In last season’s exit interviews, many players associated the failings of the club with the lack of a testing and thorough preseason.
With the first few weeks of preparation for the 2013 campaign having come and gone, it seems a good time to ponder whether anything has changed.
TFC opened training on January 19th, similarly to all the other MLS clubs, and yet, they will not take part in a single match until Saturday (February 9th) when the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic begins, where they will face the Columbus Crew.
For the purpose of comparison, it will be Columbus’ fourth match of the preseason, having already completed contests against DC, Chicago, and New York during an earlier training stint in Florida.
In fact, nearly all MLS clubs have played three preseason matches of various compositions; Houston has already played five.
Only three clubs, Toronto, Montreal, and Philadelphia have yet to take part in such preparatory game-type exercises.
Adding to the confusion, Club President Kevin Payne has vocalized concerns about the fitness of unnamed incoming players - pointing to an apparent lack of off-season responsibility - and a protracted roster overhaul has left the club with only nineteen players under contract – of thirty available spots – including Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, both in the twilight of their careers and coming back from long-term injuries.
Surely discussions are under way with potential recruits and the club, with its new management faction in place, has a focused plan in place. But Toronto fans can be forgiven for a dreaded sense of déjà vu – they’ve seen this before.
Last season’s preparation – late-arriving, subpar reinforcements and the Disney tournament as the primary matches - looks eerily familiar to those currently underway; other than the oft forgotten fact that the club did indeed have one match, against the University of South Florida, prior to their four at the Wide World of Sports.
There is a measure of comfort to be taken from the consideration that it was always far too simplistic – by players, management, media, and fans alike - to blame the clubs’ woes entirely on any preseason portfolio. 2012 was a failure for a multitude of reasons.
Turning around the ethos and the reputation of a club requires a long-term plan and a thoughtful strategy. But with less than a month remaining until First Kick, those invested should be concerned with the lack progress, especially as regards being properly stocked and prepared for the upcoming season, that has been made thus far.
If history holds any lessons, fans could be in need of extra reserves of patience this season. The fear is that those wells have already been tapped.