[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Less than 24 hours after an embarrassing 3-0 home loss to New England and head coach Ryan Nelsen's criticism ofgeneral manager Tim Bezbatchenko, Toronto FC fired Nelsen and his coaching staff and named Gregg Vanney as his replacement. On top of that, rumors persisted that Jermain Defoe will move to English club Queens Park Rangers before the end of the summer transfer window.
Vanney has been working as Toronto's assistant GM and director of its academy program. He previously worked at Chivas USA as an assistant to Robin Fraser.
Besides Nelsen, also gone are assistant coaches Fran O’Leary, Jim Brennan, Duncan Oughton, goalkeeper CoachStewart Kerr and strength and conditioning coach Adrian Lamb. Assistant coach Jason Bent was offered a position to remain with the club.
The shakeup follows Nelsen's criticism of the 32-year-old Bezbatchenko, MLS's youngest general manager, after the loss to the Revs. Bezbatchenko had said on Friday it was time for Toronto to start playing better.
“I’ve won this league, played in it for four years, been in the Premier League for 10 years, played in a World Cup, Olympics. I’ve played in some pretty hot pressure games,” said Nelsen. “One thing that I do know is this was not one of them.”
Nelsen didn't like that Bezbatchenko had gone public with his criticism.
“It affected the guys,” Nelsen said of Bezbatchenko’s words. “What we do at Toronto FC is we keep it in-house -- everything we do, we keep inside the four walls. And the players, coaching staff, everything, stays within the four walls.”
What could not be denied, though, was how poorly TFC played against the Revs, falling behind, 2-0, after 21 minutes. The result left TFC in a three-way tie for third place with New England and Columbus. New York, which fell to D.C. United, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon, is in sixth place, two points behind the trio.
The shakeup comes after Tim Leiweke, who had brought Defoe and Michael Bradley to Toronto in moves that cost around $100 million, announced he was leaving as Toronto FC parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment's president and CEO.
At a press conference on Sunday afternoon to announce the coaching changes, Bezbatchenko denied rumors that both Defoe and Bradley were on the way out, but he did say Toronto FC was in contact with QPR, which might buy Defoe or at least sign him on a loan deal.
The English international has scored 11 goals in 16 games but he is currently sidelined with a lingering groin injury that Nelsen had said on Friday would sideline him for at least several weeks.