December 14th marks three months since Mo Johnston's reign of error was finally ended, along with Preki's short run as coach, and with off season personnel decisions and squad rebuilding opportunities coming and going, TFC is still in the available hands of Interim GM Earl Cochrane, Assistant GM Jim Brennan and all of last season's coaching staff. There's been no big decisions made yet, just plenty of dead wood cut from last season's squad, and the low risk addition of Nathan Sturgis, but this Wednesday is when things could really get interesting.
The second round of the re-entry draft sees a lot of players still available, but without the heavy contracts that their original clubs declined, so there are a lot of decisions to be made and different tactics to consider. First of all is deciding which players could be useful for TFC next year, or could be used as trade bait. Do they try and get Nick Garcia back, at a lower salary to fill out a defensive spot on the bench, or do they go for one of the other experienced defenders available such as Jimmy Conrad or Frankie Hejduk? Do they take a risk on a relatively big salary for someone like Juan Pablo Angel, or do they save the salary cap space for other players currently outside of MLS? Do they use a DP spot, or do they have to be saving those for Dwayne de Rosario or some other potential star player? Then there's when to pick them, do they use the 6th overall pick, or hope the player is still available in the 2nd round, or even trade other assets to move up or down in the draft? After that comes the negotiating of a new salary, though hopefully preliminary work has already been done here with regards to what sort of numbers players would be looking for, and whether they'd even be interested in playing for Toronto. A further wrinkle to be taken into account is that "should no agreement be reached and an offer is made, the club will hold on to the player's rights in MLS". So even if we don't end up signing a player, is it worth picking someone to hold on to their rights for a potential trade in the future?
There are many different things to be considering and 17 other management teams to be competing against/co-operating with/trying to take advantage of, so forgive me if I'd rather have someone more experienced and a little less interimmy in charge. Without the benfit of hindsight, it's difficult to predict how Cochrane will do, but with yet another expansion draftee being traded today, Jordan Graye from Portland to Houston for a 4th round superdraft pick in 2014, his giving up of a 2011 first round pick for Sturgis doesn't speak highly of his negotiating skills.
In a Sportsnet interview on Saturday, as well as being amusingly dismissive of the way MLS is set up (some pros and a lot of cons) Jürgen klinsmann mentioned how he and whoever else is involved in the search hope to have a head coach in place before Christmas. That suggests an announcement should be coming soon, but no mention was made of a GM, or some kind of Director of Soccer who'd be in charge of the overall implementation of Klinsmann's ideas. To me, that suggests we're likely to only get one new man in, a more traditional football type of manager, in charge of player acquisition as well as the coaching, rather than the North American GM and Coach model, which depending on who it is may or may not be a good thing. Klinsmann also mentioned the need for people who know MLS inside out to assist a potential coach brought in from Europe or South America, and that's the part that worries me.
Given MLSE's oft-repeated committment to developing North American coaches and executives, and how "they wanted to start investing in Jim Brennan and turn him into a soccer pro, they've been investing in Nick, investing in Earl, creating a team of people that can grow together and build on the expertise that exists.", I don't expect much more than a reshuffling and re-titling of the currrent interim and assistant management team. You know, the one that has less than a year's actual management experience between them (Three months as interim GM for Cochrane, and just over 8 months now for Brennan as assistant GM). It also sounds unlikely that there'll be anyone above this new hire, someone not as involved in the day to day running of the club, but always available to act as a sounding board and assist in keeping the club on track with whatever philosophy Klinsmann has decided we are to have, and to be another footballing brain between Anselmi and the shareholders and the day to day team, though maybe that's where Cochrane will end up.
Whether the new coach comes with a track record of success in MLS and is looking for a new challenge and a big payday, someone like Dominic Kinnear or Steve Nicol, or is someone being brought in from elsewhere, let's hope he's good and able to hit the ground running, as I don't think he's going to have a lot of good help. Once again, I'm hoping I'll be proved wrong, and maybe in the longer term I will be, but Wednesday's draft will be another opportunity for the new guy to build his team that has passed before he even gets here. Instead, we'll get another interim-job, and after three months, that's really not good enough.