CCL 2011 | TFC 2011

The Fourth Pillar

Let’s face it, the MLS playoffs are a distant and increasingly unlikely prospect for Toronto FC. Today’s CONCACAF Champion’s League contest is TFC’s last chance to engage in a meaningful competition in 2011.

Aron Winter is just getting started with his rebuilding plan. And it’s not a slap-dash reno from a guy looking to flip teams quickly and profit personally. This is a long-term overhaul of what it means to be a team. The notion of winning now is really not the main concern on his mind.

I, for one, think this is great. We haven’t had a culture of winning, talent development or long-term strategic vision. So, the prospect of more hardship in the near term shouldn’t be any worse for us die-hard supporters. We know about losing. We know about wholesale player swaps. We know about not making the playoffs.

This continuation of short-term failures is reasonable and unavoidable. This would be true no matter who took the helm, and no matter what strategy they would follow. The press like to make an issue of supporters’ stress over losing and the five years of missing the playoffs. That’s what they do, look for stories – sometimes making them up when they aren’t real or valid issues at all.

Sure, some folks are angry about TFC losing all the time. Some are really pissed that this will be a fifth season without making the playoff contest. But maybe these are angry, impatient and small-minded people in general. Many of us are resigned to the struggle, and supportive of the move to bring a skilled pro to the top job.

If Winter is given a fair chance, he may install the foundation that stands Toronto FC tall for years and years to come. By my reckoning, this is well worth the current season of hapless futility. Nobody likes losing all the time. Yet, this gamble may turn Toronto FC into a strong contender year in and year out. Of course, it also may take a few more years to get there too.

By my accounting, Toronto FC  have put in one full 90 minute performance this season. That was months ago, with an almost entirely different roster. The remainder of matches have been wildly inconsistent highs and lows. It seems as if every strong half hour they play is immediately followed by an equal or longer period of outright sucking.

All that said, tonight marks the start of a competition the Reds can dive into without the baggage of the MLS season that has crumbled around them. As a fan, this stirs up hope, and the passionate belief that anything is possible.

The Champion’s League offers this current crew a chance at redemption. It offers us all a channel for some of the competitive spirit we’ve had to repress in the face of an awful 2011. Time to wash away the bitterness and grab the banners again. This could be the day they settle down and get it right. At last.

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