This is a story that has been a long time in the making. The club's record setting losing streak put Aron Winter's job as coach in question for the better part of two months now and despite finding success in the CONCACAF Champions League last year and the Voyageurs Cup this year, and finally winning a MLS game he has been shown the door today. Officially the story is going to be that Winter decided to step down but knowing MLSE it was either step down or be fired and we will just spin it however we want.
The club is coming off winning their fourth straight Voyageurs Cup and their first MLS win over the Philadelphia Union but that was not enough to see Aron Winter make it through the international break. With the announcement that Paul Mariner will leave his technical role for a position on the bench Toronto FC now has their 7th different coach in less than six full seasons of existence.
In his time with the club Winter managed to win a pair of Voyageurs Cups, lead the team to a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal berth, and set a record for the number of players used in a single MLS season. His undoing though was the fact that the team never really got it going in league play. They missed out on the playoffs last season after a terrible start to the campaign and now they seem to be on the same course for 2012 as they again find themselves sitting in last place.
Winter proved to be more than a little committed to his dream of installing a proper 4-3-3 formation at TFC and that may have played a major role in his lack of league success. He never managed to get the pieces in place to make such a challenging formation work but he also was unwilling to make the tactical adjustments needed to get results in the short term with what he had. This squad has the talent needed to win games but when the players become frustrated and confused by the tactics it is not going to help them get those results.
The timing of the move comes across as being a bit odd as well. Winter has been struggling to get the job done all season so why wait until things actually seemed to be picking up to sack him? It also looks bad on the club to chose today to break the news with a lot of the Toronto soccer media being busy preparing for Euro 2012 coverage and Canada's important World Cup qualifier against Cuba tomorrow. If they were trying to sneak this one by and avoid the criticism, too bad for them. Even before the press conference the Star and the Globe already reported that the changes were in store and that won't be the end of the attention they get.
For the short term the move means that Tom Anselmi remains in his current role, Winter leaves from the role of head coach and technical director, Mariner takes over behind the bench where he will be joined by Jim Brennan. It also seems that Bob de Klerk is going to be staying in his role linking the club and the academy while Thomas Rongen will keep leading the academy. In short, only Winter is taking any of the heat for the club's struggles and is the only one losing his job.
Mariner has been with the club since 2011 so he is not new to this whole mess and he has actually been more involved in training of late which suggested a shift in his role. He will be looked on to provide the MLS experience that got him the job with the club in the first place despite only a short and unsuccessful stint at Plymouth Argyle on his resume as a head coach.
The club did say that they offered Winter a different role at the club which he declined in favour of pursuing other options.