After dropping 4 of their opening 5 games to start the 2015 campaign, it’s safe to say that things are not going according to plan. At this point, it’s fairly obvious what the culprits are.
The combination of injuries, suspensions, and international duty has all played a massive part in TFCs disastrous 1-4 start. Some would suggest that there’s more to it and rumors of changes seem to be swirling once again.
Rumors coming out early this week surrounding the job status of head coach Greg Vanney, as is usually the case when this team is stuck in a long, drawn out losing streak. Also, for the first time, it was mentioned that the club is searching out a club president who could steer them in the right direction following the eventual departure of Tim Lieweke. The interesting part is, both jobs are rumored to be filled by Italians of some note.
In his young career as a head coach, Greg Vanney has not had the best run. He has failed to ignite any sort of passion in his team since taking the reins late last season. As is the general rule, when a team changes coaches during a period of stagnation, there is usually a some sort of bump in the way of number of points/wins, almost like a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, this never happened. With all the additions in the off-season, and taking the fact that he had a full off-season to work with his team, the leash around the coaches neck became tighter and tighter and players just don’t seem inspired. Injuries and tactics are playing their part in this failure of an extended road trip.
The list of players out of action seems to grow by the game. Caldwell, Perquis, Simonin, Zavaleta, Bloom, Creavalle. All defenders, all have missed significant games for one reason or another. Of the 6 players listed, 4 are natural central defenders, a position that has been notoriously weak throughout Toronto’s history in MLS. It really doesn’t matter which team in this league you look at, its near impossible to account for that many absences at the same position, especially when considering that the injury list has both starting XI players as well as the players meant to be their replacements. Is this something that can be chalked up to poor coaching? Not necessarily.
The injuries all seem to be common soccer injuries: calves, hamstrings, quads and the like. The training regimen is something that should be reviewed and considered. Is it too intense? Are players given enough recovery time? Are players just not fit? Again, this can’t necessarily be chalked up to poor coaching, but the coach clearly does have a fair amount of input into this sort of thing.
What can most certainly be called into question is the in game tactics and starting XI selections. We need only look back to Saturday night in Frisco for a perfect example.
In what world is it a good idea to pit a sophomore center back who is clearly not very quick (Nick Hagglund – being played out of position, I might add) up against one of the quickest and most lethal attackers in the league (Fabian Castillo)? The first sequence of the game involved Hagglund getting absolutely roasted by Castillo, who put Dallas up 1-nil not 30 seconds in.
Not that I’m a tactical genius, but as a manager, wouldn’t you immediately see this as a mismatch and make an adjustment.
Shortly thereafter, Castillo again embarrasses Hagglund and gives Dallas a 2-nil lead.
Hagglund, although looking very clumsy and out of sorts, should not be forced to take the full blame for both early goals because he is simply not at that level. The blame should fall squarely on Greg Vanney’s shoulders. An experienced coach and manager would’ve been able to identify the potential issues when setting up the starting XI.
The final score after one of the longest and strangest matches I have ever seen was 3-2, a score that flatters the Reds. The only player up to the challenge on the night was Sebastian Giovinco, who was able to channel his obvious frustration and put the team on his back, nearly scoring a hattrick and stealing a point single handedly.
The victory in Vancouver was nothing but a smoke screen that the players put up to cover for their coaches lack of experience.
Now, all that being said, is it time for a coaching change again? I wholeheartedly don’t think so.
There are many things that TFC still needs in order to be successful. Of that long list, two main points are stability and chemistry. Will firing a coach this early in the season, although he has been proven inexperienced and stubborn, do anything to help meet those needs? Not a chance.
And on top of all this, Toronto FC has not even played a home game yet!
The mistake was made when Greg Vanney was given the bench boss job in the first place. Having seen what inexperience can cause a la Ryan Nelsen, you would think that any manager given the job without much more experience would retain the title of interim. Not the case here. Coaching credentials don’t seem to be a prerequisite for a managerial position at Toronto FC.
Rumors are difficult to comment on because no one will reveal their sources, meaning anything that just about anyone could cook up, so long as it gains enough traction, can seem credible.
However, to sum it up, a TFC loss would be the catalyst for changing the head coach. All sorts of names have been floated around: all Italians, all with some sort of link to the City of Toronto. Names like Gennaro Gattuso, Roberto Donadoni among others.
Also, as mentioned earlier, the position of club president is also an addition rumored to be in the works, with names like Roberto Bettega (former Juventus, Italy, and Toronto Blizzard player) and Umberto Gandini (European Club Association vice-chairman and AC Milan club director) being tossed around.
These are big names, but are they the type TFC needs? I don’t think so based on the fact that they have no understanding of how MLS is run. Is it too much to ask for someone with some league experience?
With just two games left until the big home opener, TFC has yet to find their mojo, which is pretty alarming considering the team they have on paper, when healthy. As bad as the start to their season has been, I don’t think management should feel the need to make any sort of season altering changes just yet. Drop the next 2 though and the evidence may be insurmountable. If the rumors are true however, it is Kaka and Orlando City SC that could deliver the killer blow. I’m willing to wait just a bit longer before allowing hysteria take over. We’ll all know soon enough.
(image courtesy of Chris Young/The Canadian Press)