Editor's note: Please welcome Michael Carroccetto to the Waking the Red team. He has been a Toronto FC season ticket holder since the club's inaugural season and brings that experience and passion (read sadness and disillusion) to the site.
About a month ago, Toronto FC were riding high and were looking to head into the MLS Cup playoffs with a healthy lineup, a stable backline (finally) and of course the inevitable MVP winner.
A short two weeks later, Toronto fell to the bottom half of the table, almost limping into the playoffs and were eliminated in 90 minutes to rival Montreal Impact. How quickly seasons can change in MLS.
Coming off an impressive 2-1 victory over league leaders New York Red Bulls, Toronto extended their winning streak to a club record 4 games. Even more impressive, Toronto downed New York without any designated player starting the match and only Sebastian Giovinco making a brief, although impactful, appearance.
No one will ever know what truly went sour after that night, but it was as if Toronto felt they had achieved their season objective and were ready to pack it in. 3 straight losses to rival clubs, meant Toronto were eliminated from the MLS Cup, without so much as having a home playoff game or even scoring a playoff goal.
In what will certainly feel like a long and dreary offseason, Toronto must resist the urge to clean house and must come back in 2016 with a similar club with few minor adjustments. Our coaching staff should remain stable as it was confirmed Greg Vanney will be back in March barring some unforeseen incident.
Although Jason Kreis was available and could have been a great addition, stability is more important at this point for the club. Vanney has undoubtedly made mistakes this past season, but 2016 will prove whether or not he has learned from these mistakes and if he will be the first man to coach the club for a lengthy period of time.
Looking at the front six, we can arguably say we have a top 5 lineup in the league. Altidore and Giovinco contributed a combined 35 goals and have done so in spectacular fashion. A midfield of Benoit Cheyrou, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado are more than capable in MLS.
Toronto might just be missing a right-winger to really put them over the top to replace Delgado in the lineup. What was truly missing up front was the ability to counter down the wing with a player that can whip in a cross or beat a defender down the line to create space. Only 4 out of 58 Toronto goals were scored this year on a header.
Wing play was almost non-existent and our narrow attack got figured out eventually as Giovinco got bullied more and more as the season went on (See Columbus Crew game in October and the playoff game vs. Montreal).
What Toronto was truly missing this season, however, was a stable back four that is healthy and can gain a chemistry that can last the entire 2016 season. We all counted 9 different right backs this year and 7 different center backs, both ridiculously high numbers. The only time our backline looked stable was during the four match win streak that soon got ruined with the Perquis injury.
With Morrow on the left and Perquis in the middle, Toronto should be in the hunt for only two new defenders with MLS playoff experience at a reasonable wage to be well on their way of improving their defense. The difference between losing a play-in round and earning a berth in the conference final or even MLS Cup is a good summer signing at Center back and the return of Mark Bloom.
Our right back situation was the worst in the league since Day 1 with Mark Bloom being side-lined for the season. No one ever truly flourished in that position after which consistently cost us critical points. Furthermore, summer acquisitions of Josh Williams and Ahmed Khantari seemed rushed and passive as neither could bring back the leadership and defending qualities that Steven Caldwell left behind upon retirement.
I believe a little bit of luck and fortune in regards to our defensive unit would have made the world of difference and would have allowed us to enjoy November football in Toronto. Caldwell and Bloom being sidelined for the year in addition to both summer defensive signings not working out, led to the demise of Toronto FC.
As a result, our goal in the offseason should be to remain stable, build on our core of good, young players and finally put in the finishing two or three touches that will allow the club to prosper in 2016.