Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Latest Troubles Surrounding Toronto FC – Part I

    It’s been a long few weeks in Toronto FC circles, a lot has gone on. Swirling amongst the disappointment is a series of long-standing issues, speculations, threats, and controversies. This is an attempt to address several of them at once.

    As a personal disclaimer, I tend to avoid most local opinions until I have had time to formulate my own and commit them to word. Had a busy week of trying to keep up with my MLS reviews – not going well, you may have noticed – so much of this may have been said in one form or another. This is in part an attempt to unburden myself of pent-up opinions, so I may go and engage others in theirs.

On the de Guzman contract – Hard to believe this is still being discussed as it has been brought up ad nauseam; if only people could stop looking at his contract as an indication of what his worth was meant to be to the side.

    If anything the amount is more a reflection of the cost of bringing a local player back from the more lucrative markets of Europe.

    That’s something that Dwayne De Rosario could not seem to wrap his head around; that any player - regardless of contribution on the field – who was enticed back from overseas, was going to be paid more than an MLS veteran being seduced from across the league.

    When De Rosario went on to score the goals and become the public face of the franchise, while de Guzman skulked around the place making four-times as much salary, it became too much to comprehend and tolerate for many.

    Leaving aside the DP spot – that admittedly could be useful, if TFC had any cap space with which to maneuver – he must be regarded only as the three-hundred-odd-thousand that he counts towards the cap, anything above that is his own business and should not be considered when evaluating the player’s contribution.

    This pressure has plagued many DP’s in the league, that more is expected of them because of some superficial tag. The designated player rule was designed in part to allow front offices more leeway in acquiring players that otherwise could not be attracted by the relatively low wages in MLS.

    To the club – and the fans – his implied value is slightly below a max cap hit; he should be evaluated as such on the field. Off the field, ownership may make the determination of whether he is fulfilling the value they have attributed to him above that mark, but to expect the full value of the contract from him is in many ways ridiculous.

    Is he worth that cap hit? In current form no, but he has the potential, if unburdened of this extra attention his contract has warranted, to be a key cog in the TFC midfield. Toronto would not have had success in the Champions League without him and too often his few mistakes are highlighted, while his continued contributions are overlooked.

    Julian is not a superstar, but he is a tidy, effective player; one that should neither be overpriced – as has happened – or correspondingly over-criticized.

    This is a team sport, from his spot on the field he is subject to the whims of the match; his strong forward play is lost if the forwards miss the chance, while his numerous defensive interventions are overshadowed by goals against and the failings of others.

    He is not blameless, but neither he – nor his contract - is the root of the problems.  

On the Frings free-wheeling it thing at the end of the Chicago match – When de Guzman came on for Terry Dunfield, while the Fire players celebrated Nyarko’s goal, there was a conversation between Julian and Torsten – I’ve gone back to the tape but it wasn’t picked up by the cameras.

    Now the actual content of that conversation is impossible to be sure of, but one could assume from what transpired that Frings was to play as the more forward of the two in the centre of the pitch.

    Frings held back a bit, presumably to let de Guzman work himself into the rhythm of the match, before gradually pressing forward more and more as the match went on, eventually ending up in the opponent’s box in search of an equalizer.

    The confusion surrounding whose decision this had been and that in some way contradictory quotes are some explosive truth exposing a rift between management and players is a more likely a simple case of crossed wires and wishful thinking.

    Disagreement and a high-profile player gone rogue makes a good story, misunderstanding does not.

On the potential firing of Aron Winter – As much as setting records for futility cannot be considered a good thing, something that is lost in the misleading statistic that is zero wins-six losses is that this is assuredly the best Toronto FC team that has ever existed. Sad, but true.

    Recall the previous five seasons, sure there were some decent players and some solid performances, but unlike those early years this version of TFC has been an active participant in every match this season. They have taken the initiative to attack – something they’ve rarely done before – and losing aside, have been rather entertaining.

    At some point, before the first mistake is made – other than that dreadful performance in Montreal, where they came out flat as a result of the torture in Torreon – there was a solid start to the match; a moment where the fan is left thinking, “Hey, they’re going to do it this time.”

    Even in Montreal, down a man, there was a good few minutes of optimism once the team pulled their thumb out and pressured their expansion cousins. That was without doubt the low point on the season and was it not for a fortunate block by Donovan Ricketts and a few clearances off the line, even that result could well have been different.

    To throw another manager to the wolves, tear up another plan, and start anew - especially when but for an inch or two here, a bounce there, a bar or post, and a solid boot or three into row Z, the topic of all the headlines would not be this silly win-loss record – would be folly.

    Six straight losses are anomalous; making the playoffs is still very possible. In a seventeen year old league just because something hasn’t happened yet, does not mean it can’t. There is undoubtedly less wiggle-room for future mistakes, but to truly determine this club to be a failure the sample size has to increase.

    This is the path that has been chosen; some rides you have to take to the end.

Part II should be up sometime late Saturday morning.

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