I profess I have become a somewhat lazy driver since coming to Canada. The automatic transmission does the gear change for me and my left foot, at least when driving, has become redundant.
It was therefore hardly a surprise that I managed to stall the English vehicle on several occasions before remembering both feet are required for the successful operation of a manual gearbox.
The soccer analogy is too obvious to ignore. Have we, as followers of Toronto FC, conditioned ourselves to accept the team is operating on manual, prone to stalling, with clunky gear changes and only occasionally capable of achieving full throttle?
And if that is the case should we not also have learned that practice makes perfect and patience brings rewards?
Of course the franchise is aiming to reach the playoffs this year in just the same way I’m sure it was aiming to represent Canada, with pride, in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The fact that the team fell at the first hurdle is bound to lead to doubts about its ability to stay the course and achieve the other.
Early problems persist
We’ve all seen enough of this team to know several of the original problems persist – a defence dogged by uncertainty which gives away too many soft and late goals, and a forward line which simply does not deliver enough goals relative to the number of chances created.
Approaching the conclusion of Year 3, one might have expected these teething troubles to have been sorted out by now. Apparently not. So who’s to blame for this stop-start evolution?
If the team chemistry is out of whack then one could argue general manager Mo Johnston has assembled the wrong group of players. If the style of play or formation is costing results then interim head coach Chris Cummins may be culpable.
Or maybe we’re to blame.
Perhaps, and I’ve suggested it before, we’re simply expecting too much too soon. Growing pains, and they can be extremely painful, are a fact of life for any young sports franchise and Toronto FC is no different in that regard.
The fact the team has been a huge hit with the fans since day one has only served to magnify the deficiencies. Every mistake has been highlighted and debated; every bad signing has been vilified.
And when there’s nothing else to moan about we complain about the artificial turf.
Nothing wrong with passion
If nothing else, it proves Torontonians are passionate about their team and there’s nothing wrong with that. The fans must believe every bit as much as the players, that TFC can find an extra gear or two in the final ten games. To my mind Cummins’ team must pick its battles.
Only four home games remain and Saturday’s encounter with DC United is the only one against an Eastern Conference team. It’s an old cliché, but it's an absolute must-win game if Toronto is stay in the hunt for a post-season berth.
The remaining three matches at BMO Field – against Colorado, San Jose and Real Salt Lake – are all winnable, but must still be relevant following a trio of tough looking road trips to Chivas USA, Seattle and Colorado.
Let’s not kid ourselves that Toronto’s away form is going to magically improve anytime soon. Indeed, it doesn’t need to if the team can collect maximum points at home. TFC is actually averaging a point a game on the road in 2009 and if that can be maintained, a top-eight overall finish is certainly attainable.
I’m still prepared to believe there is enough experience and talent in this team to learn from its mistakes and steer itself in the right direction. Like my old driving instructor once told me, "You only really learn to drive once you have passed your driving test."
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