Yesterday Toronto FC held their annual end of season media day before the players clean out their lockers and head home for the winter. There was a whole lot of nothing coming from most of the players but somewhere in the hours of interview footage there were a few points were noting.
The most interesting comments seemed to come from players who are looking at the exit. The likes of Stefan Frei, Richard Eckersley, and Danny Koevermans seemed to have no interest in holding back and all three showed their frustration about how things have gone during their time in the club.
Despite all of the speculation about Eckersley's future he did state that he is interested in remaining in MLS despite being unlikely to return to TFC for next season. Ecks stated that he did talk to Nelsen this season and it became clear that he was not a part of the plans for 2014 but he also noted that he has yet to speak to the coaches about what comes next though and seemed to be quite unsure about how his future will be resolved considering he remains under contract. At some point the RB and the club will have to come to a mutual agreement to either pay out the remainder of his contract, trade him, or transfer him outside of MLS. Not getting to play in the final games of his time with TFC clearly did not sit well with Ecks who was hoping to end on a much better note than he did.
Frei is another player who seems to be heading for the exit who had some interesting things to say in his interview. It was clear that he struggled in dealing with his injuries and all of his time on the sidelines in recent years. He noted that he wants to be part of a team where his services are needed and wanted which he was fairly clear will not be at Toronto FC moving forward. Of the players on the outside looking in Frei seemed to be the most clear about what his future held. He remarked that he knew his place long before the club brought in Konopka as he was making too much money to just sit on the bench and despite never requesting a trade he knew anything could happen. Frei's biggest complaint seemed to be that he was never given a real chance to win his starting job back for the club despite working so hard to come back from his injuries.
Of the trio, Danny Koevermans was the most blunt and honest in his answers. He clearly felt that he was in a position where he had nothing to lose by speaking his mind before heading back home to the Netherlands this offseason. For Koevermans his injury was clearly hard on him but he remains open to giving it one last try and if his body fails him again he will retire. He plans to travel in November and then head back to the Netherlands in December but he has no plan in place yet for continuing his playing career. His assessment of what ails the club was right in line with what a lot of observers have noted. Koevermans pointed to the turnover on the roster as being far too high, having every name on the trade block, and lacking a core group of players as being problems for the club during his time in Toronto. Koef took time to point that MLS is a very unique league that he called a bit "crazy" but his main concern was that the minimum wage in the league needs to be increased so that guys who are working hard in training don't have to bring home food with them. Then there was talk about the changes that have taken place off the field. Koevermans did not really give Nelsen a vote of confidence and had little to say about Kevin Payne but it was clear that he felt the constant turnover was almost comical. Koevermans noted that he was willing to stay and that he went into the office to talk to the coaching staff. Up to the point of his interview he had not yet heard an official statement from the club on his future even if it seems clear he will not be back.
Notes from other interviews:
- Robert Earnshaw's extension from this summer includes next season and the 2015. He also noted that he has not had discussions with the club yet about his future but he hopes to be back and with better strikers around him to work with. Interestingly Earnshaw noted that he basically had half-an-hour to make up his mind about making the move over to Toronto and decided to try and embrace it.
- Steven Caldwell was full of praise not only for Nelsen who he feels did a good job this season despite being handed a tough situation and having to learn on the job but he also had plenty of plaudits for his CB partner, Doneil Henry. He feels that Henry had a good season and could develop into a top defender and eventually move on to bigger and better things. On the negative side of things he did note a lack of communication when it comes to things like trades but he hopes as the captain he can be a sort of bridge between players and management.
- Matias Laba noted that he has been doing work with the ball already and expects to be back to 100% for the start of next season. Has been working on his English and can finally communicate with the team which has helped him settle in.
- Mark Bloom is not yet sure about his future as he remains on loan. He hopes to be back with TFC but if that does not happen he will return to Atlanta.
- Bobby Convey was another player to note that there has been too much turnover at the club and it makes it hard to get on the same page while playing. The young players getting the experience of playing was a big plus for him since that will help them moving forward. He points to the need to score more goals as being the key moving forward not that the defence seems to be stable. Convey is going to be out of contract this winter but seems open to returning next year with the club saying he would be surprised if he is not back.
- Doniel Henry was full of praise for his CB partner, Caldwell, who he feels has been great to have around and has helped not just himself but the team as a whole. He was also quick to credit his coach for showing faith in him early in the season and assuring him that his chance would come when he found himself at the bottom of the depth chart.
- Ashtone Morgan was surprised that he will likely be the teams leader in appearances come next season but he is more focused on cementing his place at left back after a rough stretch this season.
- Andrew Wiedeman was unsure about his future with the club having not had that conversation yet with the staff. Seemed pretty open to moving on or coming back at this stage with his fairly nonchalant reply.
If you are interested in watching the full series of interviews they are up on TFC TV but be warned they will take up several hours of your life.