Saturday, June 16, 2012
Back to Life Back to Reality with TFC
The last 3 weeks have been like a dream, a wonderful Euro 2012, filled with quality matches & high drama. Also, we've have had the quite plesant surprise of seeing our men's nationa team get off to a promising beginning, claiming 4 of a possible 6 points playing disciplined & focused soccer, which is something we Canada fans are unacustomed to from our boys. It has been wonderful but, like all dreams, we awaken from them. Well the alarm is going off & it's back to reality.
Toronto FC returns tonight.
If you are a Reds fans, you are desparatly reaching for that snooze button, trying to get a few more minutes of blissful unconsciousness, unwilling to embrace to cold, hard reality of the matter at hand. I find it's much like the reaction I had waking up on the first day of school, or when I had one brutal hangover. You don't want to face the day but, alas, we must. TFC needs our support friends, they are in a tough bind & need all that they can get. Now many of you, or many others you may kniow, are undoubtedly wringing their hands, sighing, saying 'why should I care? TFC hasn't given any reason to stick with them. I think we can call bullshit on this line of reasoning. I think the fine folks who sang Fields of Athenry with immense pride in Poznan on Thursday despite Ireland being completely destroyed by Spain, showed all fans in every sport how supporters should conduct themselves in difficult times.
Not that it's easy, mind you, staying loyal to this club in particular, given it's dubious existence. Euro & World Cup qualifying have dulled the impact of yet another shambolic chapter in Toronto FC history, the firing of Aron Winter. Personally, i'm not the least bit sad to see him go. His tactical naivete, poor personnel moves, & stubborn insistence on stick with his 4-3-3 system no matter the cost, his gotten the club into a deep deep hole this it will not likely not get out of this year, meaning it will be 6 seasons & still no playoffs. A change was long overdue, no matter how half-assed the change was handled .(thank you Tom Anselmi)
What do we expect from Paul Mariner? No one can be 100% certain until TFC take to the pitch tonight against Sporting KC, but from what we saw during his time with New England, in partnership with Stevie Nicol, we should see a more convetional, if less glamourous 4-4-2 that should help address the most glaring problem the Reds have had this season, their porous defence. The more traditional, English-style system will mean the backline will not be exposed as often as the midfield will not be so aggressive in pressing the attack. Speaking of the offence, I have to say that I rather like the concept of a Johnson/Koevermans strike partnership, they've differing styles compliments the other well & has a chance to be one of the more productive pairings in MLS. Most importantly, though, Paul Mariner is a pragmatist, he understands MLS, what his players are capable of doing & what their limitations are. He will not be forcing a bunch of square pegs into round holes, the players will be very familiar with Mariner's way off doing things, & have the skill set to pull it off.
All of this is eerily familar I know, but another tired refrain must be trotted out as well, that fans must show patience with these changes, at least in the immediate future. The next 2 games on the road against SKC & Houston will see TFC in tough against, arguably, the class of the East. If they get anything out of these next 2 games, will be seen as a big positive. in the long run, these changes should work out. Paul Mariner understands this league, & understands, unlike Aron Winter, you have to play the hand you've been dealt, & craft a system that suits the skill set of the players currently at your disposal, then modify the system gradually over time, bringing in players higher in quality that will take the team to new heights. People, Toronto FC may not be world beaters, but this sure as hell is not a 1-9 team. Things won't change overnight, but by the end of the season, the reds should return to respectability.