Jump to content

TFC brass says it's time to be competitive


Recommended Posts

From Sportsnet.ca

Sportsnet Link


TORONTO -- Tom Anselmi monitors the Internet message boards.

He knows how the fans feel and, after watching Toronto FC become only the second team in Major League Soccer history to miss the playoffs in each of its first three seasons, he feels the same way.

And those feelings have not changed after the team lost three of its first four games this season, with Anselmi and his fellow executives at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment still expecting their no-longer-nascent franchise to recover and mount its first successful charge to the post-season.

"The expectations are going up, and they're totally entitled to be thinking that way," said Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer with MLSE. "It's time. It's time that we're a competitive team. We're not an expansion team any more. We need to be competitive."

Toronto has been outscored 10-4 through its first four games this season, with its only win coming against the expansion Philadelphia Union at home earlier this month. General manager Mo Johnston has asked for patience while the team overhauls its roster, with some of the most recognizable players having been shuffled on to different roles within the franchise, or moved away from the team altogether.

It has been a bumpy ride. But none of it should be cause for concern according to Preki Radosavljevic, the former MLS star hired last November to help lead Toronto out of its formative years.

"I thought it would be bumpier," Radosavljevic said with a smile Friday. "Before I came here, I knew we had a lot to do. I knew it was going to be a different group and it was going to take time to adjust and prepare everybody to play on the same page -- and I'm not surprised at the way we started."

Toronto FC will continue making those developments when it hosts Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday at BMO Field (CBC, 2 p.m. ET). Seattle made the playoffs as an expansion team last year and will arrive in Ontario having earned two wins and two ties through its first five games this season.

"I think we're getting better, slowly but surely," Radosavljevic said. "The thing is, it's a process, it's a long process. The players are working, they're trying, they're giving their effort and that's the encouraging thing."

Toronto FC began play in 2007 as one of the most surprising stories in Canadian sport, filling its soccer-specific stadium on the shore of Lake Ontario with a band of passionate fans. The support has survived three years of disappointment, with Anselmi saying there are 17,000 fans left on the waiting list for season tickets.

Fans have been patient, but the team would rather not test the limits of that patience.

"As a winner and a guy who likes to win, patience can only go so far," Toronto midfielder Dwayne De Rosario said. "Sometimes, when you're a little bit too patient, you end up where the patients go -- in the hospital, you turn mad and you get down on yourself, and down on your teammates. We can't get to that point."

A single point is all that stood between Toronto and its first trip to the playoffs last year, under the leadership of coach Chris Cummins. The team was inexplicably flat in its season finale, falling 5-0 on the road, in the rain, to the worst team in the league, the New York Red Bulls.

Radosavljevic was hired about a month after the loss, and the roster was churned. Captain Jim Brennan, the first signing in franchise history, stepped aside after a season-opening loss, leaving a young group to learn together, and to learn quickly.

"That honeymoon is over," Anselmi said. "I mean, we're expected to be a competitive team now. We set the sites on last year, and we missed it by a point."

Toronto held its annual team dinner at Air Canada Centre on April 7, retiring to watch their corporate cousins, the Raptors, host the Boston Celtics. It was one of the first times the players saw Radosavljevic as a civilian, and the hope was the added familiarity would translate onto the field, where he has been implementing his own systems.

Management has placed its faith in those systems to help Toronto FC avoid becoming the first team in league history to miss the playoffs in each of its first four seasons. Real Salt Lake, the only other team to miss the post-season in its first three seasons, finally qualified in season No. 4.

"The fans are incredibly good to us," Radosavljevic said. "I've said from the first day that they deserve some success, and we're trying to give them that."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...