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Wanted: Winning culture

I had written this long, wonderful column on how Toronto FC, in justthree short years, had transformed from a ragtag outfit to a realfootball club.

I had written this long, wonderful column on how Toronto FC, in just three short years, had transformed from a ragtag outfit to a real football club.

It waxed philosophical on the implications of bringing Canada’s best player (Julian DeGuzman) to the team, what it meant for the club’s supporters to lead a movement to bring a grass pitch to BMO field and why this club is doing the right things.

I deleted that column 30 minutes after TFC was embarrassed in a 5-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls — a team that had flirted with Major League Soccer’s worst all-time record — on a night when a win would have guaranteed Toronto its first berth in the playoffs.

All those things I had written could still ring true, but frankly, after sobering up from a rough hangover, I am in no mood to find the nuggets of positivity after such a pathetic display.

Instead, it’s time to face some harsh realities. Both Sam Cronin and Dwayne DeRosario touched on a major one last night — Toronto needs a culture of winning in the clubhouse.

Neither would point fingers, but it’s clear there’s a divide between those who want to win and those who want to be paid. Thanks to the wonders of MLS, that divide can be closed in the off-season.

Come 2010, it’s believed Toronto will have about $500,000 less in allocation money to work with and, on a salary-capped team, that means dropping or trading players.

I’d start by trading Amado Guevara. As an aging player, with one of the largest salaries on the team and a reputation of mailing it in, his role can be taken over by DeGuzman.

Releasing Chad Barrett would be next. Training only matters if you can produce in game, and every time he throws his hands up after missing another open sitter, I’m left to wonder why he’s still surprised?

There are a few others on the bubble, but there is a strong core of talent here — one that will make dropping the dead weight easier.

What won’t be easy is finding a coach who can stabilize and inspire this group. An announcement by the team is expected later this week, and at that time it’s assumed interim head coach Chris Cummins will be relieved of his duties.

Having gone through three coaches in three years, Toronto needs someone who can elevate the club to the next level. A winning mentality begins and ends there.

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