When it came, the end was as swift as it was surprising. The dark, toxic cloud finally lifted and the sun beamed down. At last, the air had been cleared and the fear factor removed. It was a year late but, as they say, better late than never.
The departure of Mo Johnston was long overdue, that of Preki less so. Johnston was given all the time and resources he needed to get the job done. His oppressive style of management went unchecked and ultimately he ran out of allies and excuses.
The coach was given less than a year to turn the team around and, as he reminded me before the loss to DC United, it was never going to be a quick fix. Preki established discipline but it came at a cost.
Like any coach, Preki is in a results orientated business. Win more than you lose and you keep your job. Any other equation is ultimately unacceptable. Certainly you could argue he didn't have time, but much is enough?
It is a risky business. Job insecurity is par for the course. As a coach, you place your faith and trust in the players you select. If they don't deliver results, it is the coach not the players who pay the price.
I don't get the sense the players are sorry to see him go. Preki worked his squad extremely hard in pre-season. Nothing wrong with that - stamina needs to last a whole season. But at some stage the boot camp has to stop.Fresh legs, fresh minds
Fatigue is always a factor. It effects some more than others. But the consequences can be dramatic. Once again Toronto FC has fallen away badly in the later months of the campaign. Fresh minds and relatively fresh legs are vital.
This does not excuse the playing staff. Captain Dwayne de Rosario admits the players have let down themselves, and their fans. Every man in the locker room must buy into the coaching methods or as a team it is doomed to fail.
Toronto FC has worked harder in 2010. The work rate has improved appreciably and, to a point, Preki succeeded. His team was, by and large, a tougher opponent. What his team failed to do was to work smarter.
A willingness to close down the opposition is all well and good. It can force a mistake or a turnover but it will not win games. Players must manage their energy levels and keep something in the tank for when it really matters.
Goals win games and that requires effort and creativity. They have become a rare commodity of late, not that Preki's team could ever have been described as abundant in that department. One consolation goal in six outings is deplorable.
From a creative perspective, Toronto is a spent force. When your most reliable form of offense is hopeful long throw-ins, there is a problem. When you don't have a player with the pace or guile to beat a fullback, there is a serious problem.Mission: impossible?
Preki was right. There is no quick fix. Nick Dasovic, who should have been given the job when John Carver quit, has been handed mission impossible. Fix it in six games and get this team into the MLS playoffs.
Dasovic is no miracle worker but he can make a difference. How much of a difference remains to be seen, but it is already clear the atmosphere has changed. His first job is to put a smile back on the players' faces and let them enjoy their football.
His role, in the short term, is all about man management. The players must want to play for him and regard their selection as a privilege, not a right nor a burden. Dasovic must be part leader, part psychologist and part diplomat in the days and weeks ahead.
If he can be all these things and more, Dasovic has a chance. He wants the job on a permanent basis and has, in my opinion, the nucleus of a competitive squad. A fine goalkeeper, reliable centre backs, capable midfielders and a passionate captain.
At the same time the squad is still deficient in critical areas. Toronto FC is crying out for decent full backs, skillful wingers, and a star striker. For now those pressing needs must wait but pride, heart, and commitment cannot.
When this season, of all seasons, began with an MLS-savvy coach and the Cup Final coming to Canada, I confidently predicted Toronto FC would make the playoffs. Barring a miracle, I was wrong and for that I apologize.
The house cleaning has now been done. There is a telltale smile on the faces of the staff. They have endured mismanagement and theirs are smiles of relief. Would it kill this club to simply say 'sorry' to its fans?
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