Monday, August 20, 2007

Home Truths About TFC

Apologies to my non-Canadian readers who may find this post a little parochial, but I just have to write something about my own club.

I'll say it before anyone else does: the bloom is off the rose as far as Toronto FC is concerned. I offer you six points:

1) The midfield is atrocious. Pretty much the only statistic you need to know about FC is this: with Ronnie O'Brien in the line-up, their record is W5D4L3 with F18A16. Without Ronnie O'Brien in the lineup they are W0D1L7 with F0A18. Say what you want about Edu, Robbo or any of the clowns who have been playing on the wings apart from Ronnie: they simply aren't very good. They can't get forward to save their lives and while the central duo are reasonably efficient defensively, the number of goals conceded from breaks down the wing is woefully high.

2) The Dichio-worship is an embarrassment. Let me be clear here: the fans have a right to a hero and Dichio's performance against Chicago in May (first team goal, first team red cards) means it is right and proper that he be feted in legend and have his name sung every game in the 24th minute. But face facts: he's not actually all that good. A uniquely slow forward, with a turning radius the size of an elephant, it says volumes - libraries, even - about the quality of MLS defending that Dichio has managed to pot five goals in ten games. Don't get me wrong - it's great to sing his name (and I do!), just as Gooners sing for Perry Groves. But to actually think that this guy's return to fitness means anything other than an increase in the number of balls lumped forward in search of his big shiny forehead is madness.

3) Mo Johnston is a one-dimensional tactician. The problem with hiring Mo as a coach is this: he's British. And as such, he has brought with him a host of idiotic British coaching ideas such as: 1) the ideal combination up front is "a big 'un and a little 'un", with lots of long-balls played off the big 'un's head; 2) grit, effort and "battling" are worth more than actual skill (I can only think this is the reason that Andy Welsh and Colin Samuel - the latter being the possessor of one of the worst first touches in all of football - still grace the starting XI); 3) regularly changing to three at the back if the team is down a couple of goals late. The injury-induced experiment of 4-5-1 in late July and early August was another example of Mo's limited skills. 4-5-1 only works if your striker can hold up the ball (which Lombardo couldn't) and if your midfielders can get forward (which apart from Edu they couldn't). Given these obvious defects, five in the midfield just cluttered things up and made passing difficult: five at the back would have been preferable.

4) The fans aren't as great as they think they are. Yes. we're loud, yes, we sing, yes we regularly fill the place (although the boast that we "always sell-out" is clearly nonsense to judge by the number of vacant seats on the east and west sides these days). But the singing becomes more ragged with every passing game - rather like the team itself, each section is trying to do its own thing to help the struggling team, but the result is cacophony. The beer-throwing thing may seem cute at home but reflects badly on the team when we're on the road (see here for how that behaviour went over in New York - although for the record, I was there and can say with some authority that only two of our boys got tossed). And, in an inglorious moment in Giants stadium that had to happen, I got to hear my first racist comment from a fan; to wit, some guy who thought it would be cute to say that Colin Samuel's lack of distinction in the game was because "he thought Caribana was still on". It's not monkey-grunting or banana-throwing, but it's still really ugly.

5) MLSE is letting fans down by not signing a marquee player. We have the largest fan-base in the league. The team has to be making money - so why not invest in the squad? Maybe not a Beckham, but surely to God we have the money for a Juan Pablo Angel-type player. Not signing one in the European close-season means we won't have one at the start of next season, either: July '08 is the earliest we could reasonably expect one to arrive. The real worry here is that MLSE begins to treat FC the way it treats the Leafs: as a cash cow, where investment in players in unnecessary because the fans will show up no matter what. That Aston Villa friendly may have been portentious: we may just have a Doug Ellis ourselves....

6) That goddamn John Doyle article in the Guardian. I know a lot of people were chuffed by seeing our beloved team noticed in England, but it's humiliatingly colonial to want to be noticed back in the old country that badly. Plus the tone was irritatingly self-congratulatory, harping as it did on our allegedly great fans and allegedly multi-cultural nature. Personally, I thought the fellow who commented on the story by pointing out the lack of enthusiasm for FC and the overly Anglo style of its play and fan culture among the city's Italian and Portuguese communities was much more interesting and on-the-mark. Plus it was inaccurate (who the hell, apart from Doyle himself, actually calls Johnston "Trader Mo"?). Why the Guardian chose to publish an article by a journalist that the Globe and Mail doesn't trust to write sports is beyond me. He's their TV columnist, for Christ's sake; moreover, one whose only original contribution to Canadian journalism in the last five years has been to hilariously christen CBC headquarters as "Fort Dork". Seriously.

Anyways, that's my rant. I'll be back singing "Toronto 'til I die" like always next Saturday in section 221. But I'm an increasingly unhappy camper and I don't think I'm alone. I just think that being Canadians, everybody else is too polite to say it.


Anonymous arsenalist said...

Awesome post man. Just like to add that along with Ronnie O'Brien, Jeff Cunningham's abscense has really hurt us. He was causing trouble for defenses and somehow always managed to create chances when playing with Dichio.

As for Mo, the team's decimated with injuries and I don't think he can play any othe formation other than the 4-5-1 right now. I mean, what would you have him do? Play the 4-4-2 again? But that goes back to the little/bug 'un. I'm not sure Mo has many options right now.

The only bright spot of late has been Kenny Stamatopoulos and that's not saying that much.

2:06 PM  

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