TORONTO – In a full-page ad in Saturday's Toronto Star, Toronto FC manager Aron Winter thanked the fans for their patience as the club continues in its efforts to build a contender.
"The future is bright," Winter says in the ad.
And based on the team's fight and determination in coming from behind for a 2-2 draw against New England on Saturday afternoon in the season finale, that assessment could be spot on.
That future starts with summer signing Danny Koevermans, who registered another performance worthy of a Designated Player against the Revolution. He assisted on the goal by fellow Dutchman Nick Soolsma and added one of his own late in the game.
“He needs one opportunity to score,” said Winter, praising Koevermans for his eighth goal in 10 league matches.
Winter has been working all season to prepare a squad around Koevermans and fellow DP Torsten Frings, who arrived in July. In fact, Toronto’s lineup against New England only featured two players who also started the season in the 4-2 loss in Vancouver. But there's plenty more work to be done.
“It needs time for us and the players to get the pieces right,” said Winter, who says he’s happy with where his team is now.
The defense, on the other hand, continues to look suspect at times with injuries playing no small part in the uncertainty. The team gave up a league worst 59 goals this season and lost Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams to long-term injuries during the season.
There were still more questions raised against the Revs with defensive lapses on set pieces, one which cost the team a goal. The mistakes and giveaways seemed to support the statement made by director of player development Paul Mariner, who in a halftime interview said he wouldn't be surprised if another central defender joined the team for the 2012 season. Winter, however, wouldn't do much to elaborate on any of his moves.
“I’m going to make some changes, but I don’t like to say [how many],” Winter said.
Statistically, this season — Toronto FC's fifth without a playoff berth — was two points worse than last season. But after earning a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with an improbable 3-0 win at FC Dallas in midweek and a come-from-behind draw in their last league match of the 2011 season, the club has left its fan base with more than a little optimism going into 2012.
Frings was already looking ahead to his first full season in MLS: “Next season will be a lot better.”