Mo Johnston - the wrong guy. Or is he?
Under the circumstances, how do we fairly evaluate Toronto FC's Director of Soccer when for three successive years the team has failed to make the postseason and all fingers are currently pointing at the leader responsible for the technical aspects of the game. Difficult for Johnston to shirk any responsibility here and while my instincts tell me that in the long run he will find it difficult to succeed, there are two sides to the argument.
After all, there have been some positives and in fairness to Mo, he was presented with a Canadian quota system that no other team in MLS has had to endure and which has made the task of producing a winning team extremely difficult. To a certain extent it has been like an albatross around his and the club's neck. If paying over $2-million for Julian de Guzman (who has so far struggled) is any indication, the lack of Canadian talent should be a worrying concern as it highlights a poor infrastructure in Canada for producing enough quality players.
• Drafted and subsequently sold Maurice Edu for $5-million, of which ¾ is to be reinvested into club infrastructure, including grass at BMO Field, and the academy setup.
• Traded Ronnie O'Brien for a draft pick which ultimately turned into Sam Cronin, a player who will prove to be a real asset for the club.
• Drafted a fine young goalkeeper in Stefan Frei.
• Trade of the year brought Dwayne De Rosario to town.
• Quite rightly acquired Julian de Guzman - but the debate remains over whether it was the right move to bring him in as the Designated Player.
Mo the Coach
Even though Mo was hired as the club's first coach it was abundantly clear that this particular profession was not suited for him. At any significant level, which the MLS most certainly is, you have to have a certain fanaticism about the role of coaching itself. Watching him perform it was clear he did not have the passion, inclination, instincts, nor the mettle for the demands of the job. The fact he had to perform the tasks of ostensibly a GM while he was coaching compounded matters and rather than help TFC achieve success, it would have hindered it. Moving to the position of Director of Soccer was the correct move and it is now here where he should be judged.
Director of Soccer
The hiring of John Carver - who was last seen pacing the pavements of Newcastle glassy-eyed, wondering if he did the right thing in quitting back in April - has turned out to be a poor decision and as a result, the success of the team on the field was always going to be limited. The issues though go beyond the hiring of coaching personnel and ultimately point to the selection of players. To be fair to Carver and Chris Cummins, both inherited someone else's collection of talent and so, to a certain extent, they were handcuffed. However, this should not absolve them of their own responsibility because neither showed the wherewithal to maximize the team's talents.
No, the responsibility for assembling the current TFC squad falls squarely in the lap of Johnston, and this is where he is most culpable for the team's current woes. This year's roster highlights the lack of vision for putting a team together and the mandatory requirements that should be placed on players that you select. Any imbalances, of which there are many with the TFC squad, indicate a lack of experience/understanding for or how to achieve this important aspect of building a team. As an example, most successful teams have a good goalkeeper, a good back four, a central midfield general and a game-breaking striker. They really are your basic requirements for success, yet the back four for TFC is as poor today as it was three years ago. This lack of vision and ability to get it done needs to be addressed if Mo wants to produce a successful TFC team.
Similarly, the hiring of the right coach with a proven track record and an ability to deal with thoroughbreds is an absolute must. Whereas Mo has already shown he is not a talented coach, it is pivotal now that he finds someone who is. Doing so is realistically his only chance for survival.
I was surprised to hear and read Carl Robinson's response to my analysis of him as a member of TFC. Maybe he misunderstood some things but clearly I was on his side, not against him. I did not lie about anything, contrary to what Chris Cummins mentioned.
It is easy to confuse management with coaching as the terms have a different football meaning, depending if you live in North America or Europe. In either event, the facts were as follows:
• I heard from a number of sources (not just one) that Carl was concerned about his position within the club, and being the leader that he is, he was opinionated about issues both positive and negative. This tends to be normal when you are a leader/captain. If you are strong enough you do not expect everybody to be your friend and at times you have to confront negative behaviour/issues. I did not judge him about being negative within the team environment because at times, it is needed. It is disappointing to now see Carl back down.
• I received a call from a prominent person who was also a friend of Carl's. This person mentioned that Carl thought he would be moved out of TFC. He was prepared to talk to me, as a member of the media, about the internal goings-on within the club. I was given Carl's number but I never called him as I felt it would not be within his interests to expose himself.
• John Molinaro, who overall does an excellent job writing for the CBC, mentioned in his article that I had not returned an email from CBC.ca looking for a response from me. For the record, I never received any communications from anyone from CBC via any medium, which is disappointing. Geez, people should know me well enough by now to realize I am always looking to give an opinion! I would have relished the opportunity to have made a statement. Maybe it was a misunderstanding or just competitive journalism on behalf of John. In either event I appreciate the exposure!