Plenty of TFC and MLS related news was released on Wednesday, inspiring a range of emotions. First up was news of coaching appointments with Toronto's first team and the academy. Back in January when the new management team was initially announced, it was confirmed that Jim Brennan, Danny Dichio, Nick Dasovic and Jason Bent would be staying with the club, but no specifics of postions were given, well that has now been resolved. Jason Bent has been moved up from his position with the academy to become an assistant coach with the first team, Danny Dichio stepped in to Bent's old role as coach of the senior academy team, the under 19s, and Jim Brennan will become the junior academy coach with Nick Dasovic becoming the North American scout.
It could definitely be argued that this is just an extension of the "jobs for the boys" philosophy that has permeated TFC in the past, the investment in the development of certain MLSE favourites taking precedence over ruthlessly building a winning management team. How much difference can Aron Winter, Bob de Klerk and Paul Mariner make when they're surrounded by all the same old people above and below them? That would be a bit harsh though, I'm going to take this at face value, as good appointments.
Jason Bent's work with Stuart Neely in the academy over the last 3 years has definitely produced some good results, with Doneil Henry and Nicholas Lindsey already having signed on with the big club, and 4 other academy products impressing enough while in Turkey to win an invite to Orlando to train with the first team as well. His promotion to first team duties is a good reward for that work, and should help those players who worked with him in the academy to adapt at the higher level.
Dichio taking over from Bent should work well and is a very logical move, a more surprising move is Brennan coming in as the under 17 coach. Initially it seems like quite the comedown from assistant GM to probably the lowest rung on the club's current coaching ladder, but given the renewed emphasis TFC is placing on the academy as an important part of the club's future, this isn't a throwaway appointment. It's also a job I'd think should suit him better, I have more confidence in his ability with a football and to coach the young players than I do in his ability to make it as an executive, making trades, negotiating with agents and competing with other GM's.
As for Dasovic, it's likely he was offered the position that Bent took, but turned it down, not wanting to go from interim head coach back into the assistants ranks. I'll stand by my theory that this scouting position is a very temporary one, TFC looking after him until he can get the kind of coaching role he desires, as a thank you for his work over the years, a move I can very much applaud.
The next bit of news released was that of the new triallists joining the team in Orlando. As rumoured Joevin Jones is one of them, and he's joined by fellow Trinidad and Tobago international Jamal Gay. Gay is a 22 year old forward who previously impressed enough to get a move to the German second division though he didn't get a game there, and he's scored 3 times in 8 games for the T & T national team so there's a bit of promise there.
The other two triallists to join the team in Orlando, you know, where we were supposed to be trialling South Americans, are from Belgium and, surprise surprise, Holland. Belgian defender Mikael Yourassowsky has made it to the age of 27 without ever catching on at any team in particular, and Dutch midfielder Ivo De Heus is another product of Ajax's youth system who hasn't really done much since leaving Ajax. As I said earlier, ya gotta have faith, but there's still no-one really impressive coming along yet.
The other big news of the day was the release of the MLS playoff format for 2011, providing confirmation of the 10 team format and details of how the wild cards will work. Basically the top 3 teams in each conference will qualify in their conference's half of the draw. Teams 7-10, regardless of conference, will then have a 1 game playoff, 7 v10 and 8 v9 at the home of the higher seed to determine who makes the 7th and 8th spots. The lowest seed of the wild card winners, again regardless of which conference they are from will be put in a match-up with the Supporters Shield winner, with the other wild card playing against the other Conference champion.
Still with me? Excellent, as now it's time to point out the goofiness that could ensue from this format combined with the stubborn maintenance of two seperate conferences as opposed to just a single table. The first wierd scenario is that it could potentially mean 7 teams qualifying from one conference, obviously the West would have the best shot at that achievement right now. The ultimate possibility though, would be for two wild card teams in the wrong conferences to make the final. Imagine Toronto (yeah, yeah,hilarious, I know) representing the West and Vancouver representing the East, I think that could see heads explode at ESPN. Given that the wild card crossover team has made the final three years straight, and won the MLS Cup two years running, it's not that far fetched, and the possibility is just another reason for the usual MLS knockers to not take the league seriously.