“So far, based on results, we know we are not the best,” said Laurent Guyot last Tuesday when discussing the rocky start to the 2018 USL season for Toronto FC II. “I’m confident in the potential of this team, but step by step we have to show better character, better personality to get more and better results.”
Eight matches into the campaign, Toronto has yet to win. Their only two points have come from a pair of scoreless draws; goals have been hard to come by as well, with three total thus far.
But such metrics are not what Guyot emphasizes to his players.
“We talk about wins, losses, about a lot of things,” he said. “But at the end of a game, at the end of a season, the results are the consequence of how you work, how you compete.”
“[We] think too much about the score, or to win... It would be better to think, ‘What do I have to do on the field, as a striker, a midfielder, a defender, a goalkeeper? What do I have to do better’.”
It is a philosophy that looks toward not the end result – the wins, the goals — but to the process, the individual elements that come together to forge those results.
“Like that you are going to improve, and if you have the level, you’re going to get better results,” continued Guyot. “Otherwise, if you think only about the result at the end of the game, sometimes it’s too much pressure. And [when] the best teams, the best players in the world talk about winning spirit, it is because they’re really focused on what they have to do to win. We need to improve in this aspect.”
That is development in a nutshell: transforming potential into possibility via hard work, and from there converting that brew into results.
Guyot has seen that alchemy work before.
Asked if there was a story from his wide-ranging career in the game that seemed particularly pertinent at the moment, Guyot looked back to his time under Guy Lacombe at EA Guingamp, in particular to midway through the 2001-02 Ligue 1 season — the conclusion of his playing career, and the arrival of a new signing named Didier Drogba.
“He was 22 when he came to Guingamp,” began Guyot. “We were in Ligue 1 and the head coach decided to recruit Drogba from Le Mans, a club in Ligue 2, [where] he was a substitute.”
“We were competing to not be relegated. A lot of people told him, ‘Why do you want to buy a player who is not even in the lineup in Ligue 2?’ ‘Do you think he is going to save us, save our spot in Ligue 1?’ ‘It’s incredible you have decided this.’”
“And he said, ‘Yes, because this guy has the potential.’”
Drogba would score three goals in eleven appearances in his first half-season under Lacombe.
“We were not relegated and two years later [it was considered] the best transfer of club [history],” added Guyot.
Drogba would depart for Olympique de Marseille at the end of the following season having scored 20 goals in 45 appearances for Guingamp. Arriving at a cost of £80,000, he then left for £3.3 million.
The lesson is that one must have faith in the value of potential, but ultimately, it is up to the players to make the transformation.
“We have to believe in potential, but what I know about Didier as well is he’s a very big competitor,” said Guyot. “He understood certain things by himself. He was pushed by his coach, but it has to come from the player, sooner or later. We are here to push, determine if the player has the potential or not, but it has to come from [within].”