MLS Predictions: 5 Reasons to Believe in Toronto FC in 2012
Toronto FC has struggled throughout its young beginning.
In five years, Toronto is yet to receive a playoff berth and has been a constant revolving door of players and coaches. Toronto fans are again having to deal with a rebuilding team five years after TFC's conception.
With a new head coach in place to begin the 2011 season, TFC is disappointing yet again, buying and selling players, and finishing bottom-dwellers of the MLS Eastern Conference.
With a new season quickly approaching, there are positive signs that this might be a turnaround year for this struggling Toronto franchise.
New Ownership, Goodbye MLSE
New ownership can always be a tentative venue; however, most Toronto sports fans would be glad to see MLSE relinquish its majority ownership of the Marlies, Maple Leafs, Raptors and TFC. With shares sold to both Bell and Rogers communication giants, Toronto sports fans are in high hopes that this means change.
The constant disappointment in performance, inability to spend and extremely high ticket prices has been frustrating to say the least. New ownership could mean big changes and deeper pockets for sports teams in Toronto.
Rogers has provided the Blue Jays with excellent ownership resulting in a very entertaining young product. Here's hoping TFC will resemble that same makeup.
High Draft Picks
Toronto has the ability to instantly add quality youth with two high picks in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. The negatives of last season will hopefully be worthwhile with Toronto claiming the fourth and 12th picks this year. Although the MLS drafting process has been a hit-or-miss process, there is the possibility to find great prospects.
With two very high picks, look for Toronto to find instant pieces that can fight for starting positions in 2012. With Paul Mariner and Aron Winter leading this draft, Toronto fans should feel confident in finding pieces to make TFC immediately better for next season.
A few TFC Academy prospects graduated and made the jump into the MLS this past season. Ashtone Morgan, Oscar Cordon, Doneil Henry, Nicolas Lindsay (injured), Keith Makubuya and Matt Stinson were a part of Toronto's squad in 2011. With hard roster restrictions regarding the Canadian content of the team, it is very important to continually develop youth to fill out and hopefully become key pieces of this Toronto roster.
Ashtone Morgan was arguably the best of these young prospects, claiming the left-back position for his own by season's end. Morgan also received a prestigious award, claiming the U-20 Canadian Player of the Year award.
Toronto have become MLS leaders for their continued development of their youth system. In fact, they have just broken ground on the construction of a multimillion dollar training facility at Downsview Park, according to torontofc.ca.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Toronto FC will invest more than $17.5 million to build the Academy and Training Facility, and will pay an annual rent to Downsview for occupying the 14 acres of land.
The continued support and development of TFC Academy will be beneficial in the long term to both club and country. Although this may not breed the instant success that fans are demanding, the quality in play that is beginning to breed itself in Toronto's youth shows positive signs going forward in this large investment of time and money.
Toronto fans can finally say, "We have our DP." After much hype growing around the league of the ability to sign three designated players to each squad, Toronto fans have eagerly awaited our players to compete with the David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez type quality quickly forming in the MLS.
Toronto finally found its duo in the forms of former German international Torsten Frings and former PSV Eindhoven striker Danny Koevermans. Not only do these players provide the type of quality that was missing in Toronto, but they form the structures of a solid backbone on the pitch. These worldly recognized names proved themselves capable of translating to the North American game in their short time in the MLS at the end of last season.
Going forward both Frings and Koevermans will be relied heavily upon to lead a young, inexperienced team week in and out. Having these players on a new MLS season will highly benefit Toronto. Look for both to do great things for the Reds next season.
Toronto has been a team that has constantly run through players and coaches.
With five coaches leading the squad over the past four seasons, TFC management looked to establish a long-term solution to the coaching/managing problem in Toronto. Tom Anselmi announced before the start of this past season that Aron Winter, former Ajax youth squad coach, would immediately take the role of manager.
Unlike in past years, Winter was given help in assisting his transition to the MLS. Paul Mariner, was named director or soccer to guide Winter through the MLS processes. This duo set out to establish an image for Toronto FC—they would play exciting attacking "Dutch-like" football.
Although Winter's plan fell short this season, he did prove himself to be a bold coach who would live and die by his decisions. He also shuffled the squad, bringing in competent youth and ridding the team of unnecessary, albeit talented distractions (Dwayne De Rossario). Winter also brought in two quality designated players to lead the squad and provide quality to the midfield and striker positions.
Although Winter did not find league success in the 2011 season, the team did find success in the CONCACAF Champions League, earning a quarter final birth in a match against L.A. Galaxy in March.
Winter is still rebuilding his squad, but I firmly believe he is competent as an MLS coach. His greatest strength is recognizing and demanding talent and professionalism. This stern and youthful Dutch legend will do great things to turn around this Toronto franchise.
Although Toronto FC has had five unmemorable seasons, look for TFC to make big strides this season as Winter and the team mature, develop and grow together. Toronto has the quality that on paper should make a playoff contending team. Barring injuries, this team should look much different than last year once the 2012 season kicks off.