Toronto FC, coach Cummins part ways
The Chris Cummins era is officially over.
Toronto FC general manager Mo Johnston revealed at a Tuesday morning press conference that the team would not renew the contract of the head coach for the 2010 season.
The announcement comes three days after the Major League Soccer club failed in its bid to secure a historic post-season berth.
Johnston said the decision was by mutual consent, and that Cummins is leaving because he wanted to return to England to be with his wife and five children.
"We would have loved to keep Chris on … but he wants to be closer to his family. We respect that. He's done a hell of a job. It's just unfortunate that we didn't get to the playoffs," Johnston told reporters.
Johnston said he spoke with Cummins over the past two weeks about his desire to return home, and that he tried to change the Englishman's mind, including offering him an assistant coach position.
But the pull to return to his native England and be with his wife and kids was too great for Cummins.
"My family is not here with me, I love the job I'm doing. I honoured my contract until the end of the year … It's time for me to go back [home]," said Cummins.
Cummins admitted that he planned to leave at the end of the 2009 MLS campaign, regardless of whether Toronto FC made the playoffs.
"It was a no brainer for me. I can't be in another part of the world without my family. I need to be with them," Cummins stated.
Even though he made up his mind long ago to walk away when the season was over, Cummins maintained he never gave up trying and was fully committed to helping Toronto make the playoffs, a fact acknowledged by Johnston.
"He's going to be good coach one day; it's just unfortunate that it won't be here," the Toronto GM opined.
Reaction to Cummins' departure
Here's what some Toronto FC players had to say about Chris Cummins leaving the team:
Midfielder Dwayne de Rosario: "From a players' perspective, it's always sad to see anyone leave from the staff. It's been tough on him because he's had to deal with the cards dealt to him. I thought he tried his best to make this team successful."
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei: "We all know him well, we know he's a great guy and I really appreciate all the hard work he put in."
Midfielder Sam Cronin: "I'm disappointed. For my first professional season, he was my coach for the majority of it. It was a disappointing end to the season, but everyone thinks highly of him and respects him very much as a person and a coach, so it's sad to see him go."
Forward Chad Barrett: "His family is in the U.K. They've been there all year. He's had a hard year here filling in for John Carver right away. I think he took that in stride; he did what he could with it. I think we failed him a little bit."
Defender Jim Brennan: It's a tough one. Chris had the respect of the players. Throughout my career, coaches have come and gone, and Chris is moving on now and I wish him all the best. I'm sure wherever he [lands], he'll do a great job."
Defender Nick Garcia: "You hate to see somebody from your temporary family leave, but such is life."
Johnston said the search for a new coach has already begun — although potential candidates haven't been contacted yet — and that he hopes to have someone in place before the start of the pre-season schedule on Feb. 1.
Johnston, who coached the Reds in 2007 (the team's first year in the league), ruled out taking over the job from Cummins. He stated that the next Toronto FC coach "has to have MLS experience."
The Scotsman has come under direct fire from local media outlets, with several reporters publicly calling for his resignation, ever since TFC was embarrassed 5-0 by the last-place New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium on Saturday night, a result that put paid to the team's playoff hopes.
But Johnston insisted at no time since the debacle in New York, which was the heaviest defeat in team history, did he harbour thoughts of stepping down.
"I've never quit and I never will. I'm one of those guys who will hang in there until the end," said Johnston, who signed a 2½-year contract extension in August.
That being said, Johnston said he appreciates why fans and media are calling for his head.
"Absolutely," admitted Johnston.
After serving as an assistant during the 2008 MLS campaign, Cummins was named Toronto FC's interim head coach when John Carver resigned in April.
Under Cummins's tutelage, Toronto FC won the Canadian club championship — beating out the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — and finished the 2009 season with a 10-11-9 record, an improvement on the 9-13-8 mark they achieved a season ago under Carver.
The team compiled an 8-9-7 record with Cummins in charge, and finished the year by setting team records for wins (10) and points (39) in a season.
But the team also failed to make the playoffs, a goal that everybody involved set out to achieve since the first day of training camp.
The roof fell in on the Reds on Saturday night against the Red Bulls in their regular-season finale, a humbling result against the worst team in the league.
A victory over New York (5-19-6), eliminated from playoff contention long ago, would have put Toronto in pole position to claim a post-season berth for the first time in franchise history.
But the defeat at the hands of the lowly Red Bulls, combined with a 2-2 draw between D.C. United and the Kansas City Wizards in a game that finished later Saturday night, officially killed the Reds' playoff dreams on the final weekend of the season.
Johnston took the full blame for the team's playoff failure and said he would understand that if the team's owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, relieved him of his duties if TFC failed to qualify for the post-season in 2010.
"One hundred per cent, it starts with me," Johnston said. "I know where the buck stops, and it's with me. I'll move on and hope that I can get the right [coach] in here."