There were few bright spots in another tumultuous Toronto FC campaign. Some big changes will need to be made for the club to compete in 2014.Another year, another disaster.
It almost feels like Groundhog Day at BMO Field, with Toronto FC failing to make the MLS playoffs in every year of its existence so far. That consistent failure to succeed has always been accompanied by a frenzy of front office moves and player transactions, and 2013 was no different in that regard.
This year, TFC fired a president after months on the job. It also introduced a head coach that was, at the time of his announcement, still an active Premier League defender. And, as usual, the revolving door of players spun just as fast as it had in previous years, with the end-of-season starting XI looking nothing like the one that opened the campaign eight months prior.
On the pitch, it all added up to a 6-17-11 record that was a slight improvement on 2012 but still wasn't anywhere near enough to get the Reds to the promised land of a first ever postseason appearance.
THE FORWARDS: F
Any team that averages less than a goal per game is going to finish near the bottom of the table, and TFC's 30 goals in 34 league matches was not nearly good enough.
Aside from Robert Earnshaw (and Bright Dike in the final couple of games), none of Toronto's strikers posed any kind of real threat and were easily handled by opposing defences.
No disrespect to Andrew Wiedeman, but when he's your club's second-leading scoring forward, you're going to have problems winning games.
THE MIDFIELD: C+
The middle of the park is perhaps the brightest spot of the field positions for TFC, with youngsters Jonathan Osorio and Matias Laba forming the beginnings of a very promising partnership.
Osorio was the breakout star for the Reds this season, with his five goals good enough for second-most on the team (behind Earnshaw). The rookie had a fairytale campaign, going from a walk-on trialist in the preseason to stalwart by the end of the year, and also transitioning to the national team for good measure.
While the Canadian rookie got most of the headlines, perhaps the most consistent performer was fellow newcomer Laba, whose influence in the centre of the pitch was hugely noticeable even if he largely stayed off the scoresheet.
Laba's ability to read the game and disrupt the opposition in crucial areas -- he was among the league leaders in successful tackles per game -- was matched by a tireless work ethic and technical proficiency. The club lost a lot when the Argentine went down with a broken toe after only 16 league matches.
In addition to the young guns, TFC got positive contributions this year from Bobby Convey and Alvaro Rey, and even Reggie Lambe has looked decent coming off the bench.
To improve upon this grade next year, Toronto will have to add a wide midfielder to deputize when Convey or Rey are unavailable, and perhaps look to land an offensively-minded piece to take some of the responsibility from Osorio.
THE DEFENCE: C-
It's almost inconceivable that TFC could improve its total goals against by a whopping 15 and still be in the bottom half of the league defensively, but that's just how awful the team was last year.
Toronto allowed a much more respectable 47 goals in 2013, which is still worse than every playoff team except for one (Montreal), but represented a huge step forward in terms of staying competitive in nearly every match over the course of the season.
Local product Doneil Henry and Scottish captain Steven Caldwell anchored the improved backline, and a hard-working Ashtone Morgan was also a regular after seemingly losing his job early in the year.
The 20-year-old Henry grew substantially this season, and he benefited by having the calming presence of Caldwell beside him for most of the year. However, the young Canadian is still prone to mental mistakes, and he'd do well to have another veteran pushing him for his job the way Morgan did when Jonas Elmer was brought in.
At right back, Richard Eckerseley is as good as gone from the club, leaving former NASLer Mark Bloom as the only naturally right-footed right back on the roster. Along with shoring up the opposite fullback position, finding someone to ether split duties with Bloom or replace him outright needs to be a top priority for Ryan Nelsen and Tim Bezbatchenko over the winter.
THE GOALKEEPING: B-
TFC started the year unsure about its goalkeeping situation when incumbent Stefan Frei went down in the preseason with a broken nose. Fortunately, Joe Bendik was able to step into Frei's considerable shoes and perform admirably, so much so that Frei is probably out of a job after five seasons in Southern Ontario.
Bendik's impressive shot-stopping and command of the penalty area definitely contributed to his club's overall defensive improvement, although his poor distribution has been a sore spot at times. The 24-year-old looks to be Nelsen's No.1 for 2014, and he'll need to work on his footwork if he wants to be a complete goalkeeper in the future.
THE MANAGEMENT: D-
Another year of front office turmoil and huge turnover defined this year's management, and that combined with an extremely poor record means a low grade overall, but there are some things that the team did right.
The necessary untangling of an horrific cap situation leaves TFC as a buyer this offseason, and it seems like the team is laying the groundwork early for some big names to enter the fray.
The real test for this management team will be to provide a suitable base for any potential attacking DPs to succeed, and the jury is still out on whether this front office has the chops to build from a bigger picture perspective.
OVERALL GRADE: D