Winter throws in the Toronto towel
TORONTO, Ont. ● Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is stepping down after a dismal start to the season that has left the club in Major League Soccer’s basement.
Winter, 45, leaves Toronto with a regular-season mark of 7-22-15, winning just one MLS game on the road. His team was outscored 80-44 during his tenure.
The club stands last in the league with 1-9-0 record and has been outscored 21-8 this season.
Paul Mariner, the club’s director of player development, will take over coaching duties effective immediately, the club announced at a press conference held Thursday at BMO Field.
Winter was offered another position within the organization, but declined.
Things won’t get any easier for TFC after the current international break. Toronto has road games in Kansas City (8-3-1) and Houston (4-3-4).
A thoroughly decent man who started most media scrums by shaking hands with the reporters present, Winter staked his future on bringing a vision of how to play football to Toronto FC.
It may have been a case of wrong system, wrong players and wrong league, however, as he struggled to get the machine ticking on all cylinders.
A woeful defence and misfiring offence, combined with some untimely injuries, sealed his fate in a franchise that has been a success off the field but a disappointment on it.
Ironically, he leaves on the back of a rare win and with a victory in the Amway Canadian Championship.
Winter was hired as head coach and technical director on Jan. 6, 2011, along with assistant coach Bob de Klerk and director of player development Paul Mariner.
Former assistant coach Nick Dasovic had finished out the 2010 season in charge after Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic was fired in September.
Inheriting a 9-13-8 team, Winter set about installing his possession-based 4-3-3 system. And midway through the 2011 season, he started a serious remake of the roster, bringing in designated players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans as well as Ryan Johnson and Terry Dunfield.
As the new roster started to gel, the results improved and Toronto posted a 7-4-6 record in all competitions in the final three months of the season.
Nevertheless the team finished 16th out of 18 teams with a 6-13-15 league record and a defence that leaked a league-worst 59 goals.
“Last season was a very difficult season,” Winter said at Toronto FC’s media day prior to the 2012 season kickoff. “[But] it was completely different between the first five months and the last five months.”
“Last season we ended very well,” he added. “How we ended, that’s the way we want to start.”
Things looked bright as Toronto defeated defending MLS champion Los Angeles to advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, making Canadian soccer history in the process.
But Toronto was beaten by Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the semifinals and the wheels fell off in the league.
Captain Frings limped out of the season-opening 3-1 loss in Seattle on March 17 and missed the next five weeks due to a hamstring strain.
The team failed to convert chances on attack and gave too many goals away through giveaways and defensive blunders. Players did not revolt but some complained of team tactics as Winter tried to play a more defensive game.
Winter made changes, shifting the fiery de Klerk to the role of technical manager and making former player Jm Brennan assistant coach.
The poor start came in a season when Winter has all but staked his reputation on making the playoffs. Now in its sixth year, the franchise has never made the post-season.
Toronto did not post its first league win this season until its 10th outing when it beat the visiting Philadelphia Union 1-0 on May 26.
The nine-game losing streak to start the season was a league record.
Winter was a star midfielder who started and ended his playing career in Amsterdam with Ajax.
He debuted with the Dutch side at 19 in 1986. He signed with Italy’s Lazio after the 1991-1992 season, spending four seasons with the Rome club before moving to Inter Milan in 1996.
Winter returned to Ajax in 1999, with a stint on loan with Sparta Rotterdam before returning to Ajax and retiring at the end of the 2002-03 season.
He became Toronto’s sixth head coach, following Mo Johnston, John Carver, Chris Cummins, Preki and Dasovic.