Change has been the constant for Toronto FC in the early days of a new season, nearly making it a necessity for fans to carry around a roster list in their back pockets.
This week the change wasn’t a release or signing, but the move of the franchise’s first player up to the front office.
Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan officially announced his retirement Wednesday at a news conference at BMO Field, and his ascendancy to become an assistant to the club’s director of soccer, Mo Johnston.
“It was something I wanted to do," Brennan said. "I was speaking with Mo a lot over the offseason to find out what were the best options, and this was it. Going upstairs and working alongside him is what I wanted to do. The opportunity was right. It’s not often that you retire and get an opportunity. I was ready mentally and physically, and knew I wanted to do it, and luckily, it fell into place.”
News of the move leaked Tuesday morning, and up until the news conference Wednesday, many were speculating over the intriguing timing.
Was Brennan’s body too banged up? Was he pushed out? Or had he been forced out by new coach Preki, as one Toronto reporter claimed in the wake of Brennan’s abrupt retirement?
“Listen, I know who wrote that and I think it’s an absolute disgrace for him writing it," Brennan said. "I think everybody here and everyone in that dressing room knows that’s a total lie. There was never a bust-up between me and Preki, I’ve got respect for Preki and I know he’s gonna do a great job for this club.”
Even though Brennan said the move had been in the works for some time, it doesn’t seem to do much to enhance the stability for a team that has yet to make the playoffs in its fourth season in the league.
The revolving door of players has swung so often since the club’s inaugural season, it could likely power the televisions of a small Toronto neighborhood on any given match night. Johnston has brought in player after player to try to address the team’s deficiencies, each one with little success.
And now the team is placing someone in a key position with neither soccer operations experience nor experience playing for a winning MLS franchise. Team executives and fans around the league can’t be faulted for wondering what’s happening in Toronto.
Despite his naysayers, Brennan believes he can contribute in his new role.
“Scouting the players, whether you go to business school or not, could you identify a good player or a bad player?" Brennan asked. "No, probably not. I played the game, so I understand it. I’m learning off of Mo exactly how it’s gonna work and there’s not a better guy in this league to learn off of.”
Although league veteran Dwayne De Rosario was aptly named Brennan's replacement as captain on Thursday, Brennan's departure still leaves a pressing hole in the back, where the veteran leadership now falls to Nick Garcia. The young, inexperienced defense includes the promising Nana Attakora along with Ty Harden and Zachary Herold, but that group likely won’t sit well with many fans growing increasingly disenchanted with Garcia over his penchant for committing gaffes deep in his own end.
Toronto’s defense requires a major upgrade -- and soon. And for his part, Johnston said some new player signings, including defenders, are imminent, possibly before Saturday’s game in New England.
“We’re looking at two or three right now potentially to sign new contracts pending … and we’re talking daily,” Johnston said. “Yes, there’s one at left back, absolutely. Do we have a left–sided player? Yes, another one, and we have a right-sided player, and we’re always looking.”