of Toronto FC alongside it.
A team must equal the sum of its parts and I venture to suggest it is this key ingredient which is absent as often as it is present when discussing the shortcomings of Toronto FC. Merely wearing the same colour jersey is not enough; it must be accompanied by an unspoken trust and understanding between individuals.
When every member of the team knows his job and, as importantly, understands the strengths and weaknesses of those alongside him, this is when the team becomes hard to beat. The Galaxy is not a great team and hasn’t been for several years but demonstrated in Toronto why they have become hard to beat in 2009. Last year, they shipped a mammoth 62 goals – under the experienced eye of Bruce Arena they’re now conceding, on average, a fraction more than a goal a game.
Clearly, Toronto GM Mo Johnston cannot allow this situation to continue much longer. Only he knows how many last chances will be extended to the talented but largely ineffective Pablo Vitti. If we didn’t suspect it already, we surely now have evidence to explain why, at age 23, the young Argentine has yet to kick start his career.
There are others, probably equally culpable, but Vitti’s loan status and his relatively hefty salary make him an obvious candidate for Johnston to admit the gamble has failed and to use the money in a different direction. It may very well be those decisions are being taken as we speak, but Johnston is hardly likely to send Vitti packing until a replacement has been lined up. Money in the bank is all very well but it will never score a goal; Pablo Vitti just might.
Some of my more skeptical friends and colleagues are already prepared to write off the season as another without a post-season for Toronto FC. I am not there but I must say I understand their misgivings. My prognosis may well be influenced by what I see before the month is out.
A pair of must-win home games against the worst travelling team in MLS plus a mountainous task in Montreal to determine the Canadian Champions. Motivation should not be necessary.
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