It’s been a season of change for Toronto FC.
There are many new faces and many more players, each a cog in the ever-churning gearwork that is Toronto Football Club. Ryan Nelsen, the latest head coach for the club, is set to lead the team in the 2014 season. He’ll have a brand new cast of characters, too, if these changes continue to occur as promised.
One of those new faces is Mark Bloom.
A defender from the NASL, Bloom is just starting his career in Major League Soccer. He signed for Toronto FC in the middle of the season from the Atlanta Silverbacks. Bloom has played twice for Toronto FC, starting in Richard Eckersley absence.
“I feel like I’m adjusting well,” said Bloom, about his transition from the NASL to MLS. “Obviously it was a good step for me, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’m very fortunate to be here and I’ll try to make the most of this opportunity.”
Where Bloom takes every minute of play as a blessing, it’s a chance that Canadian international and fan-favourite Kyle Bekker isn’t being afforded. Bekker has found minutes hard to come by under Nelsen. When asked if he was happy with the amount of playing time he was receiving, Bekker was clear:
“Obviously not; I want to play.”
Short in his answers and quiet in his demeanour, Bekker’s first year with Toronto FC has had its ups and downs, and it shows.
There are but a handful of games left this season, giving Bekker a small window in which to feature in his first year. When asked if he thought he would start any of the remaining games in this season, he replied, bluntly, “I have no reason to expect that,” again, disappointment carrying in his voice.
His first season has not gone as planned.
“I’d like things to have gone a little different but it’s my first year so I’ve just got to keep going,” said Bekker. “I’ve just got to keep working and see what happens.”
Against Sporting Kansas City, Nelsen chose to start Darel Russell in midfield. When the MLS Disciplinary Committee suspended Jonathan Osorio for two games, the hope was that Bekker would make the field, at least for those two games. However, Russell got the start, and with it, a goal, marking an excellent performance in midfield. Will he return next season?
“I think I have an option on my contract, it’s the club’s option,” said Russell, regarding his future with the club. “I’ve enjoyed my time here so far with the club. Whether or not they see my services as good enough for next year, I’m sure we’ll discuss that when the time’s right.”
“For me, I just take each day as it comes,” Russell continued. “I want to be playing. I’ve got to impart what I can do onto the game. I’m hoping today’s performance will be positive enough that they can keep me into the next game and we’ll progress from then.”
Progress, it seems, is the barometer of Toronto FC’s season. It has been the underlying theme throughout the year. Nelsen and his bosses have each spoken of the importance of continued progress in developing a roster that can compete. It’s an area that Bright Dike knows well, having seen the Portland Timbers start slow but burst into contention in a few years’ time.
“I’ve seen it happen so many times, the line between good and great, from bottom to top teams, is very thin,” said Dike. “I think this team has the right pieces and moving forward we’re seeing more and more positives every game.”
It’s these pieces that will set the foundation for next season, according to Jeremy Hall.
“I think right now everybody’s just trying to play these last few games and show that we want to be a part of this team,” said Hall. “We know the foundation of next year is in this room but we’re still missing some big pieces for next year. Guys are trying to play for next year, we want to be a part of it, because when this thing turns around, I personally want to be a part of it.”
The belief is still there. While some players long for more minutes, others embrace each and every chance. Expiring contracts are met with hopeful enthusiasm, while long-term players continue to work towards turning the club’s fortunes around.
New Designated Players will make for a breath of fresh air for Toronto FC, but this core of players, set into motion from smart cap management, seems to place Toronto in the right direction.
It’s now a game of counting down the minutes. For Bloom, it’s every minute played, for Bekker, every minute not. For Russell, it’s every minute before his contract is up, and for Dike and Hall, it’s every minute of change before Toronto FC finally turns its fortunes around.
Tick-Tock, Toronto FC – it’s time to get it right.