Duncan Fletcher at Sports Net in Canada is asking tough questions this morning about Toronto FC personnel decisions down the stretch.
And he makes some good points, such as questioning whether Richard Eckersley should be playing center back, considering that manager Paul Mariner (pictured) has already said Eckersley will likely return to right back next year. That’s where he was targeted all along, after all.
(Personally, I’m not sure that Eckersley isn’t better in the middle; suffice to say, he has deficiencies at either position.)
And as Fletcher points out, there are players on TFC’s roster that Mariner helped select in his previous position who now cannot get on the field:
Dicoy Williams, Ty Harden or Adrian Cann can’t even get into the team with the worst defence in the league. [Eric] Avila can barely get a game, not even ahead of the likes of [Andrew] Wiedman or [Quincy] Amarikwa or [Aaron] Maund. Why not give them a chance? Maybe they’ll prove they should stick around, or maybe it will just be a shop window to impress another team.
On the surface, it appears as though Mariner has given up on them and is backing himself into a corner where the only option will be to outright release them, which sadly wouldn’t be a new thing for TFC.
These are tough issues that every club will face in a few weeks; Toronto just gets to begin confronting things a little earlier. Lucky them.
It does underscore one problem the Reds face as they play out another lost season:
Mariner is stuck. He does need to field the most competitive team possible. That’s only right considering playoff fates are at stake elsewhere.
Besides, he is trying to instill a fighting mentality, a greater pride in the shirt and a work ethic over 90 minutes, over 40-and-change matches a year. And that means putting out the most competitive team possible.
But where is the balance between that worthwhile initiative and identifying the “cans” from the “cannots” on the roster? If Eckersley is a right back around BMO going forward, then perhaps he should play, well, I dunno … right back! Makes sense, right?
But if Mariner adjudges that TFC’s top chances of winning over the remaining few weeks is with Eckersley at center back, then shouldn’t the manager lean that way for competitive integrity and for the best chance of keeping team spirits high while fighting to the end?
See? These are tough issues.
TFC management, top to bottom, is to blame for another year devolving into a big Canadian mess. So, no sympathies here. But, we should at least acknowledge that there’s no easy way out once clubs have put themselves in a box.