Toronto FC reaches out to season-ticket base, hopes to win regulars back
TORONTO - Toronto FC is about to find out to find out whether it has won over its beleaguered season ticket-holders.
On Tuesday the MLS club reached out to its ticket base, months later than normal, hoping that its off-season moves have given ticket-holders a reason to get back on board a franchise with a 51-105-66 career mark.
"A new, winning tradition begins this season for Toronto FC and the most important thing to us is that you are there to share it with us," general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in an email to the club's 14,600 season ticket-holders. "We hope that you believe in our direction based on the moves that have been made and are still to come and that you will be there with us again this season."
Fans have until Jan. 31 to renew their tickets. Toronto opens the 2014 season March 15 in Seattle.
MLSE president Tim Leiweke pushed back the renewal date when he cleaned out the club's front office Sept. 5 as another failed season lurched to a close.
January marks the opening of the international transfer window, allowing Toronto to reload.
"By then we will either have done what we have to do and they will hold us accountable and say 'I like what you did, I'm in.' Or if we fail here, we're going to have a mass exodus," Leiweke said in September. "And we get it. We're OK with that, all of us.
"We will put our feet to the fire here ... We better do a good job because I don't think a marketing campaign is going to cut it this time.''
Leiweke and his staff are about to find out how well they have done.
"Every move we've made this off-season has been made with our promise to you in mind,' Bezbatchenko said in Tuesday's email.
In a bid to lure ticket-holders back, Toronto is maintaining the same prices as last year and offering two complimentary lower bowl tickets to a 2014 Toronto Raptors game for signing up by the early renewal deadline of Jan. 17.
The club has made moves to improve.
Toronto has already signed Brazilian striker Gilberto, with England star Jermain Defoe expected to join him soon. The signing of former league MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who played in Toronto from 2009 to 2011, is expected later this week.
Those recruits are expected to bolster an attack that produced just 30 goals last season, second-worst in the league.
Since the end of the 2013 season, Toronto has also acquired MLS experience in the form of Brazilian midfielder Jackson and defender Justin Morrow while picking up draft picks in trading away the rights of goalkeeper Stefan Frei and midfielder Bobby Convey.
While Toronto finished out of the playoff for a seventh straight year with a 6-17-11 record in 2013, there were encouraging signs under first-year manager Ryan Nelsen.
The team showed a strong spine with Joe Bendik excelling in goal, Scottish defender Steven Caldwell providing stability at centre back and captain, and young Argentine Matias Laba strengthening the midfield.
Salary cap issues have largely been straightened out and the current 24-man Toronto roster features 19 players aged 25 or younger.