Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Toronto FC should just disappear

Possibly worst team in professional soccer

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They are winless in five, have triumphed just once in their last 17 outings and on Wednesday lost to a dreadful Chivas USA side that was reduced to 10 men after just 25 minutes.

Today, they'll host Thierry Henry and New York Red Bulls at BMO Field -- a ground where they haven't picked up a Major League Soccer win in more than a year.

They are Toronto FC, and they are among the worst top-flight soccer teams in the Americas.

(Two Aruban outfits, one each from Belize and the British Virgin Islands and Colombia's Patriotas experienced similarly woeful campaigns last season, but in any event they are the sort of company TFC are keeping these days.)

Needless to say, it was never supposed to be like this.

Admitted into MLS amid no shortage of excitement, anticipation and general hoopla back in 2007, Toronto FC -- and by extension its BMO Field home -- quickly became renowned for an energetic game-day experience and match atmosphere that wouldn't have looked or sounded out of place in many parts of Europe and South America.

But after a prolonged honeymoon period in which songs, flags and pulled-pork sandwiches helped disguise a consistently mediocre on-field product, it seems the novelty of first division soccer in Canada's biggest city has finally wore off.

At present, with nearly two-thirds of the club's seventh MLS season already in the books and only two wins recorded on the ledger, TFC has become synonymous with something else: losing. They've done it better and more consistently than any other team in the league since their inception, and with each late concession, lapse in concentration and defeat to undermanned opponents they somehow manage to find more and more inventive ways of going about it.

If they were trying to lose they'd be praised for their resourcefulness. The thing is, they're obviously not, however much it looks like it.

Since their inaugural campaign, Toronto FC has hired six managers and employed a further two on interim basis. Of the eight, only two arrived at BMO Field having previously managed an MLS club, and only three took the reins near the lakeshore with any senior coaching credentials to speak of.

Not surprisingly, the front office's scattershot appointment policy has time and again been mimicked by managerial staffs that, in attempting to remake the squad during never-ending rebuilding periods, have been through no fewer than 140 players. (Of the 11 that started in TFC's last MLS home win against Colorado Rapids only two began Wednesday's match against Chivas USA.)

And as those staffs have had little or no MLS experience before building their teams the players they've acquired have been either not up to standard or dysfunctional as a unit.

From top to bottom Toronto FC is a club with neither vision nor ability, and while the relegation-promotion system doesn't exist in MLS, its introduction would almost be a relief to both the club and its beleaguered fans.

Because TFC needs to go away for a while. They need to drop out of the top flight, reorganize and come back up with a brand new template. The current one, after all, is a model for how not to establish and operate a franchise.


Spot kicks


-- On Friday, Barcelona announced the resignation of manager Tito Vilanova, who has suffered a throat cancer relapse following three months of treatment in early 2013. He will now devote his time fully to battling the disease, and its resurfacing could be behind his recent, bitter attack on former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who the 44-year-old has said did not visit him in hospital during his last round of treatment.

-- FIFA president Sepp Blatter has once again revealed his organization is considering moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter. Shock, horror! Relax, people. There have so far been five winter World Cups (hemispheres, anyone?) and, no matter what the Europeans like to think, no one region has either a monopoly on the club schedule or the right to say "our club season is more important than yours." Of course, Qatar might have included the proper dates in its original bid. Twitter @JerradPeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 C8

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