Toronto FC soccer club unveils new managers
TORONTO - Aron Winter likes to think of it as Toronto's own twist on Total Football.
Toronto FC officially unveiled its new management staff Thursday which it hopes will bring the beleaguered Major League Soccer team success.
Toronto wanted to implement a playing style that's both more attractive to watch and produces results on the pitch -- reminiscent of the free-flowing "Total Football" philosophy developed by Ajax -- and Winter, club officials believe, is the perfect man to implement it.
"It is a big challenge," Winter said at a crowded news conference at the Air Canada Centre. "It is a young club. The feeling given to me was that we can build something together and (play) an attractive style of soccer."
That style, Winter insisted, will be unique to Toronto, but admitted it will strongly resemble the fluid game of interchangeable players perfected by his former Dutch club.
"We want to be attractive, we want to dominate, with a lot of movement also," the soft-spoken Winter said through a thick Dutch accent.
Winter will have some help. Toronto also named Dutchman Bob de Klerk as Winter's first assistant and Englishman Paul Mariner the team's new director of player development.
In Total Football -- which the Dutch national team also adopted -- a player will leave his position with another player seamlessly filling in that spot.
The club hired former German star Juergen Klinsmann in November to help turn around the struggling squad, and his first order of business was to determine a style the team wanted to play. The next step was finding the right person to implement it.
But overhauling a playing style doesn't happen overnight. How quickly the team adapts will inevitably be up to the players, Klinsmann said.
"How they play the game, how fast they can adjust to that style of play, and hopefully they really identify with that style of play," said Klinsmann, who helped Germany capture the 1990 World Cup. "I think they will be excited. And I think they understand that this is something that really reflects their neighbourhood. The fans want to see a team moving forward, attacking, taking risks, and battling their way through."
The team has been without a full-time head coach and GM since Preki and Mo Johnston were fired in September, with the team about to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Toronto went 9-13-8 on the year.
Winter, 43, played for Ajax -- he began and ended his playing career at the Amsterdam club --and Inter Milan, and scored six goals in 84 appearances for the Netherlands from 1987 to 2000, making three World Cup appearances.
He coached a junior Ajax team before taking the Toronto position, and is also a former assistant coach with the Dutch under-20 team.
Mariner brings knowledge of the MLS as a former assistant coach with the New England Revolution, and he said his role in the early going will be to steer Winter through the challenges unique to the North American league, including the salary cap and the long hours of travel.
Mariner, who played for Ipswich Town, Arsenal and Portsmouth, believes Winter will be a quick study.
"I think any job that you're doing that's out of your so-called comfort zone is a challenge," Mariner said. "But Aron Winter is a very composed individual, he knows exactly what he wants, he's a spectacular coach, he's a wonderful human being also which is very important, he's extremely intelligent and he's been taking all the information in, which has been quite a lot."
Their one enemy is time -- the season opens in 10 weeks.
"They know it takes time to implement that style of play," Klinsmann said. "There will be moments when you lose two or three games and you doubt everything you do, you've got to go through those moments and stick to it, and I think Aron is capable of doing that."
Toronto's new leaders have to hope for patience from a fan base that grew increasingly angry last season over the poor product on the field amid rising ticket prices.
The revamped staff said its first order of business will be meeting with players, with captain Dwayne De Rosario at the top of the list.
De Rosario made headlines last week when he arrived in Scotland for a training stint with Celtic FC. Mariner said the club fully supports it captain and expects him back in Toronto on Jan. 18.
"The one thing we've got to do is have a dialogue with every single player and find out what makes them tick, and I think it would be prudent to start with the captain," Mariner said. "From what I've seen from the outside looking in, he's an inspirational guy, just a wonderful worker in the community, and equally had a fantastic season last year.
"That's obviously a talent, and I'm looking forward to having some conversations with him and I know Aron and Bob are looking forward to working with him."
The team also announced Thursday, at a jam-packed news conference that featured a dozen television cameras, that interim GM Earl Cochrane, interim head coach Nick Dasovic, plus Danny Dichio, Jason Bent and Stuart Neely will all remain with the club. Cochrane becomes director of player and team operations while Neely will be TFC's academy director.
The staff will head south to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next week for the MLS combine, and then the MLS Superdraft on Jan. 13 in Baltimore.
Toronto will take to the pitch next month in Antalya, Turkey will three matches to open training camp. The team will then head back to Toronto before heading to Orlando then Charleston, South Carolina, for the Carolina Challenge Cup to wrap up the pre-season.
Toronto FC opens the 2011 season in Vancouver on March 19 against the expansion Whitecaps.