TFC lined up against Montreal at BMO Field last week without two of their main stars. Defoe was injured (again) and Bradley suspended. TFC would go on to draw this must-win game, sealing their fate as outsiders to the playoffs, and finally putting their supporters’ final embers of hope to rest. As the game came to a close, the fans saw the curtain come down on a performance which they have been re-watching for eight years while hoping for a different outcome. One group of fans simply held up a banner saying, “It’s a bloody big joke.”
Insanity (noun): Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
To be fair, the writers did promise some significant changes to the plot at the start of the season. In the 2013 season, the Reds finished in second to last in the Eastern Conference while in the year before that, they finished absolute bottom last of the combined league. Something had to be done. In stepped Tim Leiweke, and how! The MLSE president’s first notion was to boldly claim that, “[TFC] will make the playoffs next year. Write it down”. Seeing as the previous seven years of the club’s history had been nothing short of embarrassing, that was a huge statement. Cringe-worthy some would say. Also keep in mind, season tickets renewals were around the corner and we know franchises will do anything to sell those, although in Toronto it doesn’t take much for a team to have huge support, results wise.
One week last winter, rumours of big announcement swirled around the city. A television ad campaign gave the rumours momentum, describing the upcoming news as a “bloody big deal”. Toronto FC fans waited, excited. Finally, MLSE rented out a double-decker to bring fans and journalists to the press conference. The moment had arrived, and what a moment it was. TFC had finally attracted world-class players.. Jermain Defoe and Micheal Bradley stood centre stage, with the likes of Gilberto, De Rosario, and Julio Cesar in their shadows. It was a very big moment in TFC’s short history. These were truly world renowned players. Defoe, a lethal finisher from the Premier League and Bradley a central midfielder acquired from Roma and good enough to play for many top European sides.
The first two games of the new MLS season promised so much. TFC went on to win them both with Defoe scoring all three goals sealing a 2-1 win against Seattle and a 1-0 win over DC United. Things were looking bright and the team seemed to click under the leadership of Ryan Nelsen, another off-season acquisition. After three losses in a row at the end of April to bring the mood down a bit, the side went on a mesmerizing run of 10 games, losing only once. Things were on the up again.
We know that every good plot needs a twist, though! The script writers did not disappoint. The end of August rolled around and TFC were at the end of a 3-0 drubbing from New England Revolution. That spelled the end of Ryan Nelson’s reign after a public spat with General Manager, Tim Bezbatchenko. Here’s the run down:
– Tim told the players to man up.
– Ryan (mother hen) protected the players.
– Tim said there is no time for softness.
– Ryan disagreed. Tim fired Ryan. End of scene.
Academy Director Greg Vanney was appointed as Nelson’s replacement to try to pick up the pieces. He didn’t pick them up. Defoe started getting regularly injured, and that was swiftly followed by transfer deadline rumours that he wanted out of town. Defoe was not enjoying his ‘bloody big deal’ anymore. The season petered out with losses to LA Galaxy and NY Red Bulls and any remaining playoff hopes were finally mathematically ended at the hands of Montreal, who believe you me, enjoyed that thoroughly. For the eighth season running, TFC would not make the playoffs. Write that down.
Unfortunately, with great promise comes great expectations. The TFC fans will remember the drama and the false hope which they had to endure. But as the dust settles, they will also remember that TFC, as an organisation, gave it a bloody good go. They end their season with their highest points tally ever as well as their largest goal haul in their history. Its definitely a season to remember for both the bad but also the good.
Next season is where it’s at. Was this season a flash in the pan or was it a building block for years to come? For once, it seems as if they will have the same coach ending the season as starting it. They also have, in Micheal Bradley, a player you can truly build a team around. The hype was all about Defoe, but I couldn’t look past Bradley. A phenomenal player, especially for MLS standards, who will carry this team next year.
TFC fans should be proud of their team this season. Don’t let the larger expectations surrounding the Bradley and Defoe signings overshadow the accomplishments and strides that players such as Morrow, Henry, Bendik, Osorio, and Hagglund have made and brought to the team. Keeping this core together, along with some stability upstairs, will be largely beneficial. Defoe will most likely be gone in the off-season. His replacement should be in the form of a strong reliable centre back and a defensive midfielder to free up Bradley. This team has goals in it with Moore and Gilberto but its the defensive stability that is lacking. Players to compliment Bradley and Caldwell is what this team really needs.
TFC will never have a problem filling BMO or selling tickets. Their fans aren’t glory hunters…obviously. It’s all about giving something back to such loyal support in the form of a drama free season with consistent performances by returning to the basics of the game and building from this year’s roller coaster of a season.
Take a bloody big filter to this season, sift through for the good and leave the bad behind. We will make the playoffs next season. Insanity.