Toronto FC dropped their seventh straight match to open the season Saturday, losing 3-2 to Real Salt Lake. Jonny Steele’s goal in the third minute of injury time deprived Toronto FC of picking up their first point of the season. The seven consecutive defeats to begin a season set a new record in Major League Soccer. The 1999 Kansas City Wizards dropped their first seven games, but the fourth was a shootout loss, giving them a point in the standings.
As the fortunes of Toronto FC continue to go south, the pressure was heightened on head coach Aron Winter. Winter had a productive career as a player, with 73 career goals in 469 appearances, along with six goals in 84 international appearances for the Dutch National Team. After a three year stint as an assistant coach for the Ajax first academy team, he was hired by Toronto FC on a three year deal on January 6, 2011.
The 2011 Campaign
Winter brought the 4-3-3 formation to Toronto instead of a more conventional 4-4-2 setup that many MLS teams play with. The team started the season with a 4-2 loss on the road in Vancouver. Winter picked up his first win as the head coach of the club the following week with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers.
The club also won their third consecutive Canadian Championship, which put them in the CONCACAF Champions League. The squad performed admirably, knocking off the Los Angeles Galaxy, a MLS powerhouse, in the quarterfinals. That sent Toronto FC into the semifinals against Santos Laguna of Mexico. After battling to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the series, Santos Laguna crushed Toronto FC, 6-2, in the second leg to advance to the finals.
As well as Toronto FC played in the CONCACAF Champions League, they were unable to channel that performance into success on the MLS pitch. The club won just six of their 34 league contests, finishing with 13 losses and 15 draws. That record was barely good enough to avoid the cellar in the Eastern Conference, while their 36 goals were the second fewest in the league. Designated players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans failed to carry the team following several trades of key personnel, including team captain Dwayne De Rosario.
2012: Lack of Success, Bold Guarantee
The early portion of the season proved to be unsuccessful for Toronto FC and Winter. In seven matches, Toronto FC has just six markers, while allowing 16. A goal by Richard Eckersley in the game against Real Salt Lake proved to be decisive. As is often the case with struggling teams, small mistakes are fatal.
When it comes to discussing the problems for Toronto FC, Winter is quick to throw out a myriad of reasons. He’s blamed the lack of quality players at key positions, a shortage of capable substitutes, bad luck, errors by players at key times, and general poor play. However, Winter hasn’t put any blame on himself. After all, the roster has been overhauled and revamped to his liking. Gone are players that Winter deemed bad fits for his style and in came the players he wanted.
It hasn’t worked, and now the buzz circulating around is, should Toronto FC continue along their muddling path much longer, Winter may be shown the door. There are only so many personnel changes a team can make. If success doesn’t come, even with a handpicked roster of talent that was custom tailored to play a distinct style, what choice is left? Winter is confident he will be given the time that his three year contract entails, but there is no certainty that will be the case.
For what it’s worth, Winter has not conceded that the season is lost. In fact, he went so far last week as to guarantee that the club will make the playoffs, which would be the first time in their history.
“We’re making the playoffs,” he said, then repeated himself. It’s possible that Winter thought by repeating it as a mantra, he could get people to buy into it. No club has made the playoffs after losing as many as their first six games in a season. The saying goes that fortune favors the bold. If that is indeed the case, then perhaps Winter can save his job and salvage what has spiraled into a morass of missed opportunities. If not, then this may be the upcoming winter of discontent for soccer fans in Toronto.
Winter of Discontent: Toronto FC Coach in Danger of Being Sacked
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