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Myth: Mariner's Reds are more competitive?

It is unknown if Paul Mariner was reacting to a play or the pre-game delivery of the Official Match Ball.  He does bring a passion to the touchline but does he bring much else?
It is unknown if Paul Mariner was reacting to a play or the pre-game delivery of the Official Match Ball. He does bring a passion to the touchline but does he bring much else?

The other night, I'm watching the Toronto Blue Jays game and the inning ends. Not having yet selected a "back up show", that other show that guys have so as to avoid having to watch commercials, I decided to do a "lap" and flick through some random channels to pass the 2 minutes.

I ended up on an episode of Mythbusters where they were trying to answer the question that is on everyone's mind, can a rocket-powered ejector seat flip an upside-down James Bond car back onto its wheels?

While some segues are easier to make than others, going from a rocket-powered ejector seat to Toronto FC is surprisingly easy. This myth got me to thinking about another myth that I heard the other day at my daughter's soccer game. A group of us were having conversation on the sports news of the day. I brought up Toronto FC and another parent stepped in and said, "I haven't seen them play recently but aren't they playing better under this new coach?"

I wonder what the Mythbusters would say about this one. Is TFC playing better under Mariner?

To confirm or bust this myth of improved play, we need to review the objective evidence and define our parameters. We would need to compare this team's performance under the two head coaches relative to each other and their competition.

Let's tackle the competition first. How does the team Mariner helped assemble over the last 20 months, including the 4 months he has been Head Coach, stack up against the teams in the East? Objectively speaking, not so well.

While Mariner's side has earned more points in MLS play than Winter's 2012 version, Mariner's team is far from competitive in the Eastern Conference.

In fact, if we reset the season after the 10 game mark when Winter was fired and started fresh, this is what the Eastern Table would look like:

Team GP W L D Points
Houston 16 8 3 5 29
Montreal 18 9 8 1 28
NY Red Bulls 17 7 4 6 27
Columbus 15 8 4 3 27
Chicago 15 8 5 2 26
Sporting KC 16 7 4 5 26
DC United 16 5 6 5 20
Toronto 16 4 6 6 18
Philadelphia 14 5 7 2 17
New England 16 2 8 6 12

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment's favourite ambition seems to be to put together a team that can compete for a playoff spot. I think they should finish that sentence. Compete for a playoff spot.... for as long as possible in a given season. TFC would be 8 points back of a playoff spot after about the half the season with no games in hand on the teams they are chasing. This is a script we have seen before, a decent start followed by a return to earth, much like a rocket.

This team is still a team that floats to the bottom as more games are played against stronger competition. It is also a team that seems to have regressed in virtually every stat category as a result of its "Forward First" style of play (ie. looking to find a forward once possession is won). If we now compared the performance of the team under the two head coaches this year we can see that Mariner's team does have more points. However, how are they performing in the game within the game?



Mariner's Impact

Open Play Crosses




Duels Won




Duels Won %




Total Pass




Passing Accuracy %








Goals Against




Total Attempts on Goal Against




Opposition Total Pass




Opposition Passing Accuracy %




Opposition Possession




We can conclude from both these comparisons that TFC is earning bottom table results against its opposition. In doing so, they have experienced a decline in possession, passing, total passes and accuracy with an increase in opposition shots on goal. Considering the stats above are compared with a team that went 1-9-0 to start the season, I think we can consider the sentiment that Mariner is getting improved results to be busted.

Surprisingly, I'm not calling for him to be fired just yet. This team needs a long term commitment to a vision and program. However, it needs that vision to come from a President that can evaluate the options, allocate resources and find the right person to implement it. Mariner may or may not be that guy but a new President can make that call.

By now, we all should know that a rocket-powered ejector seat really can't flip a car back on to its wheels. Doing so also risks setting the interior on fire. To properly flip it you need to modify the car and strategically fit it with a high pressure nitrogen cannon in the right place. When perfectly aligned, this will achieve the desired result. All TFC needs is to understand the design of the car it wishes to have, then find the right nitrogen cannon to get it back on its wheels. Stop wasting time with rockets, it will never work.

Please don't try this at home.

You can follow me on twitter @Gardnerfanfuel and all of us here @Wakingthered