Media Day has come and gone, as the 2013 installment of Toronto FC got to speak with the media. Watching the videos of each of these interviews and reading into various reports, there are some common themes that lie within the words of the interviews. While the words may be different and the way the questions are asked may differ from person to person -- there are common answers, and common themes that we can take away from them.
Some may be obvious, but some may not. It's all up to the listener -- but here are some of the themes that emerged from the various interviews:
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1) Kevin Payne is a stabilizing force in the organization, and have changed a few minds in the players despite the massive changes he has made.
Many of the players when interviewed seem to see Payne and his new team as a force for good -- even if they are reaching a little, it does not seem like it. Many of them see him as a positive influence, and perhaps someone that may have changed a few minds with his previous winning track record at D.C. United. One of those who seems to have had his mind changed is Danny Califf, who says that while the frequent turnover in the staff has made it difficult, he's confident that the new president can (and will) bring the stability needed to produce results.
While Payne himself is confident in his actions, he does not rely on platitudes to please the weary ears of supporters -- rather, he eschews them by deeming them as "throw-away" words. He does however say that 2013 will be about trying for the best possible finish, so that they can set up for future success. He also says how he was confident in the information he had received during the Draft, and that the risks he took by trading down for extra allocation money was all part of the calculation -- and oh yeah, Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman were their Superdraft targets all along.
All of this, Payne conveyed in a straightforward business-like tone, without any hint of grandstanding. He may be asking for patience from supporters, but at least he seems to know what he's doing, and is conducting himself as such without going overboard -- and the players and the staff seem to believe in it too, which after a season filled with infighting and locker room dramas that would make even J.R. Ewing drop his cowboy hat in shock, we seem to be treated to a united front for once, but more on that shortly.
2) Ryan Nelsen's leadership seems to be receiving rave reviews -- and being a fresh coach doesn't seem to matter to anyone.
So maybe we as supporters are a bit nervous about Nelsen being a rookie coach who won't finish his playing career until February 1st, but when the players are asked that same question, the answer as of right now is the polar opposite of the verdict from the court of public opinion. Many of the players seem genuinely impressed, and sincerely speak highly of his pedigree. Again, no signs of force (at least none obvious anyway) -- and from their recollections of their interactions, are respectful of him -- Torsten Frings going as far as mentioning that his World Cup experience with New Zealand could be a boon.
One thing that keeps coming up is Nelsen's message of cohesiveness, as Reggie Lambe recalled the coach stressing the fact of "eleven players, one mind" during a conversation -- and given the lack of cohesiveness that the team has shown in the past season, it's no surprise that the players are keen on buying into that philosophy. Many of the players stressed the amount of late goals and the lack of possession, and as Darren O'Dea says, they are happy that a soon-to-be-former defender is on his way to help the team with those woes.
And yes, they are glad to have him actually here, and not "finishing up" with QPR -- which according to Nelsen is an elaborate ruse to make sure his old team isn't soaked at the pumps looking for a replacement for him, that we didn't pick up on.
3) Dissent? What dissent? Oh right, Eric Hassli...nope, nothing's wrong here. J'aime Toronto!
As mentioned before, throughout the interviews there was an air of positivity towards the new set-up. While it may be easy to call it as professional avoidance or something similar amongst those line -- any dissent (if there is) seems to have been minimized or scared out of the players before Media Day. One of the major cases is of course the story of Hassli, of which reports state he was wanting out. The Frenchman denied the reports on-camera when confronted directly by Asif Hossain, and this was confirmed on Kevin Payne's end.
Payne did of course, state shortly after the reports surfaced, that there were to be consequences and that Hassli was expected to be in Toronto for training camp -- perhaps therein lies a thinly-veiled threat to Hassli to smarten up if he was indeed wanting a trade out of Toronto? If it was, the Frenchman appeared to have read between the lines and picked up on that message loud and clear by stating without hesitation that there were no issues and that he was ready to go. In return, Payne says that they respect Hassli as a player, and understands his situation after talking with him.
Perhaps he was scared straight into toeing the line, or he genuinely was misinterpreted -- no one but Payne and Hassli can be certain. But it seems that if there was any dissent (which in the past usually led to even more public dramas -- see the Paul Mariner/Julian de Guzman row for more details), it appears to have been dealt with off-camera.
4) The players are confident heading in -- but they seem to understand that time and supporter patience is not on their side.
While it's early days in the 2013 season and many of the players are still in off-season mode, many seem confident and hopeful of a turnaround. Those who were injured last season like Frings and Stefan Frei are ready and raring to go, stating that they have had the time to recover -- even as Payne himself was putting on the brakes, stating that there won't be any silly risks taken. But despite that, it does seem like an air of confidence amongst the players in the management and coaching staff has returned, along with confidence in themselves.
The new additions definitely do not patch up all the holes that the team still has, many do speak highly of the new backline which include Julio Cesar (who was absent) and Califf, of whom Jeremy Hall and Hassli both speak highly of -- Hall in particular recalled Califf's penchant for using the elbow, a habit as some may recall earned him a red card on his first trip to Toronto with the Union three years ago, but they do praise him for the grit that he brings to the table; a clear vote of confidence in the defender, and the defensive line for sure.
The younger players are also confident, and do seem to be glad to be back in action -- new draftee Welshman was perhaps the most excited, choosing to ignore (or be unaware of, again we will never know) what has happened in the past, while stating that he was excited to be at home. Luis Silva, fresh off a training stint in Germany, says he is ready to start a new season. Call it youthful exuberance, but it doesn't seem fake at least.
But there was one clear message: they know the supporters are restless, and want to have the old "fortress BMO" back as Frei stated, a place where the team and the supporters worked together on the field and in the stands to create an intimidating atmosphere for opponents. The players know it has existed, and do appear to want to regain that feeling inside the stadium. Will they succeed? Time of course will tell.
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Waking the Red will have more from Media Day shortly, but was there something else you saw that you think was missed in the list above? Comment below, and if you want to subject yourself to slogging through all the action, head over to torontofc.ca and get stuck in.