Saturday, May 03, 2008

How 'Canadian' is TFC

Toronto FC fans -- who are fully deserving of having a far more competitive team than the one they supported with such vigor last season -- are enjoying the start to the 2008 campaign.

A nearly entirely revamped midfield, including new signings Laurent Robert, Rohan Ricketts and Honduran Amado Guevara, have helped TFC to gain the upper hand in their recent encounters. It's a good thing, I think.

But there's a species fast becoming extinct at the lakeshore stadium, and that's the Canadian player. A look at TFC's matches from this season reveal the following homegrown contributions:
Match Players Mins
@ Columbus, 29 March 2008 Jim Brennan 90

Tyler Hemming 65

Kevin Harmse 25

@ DC United, 5 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

Kevin Harmse 22

Tyler Rosenlund 7

Andrea Lombardo 26

Tyler Hemming 7

@ LA Galaxy, 13 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

Tyler Rosenlund 1

vs Real Salt Lake, 19 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

vs KC Wizards, 26 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

vs NY Red Bulls, 1 May 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

With Brennan and Sutton putting in workmanlike efforts, it doesn't look too bad. After all, how often do you see Chelsea or Arsenal field a lineup with only 2 English players.


Wrong. Chelsea and Arsenal didn't receive a whackload of funding from the feds in order to promote the growth of the Canadian game. They don't play in a league which is intended to grow the domestic game.

On that front, if you take 'domestic' to mean American, TFC aren't doing so bad. They are developing two future American stars: Edu and Wynne. At the same time, Canadians are languishing on the bench and with the reserves, with promising talents being shown the door or asked to play for peanuts (12K a year) while dead weight like Todd Dunivant remains on the roster.

And the trend seems to be towards less Canadian participation after the season's start, not more. The bench, where Canadians should be in the majority if they aren't starting, had only one Canuck among them on Thursday: Kevin Harmse. And Harmse already had a place with another MLS team last year, so it hardly seems like Toronto FC is taking a chance on him.

Minute for minute, Houston Dynamo are nearly "as Canadian" as Toronto.

*** Aside: If you're scoring at home, the of 5940 total minutes, 1143 have been played by Canadians. That works out to 19%. ***

On the bright side Nick Dasovic has joined the TFC cause, so that's a cause for some optimism.

And before all you TFC fans get up in arms, remember I'm not one of you. I like the team, sure, but not enough to forget the promises that were made to actually do something to improve Canadian soccer. Especially with the sweetheart deal that MLSE got with the stadium. Once Vancouver or Montreal joins MLS I'll have a new favourite team to complain about but for now I'll wear the Maple Leaf on my sleeve.

And I won't post about MLS for a while, I promise, because there are bigger things on the horizon.


Joe Soccer Fan said...

I would argue that at his age Hemming is not a real prospect anymore.

People's expectations have been unrealistic...MLS does not provide a good opportunity to develop top notch talent because the development salaries are way too low. That is not a TFC problem, it is a league problem. Generation Adidas is one solution to that problem and has worked for many of the talented young Americans in the league.

J said...

I agree, but only to a point. The developmental salary is far too low and I don't blame promising Canadian teenagers for first looking to Europe, or even USL sides if they live in Montreal or Vancouver.

The use of American/international re-treads to fill reserve roster and bench spots, on the other hand, is a clear sign that Mo is doing whatever he can to avoid signing Canadians. Look at the lineup for the last reserve squad game:

Brian Edwards, Pat Phelan, Julius James, Olivier Tebily, Todd Dunivant, Kevin Harmse, Joey Melo (Nana Attakora-Gyan 77, Tyler Rosenlund, Jarrod Smith, Jeff Cunningham, Andrea Lombardo (Gabe Gala 65)

I can forgive Phelan and James, both promising draft picks (although you could argue they should be playing senior squad minutes instead of Velez and the immensely useless Marshall).

But Tebily and Dunivant? These are highly paid players, and in the case of Tebily or even someone like Cunningham, with very little soccer ahead of them. Their salaries could easily have been spent making Hemming a full roster player.