So yesterday I dealt with how Toronto FC and Dwayne De Rosario got to the stage where a trade was necessary, a lament for what should have been. But what's done is done and now we have to move on, now we get to find the answer to the "where would TFC be without De Ro?" question.
Even before this trade TFC was obviously in rebuilding mode and very unlikely to be competing this year, so the immediate conclusion is to see this as a good trade for the future, making the best of a bad situation by getting two young players and a draft pick for their wantaway-ish captain.
I asked Ben Schneider of NYRB blog Once a Metro for a quick impression of Tony Tchani and he described him as "A heck of a player. He's a very strong central midfielder (usually more of a holding player) with a decent eye for a pass. He's right-footed with a reasonable shot, but has a very high ceiling: he can dominate midfield. He will be starting in a top-flight European team within 6-7 years at most." Sounds very promising, and after seeing him in one game, I can definitely see why he rates him so highly. Obviously a draft pick won't be any help at all this year, but will hopefully turn into a very useful future player
So in the long term, this could end up being a very positive trade for TFC, but like any futures trade, it'll take a while to know for sure. What about 2011 though? It was already looking rough, trading away our Captain and the man who scored roughly half our goals last year has got to make things worse right? We'll be screwed without him right?
Well, no, not necessarily.
In the last 6 months or so, since he took his unhappiness public, De Rosario's been a polarising figure, with many supporters suggesting that no matter what he brings on the pitch, the off pitch drama just isn't worth it. A common refrain of many of his backers was "imagine where we'd be without him." Well we don't have to imagine, though it's a small sample size we can look at the games where he wasn't playing.
Last season, there were only 3 TFC games that De Rosario didn't play a part in, and happily, they coincide with the three main stages of TFC's season, good Preki, bad Preki, and Nick Dasovic's chaotic little spell. How did TFC do? Well they beat New England 1-0 to continue the hot streak under Preki. They lost 1-0 away to a very good Dallas side, continuing the goal challenged slide out of contention under Preki, and then they came within an injury time equaliser scored by the goalie of beating Columbus, who they've still never ever beaten. So basically there was no real change at all in the results without him, 4 Points in 3 games, which is a better ratio than they achieved with De Rosario in the lineup.
Look also at Canada's results in the 7 games they've played in the last 12 months. With De Rosario, lose 5-0 to Argentina, lose 2-0 to Peru, lose 1-0 to Greece. Without him, draw 1-1 with Venezuela, beat Honduras 2-1, Draw 2-2 with Ukraine and beat Belarus 1-0. To recap, 0-0-3 with De Rosario, 2-2-0 without him, 0 goals in 3 games with him, 6 goals in 4 games without him. Obviously it would be ridiculously harsh to include the Argentina game, but all the others were against opponents of similar quality, all ranked in the top 50, Canada was definitely the underdog, but always with a fighting chance, twice they lost, 4 times they got a good result. Obviously there are many factors that can influence results, but how many times does something have to happen before it stops being a coincidence?
Aside from the Argentina game, the two lost games against Greece and Peru, it could be argued that De Rosario was Canada's best player, and I wouldn't disagree. The problem is, despite a lot of the play going through De Rosario, and he himself impressing, Canada really didn't look good in either of those games. The difference between the games against Peru and Honduras in September for example was night and day, a much more balanced, quick and potent attack got Canada two goals and the win.
No-one could argue either that for TFC, De Rosario was often the best player, the most involved, most dangerous and most likely to score, but throughout both of his seasons with us, it never really translated into team success, and that's the crux of why I'm not too concerned that his leaving will have that much of an effect.
He often looks good, and scores a lot of goals because of his style of play. One thing I'd never accuse him of is a lack of effort, he's hungry for the ball, he clearly wants to win, and in his own way, he'll try his hardest to make that happen. The problem is that often leads him into what I call De Ro DIY mode, trying to do it all himself, often ignoring teammates like Chad Barrett or Pablo Vitti to take a low-odds shot on goal.
There were times when this worked very well, most notably the 2009 Voyageur's Cup game in Montreal when he put the team on his back and refused to let them lose, scoring a hattrick in a 6-1 win needed to win the trophy on goal difference, or the 2010 game in Houston where he scored two free kick goals to win the game.
More often that not though, it won't work, and can lead to frustrations, and even when it does, it's not helping the team develop. It's like training wheels, or a crutch to fall back on, if plan A isn't working, well there's always plan B, wait for De Rosario to try and conjure something out of nothing. That definitely got TFC some results over the years, but it really doesn't help the team stand on it's own two feet and make plan A work better, and that's the only way to get any kind of consistent success.
The obvious counter argument to this is to show the team success De Rosario had with San Jose/Houston. 4 MLS Cups are testament to the fact that he can certainly help make a good team better, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him do well in New York with the calibre of player that will surround him there. Unfortunately he never had that type of quality around him in his time in Toronto, he was the right man at the wrong time, and it's probably for the best for both parties that he move on. He'll do well and the team will certainly do bettter in New York, and for TFC, it's a good thing as well.
What does it all mean for TFC this season? Well one thing TFC gets out of the trade is significant cap space, which could be spent on a high profile player, or on much needed improvements in a few different positions. Whatever happens in that respect, TFC 2012 and beyond will be better for having to play without De Rosario this year. It's going to take a much more team oriented system to succeed, just like Aron Winter wants to develop, with the attack spread out among other players like Javier Martina, Alen Stevanovic, new captain Maicon Santos or other players we don't know about yet.
It will also inevitably mean more games like the one against Chivas on Saturday where when the team looked listless in the second half, there was no-one to provide that spark and create something out of nothing. It's going to be frustrating at times, it will be painful at times, but it will help the team grow. As far as results go, I still wouldn't say TFC will get anywhere near the playoffs, but I seriously don't think they'll do worse over the season,and for the future, this is definitely a good move.
Ev'rything's gonna be alright. Unless you're a 4 year old who's just lost his hero, there's no need to cry about this trade.