[MLS] Can Aron Winter turn Toronto FC into a bastion of Total Soccer, or will the former Dutch international be more like compatriot Ruud Gullit?
TFC has changed course, again, by selecting Winter as head coach and technical director; in essence, he replaces manager/director of soccer operations Mo Johnston and head coach Preki, who were both dismissed last August. To assist his education in all things MLS -- salary cap, player distribution mechanisms, drafts, and other nuances Gullit never attempted to master during his brief, disastrous run with the Los Angeles Galaxy three years ago – TFC has also brought aboard former Revs assistant coach Paul Mariner as director of player personnel.
“I will use Paul a lot in the early days as I get used to how things work here," Winter said in a press release confirming the hires.
The choices were made by former German international Juergen Klinsmann, who was brought aboard as a consultant by the team’s ownership, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, after it dismissed Johnston and Preki.
Winter, 43, has been on the coaching staff at Ajax for more than five years. He started his pro playing career with Ajax in 1986 at age 18 and also played in Italy with Lazio and Inter Milan. Winter finished his playing career, which also featured 84 caps and six goals for the Netherlands, in 2002 with Ajax and a loan spell at Sparta Rotterdam.
(Klinsmann also played at Inter, but Winter arrived four years after Klinsmann moved on to Monaco. They were opponents in one of the most notorious matches in World Cup history; the 1990 World Cup second round match between the Netherlands and West Germany in which Frank Rijkaard spat on German striker Rudi Voeller. Both players were sent off midway through the first half. Klinsmann scored the first goal in a 2-1 win for West Germany.)
This will be Mariner’s fourth coaching stint in North America; prior to joining the Revs, he was a player-coach for the APSL Albany Capitals and San Francisco Bay Blackhawks. Numerous Revs, including recently retired midfielder Steve Ralston and striker Taylor Twellman, give Mariner much of the credit for the team’s three straight (2005-07) MLS Cup apppearances.
“I know Toronto fans have been told to ‘watch this spot’ for several years,” said Mariner, a former English international who spent six years with the Revs before joining the staff of Plymouth Argyle in 2009. Plymouth, mired deep in financial difficulties, released him from his contract last month.
“Can we turn it around right away? The intelligent football answer is ‘No, we can’t.’ There are no guarantees. All I can say is that I am extremely confident that this is the right mix. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Klinsmann and Mariner are both admirers of the Ajax system, which features a reliance on skillful, attacking play honed by one of the best player development programs in the world. As a player and coach, Winter’s time at Ajax adds up to 16 years.
“People are aware of the Dutch playing Total Football. We want to play a style for Toronto, but it will take time – maybe three years,” Winter said. “We have goals in the meantime for next year.
“The playoffs are our goal.”
That may not seem like much, but for a fan base frustrated by more than four years of bungling management, coaching turnover, and absences from postseason play, it would be a major step forward.