Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - 2012 was supposed to be the year Toronto FC
finally rose from the doldrums of MLS to make its first-ever appearance in the
But, perhaps in classic TFC fashion, the club floundered spectacularly and did
not earn a win in league play until a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia Union on
The Reds finished with season in the basement of the Eastern Conference with
just five victories and 23 total points. Coming off such a poor campaign,
Toronto went for the overhaul again, making numerous changes to the roster, as
well as changes in the manager's office and the front office.
Toronto began its newest attempt to change the losing culture surrounding the
club in November 2012 by appointing Kevin Payne as president and general
Payne spent 17 seasons with D.C. United turning them into the most successful
club in U.S., professional soccer history.
"I am very proud and excited to be joining Toronto FC," Payne said at his
introductory press conference. "Toronto is a great soccer market with
passionate fans and world-class facilities. The club has a great ownership
team who are committed to winning and providing all the necessary resources to
With Payne on board, then-manager Paul Mariner was relieved of his duties and
the club made what is probably the most bizarre coaching hire in soccer
On January 8, Toronto FC hired then-current Queens Park Rangers defender and
New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen as its next head coach.
Payne and Nelsen have a history, as the 35-year-old played four seasons for
Payne at D.C. United, where he captained the side to its fourth MLS Cup title
But hiring an active player to be your head coach? Certainly a strange move
for a franchise desperately searching for an identity. But in the end,
Nelsen's leadership qualities on and off the pitch won him the job.
"Ryan has better leadership qualities than any professional athlete I have
ever been around," Payne said of his new man in charge. "I always thought Ryan
would end up becoming an outstanding head coach some day when he was done
With the new management pieces in place, the pair turned their attention to
the roster. Joao Plata was traded to Real Salt Lake and Eric Hassli was
shipped to FC Dallas.
Goalkeeper Milos Kocic and forward Ryan Johnson were traded to the Portland
Timbers and then Payne and Nelsen went to work putting together their desired
In return from Portland, the Reds received goalkeeper Joe Bendik to back up
Stefan Frei, and then won a weighted lottery among six MLS teams to acquire
defender Gale Agbossoumonde.
The club also signed former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Julio Cesar and
acquired forward Justin Braun in a trade with Real Salt Lake. Canadian
international Kyle Bekker was selected in the SuperDraft and veteran defender
Danny Califf was taken in stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft.
Toronto does have a bit of star power with midfielder Torsten Frings and
forward Danny Koevermans returning to the fold. Koevermans, however, will
likely not be ready for the start of the season due to a torn ACL he suffered
in July, and Frings is coming off hip surgery, but is expected to be ready
for the start of the season.
With Koevermans out of commission for a while, the scoring load will fall on
the shoulders of Braun, who should relish a fresh start with TFC after
recording zero goals in 2012 with Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact, and
attacking midfielder Luis Silva.
Silva scored five goals and added five assists last season in 30 appearances
and could be poised for a breakout campaign in his sophomore season.
The biggest question for Toronto FC this season under the new regime
will be how quickly Payne and Nelsen's reconstructed roster can jell and start
to create a culture of winning within the club.
The good news for TFC? There's only one way to go from here.
2012 IN REVIEW: Toronto FC stumbled out of the gate, going winless in their
first nine league matches and never recovered from the incredibly poor start.
The Reds finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just five wins
and 23 points, well out of playoff position.
ACQUISITIONS: Justin Braun (F), Joe Bendik (GK), Danny Califf (D), Julio Cesar
(M), Gale Agbossoumonde (D), Kyle Bekker (M).
LOSSES: Milos Kocic (GK), Eric Hassli (F), Ryan Johnson (F), Joao Plata (F),
Eric Avila (M).
OUTLOOK: Questions linger about whether Nelsen is the right man to guide the
rebuilding effort, and Califf and Agbossoumonde should help stabilize a shaky
backline that allowed a league-high 62 goals last campaign -- 16 of which came
in the final 15 minutes of action. Payne and Nelsen certainly have a difficult
task at hand in trying to change the culture of the team and breaking the
lengthy postseason drought is highly unlikely in 2013.
The Sports Network