TORONTO – Paul Mariner did not mince his words following his team’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. Not even a little bit.
“It’s all about being a professional,” the TFC boss told reporters after the game. “We are at the bottom of the table. We haven’t won in two months. And that is the type of performance that you give as a group? There is absolutely no excuse for that first half. They played as individuals even though everything we have spoken about is always around the fact that we have to be together to get a result.
“You can come up with all the excuses in the world – international call-ups and injuries to key players. But I was brought up in an environment where you were dying to get your opportunity to play at a great place like BMO Field or Old Trafford or Highbury. And when your chance came, you made sure that you stayed in the team and you made sure that the manager couldn’t drop you. You can draw your own conclusion from what you saw tonight.”
Even though TFC picked up their play following the opening goal of the game, and then ultimately came close to achieving a comeback with some improved play in the second half, Mariner was candid in calling the match the low point of the season for him.
“When I came into this job, I said that I wanted to get some pride back into the shirt,” Mariner said. “We didn’t have a full strength side by any stretch of the imagination, but this is your opportunity to go and show what you can do. And if that is the lads showing what they can do, then we are going to have a serious issue.”
Asked to describe what he hopes to achieve for the remaining matches of TFC's campaign, Mariner admitted that he is already looking to next year and stressed that his main focus will be on assessing which players have shown enough professionalism, quality and pride to warrant a spot on the team for next year.
“Find out a great deal about the players and demand that we have a higher level of performance from everybody,” Mariner stressed. “It’s all about analyzing what’s going to be around next year. There is one thing that you have to have in a football team and that is fight. If you are not fighting for your right to play and your own personal pride, then that’s a problem.”
Toronto now have six league matches and two CONCACAF Champions League fixtures remaining this year. While the Reds will undoubtedly have a different look next season, it is now up to the current crop of players to show just how many of the current squad deserve to wear the TFC crest in 2013.