By Ustad Khaira
Coming off another disappointing season, the worst in franchise history, Toronto FC is at risk of losing even the most hardcore of fans.
Kristian Jack, co-host of The Footy Show and writer for The Footy Blog on The Score, said that there were already signs this season that the fan base may be losing interest.
“Interest is definitely fading,” said Jack. “There’s a definite trend, and that is fans turn away and do not go (to games). For the first time, they’re finally realizing this. People were not even taking the opportunity to go when they already had a ticket, and that’s worrying.”
Toronto FC finished their 34-game regular season with only five wins and a league-worst 23 points, and although the team had its fair share of bad luck during the season, Jack said there is no doubt who the worst team in Major League Soccer is.
“After a full season, you are who you are. 34 games is a long time. Of course there is an element of luck to a season. You can point to certain things, the Danny Koevermans injury, Stefan Frei being out for the season, Torsten Frings (being injured). But 24 points from 33 games is flat out not good enough,” he said.
After his team’s final game on Sunday, a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew, a disappointed head coach Paul Mariner said to reporters that their preparation for next season has already started.
“As far as I’m concerned, pre-season begins now. We’ve got to get a lot of injured people back. I still maintain that we need four or five players and we’ll be fine.” said Mariner. “We haven’t been blown out in games. We’re not that far off.”
According to Jack, there are positives if management can make smart off-season moves.
“The positives are Major League Soccer is built to not have teams suffer like this for a long time,” he said. “The rules are set up, if you take advantage of them, to turn around and get good pretty quickly. Look at the table now: D.C. United finished second in the east this season; they were abysmal for three to four years prior to that.”
Jack said the most important thing for management heading into next year is to improve the defense.
“They keep telling us they know the issues, but they’ve got to go out there and get a central defender. Throughout their time they’ve not had a top class central defender in six years and that is a real indictment on the level of success they’ve had,” said Jack, “It’s difficult when you try and look at what needs to be brought into this team when there’s so many different problems that they’ve got.”