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Thursday 17 March 2011

TFC 2011

     The upcoming MLS season, the fifth such in Toronto, has not been met with the same fanfare those previous have enjoyed. Perhaps that is just the natural maturation of a relationship, the gloss worn off; new car smell faded. Some would say that a further lack of success, defined as a trip to the much lauded and often fabled playoffs, could spell a turning point in the team’s future.

     Perhaps some of the less than committed fans will turn their backs on ‘soccer’, head back to the Dome for some baseball action, after all this is the year the Blue Jays will do it. Boston and New York are on strike this year aren’t they? Maybe they’ll go watch the Argos play; now that’s an atmosphere. And everyone knows the Leafs and Raptors are really close to challenging for titles, maybe next year will be the one.

     Personally the largesse of the BMO crowds was never a concern. Perhaps the vision of a less than full, but fully focused group of supporters was the right way to go. Will that girl in the seat behind please stop talking about her trip to Southern France…? It’s nice, yes, but not here, not now.

     With that in mind rather than preview the season with a list of who has left (everyone) and who is new (everyone), the projected finish (last or so) and key contributors (same old cabal), let us look a little further into what has really changed at a club that has seen more than its fair share of turnover, as…

     The Future seems bright for Toronto FC

     There is a huge potential for success embodied by the new front office staff at Toronto FC. The combination of the two Dutchmen, Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk, and the MLS savvy of Paul Marriner could pave the way to future rewards if they are given the time to implement their ideas. While the role and influence of Jürgen Klinsman in these appointments remains unclear, his international reputation and contacts, must have played some role in the acquisition of such an impressive staff.
     Winter, who began both his professional playing and coaching careers at AFC Ajax, is just the sort of accomplished cosmopolitan individual this city loves. De Klerk, enjoyed a less spectacular career, but has spent the last 9 years working in the Ajax youth system, including time at Ajax Cape Town in South Africa, a satellite club of Ajax Amsterdam, which helped produced Steven Pienaar. Marriner is much more familiar to the North American fan due to the success he enjoyed with Steve Nichol and the New England Revolution. His expertise in the intricacies of MLS rules and regulations will surely be of great importance as the two Dutchmen acclimatize to this continent. The stocking of the front office with such a diverse and distinguished council must signal a radical shift away from the one dimensional thinking that plagued the team in the first phase of its existence.

     The famed Ajax academy has produced many international stars, through their central philosophy of quick, attractive, attacking 4-3-3 system. They developed the TIPS model, of which Nick Dasovic has spoke, referring to the four pillars of a professional player being technique, insight, personality and speed. The list of graduates of the Ajax system is too numerous to recount here, but it does bear stating that Johan Cruyff, perhaps the most celebrated exponent of the system, was instrumental in exporting the Ajax way into the Barcelona system that currently dominates European football. With the combined efforts of the three new hires, in conjunction with the staff already in place the future bodes well for Toronto FC.

     The key ingredient to success here is time, forget the past four years of disappointment, dismiss them as one failure and embrace this as a new beginning. The future of MLS is in the development academies, if this project is allowed to take flight, not only would it greatly assist Toronto in establishing itself as a power, but will be part of a revolution much needed in Canadian soccer. For too long young players have had no pathway to success in their home country. Details of the restructuring of the club are yet to emerge, aside from the creation of a third academy team, but as their Ajax background is presumably what made Messrs Winter and de Klerk stand out as candidates, the future for Toronto FC and Canada could be very bright.

For any one unfamiliar with the Ajax Academy’s Reputation UEFA.com’s Training Ground recently featured it in a three part video series.

Part I – Inside the Ajax Academy

Part II – Coaching the Ajax Way

Part III – Cruyff’s Academy Memories

Neat little aside, a similar video piece on Cruyff Courts, which are popping up all over the Netherlands.

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