As rumoured for most of the week, Winter is here at Toronto FC.
After four fruitless seasons under
four five failed head coaches, the Klinsmann plan was enacted today with the hiring of former Ajax and Inter midfielder Aron Winter as head coach and Bob De Klerk as his assistant. Winter, a former Dutch international, and De Klerk come to Toronto from Amsterdam, where they were working with Ajax’s academy and assisting the first team. Paul Mariner will serve as director of player development.
Winter wants TFC to play with three up front in a 4-3-3 formation. But he’s never seen this collection of chumps play, and he’s already got to deal with news that designated player Julian De Guzman has “shredded” his meniscus and needs to go under the knife.
Mariner, formerly Steve Nicol’s sidekick when the New England Revolution were good, is back on this side of the Atlantic after 15 TFC-esque months with Plymouth Argyle. In his day, the former England international was a prolific scorer for Plymouth and Ipswich.
Over at The Globe & Mail, our man Paul Attfield says he likes the moves. Here at At The Rails, we’re waiting for new blogger Ryan Johnston to make his debut with a breakdown of the hirings. He’s a little busy with his day job right now, but has promised to weigh in this weekend. Stay tuned.
Unfortunately I was working for the man (aka CTV News) yesterday, which prevented me from going down to BMO Field and listening to Juergen Klinsmann talk in vague, broad terms about coming up with an identity for footy in Toronto (here’s a suggestion: a winning, playoff-calibre team). The German God of Goals, who showed no problems dropping several answers in Italian to his ethnically diverse audience, insisted he won’t become a full-time fixture in our fair city, shooting down talk that he’ll take on a coaching or management role. Some local soccer writers were more impressed with Klinsmann’s straight talk and realistic goals than others, who wondered (quite rightly) where the accountability will rest. For better or for worse, Juergen is just the ideas man, and MLSE’s Tom Anselmi will get the final say on new hires.
One other nugget of news that came down last night as I was sucking back a tasty Pompous Ass Cask Ale at the delightful Bar Volo on Yonge Street: Hamilton native and promising MLS striker Teal Bunbury has been called up for the US team’s friendly against South Africa in Cape Town. Bunbury won’t rule himself out of a lifetime of Maple Leaf misery if he suits up for the Yanks…it’s just an exhibition match…but the chances of him following his dad’s footsteps as a Canadian soccer stalwart seem to be slipping away.
High praise this week for MLS from veteran football reporter Gabriele Marcotti, who penned a piece in The Times of London that said the North American soccer circuit “has grown into a proper league with proper fans.”
I’d love to link to Marcotti’s piece, which describes contrasting experiences at two New York games, the first in year one of the league and a return trip for this season’s Red Bulls playoff game against San Jose, year 15 of MLS. But The Times website is subscription only, so I’ll just clip his final two paragraphs for your reading pleasure:
When MLS was launched, the founders talked abut growing the league slowly, from the bottom up, putting stability above all else. In that regard, it’s mission accomplished. The other part of the challenge wasn’t just about pushing football – the multitude of European and South American games on TV and the web can more than satisfy the armchair supporter – it was about peddling the real-life experience of going to games and creating a fan culture specific to MLS. Here, too, they’re well on their way.
The biggest difference between 1996 and 2010? 2010 feels real.
Kind words, to be sure. But while MLS may be a proper league and, in cities like Toronto, draws proper fans, those fans don’t always get to watch proper football. They might when the MLS Cup comes to BMO Field on Nov. 21, but they seldom do whenever TFC takes the pitch.
Juergen Klinsmann and his SoccerSolutions company have been called on to solve the woes of our local lads by serving as consultants during the hiring processes for a new coach and general manager. The German will make his first trip to Toronto on Thursday afternoon to outline his plans for
world domination successful football by the shores of Lake Ontario. We’ll check back tomorrow with a look at what he says.
At The Rails
The Vancouver Whitecaps have former Tottenham exec Paul Barber leading them into MLS. Now Toronto FC is looking to a Yid legend, tabbing former Spurs hero Juergen Klinsmann to try and right it’s ship. So says Stephen Brunt in The Globe & Mail. Not as coach or GM but as a consultant/technical adviser, something he did for the LA Galaxy in 2004. A nice bit of news on a Friday afternoon for the local lads whose just-concluded season, as Len outlined earlier, was pretty dismal.
Speaking of Spurs, I’m jetting off to Europe tonight, rather looking forward to attending the epic THFC-Inter tilt at White Hart Lane next Tuesday night. To say stoked would be something of an understatement. Will post some thoughts late next week. You’re in Brent’s hands until then.