About a month after Stuart Neely's shock resignation from his position of Toronto FC Academy Director, TFC have found his replacement.
Thomas Rongen, the former American Under 20 and American Samoa coach has been hired to oversee all of Toronto FC's academy operations. Rongen, 55, has coached in MLS for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, DC United, New England Revolution, and Chivas USA. He has won the MLS Coach of the Year award, with Tampa Bay in the inaugural MLS season. And he also won the MLS Cup with DC United in 1999.
Rongen brings a combination of experience within North America and MLS, and at the same time the Dutch connection that many would expect Winter to look for. Rongen played for Ajax youth and reserve set ups in the 70's, and understands what Aron Winter is trying to achieve with TFC's new academy ambitions. Rongen's time as coach of the US Under 20 set up, along with coaching University soccer in the states will serve him quite well in his new role in Toronto.
"We are very pleased to welcome Thomas Rongen to Toronto FC. He has both great coaching experience with youth and in the MLS," Aron Winter said in a press release. "
TFC's Paul Beirne also talked about the importance of TFC to bring on a coach of Rongen quality.
"It is an honor for us to come have him work with us." Beirne said. "He's the right quality of guy to be here with us as we open up our training facility. The training facility is opening in May or June of this year, and that's going to be a huge, huge moment for Toronto FC."
Clearly this is a massive announcement for TFC. It may not get as much attention as a new signing or trade, but frankly this is like multiple signings at once. Rongen's strength has been developing youth, and getting the most out of young players. Who knows how many young Canadian Academy players he'll help train and prepare for the first team.
Bringing on Rongen shows that TFC are willing to invest and put out big dollars for the betterment of the club. As stated before, the Downsview academy complex opens later this year, and Rongen's signing is the final pillar to what is becoming an impressive football foundation.
What should impress all of us is how TFC has managed to get two potential MLS head coaches to take prominent behind the scenes positions at the club. Both Rongen and Paul Mariner could have easily taken jobs at other MLS clubs, but instead they've bought into the concept of the new Toronto Football club. I can easily state that TFC has the strongest front office in MLS.
Rongen will bring another brilliant mind to the fold, but he will also bring a level of respect to TFC's academy that it deserves. No longer(we hope) will young Canadian players doubt TFC's ambition in developing them into professional soccer players who could one day represent their national team.
We won't see the benefits of this signing for at least 3 to 5 years, but for the first time since year one, Toronto FC fans have some major reasons to be optimistic. What TFC is showing the rest of MLS, is that although there may be a salary cap for how much you can spend on players, there's no limit to how much you can spend on bringing in coaches and developing your own players. Thank goodness we're owned by Rogers and Bell.
So what do you think of Thomas Rongen joining TFC? Think he's the final piece to Aron Winter's big plan? Or do you think Rongen will have a difficult time with TFC's lofty expectations of their academy? I find it tough to say anything bad about this announcement, and believe it to be one of the smartest moves in TFC's short history. I mean come on, if Rongen can get American Samoa to perform, I'm sure he can deal with the GTA's best young footballers.