On or off side?

Mike Stobe

Will 2013 be a season of redemption? Will it be the same old, same old? Here's what is happening with the team in a feature that I call "On or Off-Side"

In 2010, I travelled with about 400 other supporters to welcome in the season with a visit to Foxboro, Massachusetts. All the fun was pre-game as we witnessed Toronto FC drop a 4-1 decision to the Revolution. As we left the game that night, I recall stopping into the "Red Rocket" to grab something to eat and find some water to re-hydrate. I ran into a New England fan who candidly said to me, "I wish we had your level of support."

To which I replied, "I wish we had your points"

Ironic isn't it? That 3 seasons later we both got our wish. After a couple of years of finishing ahead of them, our points total is now as low (and then some) as New England have been getting recently, and now our respective levels of support in the stadium are about equal. I guess we should have been more specific.

Sigh.

My real life has gotten in the way of my enjoyable and sometimes frustrating hobby of covering TFC. Believe it or not, a lot is happening with our team. In between airports and hotels, I have scribbled a few thoughts together over the past few days that I will assemble into an easy to follow, yet seemingly random format. Optimists and Pessimists, this article is for you. You have a common goal. Regardless of where you fall, if you are reading this, you care enough to hope for better times.

So, here we go with something that I call On or Off side.

On-side is good. Off-side is not. Since I am essentially the Ref, you are free to agree or disagree with my calls. All set? Here is what I see happening with our team:

On-side - 2013 MLS Superdraft

Baring a trade of idiotic proportions, Toronto FC will have the first overall pick in 2013 Superdraft. While no draftee is ever assured of stardom, the reality is that the Top 5 taken in the MLS Superdraft tend to be good players. They also may come with Generation Adidas labels, which renders their cap hit to zero.

Former 1st Overall Picks (2nd overall pick in brackets) include:

2007 Maurice Edu (Bakary Soumare)

2008 Chance Myers (Brek Shea)

2009 Steve Zakuani (Sam Cronin)

2010 Danny Mwanga (Tony Tchani)

2011 Omar Salgado (Darlington Nagbe)

2012 Andrew Wenger (Darren Mattocks)

Watch for MLS Superdraft rumours and previews here on this station in the future.

On-side - 2013 Season Ticket Renewal Pricing

No longer is a TFC ticket amongst the most expensive in the game. Motive and history aside, pricing is fair. Still not sure what I'm going to do.

Off-side - TFC's Search for a New President

The motive is great but there is a puzzling picture developing. Recent reports have Mariner indicating he won't be coaching forever and offering a 3 year contract (presumably with Anselmi/Board approval) to an assistant (Adrian Heath) that included a contractual path to assume head coaching duties. This offer was reportedly turned down because Heath wouldn't have had control over football decisions, which means someone else would have. Doesn't it sound like the next head of TFC is to be Mariner himself? If a President/GM like Soler was to be in the mix, wouldn't that hiring have to happen first before a 3 year coach is hired? Once again, TFC appear to have it backwards with respect to how to build a foundation

On-side Paul Mariner's Suit

The Montreal game saw Mariner losing the shorts and dressing very respectable. Rumour is that he did it out of respect for his father. Either way, the image projected was one of respect and professionalism. While this isn't FashionTV, I applaud him for treating the day and the role with respect. Well done.

On-side - New Trialists

Word is that Toronto has Brazilian twins Paulo and Pedro Mendes in on a trial. Both are 22... I guess a common age is implied with the twin definition... and play striker and mid-field roles. Mariner apparently heard about them through Eric Wynalda, which isn't necessarily proof of his scouting talents as much as it is proof he can answer the phone, but the process for overhauling the team appears to be underway. Besides, Brazilian twins in their 20s can't be a bad thing, can it?

Off-side - Laying the Blame on Injuries

We can all agree that losing our designated players had an impact on the team though as highlighted in another article I wrote, I don't believe it had that much of an impact. Regardless, Mariner apologists and eternal optimists muse at what could be in 2013 with all of these players back to health. I have my own rose coloured glasses though I also have a set of realistic ones too. If Koevermans, Frings and Hassli are all a year older and all are recovering hospital patients in their 30s, what makes anyone think that they can maintain 100% health through next season? Shouldn't there be a plan B?

Yes, these guys might return but it is just as likely that they will go out due to injury again. Leaf fans know it well. Wendel Clark was a fraction of his former self after his back injuries and to build a team around a player(s) that you know have health issues is like building a one story bungalow on the Misssissippi River and then being surprised there was a flood. Worse yet is complaining about the damage you sustained in said flood. Depth is needed. No excuses

On-side - Return of Stefan Frei

Great guy. Welcome back for the 2013 season. Between he and Kocic, two very capable Keepers. Should TFC not wish to keep both, ideally a trade for return value awaits. Both have years left on their careers.

Off-side - Criticism of our back line

Do we have the highest paid yet worst back line in the league? In defense of the defenders out there, no. I actually feel as though we have a solid, young core with O'Dea, Eckersley (in his natural position) and Morgan. Goals scored are not completely a function of the ability to defend. Improve the mid-field and forward positions and goals against will come down.

Why? It's simple. TFC doesn't hold possession. As a result, balls that are cleared are simply coming back in on goal. If you need proof, look to our shots against totals. If you get 20+ shots a night, eventually one of them is going to go in. If you are sustaining pressure all night, eventually your back four are going to wear down and late goals get conceded.

When you hold the ball and are shooting at target you aren't getting shot at. When you give up fewer shots, odds are that you give up fewer goals. Of course, a natural Centre Back is needed. That said, I may be off my rocker here but the backline is one of the bright spots for me as I look at the future of this team.

On-side - the Montreal Game in 2013

Whether you use the "free" ticket included in your season ticket renewal package or simply buy your way to Montreal in 2013, you simply must get there. While we have things we aren't happy with, this club will assemble for the next season and the onus is on each of us to support them. What better place to do that than Montreal?

Get yourself there. A word to the wise, like my New England experience, just be careful what you wish for.

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