Mood: Go away
State of Mind: Seriously, go away
Location: Alternate footy universe where my team doesn't make me cry - OK, a bit melodramatic but do you blame me?
Sixty seconds - that's all it took - sixty seconds. That was the only time that TFC has led in an MLS game this season. The only time. But that sixty seconds looms much larger than a small increment of time - it may be the turning point in what is perhaps becoming a season of futility. Supporter apathy is again growing, the media continues to call out Winter and MLSE for the deficiencies in the team and the casual fan has all but given up. But weren't those sixty seconds wonderful? Didn't it seem as though 5 games (well 5 years plus 5 games) of disappointment and dismay were about to be washed away? Yeah, that was the best 60 seconds ever...and then it all came crashing down; again. It's been days now and I still struggle with what I want to say.
I am a TFC fan; plain and simple. I love my team, I show up for my team and I support them through thick and thin. I have zero intention of giving up my tickets or not showing up to games in protest - I will be there, every game, period. However, I am not blind; I don't watch every game with a pair of rose coloured glasses and I recognize when my team screws up.
To watch two of our best players be directly responsible for goals on Saturday was frustrating at best. To watch our very best player make a rookie mistake in the first 30 seconds? Beyond frustrating. To once again see the midfield overrun, to watch the defense be caught out, to see the confusion - those first 10-20 minutes had me watching in stunned silence. And although Torsten Frings is our best player and I've called for him to be cloned, I didn't mean for him to literally play at every position! And I certainly do not want to ever see him as a Central Defender ever again - just put Doneil in and let Torsten run the midfield as the gods of football intended.
But it wasn't all bad; that gorgeous strike by Reggie Lambe was a wonder to behold and the go ahead goal - wasn't that amazing? Eric Avila continues to play well and well, there was a lot of good on the field. Seriously, there was - if you PVR'd it watch again, you'll see what I mean. Stop shaking your head pityingly at me; it is not all bad - it really isn't.
However, none of that matters as the 0-6 staring us all in the face is effectively wiping away all the goodwill of the CCL run, the return of Adrian Cann and Torsten Frings and the first goals of the season. There is a lot of impatience among the faithful mixed with anger over the tactics being used on and off the field.
MLSE is not highly regarded as business owners and runners of sport clubs - witness the records for the Leafs and the Raptors and similar behind the scenes confusion and gong shows with the coaches of those teams over the years. Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? Myself and others have long hoped for some sort of vaguely footy savvy billionaire to buy the club outright so that it is treated like a team and less like a business - otherwise we're likely to keep getting hit with ticket increases and useless, mid-season friendlies. Fun!
As for coach Aron Winter; he has stated time and time again that he will continue to use the 4-3-3 formation and that he is convinced that this will work; not just for our beloved Reds but that it can be successful here in the MLS. In fact just yesterday he stated (somewhat brazenly) that the team will still qualify for the playoffs! In the past few days (hell, weeks) I've heard time and time again that Winter & Paul Mariner are at one another's throats over tactics, that Winter has lost the room, that any second now they're going to completely overhaul the management team and start anew...fun, right?
At this point I choose to push all of that aside. I still believe in what Winter is trying to do; misguided or not. We've seen the team perform at the level he expects and we've seen some beautiful play from our boys. All I ask from Winter is that he puts a consistent XII out on the field - enough of these seemingly haphazard player rotations - yes there have been injuries and players that haven't worked out but there are now enough fit and talented (yes, they're talented!) players to field and execute the 4-3-3. Let's see that over the next two weeks; let's see some positive results. Because he's not wrong when he says that they are one win away from turning this around - I believe that, I really do.
One other thing: a lot of people have been hanging this season and the ongoing employment of Winter on making the playoffs. I for one never expected the team to make the playoffs this year; I expected them to compete in an exciting manner, to actually notch some wins and become a cohesive unit that would see them storm the Eastern Conference - next year. Given my always optimistic outlook this may be a surprising statement; but to me the goal of a three year plan (yes I know we've had many long term plans in play for this team) is that it takes three years. Give it time people; don't be so impatient - our time is coming.
Even though my optimism has been dulled in these past couple of weeks and the criticisms of the team come more easily I'm not done yet and neither should you be. Being a supporter isn't easy, if it were easy everyone would do it. We sit there week in and week out; usually in the cold and rain and we cheer on our team. Why? Because they're our team; our team - remember that - no matter how terrible it gets.
TFC Til I Die
Links: Here's a couple of great posts that offer some more perspective: Duncan at Waking the Red, Mark at Mistake By The Lake and the usual nonsensical wisdom from The Yorkies.