BURLINGTON, Canada—To the surprise of many, Greg Vanney stepped down from his job as Toronto FC head coach and technical director on Tuesday.
The search for a new head coach has already begun as The Reds look for a replacement for the best manager in club history.
While Toronto FC general manager Ali Curtis was hush when asked about a criteria for the next TFC gaffer, he did emphasize the significance of winning now, while also understanding the significance of the academy and the plethora of talented young players they have coming through the ranks, finding some sort of healthy balance between the two.
With that in mind, here are a few possibilities that come to mind.
1) Jason Bent
While they'll also look at candidates outside the club, Toronto FC have a decent option already in the form of current assistant coach Jason Bent. Bent, 43, has been involved with Toronto FC in different roles since 2008 when he joined the Toronto FC Academy after a playing career that included 32 appearances for Canada.
With The Reds, he's been an assistant coach, a coach in the academy, and also served as a head coach of Toronto FC II for a few seasons. During his time with TFC II he coached plenty of future first-team players, including some of the young players trying to break into the first team—Julian Dunn and Rocco Romeo—as well as the likes of Liam Fraser.
Few know the club's structure, players and staff like Bent, making him a noteworthy candidate for the job.
2) Danny Dichio
Also within the organization is a club icon, and signing a local legend to be your manager is the latest trend in the modern game, and Toronto FC have one of them in their organization right now in Danny Dichio.
The man who scored the first goal in Toronto FC history back in 2007, Dichio has been working with Toronto FC's academy in recent years and, like Bent, is familiar with how the club operates below the first team level.
While Dichio and Bent would be viable candidates, it seems more than likely that the front office go with an external candidate to fill the void.
3) John Wolyniec
John Wolyniec has been at the helm of New York Red Bulls II since 2015, a few years after the New York native ended his playing career with the Red Bulls.
There are a number of factors that would theoretically put Wolyniec at the top of Toronto FC’s list. First off, he’s been a top coach in the USL for a few years, including winning 2016 USL Coach of the Year, the year his side won the league title. He knows how to win games, but almost more importantly, how to develop young players.
The Red Bulls have one of the better academies in North America, producing a ton of first team players, including current American star Tyler Adams, who played under Wolyniec. He'll develop TFC's young players and give them a shot in the first team, something Toronto FC seems to want to prioritize.
There's also the obvious connection between him and GM Ali Curtis: Curtis was the Sporting Director of the Red Bulls before coming to Toronto, where one of his legacies is working with Wolyniec to improve Red Bulls II.
Duane Rollins was the first person to suggest Wolyniec, and perhaps he’s onto something...
4) Brian Schmetzer
If you can’t (always) beat ‘em, buy ‘em?
Brian Schmetzer’s contract with the Seattle Sounders expires at the end of the season, and if he doesn’t extend his stay out west, TFC would be wise to at least consider the longtime Sounders coach.
Schmetzer was the club’s head coach from 2002 to 2008—before they were an MLS club—and became an assistant when the Sounders began their MLS journey in 2009. In 2016, he was promoted to head coach and has created a dynasty since then.
He’s brought the club to three MLS Cups in four years, all of them against Toronto FC, winning twice (2016 and 2019). Repeating as champions is also looking like a real possibility, as the Sounders secured their spot in the 2020 Western Conference Final on Tuesday night.
It sounds like he wants to extend his contract, but we also expected Vanney to extend his stay in Toronto, so leaving isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
It would be an interesting move for all parties, but could also be a wise one.
5) Peter Vermes
Another longtime MLS head coach on this list, Peter Vermes has been in charge of Sporting Kansas City since 2009, establishing himself as one of the best coaches in the league in the years that have followed.
With SKC, Vermes has won an MLS Cup (2013) and three U.S. Open Cups (2012, 2015, 2017). That's the kind of success expected in Toronto, although with the Canadian Championship.
If he can be convinced to give up what he's created in Kansas City, Vermes should absolutely be at the top of Toronto FC's list, but it'll be very hard to pry him away, especially with the club looking to reach another Western Conference Final on Thursday night.
6) Ben Olsen
Both Joshua Kloke and Pablo Maurer from The Athletic have reported that The Reds are possibly interested in former DC United head coach Ben Olsen.
If you’re looking for free agent coaches with an abundance of MLS experience, it would be hard to find someone with more than Olsen. His 22-year association with DC United (as a player and coach) ended in October when he parted ways after a decade as head coach, although the official statement from the team said that they were “working together to determine a new role for him within the organization.”
If Olsen wants to prove himself away from DC United, Toronto FC could be a great fit, as they’re in win-now mode.
7) Bobby Smyrniotis
Admittedly, this is very unlikely, but Toronto FC should at least consider one of the top head coaches in the Canadian Premier League.
The reason the league exists is to produce players and coaches, and Bobby Smyrniotis has been the most successful of the bunch.
Smyrniotis has delivered back-to-back North Star Shields for Forge FC, and has them on the verge of the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League, with a play-in game against Honduran side Marathon next week, and then the Canadian Championship final against Toronto sometime in early 2021.
That’s not exactly incentive to leave Forge given the chance—he’d be up against the team he built immediately. Furthermore, with the possibility for even more growth with Forge, Smyrniotis might feel as though he has more to prove and achieve with The Hammers.
He also co-founded Sigma FC in 2005, going onto develop many future MLS and CPL talents—including Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, among others—as well as a lot of the current Forge players. He knows how to develop young talent, something Toronto FC are, again, looking to do, and he understands how to win now, making him a dark horse for the job.
With his impact on Canada soccer and success in the Canadian Premier League, he should at least be interviewed.
Agree with some of the names? Disagree? Is there a different name that you’d like to see fill the head coach and technical director vacancy? Let us know who and why in the comments!