The second hour of today's player only Toronto FC press conference was intriguing because it largely consisted of players who had been with the team for a longer period of time. With this, Jonathan Osorio, Dwayne De Rosario, Joe Bendik and Steven Caldwell were able to shed a bit of light on how they felt this year was compared to those which they have experienced in the past.
De Rosario's take, after his time away from the club, and considering the terms on which he left the team during his first time here was particularly interesting.
"It's completely different," De Rosario was quick to point out. "I think the clubs really starting to [find] an identity, and a style of player and characteristics. And when you come through these doors at TFC, you see a certain attitude."
This season was yet another disappointing effort with mismanagement and confusion throughout, but as he points out they have also come a long way in terms of developing the organization. This isn't the TFC of old, and there is proof that they are ultimately heading in the right direction.
Jonathan Osorio on Bloody Big Deal distraction, and his future with the Canadian national team.
Jonathan Osorio is another player who has been given the rare honour of playing multiple years for this club. He also believed that the team is heading in the right direction, and that the core which has been established will compete again for a playoff spot next season.
But the more important revelation came from Osorio's belief that the now infamous "bloody big deal" campaign was actually a distraction to the team.
"It maybe put a little more pressure on us," said Osorio. "A pressure that maybe wasn't needed. But at the same time at the beginning of the season we were all thinking the same thing. We looked around the change room and said ‘okay, this is a team that can go really far'".
Another question that had been on the minds of Canadian soccer fans was Osorio's absence from Canada's recent games, especially considering the proximity he was to most of the matches. But despite the rumours, Osorio says he has never rejected a call up to the Canadian team.
"The season's done and I am available," Osorio says of his future with the national team. "I never turned down a call up from the national team. I would never do that, I don't know what that would even be speculated. But we talked amongst each other but we thought the best thing for the club and the country was for me to stay with the club."
Joe Bendik on the team's turnover and the upcoming CBA negotiations.
Bendik is another player who has been here for only two years but with the immense turnover seems like a veteran on this squad. In those pair of seasons, he has experienced the full wrath of the kind of turnover that has ultimately crippled this club's development. But he still thinks the team needs a couple of new additions.
"This club has had too many players in and out to begin with," explains Bendik. "But we've kind of shown that maybe we need a couple more weapons, or a little bit more depth."
He was also asked about the upcoming collective bargaining agreement that will take place this summer between the players and the owners in Major League Soccer. The hope from both sides is that this will not spill over onto the field and cut game time like it has in other North American leagues.
"I think it's pretty clear that we would like more money," said Joe Bendik, "and we would like some kind of free agency. Those are the only two things that hold any weight."
Free agency as a concept is definitely an interesting one. It is a very North American concept, as many things in MLS are, but one that would be beneficial for players around the league. More on this will certainly develop closer to the game.
Dwayne De Rosario on unfinished business, leadership and his own role with the National Team.
There was some question as to whether the Montreal game would be Dwayne De Rosario's last as a member of Toronto FC. He has since put those to doubt, believing that he still has a place on this team, and something left to show.
"I came here saying that I had some unfinished business that I want to do," said Dwayne De Rosario of what he wanted to accomplish with Toronto FC. "I kind of feel like I am still holding on to those words."
De Rosario also underlined his expectation to continue being a part of the Canadian National Team setup, and expects to be on the roster against Panama. This is somewhat of a revelation considering most thought he might have played his last game for the team against Jamaica in September. Whether he actually ends up being called by Canada remains to be seen.
Speaking of Canadian Soccer, De Rosario talked about his leadership role this year when it came to the young Canadian players on the team who were trying to follow in his footsteps.
"I don't fulfill egos, I tell them the way I think it is," says De Rosario. "For some of them it might be hard, for others they'll take it and know that I only want to see the best for them. In that respect their response has been good, not for all, but from the majority."
Steven Caldwell's message to the fans, what he thinks of the backline and the league's refereeing standards.
The final player in the press conference was obviously team captain Steven Caldwell, who was the longest and perhaps most in depth interview of all.
One of the first things Caldwell was asked was, as team captain, to deliver a message to the fans who are clearly disgruntled after yet another brutally disappointing season. He asks the supporters to stay with the team, and to continue to stay focused.
"We're improving, we're moving forward," he said. "We know that they deserve a playoff team and we're hopefully very close to achieving it."
He also talked about the backline and what he thinks went wrong for the team. One of the things he mentioned was a lack of experience: he thought the team put too much pressure of its defenders
"We maybe could have had more experience in the squad," said Caldwell. "That we didn't have to rely on a rookie so much."
He also commented on the refereeing in the league, something that has often come up as a topic of discussion within Toronto FC circles. But unlike others he believes it is equally bad for everyone, and simple needs to improve as a whole.