Sunday, January 9, 2011
'Total Football' eclipses Canadian coaches
What role should Canadian coaches play in the Toronto FC franchise?
Benjamin Massey of Goal.com writes about another European influence arriving in Toronto, and another opportunity for Canadian coaches falling by the wayside.
After the sacking of Preki, they appointed Canadian assistant Nick Dasovic as interim head coach. Dasovic took a developmental roster and, quite sensibly, built for next year. Young players such as Nicholas Lindsay and Doneil Henry got extended opportunities. It was a short audition for Dasovic, but by all accounts he did very well in trying circumstances.
Yet Dasovic was never considered, even in passing, to keep the job. Worse, with the hiring of Winter and de Klerk, Dasovic has become an amoeba. There are vague promises that he'll remain in the organization, but with no title and no appointed responsibilities it's hard to see what good he'll do. Winter is obviously set on bringing his people in, and he may have neither the time nor the ability to find a role for the promising Dasovic.
European solutions for Canadian problems are bad enough, but they're even worse when they just wind up creating more Canadian problems.
It seems intuitive that, if you want coaches who know how to win in Canadian soccer, the best solution is to nurture Canadian coaches. Dasovic has been in the coaching ranks to some extent since 2002 and full-time since 2005. He has assisted the Canadian national team at both the U-20 and senior levels, he's managed the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency and Canadian Olympic qualifying teams, and he's been with Toronto since 2008. Dasovic is building a strong resume and has been steadily moving up the coaching ranks since retiring as a player five years ago. Even during his playing days he had a reputation as a leader and something of a soccer intellectual, and it's been serving him well as a coach. While nobody would confuse him with Jose Mourinho, Dasovic has proven himself at every level he has yet attempted.
Yet Dasovic is being set aside. Perhaps MLSE is right to think that the 42-year-old isn't yet ready to run an MLS team full time, but he isn't even being kept close to Winter as a top assistant or right-hand man.
It reeks of the same short-sighted attitude that has caused so many of Toronto FC's other problems. Rather than correcting the underlying problem, they are instead attempting emergency surgery in record time. It will doubtless shake the branches of Toronto's entire organization: when TFC Academy coach Jason Bent sees the way Dasovic is being treated, is he likely to view Toronto FC as a club that will help him achieve his own ambitions? Or will he, and other young would-be Wengers like Jim Brennan and Danny Dichio, realize that he is a stop-gap measure who will be replaced or passed over in favour of the latest flavor-of-the-month quick fix?
None of this is to say that Aron Winter is certain to be a failure in Toronto. He is intelligent, enthusiastic, and knows his way around soccer. He also has a Major League Soccer expert in Paul Mariner to oversee things as director of player development, bringing the North American knowledge that Mo Johnston so brutally lacked. Winter is certainly being put in a better position than Johnston was, and the Toronto organization seems to have learned a few lessons from their previous mistakes.
It's significant that of the three established Canadian professional teams, Toronto FC has the fewest Canadians ranking high in the organization. The Montreal Impact are run by former Canadian international Nick de Santis and have had a Canadian head coach for every year since 1998, excepting a two-year run by American Bob Lilley in 2002 and 2003.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are coached by the Icelandic Teitur Thordarson but boast Canadian Bob Lenarduzzi as their team president and have had a succession of Canadian coaches including Dale Mitchell, Carl Valentine, and Tony Fonseca. Apart from the brief Dasovic and Earl Cochrane interregnum, Toronto has had non-Canucks. It's no coincidence that Toronto is also, by far, the least successful of the three teams.
I'm not saying that Toronto should have handed the franchise to Cochrane and Dasovic immediately. But Dasovic, in particular, proved that he is a strong coach during his audition. Aron Winter may be a good coach, but he would be stronger with Dasovic standing beside him than with another foreign face trying to implement a system and strategy that is suited for a entirely different type of soccer.
Posted by Mike Jacobs at 11:58 AM