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Imagine if TFC Kept its Draft Picks: The team that could have been

Brek Shea eluded TFC on the pitch and at the MLS Superdraft (2008).  Toronto traded the pick that became Shea for midfielder Richard Mulrooney
Brek Shea eluded TFC on the pitch and at the MLS Superdraft (2008). Toronto traded the pick that became Shea for midfielder Richard Mulrooney

Aside from price gouging, records of futility, and a license to print money, what do the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC have in common?

They both have embraced a culture of chasing short term fixes in the hopes that they could instantly become more competitive.

Imagine the outcry if the Leafs, playoffs out of reach, opted to trade their 1st Round Pick for an aging veteran who would have been a free agent in 6 months? Such was the case when TFC traded its 2014 1st Round Draft pick for Eric Hassli. Hassli's contract was up at the end of the season and there was little chance that he would be back in Vancouver. He could have been had for nothing, assuming Toronto could convince him to sign here.

Yet, TFC gave up a 1st round pick for a player that played just 45 minutes in the biggest game of the club's season vs Santos Laguna. Perhaps he was injured, perhaps he wasn't hustling. Either or, his injuries and work rate were known yet Paul Mariner rolled the dice anyways. As evidenced by the history of the draft, the cost could be significant.

Whether it's Hassli on a rental contract or the deal that saw Wendel Clark brought back for a 2nd time at the expense of a draft pick that became Roberto Luongo, it is a story all too common to Toronto sports fans. Mortgaging the future is exactly the culture and practice that has been allowed to grow under Tom Anselmi's leadership. Here are the results of that:

  • 7 coaches in 6 seasons
  • 118 different players
  • 65-89-65 record in all matches

What coach wouldn't want to focus on the present to save his job? A related question is how does Anselmi still have his?

Win now is the motto and the expectation is that a quick fix will solve the problem. A Designated Player here and another one there, meanwhile scouting and player development haven't been a priority for the club. In fact, the Academy "investment" came on the heels of an MLS mandate to have one. It didn't come lock step with the franchise award. The club is about trying to find quick fixes and band-aids.

Perhaps most disturbing is the utter contempt with which the team has appeared to treat the MLS Superdraft. MLS Roster rules dictate that for Canadian MLS teams, 19 players must come from North America, 3 of which must be Canadian. The rest could be American or Canadian. Given the depth of the talent pool in the United States, it makes little sense to ignore the Superdraft.

There are 3 ways to acquire American players. Trade for them, pick them up through the waivers/allocation processes or draft them. Trading for them is difficult given that much of our roster, almost 1/3rd of it, is composed of Canadian players who count as Internationals for US based MLS clubs. To wit, only 9 Canadians currently play south of the border.

Waivers tends to mean someone else's castoff. Therefore the Superdraft is one of the only ways for a team to stock itself with young, American talent. Often these players are on Generation Adidas contracts which means that they carry no salary cap hit, making them very coveted assets in the MLS world.

What's also true about the draft is that it works in reverse order of finish. Therefore a team, such as Toronto, with pathetic seasons is offered the chance to draft ahead of better clubs.

You'd think then that TFC could have a fairly solid roster based on its short history. Imagine the team they would have had if they had kept these 1st round Superdraft picks and/or didn't trade the pick away:

2007 - Selected Maurice Edu (*understandably transfered)

2008 - Brek Shea - TFC traded this pick for midfielder Richard Mulrooney

2009 - Sam Cronin - TFC traded Cronin for cash considerations

2009 - Chris Pontius - well, TFC took O'Brian White instead 3 places higher but he was available

2009 - Stefan Frei

2010 - Zach Loyd - defender with USMNT and regular for FC Dallas, TFC traded this pick for Adrian Serioux who played 26 games

2011 - Will Bruin - Bruin was available at the time of our draft position but TFC couldn't pick him because they had traded that pick to Vancouver for Nathan Sturgis. Vancouver selected Michael Nanchoff instead.

Leading into the 2014 draft, TFC Managers will have traded the 1st overall selection 3 times in 5 years. To show for it, they will have had the services of Adrian Serioux , Nathan Sturgis and Eric Hassli who will quite likely no longer be under contract to Toronto at the time of the draft.

I don't blame Mariner or any manager prior to him. If you worked for Anselmi you probably wouldn't care about the future either. It is all about saving your job in the present. If you can make a deal for a player that might improve the team now, who cares who Brek Shea is or when he might blossom? You might not be around to see it anyways.

New owners take note. Mortgaging the future does not work. Find a vision. Stick to it. Simple.

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