There tends to be a bias in sports management that favours the player you picked over the player you inherited.
It makes sense. After all, you fell in love with your player. The other player is an arranged marriage sort of thing. You might eventually love them, but it's going to take work from both sides. Sometimes one or neither side is willing to put in that work though and the relationship dissolves without ever having had a chance.
This brings us to the case of Quillan Roberts and Alex Bono vs Greg Vanney and Tim Bezbatchenko. The latter fell in love with the man who's last name will forever evoke bad U2 puns. That left the player they call Q, a player carefully brought up through the TFC youth system for years, sleeping on the couch.
It's easy to understand why they fell for Bono. He's a tall, strapping American that came from the cult of 'Cuse. He even played in the US youth system! And man does he practice well. Talk to anyone. They will go on and on about how good Bono is in training.
How could Q stand up? He's just some pint-sized kid (for a keeper) from Brampton. Didn't even play college soccer. And, don't try to compare a full Canadian senior cap and having played at every level of the Canadian youth set up to the US system. Pfft.
Tim and Greg had made up their minds the second they bizarrely used a first round pick on a keeper three years ago. The Fly was their man. Everything that happened after was designed to bring Bono forward over Q. Even though the academy product was by far the better keeper in USL in season 1 of TFC2 it was Bono that was given the longer look in the second pre-season. Even though Q was performing at an equal level to Bono in USL last year when Clint Irwin went down with the injury it was Bono that got the call. The management claimed that it was random fate and that he earned the next start through his MLS performance, but the googly eyes towards their boy from Syracuse betrayed them.
It was also hard to argue that Bono earned the next start since he was directly at fault for the winning goal in his MLS debut appearance. It's old news now, but why Q didn't get at least one start during the stretch that Irwin was out isn't defend-able to me. The two players were not distinguishable in their development at that point and to not give your academy product at least one look never made sense to me.
If they had given him a look last year he might have been willing to sign a USL contract this year. Instead, Q is out of contract and looking to find a team that will give him another shot. Meanwhile, TFC finds itself in a bit of a goalkeeping pickle, with Irwin's second injury in as many years. Regardless of whether you're a Bono Believer (and, I'm not fully there yet. To me he directly cost TFC five points last season and, as much as I recognize he's a decent shot stopper, I don't fully trust his mental game yet), you have to recognize that the Reds are screwed if he gets hurt. Unless you think Angelo Cavalluzzo is ready to be a MLS starting keeper (or, more likely, you're OK using a MLS pool keeper).
Look, Bono may turn out to be what Vanney and Bez think he is. All I know is that there are as many people out there that share the same doubts as me as there are those that fully trust the kid. And, I'm not going to give Q a full pass either. He didn't get a fair shot in my mind, but there was also suggestions that he didn't fight hard enough after it became clear that Bono was favoured.
My issue isn't really with Bono, but rather the blinders that appeared to be on TFC management when they made the decision that he was the better long-term bet than Q was. It speaks to a bias that many in the local soccer community see with TFC and, so long as the perception is out there, it could hurt TFC on the local recruitment front.
Is that bias -- that they trust kids drafted from the NCAA over kids developed here and are more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt -- real? In fairness, Raheem Edwards is proving that they aren't going to ignore players from the system if they make them stand up and take note. However, perception is reality and it's going to be hard for some in the local scene to forget what they feel was unfair treatment of one of TFCA's longest serving players.
Edited by Duane Rollins