So, Nelsen out. Fair enough really, Greg Vanney in? Permanently? Well that doesn't fill me with confidence. We'll have other articles up about that, but neither of them are really surprising are they. Nelsen had earned it, and giving a promotion from within to a guy with very little experience is classic 'nice little job for him to learn something by' TFC.
The bigger shock, and, if it happens, the one that will really have fans up in arms was all the talk of Jermain Defoe apparently being close to sold. Tweets and reports came out that TFC had received multiple offers for Defoe from clubs in England, with the transfer deadline there ending tomorrow. $11m was the sum thrown out there, QPR seem the obvious destination, one that's been bandied around for a while, generally in the form of a loan in January, though never this officially. Apparently though, it's not just QPR, multiple clubs have enquired.
Tim Bezbatchenko addressed the rumours head on at the press conference, confirming they're in talks with clubs and discussing things with Defoe (Where is he? you might ask, why he's in England seeing a specialist about his groin. How convenient.) and that there'd be an announcement in the next 24 hours.
The in the know reporters scurried to their sources and have been tweeting a variety of things
Things are always changing in football, but as of tonight, I'd surprised if Defoe exits Toronto FC tomorrow.— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) August 31, 2014
Been told that the current negotiation is whether Defoe goes now or in January. #TFC trying to convince him to stay for rest of year.— Duane Rollins (@24thminute) August 31, 2014
Asked directly if Bradley is leaving, Bez said 'No." Asked about Defoe, he didn't say yes or no. Read into that what you will. #TFC— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) August 31, 2014
My own personal opinion is that Defoe's as good as gone from #TFC. If he wasn't, Bezbatchenko would have said so outright.— Rudi Schuller (@RudiSchuller) August 31, 2014
Who's right and who's wrong? Who knows? Was Defoe unhappy with Nelsen and the firing a desperate attempt to persuade Defoe to give Toronto another go, or are the two completely unrelated? Who Knows?
What might be the impact though if this does come to pass? Looking first at the marketing and fan relations side of things, it'd be a bit of a disaster really. Defoe and Bradley and the bloody big deal were central to the entire Tim Leiweke led jumpstarting of the rapidly fading TFC support, integral to the perception that MLSE cares about TFC, wants to turn them into some kind of superclub, crucial to TFC gaining a measure of respect again from around MLS. Now it'd be back to 'lol, TFC gonna TFC' joking from outside observers, and anger and/or outright giving up from supporters, especially the more casual fan who may have been enticed to BMO Field this season by the flashy new signings, only to have their previous opinions on TFC's irrelevance confirmed. I've often maligned how marketing concerns seem to get way too much precedence over actual playing concerns, but with Leiweke leaving bringing an air of uncertainty, TFC taking a step back towards their old ways and away from the limelight can't be a good sign for those that enjoyed the new found ambition being displayed.
What about on the pitch though? Would the loss of Defoe be as devastating when it comes to the important stuff? The obvious answer is yes, he's clearly a very good player who can still score when he's fit and getting chances, but really as always in MLS it depends on what TFC would do after the fact. There'll be the extra cap space, the DP spot and the international spot, and a big money fee would bring in a lot of allocation money so the cap space wouldn't just be the amount that Defoe's DP spot takes up. An argument could certainly be made that all those things could be used more effectively. Hopefully the coaching change will improve performance, Greg Vanney certainly talked about how the defending needed to improve and that that was as much attitude as anything, but these last few weeks when TFC have tried to deal with injuries have shown that the squad just isn't good enough back there. If a few different positions can be upgraded, building a solid squad rather than a mediocre one with a few flashy players, that might not be a bad thing.
Gilberto (the New England game aside) seems to have found his scoring boots recently, to add to the things he brings to the team that Defoe doesn't. If that continues, the loss of Defoe as far as the attack goes might not be too bad. His partnership with Luke Moore has certainly looked good in recent weeks, with the team as a whole seeming to work better, as opposed to often looking for long balls for Defoe to chase when he's available.
Also, Defoe was going to be out injured until the end of September anyway so probably wouldn't have had much of an impact on the rest of the regular season, though the 'what do TFC do next?' question is also one that won't be answered quickly enough to really have an impact on this season either.
Having said all that, especially in a league that ends up decided by a playoff system, can we really say that getting rid of Defoe would be a good thing, would make the team better? When he's out there, looking interested, and being used properly, he's a constant threat, he'll score chances when he gets them and he's a player that opposition defence has to focus on, which can lead to opportunities for others.
Of course on the other hand, as we've seen in some of his more recent outings, if not used properly, he can be a reason for a lot of turnovers as low percentage balls are played up to him. His attitude hasn't really helped with that, he's often looked frustrated with the quality of service he gets and looking uninterested in changing his play to adapt to his teammates, as if the reality of MLS and the quality gaps that can be a part of that were catching up to him.
Perhaps the coaching change would be just what is needed to refresh Defoe and get him and the team playing in a way to maximise his productivity. A healthy and hungry Defoe would be a very dangerous weapon for a series of one off games at the end of the season. Will we get the chance to see that? I guess we find out tomorrow. Stay tuned!