The Discontent of Our Winter and Tears in Tinsel Town
Posted on May 8, 2012 5:55 am
I am agnostic about whether TFC should fire Aron Winter now. On the one hand, changing managers everytime they restock the toilet paper in the locker rooms at BMO has worked out just peachily, hasn’t it? Not that Winter has not made questionable decisions, like playing a world-class holding mid at center back, or pulling back in a defensive shell at home when you had just scored two on the road against quality opposition. But, when you are 0-8-0, or 0-0-8, as the NASL would have it, every decision is questionable.
And if they fired him, his replacement would be hired by that illustrious sports management firm known as MLS&E, the same outfit that hired Move ‘Em On Mo Johnston, a man without a plan who was retained in the front office on the merits of his .200 winning percentage, John Carver, a man capable of being stunned that Jeff Cunningham should have a slump, and taking sloppy seconds from Chivas USA in Preki, the man who helped turn Bob Bradley’s team into what it is today. More on them later.
Furthermore, the Winter season was meant to auger a new regime of consistency and end to the revolving-door past of TFC that was littered with numerous personal changes, some of which left this outside observer scratching his head – like forcing Danny Dichio into early retirement at a time when the people above him in the depth chart were less effective than he was, for example. Dichio being a fan favorite, that was an early example of TFC management pooring cold water on fan sentiment just for the hell of it. Alienating DeRo, an Ontario native and the most effective player while in club colors TFC has ever had, was another. The check-signing goal celebration thing, yeah, not so cool, but people you treat right and appreciate properly don’t do that.
Winter came in with a Jurgen Klinsman-approved regime of developing a consistent philosophy of training and playing style imposed from the MLS senior team down to the yout’s. Time to let something take root and grow for once. There were signs of life at the end of last year, and this year, with no cross-conference qualifying from the stronger Western Conference and ten of nineteen teams qualifying, looked like the year for TFC to finally join the half-decent and make the playoffs. And, it was hoped, inspire some of those patricians holding sideline tickets to actually turn up for the games, like the diehards behind the goals who, for the moment, still do, though they can be forgiven if they start wearing bags over their heads.
Not so much. A record for worst start to a season. Breathing down the neck of expansion RSL for the longest losing streak.
As I have been reminded, I am no expert. But I think a Ph.D. in footiology is not required to, Spock-like, raise an eyebrow at some of the allocation of resources TFC has made. They have two guys who are holding midfielders or box-to-box midfielders and not, though solid players, in any danger of being as valuable to the team as, say, a withdrawn striker or A-Mid with mad skills might be, and they are not as valuable to the team as much cheaper similar players in MLS.
Numbers are not yet available for this year, but last yearTosten (imagine the two little dots above the ‘o’) Frings, a handy man
to have to be sure, at least when he is played where he is good, and Juan DeGuzman, a good player but not a world beater, made combined above three million (U.S.D) in guaranteed compensation.
That’s an entire MLS team in under-cap budget.
For that money, you could have Shalrie Joseph, Kyle Beckerman, Juninho, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Don’t-you-dare-call-him-Mastroianni-idiot-anouncers-especially-’Celo Mastroeni, Osvaldo Alonso, Davy Arnaud, Dax McCarty, Joel Lindpere, probably three other guys Hans Backe doesn’t rate for no damn reason, plus two or three good center backs, so your good holding midfielders don’t have to play out of position (because a guy from the Bundesliga can play anywhere and be better than Chad Marshall, Omar Gonzales, George John, Jameson Olave, etc. etc. etc., right?).
Of course, that is not a perfect comparison. All of salaries of the players from other teams mentioned above, except for Joseph, the multi-talented one, count one hundred percent against the cap. But most of them are under the cap hits caused by Frings and DeGuzman. Good players? When playing in position, yes. And you don’t always have the luck of Seattle to get a second-division player like Alonso, from that soccer hotbed that is Cuba, on the cheap and have him grow, year-by-year, into the best holding midfielder in the league.
All that qualification aside, THREE FREAKIN’ MILLION DOLLARS on two guys who so far haven’t been and may never be as valuable in terms of producing results as Steve Ralston or Marshall or Gonzales or Alonso or Mauricio Cienfuegos or DeRo were or are or have been to getting points and getting into the playoffs and winning some freakin’ trophies (and even the Canadian Championship may not happen this year, as I am not sure TFC can take NASL Edmonton, let alone Montreal or Vancouver, who, respectively, are first-year and and second-year MLS clubs and both mid table in their conferences), to say nothing of the many, many, many cheaper-but-better strikers than Koevermans, who, so far, looks like an over-priced Dichio.
Meanwhile, away down south in LA-la land, the two home teams are a combined 2-8-1 at home. That’s 0-5-0 for las Goats, and 2-3-1 for the premium-priced Galaxy, the not-so-defending Shield holders and MLS Cup champs.
In the case of the senior residents, the poor form holds away, and it looks as if the good run is at an end.
As with TFC, strange coaching decisions have been made. At home against FC Dallas, Landon Donovan was fouled in the box and LA was awarded a penalty kick. Donovan has converted 30 of 33 penalty kick attempts, a percentage any Seattle Sounders fan is rave green with envy to have in her favor, and he has a pre-kick ritual long and convoluted enough to invoke twelve ancestors, seven wandering spirits, three saints, fourteen angels, and a demon or two in a pair tree in favor of the effort. The Bruce sent forth Keane. Miss.
Then he decided to hold back his best offensive talent against stingy Seattle, then send out his best offensive talent against porous-but-potent (albeit Henry-less) Red Bull Harrison. Loss and loss.
The lack of potency against the Red Bulls could be due to their newly found defensive form. Or it could be that the bloom is off the rose. Donovan is getting a bit up there but may just be in a slump, Keane is ageing and Beckham is ancient.
The lack of defensive form is easier to explain. No Omar. Beckham seems to be retired from thuggery. Beckham sent off is a less common phrase, these days. Kovalenko is certainly retired from his. Some leadership lost with Berhalter retiring. Saunders on personal leave.
The best strategy may be to tell Gaudette, “pretend you are in Bayamon with a one-goal lead in CCL.” It will be hard for the other team to score if seventy minutes of the game is taken up by his stall tactics.
The situation of the Goats is not too terribly shocking, by comparison. Less is expected of them. They have had some down years, but, with signs of improvement last year, they had hopes of rising to mid-level, at least. And they would not be so far from it if they could just claim, after three wins on the road, just one point per game on average at home. No. Nada. Not happening. 0-5-0.
Some are calling for Robin my-name-ain’t-”Frazier”-Christian-Miles-and-many-others Fraser’s scalp. Even with the less-than-ambitious spending on personnel by upper management and the injuries to the first-choice forwards, one might expect more. But part of that expectation came from Nick LaBrocca doing an uncharacteristic imitation of Zizou last year. Also, if Fraser sucks so bad, why is he getting results on the road?
Part of the problem may be the lack of home-field advantage Chivas has. The front office flits from alleged identity to alleged identity, while doggedly sticking to the limiting brand name of “Chivas USA.” What if an America fan wants to root for a local team? They could at least throw her a bone and call it Chivas California or Chivas LA, since the club has made much of wanting to be THE TEAM of CALIFORNIA talent. But, no, they give this potential fan a name that screams “Chivas Guadalajara del Norte, and piss off, you!” That would explain all the Pavel Pardo fans in attendance cheering for the Fire’s winning goal in Carson.
So, their fan base is limited to people willing to be passionate for a “Chivas, Jr.” brand and those not willing or able to spend twice as much to watch Robbie Keane miss penalties or watch David Beckham get sent off or not watch David Beckham because he is in Milan or London.
And this year they have all that lovely vinyl covering unsellable seats to look at that just shouts, “we know there are not enough of you to fill the lower bowl of a soccer stadium, let alone a pointy ball stadium, and even a mediocre and over-priced Galaxy will always draw better than us.” But that vinyl boldy displays that shield trumpeting perennial wannabe status.
Boy, howdy, they know how to build a home fortress mentality, don’t they?