The commissioner of Major League Soccer says Toronto FC is looking to make some “bold moves” to improve the product on the field.
Toronto (5-21-8) missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year since joining the league in 2007. And the struggling club posted franchise worsts for wins (five), losses (21), points (23), goals against (62) and winless string (14).
Commissioner Don Garber said he has faith in the new ownership structure of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment as well as president Tom Anselmi.
“I believe that they will be looking to make some bold moves to try to address their lack of success on the field,” he said Monday during his annual media state of the league conference call.
“It certainly pains us a bit. We look back at what was such an incredible story in ‘07, that clearly was one of the launching pads for the development of what we call MLS 2.0. And to see that not continue to the level it was in the early years is disappointing.”
Garber did not detail the planned moves but suggested they might be imminent.
“I’ve been a party to some of the changes that they’re going to make, that they hopefully will be able to announce shortly that we are hopeful will get them back on track.”
The commissioner said almost the same thing when asked about Toronto during last year’s call.
While he did not mention any bold moves, he said he believed the team was on track under then manager Aron Winter.
“Well I certainly hope so,” Garber told the media conference call last November. “And I have faith in MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) and believe that they’ll figure this thing out.
“They’re smart guys, they’re passionate about sport and very very committed to soccer and TFC.”
MLSE and Winter parted ways 10 games into the 2012 season after the team went 1-9 and opened with nine straight league losses.
TFC averaged 18,155 fans a game this season to rank 10th in the 19-team league. MLSE recently announced it was rolling back prices for existing season ticket-holders to 2007 levels.
Average league attendance is 18,807.
Garber was more positive about Montreal (12-16-8), calling the expansion Impact “an instant success.”
“This is a very passionate soccer-loving province up there in Quebec,” he said.
“This has been a great expansion move for us,” he added. “We’re proud of our three clubs in Canada and we’re really pleased with the success north of the border.”
In 2012, the Vancouver Whitecaps (11-13-10) became the first Canadian team to make the playoffs.
The Whitecaps averaged 19,475 fans a game, compared to 22,772 for Montreal whose numbers were boosted by spending time at Olympic Stadium before Saputo Stadium was ready.
Garber also said the league is at “the finish line” in negotiations with New York City to acquire land to build a stadium in Queens that would become home for the league’s 20th team.
Garber says after that deal is agreed to, there would have to be negotiations with the city and state as part of the approval process to build on the 10-acre site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The parkland used for the stadium would have to be replaced, and a deal would have to be reached with the New York Mets to use their parking lots adjacent to Citi Field.
Garber says the new team could start play for the 2016 season. He also says the New York market is the only one David Beckham doesn’t have the right to buy into and the New York Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, N.J., don’t have the right to block a second team in the New York area.
— With files from The Associated Press.