'Gerba is not in our plans': TFC coach Preki
The marriage isn't over, but it will end in divorce.
Although Ali Gerba is still officially a Toronto FC player, coach Preki revealed Tuesday that the relationship between the club and the Canadian forward will soon be over.
Preki said Gerba hasn't yet been traded or released from his contract. But the coach did say he's decided against using Gerba for the upcoming Major League Soccer campaign, which effectively brings the forward's tenure with the team to an abrupt end.
"I've told him that he's not in our plans and hopefully he can make a decision with management, and then we can both move in the right direction," Preki said during Tuesday's practice.
Preki said he made the decision about Gerba based on what he felt was the forward's lacklustre performances in the pre-season thus far.
"We evaluated as a staff for five weeks in pre-season and we felt that we need a different type of player here," Preki answered when asked to explain his decision.
What type of player, exactly, is Preki looking for to replace Gerba?
"Players who are mobile, people who run around, people who work both sides of the ball, people who are committed to the group. That's what we need," Preki said.
Gerba did not practise with the team Tuesday.
Gerba's future with Toronto FC became a hot topic of discussion when he was sent home by the team from South Carolina last Monday.
TFC general manager Mo Johnston then told CBCSports.ca that the coaching staff felt it was necessary for Gerba to return to Toronto because he was under-performing in the Reds' pre-season campaign.
"He's worked hard but his play was not up to scratch," said Johnston, who also stressed that Gerba had not been let go by the club.
Gerba took issue with Johnston's comments.
"They're saying anything. At the moment, I'm in good shape. That's [just an excuse] they found to explain my dismissal," Gerba was quoted as saying in a story published on the Radio-Canada website last Wednesday.
Gerba also told Radio-Canada that he was working with his lawyer to negotiate his release from his guaranteed contract with the MLS team.
Gerba, 27, signed with Toronto last June after being released by English outfit Milton Keynes Dons. The Reds acquired his MLS rights as part of a trade earlier that month that brought defender Nick Garcia to Toronto from the San Jose Earthquakes.
It was hoped that Gerba, who was born in Cameroon and later moved to Montreal, would bolster Toronto's offence, giving the team a legitimate goal-scoring threat up front.
But it didn't work out that way. Gerba appeared to be overweight and out of shape when he arrived in Toronto. He scored one goal in 11 regular-season games (five as a starter) last season and routinely sat on the bench as rookie forward O'Brian White took his place in the starting lineup.
Toronto begins the 2010 MLS regular season on the road, against the Columbus Crew on March 27.