TORONTO – It's been a long season for Toronto FC who, for the fifth straight year of the club's existence, will spend the MLS Cup playoffs on the outside looking in.
But despite a rocky year, team ownership feels the club is headed in the right direction — especially with a huge game on Tuesday that could give the team something to look forward to quickly in 2012.
“We’re excited about what’s going to happen in Dallas, to use that to really kick-start next year, you know if we come out of the gate early in March with an important game,” said Tom Anselmi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which runs Toronto FC.
A win at FC Dallas in their final CONCACAF Champions League Group C match on Tuesday (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer) would put a positive finishing touch on the first season under head coach and technical director Aron Winter and director of player development Paul Mariner.
Anselmi is pleased with the progress of the team, especially following the overhaul that took place starting late June with the signings of Designated Players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans.
“One step at a time, but it’s clearly headed in the right direction,” Anselmi said last week at the official ground-breaking of Downsview Park, the new Toronto FC Academy and training facility that is scheduled to open next year.
“It’s been kind of a tale of two seasons. ... It took about five or six months [for Winter, Mariner and assistant coach Bob de Klerk] to really put their finger prints on the team. I think we started to see that in early July when there was a bit of a roster makeover. Since then we’ve been playing decent football with nice wins in Columbus and against Salt Lake and Columbus. Clearly we’re playing a lot better than we were last year.”
Toronto have one league game left, at home against New England on Saturday, following a 1-1 draw at Philadelphia this past Saturday. Anselmi did not want to play down the importance of winning the BMO Field finale, either.
“Any win is momentum, any win is a sign of good things,” Anselmi said. “You want to win them all, but obviously, if we were able to beat Dallas, now we start next March coming right out of training camp with an important game. That would kind of whip next year into full speed right from the get-go and it would be exciting.”
Anselmi is adamant TFC are heading in one direction: up.
“Getting a result out of [Dallas] would be a real nice little step in the right direction as well. I like the job the guys are doing and the direction we’re heading now. It’s a lot better than a year ago at this time.”