Writer's note: We wanted to create a holiday-themed piece, something a little out of the ordinary for WTR. This is only part 1 of a (potential) 3 piece story. I have the ideas and structure ready to go if readers enjoy it! Feel free to comment below, honestly and mercilessly... if it's a waste of time, happy to scrap the rest of the story, just let me know your thoughts!
December 23rd, 2014.
Just as his day was about to wrap up, the shrill ring of an office phone startled new Toronto FC President, Presideezer Scrooge. "Hello Pres! It’s me, Tim… Tim Cratchitenko. I just wanted to know if I can leave the office tomorrow, just for the day, to go down to South America and sign that young, up-and-coming star I was telling you about. The guy’s a real talent, with an incredible work ethic. He’ll do wonders for our team- when combined with the strong core we’re developing, he could help turn TFC into a winner, and establish a lasting winning mentality and legacy…"
Pres’s crinkly, misanthropic frown sunk even lower as he listened to his right-hand man’s timorous voice squeak through the receiver. He was growing tired of Cratchitenko’s endless pleas, and cut him off before the GM could even finish his thought. "WINNING??? HUMBUG! Stay in your office tomorrow and find ways to sell more kits, Cratchitenko!... Let’s bring in a big name European veteran instead, or ANYONE who has played for a half-decent Premiership team… and pay him whatever he asks for!!"
"But… please boss… the fans want a team who wins games" …
"Who cares about the fans! MLSE has put ME in charge, to make money! And now that they’ve given me this nice little job that I can also learn stuff by, I’ll be damned if YOU get in my way! ‘Winning games’… pfft, I’m sick of seeing teams everywhere in MLS with this ‘winning spirit’… you can’t take wins to the bank, Cratchitenko!"
A short time later that evening, Pres wound up his work, grumbled his goodbyes to co-workers, and headed down to the parking garage to get into his luxury… Kia (yeah right) and head home to his modest Bridle Path abode. About halfway home, in almost complete darkness, a shadowy figure suddenly jumped out into the road, forcing Pres to swerve off the street! With the vehicle coming to rest in the middle of a front yard, Pres opened his door and emerged. He glanced toward the street, and before his eyes could make anything out, heard what seemed to be the faint sound of chains being dragged over gravel. The noises grew nearer, and a figure started to appear…
"NOOO!! It can’t be! Is that… Jimmy Brennan? With… chains wrapped around him???"
"I am the ghost of TFC past", was the reply from… what seemed to be… the spectre of the (still living) Wall of Honour inductee. "I am here to show you why the choices made by TFC’s management over the course of history have prevented us from WINNIIIIING!!"
"But, you’re Jimmy Brennan. What could you possibly know about winning??"
"I am also the only TFC head coach who hasn’t lost a single gaaaame..."
And with that, jimmy reached out and grabbed Pres’s sleeve, and the two found themselves spinning through a hazy blur. When Pres opened his eyes, it didn’t take him long to realize he was at… BMO Field?
But this wasn’t the BMO Field of 2014. No… there was no construction going on, the stands were packed, DeRo was dominating on the pitch, and the playing surface was FieldTurf- "This… is the last TFC home game, of the 2009 season." Explained Ghost Brennan. "Notice how lively the crowd is, and how… well.. how ‘half-decent’ the product on the pitch is…"
"AND HOW MUCH REVENUE MUST HAVE BEEN FLOWING INTO MLSE WITH THE STANDS PACKED!" shouted Pres. "Isn’t this the year we almost made the playoffs..."
The moment the words left his mouth, Pres found himself again experiencing the eerie sensation of spiralling out of control, landing firmly in the stands of… Giants Stadium. Ghost Brennan pointed up at the scoreboard and shuddered. It read: 5-0 New York Red Bulls. Toronto FC players’ heads were hung in shame, and the travelling supporters were leaving the stadium early, devastated at how close their team had come to a first post-season appearance only to be embarrassed by the worst team in the league.
"Well, from my understanding this was still a pretty successful season… FINANCIALLY!" Pres declared. Ghost Brennan shook his head in disbelief- "This is gonna be tougher than I thought. You’ve really been MLSE’d!"
With that, Brennan again grabbed Pres’ arm, and the two were again spinning to some unknown location. This time the treks, and the transitions between each, came fast and furious- first they found themselves watching Conor Casey score his 16th goal in his 24th appearance for the Rapids in 2009, then they were off to witness Maicon Santos produce 7 goals and 3 assists in just 16 starts for DC. They fast forwarded to 2014, watching Maxi Urruti register a goal or assist every 98 minutes for the Timbers, and then were whisked off to Rio Tinto to see Joao Plata contribute 13 goals and 6 assists for Real Salt Lake.
Their last two stops were on the west coast, watching Chad Barrett and Stefan Frei do the double in Seattle and then a quick visit to LA to see Dan Gargan and Alan Gordon hoist the MLS Cup in jubilation.
Pres looked over at Jimmy B’s apparition. "Okay, fine, it would have been better if we had hung on to most of those guys… but how would we know? With the exception of Frei and maybe Gargan, most of those guys weren’t in Toronto for long, and those who were were hardly successful! TFC was only guilty of offloading guys who didn’t contribute much… we always treated our better players well…"
Brennan’s ghost chuckled, and again grasped Pres’ wrist. Before long they found themselves back at BMO, looking down at Dwayne De Rosario, who seemed to be staring in their exact direction as he mimicked a cheque-signing in celebration of another fantastic goal.
"But…" began Pres, "But- the league got involved and complicated things! And he was going to cost too much!"
"No." retorted Brennan. "A four time MLS Cup champion, winning the MVP at two of those... a 6 time member of the MLS Best 11, an MLS MVP… twice scored the MLS goal of the year… he cost too much?? Richard Eckersley cost too much. Darren O’Dea cost too much. Dwayne De Rosario... come on. And now look at him. Look at how the end of his career will be played out, thanks to Toronto FC. ‘All for one’? More like all for nought!"
Pres slowly took this in. He thought of all the former Reds who reached new levels of success outside of the team. He thought of the devastated fans, the financial mess management had created in the past, the misuse of resources and assets. He was starting to feel differently…