Bill Manning's commitment to Greg Vanney has not been without its doubts. Yesterday, during the club's season ending press conference, he admitted to having considered replacing Toronto's head coach with Jason Kreis.
Kreis, who had a successful tenure alongside Manning at Real Salt Lake, was fired by New York City FC after just one year with the expansion club.
"I thought about it, I thought about it a lot," said Manning of his coaching situation. "I thought about the history of this franchise they've never had the same coach two years in a row."
Manning is more than aware of the turnover that has befallen this club since its inception, and recognizes how it has crippled the club. He wants to give Vanney another chance, just as he gave Kreis a second chance with Real Salt Lake.
"RSL fans were screaming for [Kreis's] head, that I should have fired him and ‘the guy has no experience, and he's too stubborn and he's bad tactically'" said Manning of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. "Then he went and won a championship."
Manning has already had a long discussion with Vanney, and thinks the young coach is on the right track. He was especially impressed with the fact that Vanney owned up to his mistakes in his first playoff game.
He did, however, set out a list of criteria that he expects to be met next season, and falling short would likely mean a goodbye kiss for both coach and potentially general manager.
One of these criteria is improving the clubs defending, as he expects the club to concede less than 45 regular season goals next season. This season they conceded 58 which was tied for the league lead.
More importantly, however, he is looking for a minimum of 50 points, at least one more than Toronto FC achieved this season.
Such was the vote of confidence given today by Toronto's new boss to his two most notable employees: you are getting another chance to keep building, but you had better not screw up this time.
Tim Bezbatchenko, for his part, will have a bit of a new roll this season, but is one that both employee and boss feel is better suited to his strengths: focusing just on soccer. So while on paper the man they call "Bez" was demoted, he is really just being placed in a role to succeed.
"What I've asked of Tim is ‘look I just want you to focus on the soccer team," explained Manning. "I want you to focus on our scouting, I want you to focus on our analytics, and focus on our player personnel."
While he is for the most part happy with the management team he has in place currently, he is not content with the way the season ended, something he made abundantly clear from the start of his press conference.
"I was embarrassed," he said of his reaction to the 3-0 loss to the Montreal Impact. "To go into a big playoff game like that this squad seemed to me a little bit overwhelmed."
Eight Games on the Road for Toronto FC to Start the Season
For the second straight season, renovations to BMO Field will force Toronto FC to start the year on the road. Today, Manning says that it looks like the club will have to play its first eight games of the season away from home to start the season.
This year the team started with seven games on the road due to construction. Manning, as he has apt to do has also set a goal for how he hopes the team will achieve on the initial road trip, once again hinting at Vanney's short leash. He is looking for a minimum 8 points from 8 games.
With all this road play, Toronto FC will have to wait until May for their home opening, according to Manning. He expects it to be either or the first or second weekend of May.
The Defending Needs to be Better
All season, Toronto FC have deflected and denied anything is off about their back line. Yesterday, however, they were more than willing to admit things are not as they should be in defence.
Manning called it unacceptable, and the team's number 1 priority this offseason. Vanney was bold enough to say that he thinks it will be better for a fact next season. The club isn't sure if they will be bringing in a new centre back for next season, but it could be a possibility.
"It always felt like we were trying to plug a hole somewhere," said defender Justin Morrow. "Move guys around, and shift guys here. Whether it was international absences or injuries that we were missing people."
Signing Justin Morrow is a Priority
With the season over, Toronto FC have begun contract negotiations with their top defender. Tim Bezbatcheko called signing Morrow a "top priority" this off-season. While, as he mentioned, Toronto have consistently been trying to fill holes on the backline, one of those holes has never been Morrow's left fullback positon.
Morrow, for his part, says that he loves the city of Toronto and that from all aspects it is one of the best in Major League Soccer. But if he's going to stay he wants to make sure that the deal is right.
"I'd like to be here," said Morrow. "I'd like for [them] to show me that I am an important part of this team."