30 Days 'til MLS: Ryan Nelsen
Courtesy of Toronto FC

6 days 'til MLS: Can Nelsen lead culture change at TFC?

As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.

6 – Victories it will take Ryan Nelsen and Toronto FC to surpass last season’s total

Progress. That’s the bare minimum this season in Toronto after the worst campaign in club history, one that included just five wins, a nine-game losing streak out of the gate and a 14-game winless streak to close the season.

Not one but two head coaches – Aron Winter and Paul Mariner – lost their jobs, and former D.C. United president and CEO Kevin Payne was brought in during the offseason to clean up the mess still festering after six MLS seasons spent mostly in the doldrums.

And although Payne is the unquestioned franchise figurehead, it’s first-year head coach Ryan Nelsen who’ll be left to do the heavy scrubbing, just months removed from hanging up his boots.

Fortunately, with the roster still bare bones and Designated Players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans in varying states of limbo, progress should be measured in marginal increments in Ontario. Anything more ambitious would be naïve. A few more wins, defensive improvement and the beginnings of a culture change ought to be within reach, but much more than that seems like wishful thinking.

READ: 2013 Toronto FC season preview: Tough slog ahead for Nelsen?

Nelsen certainly won’t be under any illusions when it comes to the task that awaits him during his first year on the bench. There will be low points. There will be times when the project seems destined to ride the same old rails that have defined the past six years.

But there will also be moments of occasional brilliance, indications that TFC’s future is in the right hands despite the likelihood of yet another season without a so much as a taste of the postseason.

The hope, of course, is that there will be enough signs of progress – Ashtone Morgan’s continuing development, a commitment to Canadian talent in first-round SuperDraft picks Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman and the potential for a splash in the summer window – to keep the faith and placate one of the league’s most beleaguered fanbases.

And if improvement, however modest, remains out of reach? Few will be terribly surprised. It’s Toronto, after all. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

Toronto FC over the years
Year Record Finish in East
2012 5-21-8 10/10
2011 6-13-15 8/9
2010 9-13-8 5/8
2009 10-11-9 5/7
2008 9-13-8 7/7
2007 6-17-7 7/7

Toronto FC average wins per season: 7.5

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