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End of Season Press Conferences. The Highlights

So just in case you do not have 2 hours to sit down and enjoy the interviews in their full glory I have decided to set out the highlights of the day.  Today many members of Toronto FC along with the management team sat down with members of the media to discuss the season and where the club is going from here.  There was a lot of good stuff, some interesting remarks, and the standard dodging of contract and player move questions.

The interviews today involved Bob de Klerk, Paul Mariner, Aron Winter, Danny Koevermans, Julian de Guzman, Stefan Frei, Milos Kocic, Joao Plata, Mikael Yourassowsky, Andy Iro, Terry Dunfield, Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Ryan Johnson, Nick Soolsma, Ashtone Morgan, Matt Stinson, Doneil Henry, Peri Marosevic, Eric Avila, Danleigh Borman, Elbekay Bouchiba, Adrian Cann, and Dicoy Williams.  As you can see from the length of that list there is a whole lot of the team involved in these videos so you can either check them out here or keep reading after the jump for the highlights.

The most frequent question of all this interviews was asking the players about their contract status.  In most cases the players response was that there was a bit of uncertainty about their future but that they are working on extending their stay with the club.  In a lot of cases like Marosevic, Iro, Frei, Dunfield, Johnson, Avila, and Cann (there were others) the club has options for at least the next season.  The option years in an MLS contract are always club options so that means that for the most part Toronto is in great position to pick and choose who they actually want to bring back and can shed some salary if they need to.  The fact that the club holds so many options on a lot of players is great news and as is the standard practice in MLS most of them will likely be re-signed with their extensions being exercised but chances are that very little of this will be made public for us to know.  The other thing that most players made clear is that for MLS contracts, they all expire at the very end of December, so that leaves a good couple of months for the club to decide who they want to keep and work out the needed contract extensions with.  With that done they will have the luxury of going in to the January transfer window knowing what they have and where they will need to make continued improvements.

The improvements that are still needed were at the very centre of the discussion with the management team.  Once again Winter was very coy and kept his cards close to his chest not giving away anything in regards to who might stay and who might go or where the team will be looking to add more players.  Bob de Klerk was a bit more forth coming with the information but even he still only pointed out the obvious by saying that they will need to bring in more depth and highlighted the need to focus on the backline.  He stated that it was obvious that Iro and Harden were being called on to play far too many games, same was the case for Morgan, and the team needs to look at bringing in more coverage for them at least. 

They also talked about how this season was a major learning progress for the two of them as they are still getting used to the style of play in the MLS but more importantly all the rules that are unique to the league.  It really seemed to be a big point for them that the start of the season was quite the learning experience, but as they began to figure things out they were able to remould the roster in a way that they wanted.

The players all made it clear that they are excited to be part of the vision that the management team has for the club, that they appreciate the support the club has, and that there is a very good attitude in the dressing room.  This press conference really goes to show how far things have come from the start of this season.  It is not just that the team has brought in all kinds of new players, there seems to have been a complete change of culture and attitude in the club and the dressing room as well.  The issues that De Rosario and Cann were involved with at the start of the season don't seem to be there and even though it was a rough year the players seem to know that this rebuild is something exciting to be part of.

It is worth noting that most players are almost never going to come out and say that they want to leave the club or that they are unhappy in this sort of setting.  That aside though it was nice to hear almost all of them come right out and say that they would be excited to return next season.  I think that speaks to the impact that a positive attitude can have and that the players feel like they now have the chance to be a part of something special.  Many of the players also noted the impact that the two midseason DP signings have had on the club.  Many of them look to Frings as a leader and mentor for themselves and his impact has been clear.  Even the management team took time to remark on the impact that Frings has had on the centre backs as well as on Julian de Guzman.

A few of the interviews were of special note so I will just go through the basic highlights quickly now:

- Eckersley noted that he is very unhappy with the fact that his club, Burnley, have basically not been in touch with him since he left about their plans for his future.  He commented that he would love to stay with Toronto and that talks with his agent are already under way.  Burnley seem to be uninterested in the player and with him being so unhappy with them TFC have a great chance to sign him.  Ecks also commented that he really enjoyed the style of play in the MLS and actually thought it was more similar to his roots, he is a Manchester United academy product, then the English Championship was since it was more of a possession game and there is less hoofing the ball down the field.  That is actually high praise for the league.  It was clear that he was keen to stay with the club as he enjoyed playing there and in the MLS.  The management crew commented that talks are under way to make this happen.

- Joao Plata, one of two players that used the help of a translator, also commented that he was very happy playing in Toronto and that he would like be to back next season.  He spoke highly of playing in Toronto and commented that it was thanks to his pace and skills that he has been able to adapt to a league where most players are much bigger and stronger then he is.  Again the management team commented that they are currently working with his agent to try and keep him with the club.

- Stefan Frei and Milos Kocic were interviewed at the same time and it was clear that they have a very good working relationship or if they do not that they are great actors.  Both keepers made it clear that whoever starts has the support of the other and that they enjoy having each other to push themselves and keep them at the top of their games.  One interesting comment that they made was mentioning that it would be the same no matter who was there next year and it almost had subtle tones that Frei might be on his way out.  That is obviously me reading into the matter and what they were saying but I am not the only one who feels that way according to my twitter time line.  The keepers were among the very few to make reference to the impact of the total football approach as they commented on how they had to learn to be better passers of the ball with both feet.

- The 'youngers'; Ashtone Morgan, Matt Stinson, and Doneil Henry provided a very good interview as they talked about how the season went for them as they got integrated in to the first team.  They all commented on how they grew in confidence with more playing time and expect to only get more comfortable with more playing time going forward.  Ashtone Morgan remarked about how JDG has acted as a sort of mentor for him and how that has really helped to ease his transition to the first team as well as to the Canadian National team.  All three of them were keen to talk about how they are now providing the example to the other young players in the academy and showing that with hard work you can make it into the team.  They also commented on how they maintain relationships with the academy players and have now taken on more of a mentorship role with the young players.  In the management teams segment it was Bob de Klerk who took time to talk about these three along with Cordon and Makabuya and he stressed that the club are committed to developing for the long term even if that means it takes longer to win.  They would rather see these young players develop and become part of the clubs success than go out and sign foreign players to try and chase after success right now.

- Julian de Guzman took some time during his press conference to discuss the actual nature of the injury that slowed him down for much of the season.  It turns out that he had his knee scoped which means they removed damaged areas to allow it to function properly but it was the recovery time and then setbacks that caused him to miss fair portions of this season.  JDG pointed out that he re-injured it twice this year and that hampered his performances.  He did say now that he is feeling fully fit and commented that he feels Winter's system is a great fit for him since it allows him the freedom to do things like push forward and get in on a chance every now and then.  He again remarked on the leadership that Frings has provided and his comments about Frings being so hard on his own ability in the English language show how much of a perfectionist the former German international actually is.

- The interview with the three injured players in Cann, Williams and Bouchiba was an interesting one in theory but in the end the players all said very little.  None of them is under contract going in to next season but some do have club options.  They did all say that they are on schedule to be fit in time for January when training camp will get underway.

- Danny Koevermans was as candid as ever in his interview and he really does take a typical Dutch approach to playing his position and speaking to the media.  For him his job on this team is clearly to score goals and he is happy as long as he is doing that.  When asked about injuries this season his comment was that as long as he could go the full 90 minutes then he was fit and happy but there were times when he could not do that.  He is feeling fit now though and is excited to try and keep on scoring next season.  He seems very committed to what the club is doing and is happy playing in the MLS.

- Terry Dunfield is my new least favourite member of the team as he spent too much time talking about some team from Manchester that wears blue when he should have been talking about TFC.  His comments would probably be of more interest to Whitecaps fans as he remarked on how drastically his role with that club changed when they switched managers.  He seems happy to be in Toronto now though and noted that it is great for him to have gotten the chance to spend this entire season playing in Canada.

- I could listen to Bob talk about soccer all day.  He has so much knowledge of the game and when he talks about it his passion is so evident.  Plus he is quite amusing and in typical Dutch fashion is very open with his opinion.  While Winter keeps all his cards close to his chest de Klerk is willing to give a little peek now and then just to keep things interesting.  He was probably the highlight of the interview with the management team, same as he was the highlight of this years Town Halls.

So hopefully this "short" version gives you a sense of what went on today but I do recommend watching some or all of the interviews if you get the chance.  The main thing that I will be taking away from them is that this management team has a clear vision and the players are certainly buying in and excited to be part of it.