Home MLS Toronto FC Winter, Mariner, de Klerk all take TFC roles

Winter, Mariner, de Klerk all take TFC roles

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As new head coach and technical director of Toronto FC, Aron Winter said he wants to bring to Major League Soccer a style that is similar to the one used at Ajax.

He played with the famed team from the Netherlands and most recently was an assistant coach with the club.

And when he talked about the style he wants to bring to Toronto he talked about using three strikers, he talked about a style with a lot of movement.

But Winter, 43, knows that things will be different in MLS than with Ajax, where after his playing career he worked for the team’s youth academy and as assistant coach of with the first team.

“You’re speaking about two different teams,“ Winter said. “But I don’t want to compare it. How I want to play with Toronto is a little bit similar. It’s not exactly similar because it also depends who plays with you. We‘re going assess the team to determine at which positions we need to get better.”

His education in the ways of MLS with its salary cap and other rules will come from Paul Mariner, who was confirmed at Thursday’s press conference as TFC’s director of player development.

And Winter brings with him as his first assistant coach Bob de Klerk who was a coach in the respected Ajax youth academy.

The moves were touted as a redefining of the culture of TFC by Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

The restructuring of the organization came after the hiring of former German star striker Jürgen Klinsmann to consult on the overhaul of the club. Anselmi said Klinsmann will continue to assist the team.

In other developments, Earl Cochrane who has been interim general manager since Mo Johnston was fired with coach Preki in September has been named TFC’s director of team and player operations. Stuart Neely moves up to become director of the academy. Jim Brennan, Nick Dasovic, Mike Toshack, Danny Dichio and Jason Bent will remain with the club and Anselmi said they will “play a big role in the future of the club.”

Toronto FC also expects midfielder Dwayne De Rosario will be back with the club later this month after a training session with Celtic of the Scottish Premier League. And midfielder Julian de Guzman who had arthroscopic knee surgery from a meniscus tear at the end of the season will have the knee assessed next week but is expected to be ready to join the team in pre-season training.

Winter said the challenge attracted him to the new job. He said he wants to bring an attractive style of football to his new city that will give the team its own identity.

He said he hasn‘t had much time to learn about all the players yet but that the evaluating process will be under way in earnest next week.

“I look forward to starting as soon as possible,” he said. “I’ve got Paul here who knows a lot about the league.”

“I’m here initially to fast-track Aron as much as quick as possible,” Mariner said.

“It’s a big challenge to me,” Winter said. “This is a young club.”

He said there is a chance to build a team with a style that fit’s the identity of the city. “A style that is attractive,“ he said. “Toronto has a lot of fans that like soccer. Meeting with everybody has given me a very good feeling.”

He said he is happy to have Mariner and Cochrane to help him with the league’s intricacies, like the salary cap. Another change for him will be the travel. There are longer trips in MLS than in Europe and that travel sometimes can cut into practice time.

“They have told me about the travelling,” Winter said. “It’s a challenge to find a balance for what’s the best for the team. You know when you’re playing in MLS that the distances are far away, not like in Europe.”

It’s one thing to have a style of football in mind but it’s another thing to have the players to put it into action, especially in a league that is limited by salary cap and a league that uses a significant number of Canadian and U.S. players.

“I’ve told Aron and Bob that the North American player has a thirst for knowledge,” Mariner said. “Has a thirst to learn about the game. Obviously, I’ve played against Holland and know the way that they play and it’s a wonderful way to play football. I’m excited. I’m anxious to learn how they’re going to work it.

“The North American player will be so receptive to the information. It’s an educational process for them and they’ve got the tools to do it. It’s still football. It’s just in a slightly different system and the movement is all about cohesion. It’s still football.”

A strong academy system can also instil in young players the system of playing. “We’re really going to be focusing on the academy,” Mariner said. “We want to grow the academy.”

He has other North American soccer experience besides MLS, having been with Albany and San Francisco in the old American Professional Soccer League in the early 1990s.

“I worked at Albany with a very, very low budget and we got to the final, we played a certain way, we played three at the back,” Mariner said. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat. You live and learn in football all the time. You’ve never got it down. But this to me is fantastic. I’m so excited.”

Also having visited Toronto with New England, he has become a big fan of the TFC supporters. But the fans’ expectations have yet to be met on the pitch.

Said Anselmi: “We have been working over the past few months to build an integrated soccer system that will give us the best opportunity to succeed on the pitch.

“We wanted to establish a management team that is committed to the way the club wants to play, has an international perspective, knows Major League Soccer and believes in the potential of Toronto FC.

“Aron will oversee our entire soccer operation and set the soccer direction of Toronto FC. Paul will be responsible for our club’s scouting, player acquisition, player development and our academy.”

Winter made 84 international appearances for the Netherlands and played in three FIFA World Cups and four European Championships. He started and ended his playing career in Amsterdam with Ajax and also played in Italy for Lazio and Inter Milan, making over 400 career club appearances.

Mariner, 57, spent the past 15 months coaching with Plymouth Argyle in England. He joined the New England Revolution in 2004 as assistant coach and spent six seasons with the club, reaching the MLS Cup three consecutive years.

As a player, Mariner represented England at the 1982 FIFA World Cup and 1980 European Championship. He played more than 500 games for Plymouth Argyle, Ipswich Town, Arsenal and Portsmouth.

Thursday marked the beginning of a new era for Toronto FC after four seasons without a playoff appearance. And there were the familiar calls for patience.

“One of the goals is to first get to the playoffs,” Winter said. “[For] the style and also the mentality to change and bring it to the team we need some time. We’re going to go slowly and we’re going to reach all our goals.“

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