I've had enough of the lollygagging from the players, they need to toughen up - now let me tell you about the details for our home opener.
Earlier this morning new TFC President Kevin Payne held a round table (we are the knights that say allocation?) discussion with a few members of the Toronto football media over breakfast. Preseason fitness, player comings and goings and more importantly; where the home opener is being played, were all part of the conversation.
While none of your favourite Waking The Red writers were at this breakfast - which is a shame as we love breakfast - we combed the internets for some of the tastiest tidbits and more evidence that President Payne is in 'take no prisoners' mode.
Preseason fitness of some of the returning players is an issue according to Payne; "There were more than one or two players who came back to camp far out of shape. That won't happen again. I've made it clear that it is not acceptable. We want to create an environment where players feel pride and do these things not because of retribution but because they want to do the very best for their club". Statements like that are a bit worrisome as this is supposed to be a clean slate right? A brand new start? While it's not unheard of for the occasional player to show up to camp not in full fitness for there to be so many that the president felt the need to call them out on it publicly? Good times. However it is refreshing to hear Payne laying down the law and at least stating that the players will be held accountable as that's part and parcel of what this new regime is all about. Accountability has long been missing from this franchise; hopefully this is a true sign that things are moving in the right direction.
Player Comings And Goings:
We've all been starting to get a bit anxious about the lack of any signings; even though we know that patience is going to be the watchword for this season it's difficult waiting for the shoe (or all of the allocation money) to drop. So it was at least somewhat heartening to learn that the team are looking at up to three signings in the upcoming week or so. He said that they're hoping to announce a big signing soon and that it's been a "complex deal". It looks as though the team is also looking at adding three young (under 27) attacking players and that they'll likely come from Central and South America as "We are almost exclusively looking south for players" as they're "Not interested in players from Europe - labour market is inflated - much more expensive to buy players of the same quality there".
That takes care of who may (or may not) be coming in but the goings is a little murkier. When asked if the team had made decisions on Eric Hassli or any of the DPs Payne wouldn't come right out and say that they will be cutting one of the three injured DPs and their expensive contracts. But he did acknowledge that "the jury is out" on Hassli and that Torsten Frings hasn't started full training with the team. In fact none of the three DPs have resumed full training with Danny Koevermans not expected to be up to speed until June at the earliest. As for Frings, they've had "No discussions yet to buy him out". Yet...let that sink in - Payne stated that they were not adverse to cutting one of the three and that "buying out a DP is an option." As teams can only do this once a year there is a strong possibility that one of the three will be gone and possibly before the season kicks off on March 2nd.
Speaking of new contracts; it would seem that a number of the Academy kids have been so impressive during training up at Downsview that they will be accompanying the team to Orlando - cue the combination of excitement over the youth movement on the rise and the worry that they may be moving too fast. But exposure and playing time is good for any player's development so we'll take this with a cautious grain of salt.
And the news we've all been very anxiously awaiting was finally announced today - first this morning Payne confirmed that the 2013 Home Opener would indeed be played at the Sky Dome. Initial reports from twitter were that the kick-off time was 1:30pm but in the official release from Toronto FC there is no specific start time listed. What is most interesting is that they obviously have still not figured out how they're going to 'map' the seats of the SSH from BMO to Sky Dome. But keep a close watch on your email folks; SSH should know exactly where they're sitting by next Thursday (Feb. 7th). Once again the unpredictable weather and safety of the fans is being pointed to as the reason for holding the match in the cavernous confines of the Sky Dome. Which only reinforces the need for MLSE and TFC to winterize BMO Field. We've all sat through cold matches, we can handle it - but we want to watch our team play on our field, at our home.
The overall sense left from the various tweets and so forth from this morning's discussion is that President Payne is determined to change the culture on and off the field for the team - from holding players accountable to trying a new track for new players to potentially getting rid or some aging, injured and expensive players - this next month leading up to first kick is sure to be interesting.