Some of us in TFC Land were, shall we say, begrudged by the recent series of articles at the MLS Mothership, wherein Bobby Warshaw ranked the five best MLS teams of the decade. (**Spoiler Alert: the Sounders won, and TFC didn’t even make the list; they were eliminated at the outset, with the rationale being that “yes, the team was great from 2015 onward, but those first five years, much, much, much less so.”)
We have tried very hard to forget early-TFC, only to be constantly reminded whenever statisticians pull out those all-time win-loss records and our carefully constructed narratives come crashing down.
The end of any decade brings with it the opportunity to sit back and take stock, for better or worse. In this case, resoundingly worse. So, let’s jump down the rabbit hole, and let the parade of WTRticles commemorating the decade that almost was continue!
WakingtheRed’s private chat has been busy, as we groupthink these fun throwback exercises. We just love when #content needs fall into that sweet spot between irreverence and banter where WTR can be WTR, indulging both our fanboy nous and capital-J Journo ethos.
As a special treat, and a WTR coup of sorts, I reached out to our friends at the Vocal Minority Podcast, and invited co-host and WTR legend, Duncan Fletcher (DF), to chime in. Duncan is both the founder and the original WTR Managing Editor, so really, who better to fact-check and throw his hat in the ring. Duncan was kind enough to add his own thoughts as a post-script, which I’ve included in full at the tail of the article. His notes are peppered throughout in italics.
Follow along, if you dare.
First things first, lets’ get the Admin out of the way.
For those keeping score (Hello Martyn), 2009 was the third season in the club’s existence. Led by head coach Chris Cummins, playing out of BMO Field 1.0 (with the plastic pitch and the views), TFC finished their campaign in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and 12th overall. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs (and would not until 2015), which is the furthest thing from a surprise to anyone who suffered through the early years.
They did, however, win the Canadian Championship, as they did the year before. But early TFC gonna early TFC, hence, they crashed out of the 2009 edition of the Concacaf Champions League in the first round, losing 1-0 on aggregate to the Puerto Rico Islanders.
The Voyaguers Cup was not the “rock-em, sock-em” quality tourney we enjoy today; it was an easy path through lower-tiered/beer league sides. Seeing as the cup still gets no love from US soccer fans/media/passerby, we can easily draw a line from the mess it was to the messy opinions it still engenders.
But I digress, we’re all here for the deep dive (because we are masochists)? So, slip off your shoes and get in the queue for the diving board, because here we go.
TFC 2009: Where are they now? (Not at all the full roster - Players/Staff selected based on my feels )
MANAGER: CHRIS CUMMINS (31g/12W/11L/8D/31.71 win%)
It’s easy to forgot about Chris Cummins time at the helm of Toronto FC, as his tenure was quite (mercifully) short. Brought in on May 9, 2008 as first assistant to then-manager John Carver, he was named interim head coach following Carver’s resignation on April 29, 2009 (because the league wouldn’t let him watch a game from upstairs. Sure! - DF). He lasted until the end of the season, October 24, 2009, before returning to the UK because his wife and children were unable to procure working visas in Canada.
He then took a job as Development Coach at English Championship Side Reading F.C. that ran from 2011-13 and currently occupies the manager position at Kings Langley FC, who play in the Southern League Premier Division Central in the lower tiers of English Football.
Of note, he led TFC to their 6-1 victory over Montreal in the 2009 Voyaguers Cup. Also of note, his exit interview hinted at the chaos we loved (?) about early Toronto FC. Cummins was quoted as saying:
“In every club I’ve been at, you need to look up top, and you need to ask advice and get their help at times, and I don’t think I got that.”
It seems that Cummins and then-”Manager/Director of Soccer” Mo Johnston rarely saw eye-to-eye.
GOALKEEPER: STEFEN FREI (99a)
Had a lot of injuries, lost his job to Joe Bendik , and got stuck on 99 appearances before being traded for a draft pick. - DF).
He moved on and did some stuff. Move along. Nothing to see here.
DEFENSE: JIM BRENNAN (Captain) (4g/93a) / MARVELL WYNNE (2g/67a)
Brennan, TFC’s first-ever marquee signing and first-ever Captain, has, of course, moved on to become owner/coach of Canadian Premier League side York9 FC. He amassed 93 total apperances for Toronto FC over his three years at the club between 2007-2010 (before Preki scared him off and he moved upstairs one game into the 2010 season to
make coffee for learn from Mo Johnston - DF). Jimmy B would open TFC’s 2009 account at Kansas City with a cool finish setup by newly acquired Canadian international Dwanye DeRosario.
Marvell Wynne is one of those lesser TFC legends, mostly because he featured on those abhorrent early squads. His spell with the club was a year less than Brennan’s. In fact, 2009 was his final season as a Red. The fan favourite was traded to the Colorado Rapids in early 2010, and won the MLS Cup — at BMO Field, no less. That one still stings.
Wynne would continue playing with the Rapids until 2015, upon which he moved to San Jose and retired in 2018. The Internet is mum about his current whereabouts, but I’d guess it’s outside the sphere of the beautiful game.
MIDFIELD: JULIAN DE GUZMAN (2g/65a) / DWAYNE DE ROSARIO (27g/57a) / CARL ROBINSON (Vice-Captain) (3g/74a)
For such a mediocre squad in real life, the spine of 2009 TFC, on paper, is not too shabby. It was riddles like this that kept us warm and engaged back then, and, of course, the spicy nachos from “Taco FC”.
2009 was the year of De Guzman, though his arrival in September came too late to make any impact on the woeful campaign (he made just five appearances). Julian came to the club with quite the fanfare: he became the first Canadian designated player in MLS history, which is good. He was also instrumental in convincing former Deportivo Teammate Mista to come to Toronto, which is bad.
De Guzman’s time at TFC was maddeningly inconsistent, both in terms of his contributions and his relationship with the front office. They left him unprotected in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft (though the team would lose O’Brian White instead). After looking much improved with a Torsten Frings shaped security blanket in 2011, things went wrong in 2012, ending with Paul Mariner sending him to burn in the heat with Dallas.
De Guzman would bounce around MLS and Europe until 2015, when he signed with NASL/USL/No league Ottawa Fury FC, first as a player, and then a quick jump up the ranks from coach to GM. The team recently folded amid a battle of the wills with Canada Soccer.
Dwayne De Rosario really needs no introduction. He is absolutely a club legend despite playing on some truly awful sides. The Scarborough native came ‘home’ to TFC late in 2008, already a known quantity in MLS after successes with Houston and San Jose. His first stint at the club lasted until 2011, when problems with the FO (there’s that old chestnut again) sent him packing. He would return in 2014, well past his prime, scoring one goal in 19 appearances.
Recently, DeRo could be seen lacing up his cleats for the now defunct Missisauga MetroStars of Major Arena Soccer League, in addition to running a youth academy and occupying a regular seat at the table/in the spotlight as ambassador for both TFC and Canadian Soccer in general.
Which brings us to vice-captain Carl “Robbo” Robinson. The welsh Midfielder enjoyed an illustrious career across the pond before coming from Norwich City to Toronto FC for its 2007 inaugural season. Robbo was an incredibly popular midfield general of the vintage english football variety, and brought strength and organization to teams that often times barely looked like they bothered to train together. His time at TFC ended in 2010. He then played one last season in New York with the Red Bulls before hanging up his boots and moving to coaching. His first and only gig in that capacity was with the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2013-2018. He’s presently funemployed, though if you listened to the #VanneyOut crowd with the right set of ears, he was perfect for the job at TFC.
FORWARDS: O’BRIAN WHITE (4g/33a) / CHAD BARRETT (16g/65a)
As much fun as it would be to find out what’s up with Ali Gerba and/or Pablo Vitti (though, I was surprised to see Vitti was on loan with TFC from Independiente, way back in 2009), I went for the obvious shouts here.
Anyone reading to this point already knows that Jamaican International O’Brian White left the club in 2010 not with a bang, but in fact a rare ‘double-whimper’. Left unprotected in the expansion draft, he was taken by the Whitecaps, only to be traded three hours later to Seattle. People who want to call this move the Raheem Edwards should take note, O’Brian was #foreverfirst.
White was OK for TFC over his two-year stint (2009-10) but he never translated as the spear of the attack as was promised. Considering how often TFC overhauled rosters during this time, it’s actually a mark of his quality that he stayed around so long.
US International Chad Barrett, meanwhile, came to TFC from Chicago on July 25, 2008 in exchange for the rights for fellow US International Brian McBride after McBride fell into TFC’s lap thanks to the allocation order. Somewhat of a ransom payment, it seemed like a decent exchange at the time. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to say TFC got shafted. 16 goals in 65 appearances for the club isn’t nothing, but it’s not Seba either.
After TFC, Barrett took part in the MLS Re-Entry Draft shuffle several times, extending his career with one-off seasons in New England, Seattle, San Jose, and eventually Real Salt Lake, where he retired in 2018, (moving into podcasting and broadcasting -DF).
Duncan Unfiltered :
“2009 was basically the season where TFC started losing the fans. While the real rancour didn’t surface until 2010, this was the year when the relationship changed from ‘we don’t care you suck, we’re just happy you’re here’ to ‘alright, you’re shit, can you stop with that sometime soon please’. The miracle in Montreal was fun, and led to a not insignificant amount of fans turning up at the island airport to greet them, and after the heartwarming goodbye to Danny Dichio at the last home game plenty of people travelled to New York to witness history being made, but that just ended up with a lot of grumpiness and open chanting of displeasure with Mo Johnston. That match is generally regarded as just one long shit show, but watch the highlights here. After giving up that early goal, TFC were all over New York with plenty of chances to equalize; they were right in this game. Then Chad Barrett got injured and it all went to shit. There’s no real point to this story other than to say that despite Jeffrey’s cruel words, Chad was awesome!
Other players worth a mention:
Adrian Serioux—The first half of the season, he was phenomenal: fast, physical, a beast out there, with a good long throw. Then injuries and wear and tear wore and tore him down and he looked like he could barely walk out there and so wasn’t as good.
Nick Garcia—Good player back in the day. Absolutely awful with TFC though. Fun story, I took my ticket to that Red Bulls game to a meet the team event to get it signed. No one would sign it. Nick Garcia did though, saying as he did, ‘you know I wasn’t playing in that game right?’ I replied with ‘Oh, so that’s why we lost so badly then’ and in no way succeeded in keeping the sarcasm out of my voice and grin. To his credit he didn’t punch me in the face for being a dick, which would have been more than justifiable, so thanks for that Nick.
Amado Guevara—Really good player and the only name that should be used with the 7 nation army tune. Wasted on this team, I feel sorry for him.
Danny Dichio—Scored a few goals before being golden parachuted into retirement to make room for Julian De Guzman, hilariously explained as ‘he couldn’t fly any more, that’s why we had to do it’.
Ali Gerba—TFC went all in on the CanMNT this year (what could go wrong with that, they’ve always been awesome right?) and after a legitimately good Gold Cup, I had high hopes for Ali Gerba finally being the consistent goal-scoring forward TFC had never had. Nope.
Gabe Gala—Scored against Real Madrid! Any of these other mopes ever do that? Didn’t think so.
All-in-all disappointing, but things’ll be better next year. Preki’s just the man to turn this round! “
So there you have it! Hopefully, this trip didn’t trigger you too much. I hope I addressed your favourites from an era in TFC history we’d all love to forget, despite how much fun it is remembering the dark times.
Breathless thanks to Duncan and the VM crew for keeping me honest. This boy loves notes.
THIS WEEK’S PLAYLIST:
Is a curated collection of 2009’s sickest jams, cross-referenced and “I’s and lower-case J’s dotted”. I call it “2009th Nervous Breakdown”. At 46 tracks, it’s pretty definitive. Let’s walk (don’t run) down memory lane with our headphones on (at an acceptable volume)!