It looks like Toronto FC just cannot wait to get 2013 started! With the rumour machine churning non-stop since the calendar rolled over, and the club being linked to Arnold Peralta, then Jeff Larentowicz, and finally, the Honduran Maradona himself, Alexander Lopez, the Reds have been busy this offseason.
Now, Toronto FC are being connected to New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen, who previously spent some time in Major League Soccer from 2000-2005, winning individual honours and MLS Cups with D.C. United (Kevin Payne’s D.C. United, ladies and gents!), before heading to England with Blackburn Rovers. He also spent a short time with Tottenham Hotspur and is currently with Queens Park Rangers.
The rumours originated on Twitter, first with Nelsen heading back to MLS, then with Nelsen heading back to D.C.,but Ben Olsen said it was 100 per cent not true, quickly shutting down the rumour, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post.
Now, the rumours have moved on and have Ryan Nelsen coming to Toronto FC, but our sources tell us Nelsen would be coming here as a coach, not a player. Toronto FC have, supposedly, been shopping for an assistant coach as of late to replace Jim Brennan, a position previously offered to and snubbed by Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath.
Ryan Nelsen may return as a player-coach, too, though that would bring in salary cap and international player complications, but with Kevin Payne making changes, it’s likely that Nelsen is here to play second fiddle to Paul Mariner and begin a new chapter in his career. Nelsen and Payne have a good relationship, having spent five seasons together at D.C., so it’s not surprising that these new links to Toronto FC have surfaced since Payne’s appointment as president and general manager of the club.
Peralta’s signing, too, was seen as a poaching of a former D.C. target, which may be a victory in some regards, but also a worry in others – why is it now that these players or potential coaches are signing for Toronto FC? Were they just not able to bring them into D.C? Payne mentioned the increased resources available to him at TFC in his introductory press conference, is this those resources bearing fruit? Or did Ben Olsen or other parties involved meet these ideas with opposition in D.C, and we're merely getting the scraps from their table that they don't want/need? Food for thought!
What we do know, though, is that Nelsen would be a smart pick-up by Toronto FC. He’s an experienced defender, which works well since Mariner was a pretty decent forward; this should give the duo a healthy mix of experience to draw from when practicing both offensively and defensively. He knows the league, too, having gone through the SuperDraft himself (he was selected fourth overall by D.C. back in 2001), and is familiar with the rules, and, more importantly, the style of play that makes Major League Soccer so unique, though a lot has changed since 2005.
He’s also been the captain of New Zealand for a good stretch of his career, meaning he must have some sort of leadership skills, something Toronto FC will look forward to adding to the mix, should this supposed coaching partnership come to fruition. At 35 years of age, Nelsen is nearing retirement, so I doubt Toronto FC would invest heavily in signing a centre back who only has one good season left in him, if that. No, the most likely scenario is that, if Nelsen is indeed heading to Toronto, he will be doing so in some sort of coaching role.
It’s a good move, if it pans out, and another swoop by club president Kevin Payne. Is Nelsen a good coach? No idea. It would be his first foray into this role, and, if the rumour is true, Toronto FC will be his first trial as an assistant manager. We’ll just have to wait and see!