Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 5-21-8 (23 points); 36 GF / 62 GA (-26 GD)
There was hope for Toronto FC in 2012. But isn’t there always? And as always, Toronto finished out of the playoffs with a record of 5-21-8, dead last in Major League Soccer. If you're counting, that makes six seasons without so much as a playoff sniff.
Still, hope came from a decent finish to 2011, when the Reds earned their way out of the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time.
They opened 2012 with a 4-3 aggregate upset against the LA Galaxy in the CCL quarterfinals. Three days after their 2-1 victory at the Home Depot Center, they lost their season opener 3-1 in Seattle and also lost midfielder and team captain Torsten Frings to injury. It was the start of nine consecutive league losses to open the season. They also lost the CCL semifinals 7-3 on aggregate to Santos Laguna.
A victory against Vancouver in the Canadian Championship on May 23 followed by a league win vs. Philadelphia on May 26 wasn't enough to save head coach Aron Winter’s job and Paul Mariner took over. A 4-2-4 spurt under Mariner was followed by a 0-10-4 run to end the season. After recording club-low marks in wins (five), losses (21) and goals against (62), another season ended with TFC still searching for answers.
It came early with an upset of the LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The Galaxy scored late to tie the first leg 2-2 before a crowd of 47,658 at Rogers Centre on March 7. TFC won the second leg 2-1 at Home Depot Center a week later on Nick Soolsma’s 67th-minute goal. Soolsma wasn't around at the end of the season and, in essence, neither were the Reds.
Worst moment of the year
Former TFC captain Dwayne De Rosario scored after 57 seconds at RFK Stadium on May 19 in D.C. United’s 3-1 victory. It was the Reds' ninth consecutive league loss, an MLS record to open a season. De Rosario scored twice in the first half. Second-half substitute Danny Koevermans cut D.C.’s lead to one in the 71st minute, but Toronto allowed the clincher two minutes later. Winter was soon out as head coach.
Ryan Johnson earned AT&T Goal of the Week for his stunning strike in the 62nd minute on March 17 at CenturyLink Field. The goal cut Seattle’s lead to 2-1, but the Sounders quickly answered for a 3-1 victory in Toronto FC’s league opener. Johnson, a Jamaican international, collected the ball at midfield and ran past one Seattle player, evaded another and curled the ball into the top left corner of the goal.
Toronto FC protested when Columbus were awarded a penalty in the 42nd minute on March 31 at BMO Field when Ty Harden was ruled to have fouled Olman Vargas inside the box. But goalkeeper Milos Kocic turned the boos to cheers when he moved to his right on the penalty kick by Milovan Mirosevic and pushed the low, hard shot clear. It didn't matter in the end, though. The Crew scored in the second half to win 1-0.
Ryan Johnson missed three league games all season – two for international duty with Jamaica and one for yellow-card accumulation. He was tireless. He came out of one game early, the season finale in Columbus in which he played 69 minutes. He played in various positions, usually midfield or forward, and scored seven goals to go along with five assists. He scored a goal in each leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal upset over LA and set up the winner in the second leg.
Luis Silva proved to be solid pickup for Toronto FC, who took the midfielder with the fourth-overall pick in January’s MLS SuperDraft, and looks like a long-term keeper. During his rookie season, Silva played in 30 league games, starting 22, scored five goals and dished out five assists. He scored his first professional goal against the LA Galaxy in the CCL quarterfinals on March 7. An attacking midfielder by trade, he also played forward at times during his rookie season.
Three Offseason Needs
1. A dependable center back: This also was a need during last offseason, but the acquisitions didn't work out. Toronto FC made a good move by acquiring Republic of Ireland international Darren O’Dea during the second half of the 2012 season, but the problem was finding someone to play alongside him. Head coach Paul Mariner felt his best option was Richard Eckersley, and that took him away from right fullback, his best position and one that utilizes his desire to get forward.
2. Midfield reinforcements: It's not certain how soon or effectively Torsten Frings can come back from hip surgery. Even if he comes back at full strength and ahead of schedule, it’s obvious he will need support in the center of the park. Terry Dunfield played his heart out and also contributed some key goals, but he cannot be expected to do that all the time. An infusion of talent in the midfield, both on the attack and defensively-leaning, is needed.
3. An attitude change: Obviously, the Reds need help everywhere. Some speed up front to help out Eric Hassli and Danny Koevermans when he returns from knee surgery would be welcome. But after a demoralizing 2012, anyone who arrives must bring a fresh attitude, as character and leadership will be necessary traits to turn this club's fortunes around.