Throughout the Greg Vanney era, Toronto FC cemented its reputation as a top flight team that consistently challenges for silverware.
Fans have long grown accustomed to that ‘serial winner’ identity, and few see it as being questioned by the appointment of new manager Chris Armas.
But on the latest edition of Waking The Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks, Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic of Between the Sticks—who primarily covers the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in general—sounded a more cautionary tone and described what could be a make-or-break start of the season for Armas and TFC.
As well as grappling with the implications of a significant managerial change, Gangué-Ruzic highlighted a lack of signings and a tough CONCACAF Champions League draw as factors that could stack up into a major stumbling block—and potentially derail TFC’s season from the outset:
“It’s such a mixed bag,” answered Gangué-Ruzic when asked about his viewpoint on TFC’s offseason so far. “Because on one hand, you can’t count out teams with pedigree in MLS—it’s just a reality. MLS experience is, for better or worse, a valuable commodity.”
“If you look at TFC’s roster, they have experience in abundance. You do wonder though—did they maybe not get some of the top-end guys they would have wanted? I mean, who knows what’s going on with Borré? Why has that been their lone (reported) pursuit, and why haven’t they appeared to consider other options?”
“The new coach situation, I think that (has the potential) to fall flat on its face. I look at Toronto FC and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a step backwards.”
“Ultimately, I can’t count them out until I see them on the field. But honestly, I think the Champions League might be more of a curse than a blessing. Because when you’re not that fit, when your roster isn’t really complete, and when you’ve got a brand new coach, the last thing you want to do is go and play at Club León.”
“Maybe if it was a Guatemalan side or a smaller team, you’re able to ease in. But instead, you’re going right into the lion’s den in the Champions League. Maybe if you come out and win it’s a legendary story, but realistically, or worst case scenario, there’s going to be a lot of injuries, their form is going to suffer, and that’ll play a big role in their season—especially when you’re going away from home like the Whitecaps and Montreal are.”
"The way that things are trending to start the season, a bad start could be on the horizon." @AlexGangueRuzic with an outside perspective on the TFC off-season @WakingtheRed #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/FzLYx6yAYl— Footy Talks (@FootyTalksLive) March 16, 2021
“What I see from TFC is, obviously I think they’ll be able to compete. They have the roster to compete as is, but they do need to make some additions badly. I just think the way that things are trending, a bad start to the season could be on the horizon, and as we’ve seen, it’s really hard to dig out of those bad starts.”
“I’m not saying a Supporters Shield-esque season like last year [isn’t possible], where they came out strong and kept that momentum going. Maybe if things go well they can kind of hover and make it into the playoffs, and then from there, as we’ve seen in the past, they can do some damage.”
“But they’re going to have to really overcome this tough (schedule) to start the season. It’s not going to be easy for them whatsoever.”
Should TFC be worried about these potential stumbling blocks so early in the season? Could Chris Armas’ men recover from a bad start in Florida and the Champions League? Do you think TFC’s winning reputation is in doubt?
For everything TFC, check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!