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How relieving Mariner and Cochrane can be a move for long term stability

It is said that those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it... that and they get a really bad mark on their University transcript.

Using that as the basis for this entry, I'm going to explain why I feel that yet another change in management this offseason is in fact a move for long term cohesion within Toronto FC.

How can firing the 7th coach in 6 seasons be a move for stability?

Simply put, the win now mantra combined with the history of Paul Mariner and Earl Cochrane suggest a devastating potential mix that can set this franchise back even further if allowed to continue. Walk with me.

Let's first acknowledge some of the compelling reasons to keep Mariner and Cochrane in the roles that they are currently in.

First, it does provide the players with some consistency. If you want to play next year, you know what is expected. No need to learn new systems. Come to camp ready to go.

Secondly, Mariner has had a chance to evaluate some of his players over the course of this season. Not all of them mind you as the Academy grads seem fixed to the bench in a curious decision to play for results in a season that doesn't matter...but I digress. The truth is that he has had an opportunity to view each and every player's work ethic in training and some in game conditions. He knows what he has and he knows what he lacks.

Thirdly, whether you buy it or not, injuries have played a role in his current results. While this was also true for Aron Winter, the loss of key players has likely contributed to some of the results we are seeing. That said, you'd have to be a few practice cones short a triangle to suggest that this is a playoff team even at full health.

Lastly, I'm a fair guy and want to add that this next paragraph is pure speculation on my part. There was confusion at the time Winter and Mariner were being hired. It appeared that no one was sure which guy was responsible for which role. Given that, it's not implausible to think that one camp within TFC promised something to Mariner and another camp promised the same of Winter. Considering the history of this ownership group, according to Chris Cummins who stated that Nick Dasovic was to be named coach and at the last minute he ended up with the role, this isn't beyond the realm of possible in this organization.

This would explain why there was this seemingly strange marriage of MLS "Visionaries" and "Pragmatists" that we have heard about. It would explain why Mariner changed the system when he had a chance, he simply never believed in the direction Winter took. It would also explain why he was rumoured to have been given a 3 year contract extension in May. The club was set to give him the keys and wanted to make it right. Letting him see it through would seemingly be the right thing to do from a reputation standpoint. The club may feel it owes it to him.

Now that we have the above on the table, here's why I believe his time is up.

Remember that saying about history repeating itself? Nothing in Paul Mariner's history as a head coach suggests that he can improve a team. As an assistant coach to Steve Nicol in New England, Mariner did enjoy success. Seeking to lose his assistant title, he opted to return to England to lead Plymouth Argyle. It was his first job as head coach.

He inherited a team, that wasn't full of his players, that was on its way to relegation. He wasn't able to turn it around. In fact, under his watch in 29 games, he went 7-16-6 and Plymouth ultimately realized its fate of relegation.

His only other head coaching assignment has been here in Toronto. Where like Plymouth, his supporters will argue he inherited a team that wasn't his. While I don't necessarily agree, the truth is that regardless of who brought them here he hasn't been able to take these players and make them any better. His record with Toronto is 4-10-7 for 19 points.

An improvement over Winter's start? Sure. However, when compared against the Eastern Conference nothing has changed. This is Mariner's comparative performance record against Eastern Conference teams, if the season started in June when he took over:

Team

GP

W

L

D

Points

Chicago

20

12

6

2

38

Sporting KC

21

10

4

7

37

Houston

21

10

5

6

36

Columbus

21

11

7

3

36

NY Red Bulls

21

9

5

7

34

DC United

21

8

7

6

30

Montreal

21

9

10

2

29

Philadelphia

19

6

9

4

22

Toronto

21

4

10

7

19

New England

21

3

10

8

17

Performance is a key factor but not the only one. The reason to make a change now is that the cost of making one is less than the cost of not making one.

If you believe the report that came from the Canadian Soccer News that indicated that both Mariner and Cochrane will be back but will have a mandate to get into the playoffs next year or face job loss, here's where the danger lies.

If you had one year to save your job, what would you do?

Would you trade veterans to build for the future? Would you give time to younger players to bring them along? Would you take funds that might be used for expensive designated players and funnel it into scouting?

Probably not. Combine that reality with the fact that Mariner and Cochrane have an alarming history of sacrificing the future for the present and you have a really uneasy feeling about the future.

Cochrane, in his only move as a General Manager traded a 1st round Superdraft pick for Nathan Sturgis. Mariner, in a season that doesn't matter, traded 2 MLS Superdraft picks with the most potentially damaging one being the 1st round pick in 2014. In essence there is a win now mandate and a history which shows no hesitation to trade draft picks.

Outside of draft picks, if a player can't step into the roster now, he can't help them keep their jobs. Mariner, chasing immediate results this season has shown a remarkable reluctance to play anyone outside of his trusted core. Academy grads Keith Makubuya, Matt Stinson, Oscar Cordon, Nicholas Lindsay and Quillan Roberts have combined to play 99 minutes this year. Did you ever wonder why TFC Academy grads have generally only seen action in the Liverpool friendly? Now you know.

Even if Mariner can get this team into the playoffs in 2013, how can he sustain the progress?

In 2014, Frings, Koevermans and Hassli will be 2 years older and out of contract. Sure, they could be resigned but at what performance level? Those backing Mariner and citing injuries to all 3 as a reason for poor performance best get used to the fact that the 2014 version of the Reds may have neither of these 3. Baring a trade, it will not be stepping to the draft table to restock its roster in any position of significance.

I do think that the right management can get TFC into a mid-table position by the end of 2013. This team has some decent pieces and will get the top pick in the 2013 draft. Without fear of immediate job loss, I also think that group can make the difficult choices necessary to re-stock this team with assets. This will ensure that any steps taken forward in 2013 can be built upon in 2014. Veteran players need to be moved. Young players need to be evaluated and developed. Acquiring and using draft picks, allocation slots, allocation money, discovery signings all need to be done with a long term vision. Investing in scouting and player identification need to be key priorities for the team, investments that Mariner and Cochrane can't afford to make given the mandate.

History tells us that mortgaging the future to save the immediate season is something both men have no hesitation in doing. Although well-meaning, neither has a history which suggests they are even capable of turning around a team. And unless you want to set an historical mark of futility for a franchise, it would be best to put someone else in charge, ideally someone with a history of being able to do the job.

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