In the end it didn't matter. Although TFC managed to send the fans home happy with a 3-2 win over Chicago Saturday, the Reds couldn't get the help they needed.
New York wins. Kansas City wins. TFC's out. The season was lost in the hot days of August when goals were hard to come by and wins even rarer. International call-ups hurt, but so did questionable tactics and, well, Mo Johnston knew that there would be international dates when he put the team together. The sad truth is that TFC didn't deserve the playoffs. Not yet, anyway.
The body isn't cold yet--actually it still has a game to play--but it's never too early to have a hard look at what needs to happen.
First, we can forget the fantasy that Mo Johnston is going to get a hankering for haggis and head back home, far away from BMO Field. It's hard not to think that might be the best thing that could happen, but it doesn't seem likely that MLSE is going to pull the plug.
Coach John Carver is another question. He showed some rookie mistakes this year. He failed to adjust to the goal scoring slump in the late summer and the team lost too many leads or draws late--four points were lost in injury time this year. The team is four points out of the playoffs. The coach has to take responsibility for that. On the whole, however, he deserves another shot. His passion is admirable--there were times when it seemed like Carver was the only person who actually cared.
There are rumours that he will head back to England, sick of Mo Johnston's failure to bring in players.
On the surface, TFC's greatest weakness is scoring. So, it would seem like an easy fix to bring in a top striker. It wouldn't hurt, but without better distribution--especially from the backline forward--it probably wouldn't help much either. For most of the season it was a patchwork affair at the back. The team was forced to bring in a loan player, Hunter Freeman, just to allow them to start four MLS quality fullbacks. He's gone now. Marvell Wynne might be sold. Jimmy Brennan should maybe be a midfielder. Tyrone Marshall is likely overpaid and, God love him, Marco Velez epitomized all that was wrong with this club. So, it all starts with the fullbacks.
In the middle of the park there is some question about Carl Robinson. He's a valuable player that gets a bad rep for making more than $300,000 a year. The question is whether a holding midfielder is worth that kind of money on a MLS team. It says here it is, but Robinson's status for 2009 is still very much up in the air. Rohan Ricketts seems like he could be a big part of the team moving forward and Canadian Kevin Harmse showed some nice improvement as the year went on (and he may find himself as a fullback next year). Another player that seems ready for a breakthrough is Tyler Rosenlund, if he sticks it out at the pathetic MLS development contract.
Up front we may have seen the last of Danny Dichio. His aging body might not handle another full season in pro soccer. His loss would be unfortunate, as the Reds always seem to play better with him in the line-up. However, Chad Barrett showed that he is a solid MLS quality forward and the kid, Ibby Ibrahim, is only going to get better. With two first round picks in the top five of the draft it seems likely that University of Connecticut forward (and Toronto native) O'Brien White will end up at BMO next year. White was the NCAA's player of the year in 2007 and his Canuck status would be huge for TFC.