Canada’s bid to make this year’s World Cup may have stumbled in Honduras in 2012, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any Canadian content in Brazil this summer – one linesman and a couple of Canadian-raised players all featured in the 2014 tournament, including a Scarborough native who started Saturday’s third-place match.
Until owners MLSE funded several big-money signings this past off-season, Toronto was a revolving door of mediocrity. At last count, the club had given MLS minutes to over 150 players in just over seven seasons. Such was the team’s shotgun approach, you can form a playoff-ready XI from former Toronto FC players still active in MLS like Joao Plata, Matias Laba and Maxi Urruti.
Toronto FC’s big-money signings are expected to lead the Reds’ playoff charge this year, but expectations of easily qualifying for the postseason are likely unfounded. A reasonable target for the Reds in the Eastern Conference is one that Jermain Defoe can relate to – a top 4 finish.
Toronto FC have been public in their desire for a big-name striker next season, with recent reports suggesting that Italian Alberto Gilardino has supplanted Jermain Defoe at the top of the club’s list. There’s one hitch – both players are likely to stay in Europe until after the World Cup this summer, and looking at the history of big-money Designated Players, that doesn’t bode well for Toronto FC’s 2014 season.
Two of the three Canadian MLS teams were in action away from home on Saturday, but neither could take anything from their respective road trips. Vancouver’s playoff hopes are looking like a distant memory after a 3-1 collapse in Dallas, while Toronto fell 2-0 at Portland Timbers in the first game of the post-Kevin Payne era.
It’s a strange situation for North American players in Major League Soccer, with the league’s domestic player rules fundamentally unbalanced. Dejan Jakovic and Kyle Porter take up a precious international slot at D.C. United (teammate Dwayne De Rosario has a green card), but if they returned to a Canadian club they’d be competing against Americans as a domestic.
Quebec’s participation in a non-FIFA tournament recently inspired Jonah Freedman at MLS to have a look at what kind of teams each US state could put out. Along the same lines, I’ve been thinking about how the Canadian pro teams would look if they were limited to players from their province, and now seems like a good time to get it down.
Ryan Nelsen, Toronto’s current head coach, is the club’s eighth in only seven seasons. The Reds haven’t excelled at much, but they’ve become experts at creating roles for reshuffled coaches and executives. More than one manager has been “moved upstairs” into a newly created position invented in a press release. By this point, it’s worth taking a look at just how many official-sounding titles the club have used. (updated September 20, 2013)