Okay, so we're in our fifth winter without having made a foray into the MLS Cup playoffs -- that's a bad thing, right? Not so, according to the man in charge, Aron Winter.
And while the Montreal Impact has been busy stacking their roster with names like Patrice Bernier, and rumors are swirling around the LA Galaxy's rumoured-DP-du-jour -- we've dumped over a half dozen players and traded away Nathan Sturgis, while getting Jeremy Hall and signing Reggie Lambe. Meanwhile, we've heard nothing of the Joao Plata and Richard Eckersley negotiations, while the latest rumor has us pursuing Krystof Krol.
This action (or inaction, depending on how you look at it) would obviously drive some mad, foaming at the mouth, even calling for the head of Winter. Where are the big name signings? They ask. Why is a sixth season without playoffs something to be scoffed at? And where is another new DP?!
In the words of a wise old man, "patience, young grasshopper." Still waters flow deep, and I believe that Aron Winter is the man who will lead us to the palace of glory that contains the silver chalices we desire -- with deft moves that may seem to defy progress. While others flash gaudy swords, Aron Winter is quietly going along his business, implementing the plan that will ultimately lead us to victory.
It's almost like a kung fu movie -- except it's not.
Why, you ask, is it like a kung fu movie? Look around us: for the first time in five off-seasons, we are absolutely silent. The air is not filled with the sound of an earth-shattering kaboom. No, not the sound of Marvin the Martian trying to blow up the Earth because it obstructed Mars' view of Venus, it is the rather all-too-familiar sound coming from the TFC dressing room followed by the black smoke coming from the ears of departing players), and the all-too-familiar sense that we are once again starting from scratch.
Most of the team is still intact (save for a few pieces that were released, some handling it better than others), and some of the dead weight was dropped (more on that bit later) -- our two DP signings under Winter, Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, have brought us welcome relief in the forward lines and the midfield, and some of the acquisitions mid-season like Terry Dunfield has filled some long standing holes. They weren't perfect (and perhaps having a healthy Adrian Cann would have helped) -- but at least we're not all the way back at the fence painting and car waxing stage of development again.
But blame Winter not for some of the debacles, either: the Dwayne de Rosario move was a necessary one. While some will pine for the goal scoring he has brought to the team, the way he conducted himself near the end of last season was the last straw in many people's minds and perhaps indicative of his value to the team. Sure, he went on to win MLS MVP of the year, but that is after being traded by the New York Red Bulls to a team that also did not qualify for the playoffs.
Dan Gargan? Well, that's a whole other topic. Yes, there is word that Winter is a task-master and that some of the American players are not comfortable with it...those who have left (like Mr Gargan) have taken to the Twitterverse to voice their displeasure with the regime change. To that, I say, "tough patooties." -- there was already a dearth of professionalism deeply embedded in the team psyche near the end of Mo Johnston's reign at Fortress BMO: Winter has started to build a new culture, one of professionalism and merit rather than of mob rule from the dressing room.
Let's be honest, he is bringing a new way for some to look at football here in North America. For some it is alien and therefore to be discounted (and when it shows its apparent weaknesses the critics are usually the loudest in the peanut gallery) -- but the man is on a mission, and he is not looking to make friends: he is the general, and that's the way it is: no ifs, ands or buts. The players, according to a quote to an ESPN journalist, have to live, breathe and consume footy for his system to work. And for those who think it's a joke -- there's the door (And I am sure I am not alone in standing near said door, ready to help them out).
On top of this, Winter has had to prescribe and dish the unpleasant medicine that was needed to cure the ails. He inherited the mess that Mo Johnston (and in certain parts, we the supporter base -- think Mista the DP...) left, and if you thought that the mess could be fixed instantly, I have a plot of land on Mars I'd like to sell you. There was a lot of surgery to do, and like the proverbial messenger delivering the message, he was the one forced to make the tough decisions and excise the ills of the past (no matter how much Jacob Peterson or Nick Garcia whines, they were part of the problem...thems the breaks, kids)
The results may not show it now -- but we were treated to a taste: remember that win in Dallas that has us now salivating over our March 7th date at Skydome (or for me, a trip to Los Angeles on March 14 -- of which WTR may have live, on-scene coverage, stay tuned)
That is the first, I believe, of many glories that Aron Winter will be able to bring us. Before, all we asked was a taste of the playoffs: and as much as Mo Johnston tried, he couldn't deliver -- much like the cruel tutelage of Pai Mei that Beatrix Kiddo was subject to, at the end we
will kill Bill can look forward to more than just a taste of the playoffs, rather we can (and will) be able to taste the glory that has been long overdue. And like Mr Miyagi or Master Po, the team is being helped on its way to a new page in its collective life, through many lessons both harsh (like the 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union) and sweet.
So scoff sarcastically if you want, laugh pessimistically if you must -- the future is here, and the future is glorious. I can't say that we will win the
All Valley Karate Tournament MLS Cup or the CONCACAF Champions League this year -- but we'll be at least one step closer.