TFC 2010 | Week#22

Haters And Pessimists United

There comes a time in every sports team’s season when their destiny begins to fall into place. Unfortunately for Toronto FC, we’ve reached that moment. The past week, in particular, hasn’t made that fate seem too rosy either. A crushing defeat by the Red Bulls at home was a bitter pill to swallow. Worse yet, Toronto FC then endured a ridiculous match in Panama on Tuesday night where not one but two farcical red cards were issued against them. The win over Cruz Azul at BMO Field to open the CONCACAF Champion’s League was squandered by this 1-0 defeat to Arabe Unido.

Taking Our Lumps

However disappointing the results, there’s no arguing that the Reds still didn’t put their best game forward in either contest. NY played better and got the bounces last weekend. That’s the way it goes. More frustratingly, Toronto FC went down to Panama and simply couldn’t beat an inferior team – even before losing two men from the pitch. Tactically, they came out playing not to lose, which didn’t help. Preki also fielded a side most would consider B or C string, resting both De Rosario and Mista.

A survey of the MLS-wide reactions to this game and others in the CCL produced the obvious. Official news sources, fan sites, comment sections and discussion boards consistently told the same story. At our lattitudes, the crappy officiating and inglorious theatrics of playing against Mexican and Central American teams is widely considered unfair and thus unworthy. A few days on, the din of outrage and bitterness from the MLS teams’ failures in Champion’s League competition has started to pass. PR has trumped emotion, and various official complaints are now being rephrased to sound less like sour grapes.

It’s a natural process of recovery for us all. Win or lose, the CCL is still a secondary competition. The playoff race is on up here, after all. Most MLS teams are bearing down on that challenge resolutely.

The Jeering Jubilee

No doubt it’s been a bad week for Reds fans, but the most distressing fact of all is that the haters and told-you-so pessimists are rising. Hot with indignation, pundits and the opinionated are launching attacks on the usual targets. Mo Johnston and Preki are going to take more and more of this abuse if Toronto FC continue to choke. That’s fair and normal. Sadly, and inevitably, individual players are also getting called out for harsh criticism. Normal or not, it’s toxic tone from the supporter base.

I’m not saying there aren’t guys on our roster that haven’t been delivering. Some of them probably aren’t living up to what ought to be a minimum standard. Chad Barrett’s a perennial favourite for haters. It seems, as well, that O’Brian White and Fuad Ibrahim now will be burned in effigy on a regular basis too. Strikers bear that burden, they get the glory when they are scoring and take the lumps when they aren’t.

There’s real venom rising for the higher priced talent of Julian de Guzman and Mista. As designated players, they will be held to a higher standard and pissed upon for their lack of impact. Dwayne De Rosario and Stefan Frei rarely seem to take much heat, but surely that’s ahead if Toronto FC can’t find some wins in the coming weeks. For disappointed fans, it’s the easiest of bandwagons to jump on.

Maybe we all should be chastened for hoping this first year of rebuilding under Preki would bring such immediate results. Maybe this is just the nature of sports fans. Everybody wants their side to win, everybody has opinions about why ‘we’ woulda, shoulda or coulda. It’s too bad, though, that the chatter gets so aggressive and bitter so quickly.

It’s a vocal and spirited minority that drive this negativity back at the team and players. I know some of the haters believe it’s their duty to hold the team and the management to task. There’s probably some truth to that as well. Nevertheless, I find the dominance of this perspective can overwhelm coverage and conversation.

It Ain’t Over, So Come Out And Sing

It’s clear that this kind of toxicity needs to be kept out of the clubhouse. Toronto FC still have hope of salvaging a playoff run and of advancing from the group stage of the CCL. Each match now connects quite directly to their fate in both instances. It would be nice to think that the supporters could hold back their own fears and doubts long enough to stay behind our guys. Passionate as all this squawking may be, at the end of the day we can contritbute in a more positive way. Our supportive voice is the power we wield when we join in at BMO Field.

I’m hoping we can assume our prized role as the 12th man tomorrow night when we face Real Salt Lake. Due to the CCL, we have several contests left with this club before the end of 2010. It would be nice to kick that run off with a decisive message delivered on our home turf. Supporters are the one position at BMO that Preki and Mo Johnston can’t manage. If we all don’t show up and play our part, we only have ourselves to blame.

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