TORONTO, Canada—Homegrown midfielder Jonathan Osorio has only had two coaches in his professional domestic career.
The Brampton native, who made his professional debut in 2013, was present when Ryan Nelsen occupied the role of Toronto FC head coach more than six years ago, and again he was present the day—Aug. 31, 2014—that Greg Vanney was appointed. Since then, Vanney has been the only club manager Osorio has ever worked with.
Osorio would grow into a crucial figure in Toronto’s midfield under the Gregfather, earning over 200 appearances in all competitions, helping him become TFC’s all-time leader in appearances made. It’s not a stretch to say that the former head coach played a pivotal role in the Canadian international’s development.
“He believed in me from when he came in,” Osorio told Footy Talks Live on Thursday afternoon. “I remember the first time he had a chat with me, he was telling me how we have the same philosophy of the game, the same vision of the game, that he really rated me as a player, and this was me very young—21, 22 years old—but he believed in me. He believed in me from the beginning.”
That’s why it came as little shock when the now-28-year-old revealed that he was surprised when Vanney called him Tuesday morning to break the news that he was leaving the club. He wanted to let the longest-serving Red know personally as opposed to having him hearing it through media.
“I give a lot of credit to Greg,” said Osorio, referring to Vanney downplaying his contract negotiations. “He really didn’t let it become a distraction in the locker room. Towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, I actually had forgot that his contract was coming to an end. That’s kind of the environment that he made it seem like, at least for me.
“My guess is that it’s a decision that went all the way to the last (couple of) days, and kind of that’s when he made his decision,” continued Oso. “I was surprised. I was surprised. I know how much Greg loves it here in Toronto. I know how much he cares about this club. But yeah, for me it was a bit of a surprise, but at the same time, along with everybody that’s worked with him, I think we’re thankful for his time here, and I’m glad that he’s doing what he thinks is right for he and his family.”
Vanney’s reign as leader was an overall success in Toronto, something the Reds’ no. 21 was quick to point out, especially when you consider where Toronto FC were at before the arrival of their all-time winningest manager. He helped rescue a club in turmoil and bring them to the promise land. But it’s perhaps inbetween all of the accolades that now fill the club’s trophy cabinet where Vanney’s impact may be most missed.
“He brought structure. He brought a winning mentality. The amount of work that he puts into every game, and the amount of analytics that he puts and thought, is beyond anything that I’ve seen,” said Osorio, who was given the captain’s armband for the first time under Vanney. “... It’s someone who really cared about the club and I think that’s what I admired most about Greg: not only does he have such a passion for football, and for coaching, and for the game, and not only did he have a willingness to put in all of this work—he enjoyed it. He enjoyed it and he cared about the club and that kind of was contagious to the rest of the team.”
For a team with just a 14-year history, the list of club icons is a short one. However, you’d have a tough time convincing Oso that Vanney isn’t one of them.
“... He’s engraved in the club forever,” said Osorio, emphatically. “He’s a legend in the club. And the fans, and the players, and the people that work with him will never forget him, that’s for sure. His legacy will live on in this club, that’s for sure.”
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and Vanney will indeed embark on the next chapter in his career. But what the former manager leaves behind, now falls on the shoulders of Osorio and other veterans of the club to ensure that Toronto FC’s trajectory remains on track.
It’s not an easy task by any means, but it’s something new, and in that sense, it’s a challenge that the hard-working homegrown midfielder welcomes.
“... We’ll have to keep this club where it’s at and keep moving forward, and I think as players, we’re excited to work with whoever comes in to do that,” concluded the Canadian. “And it’s not an easy task, but with the players that we have here, I think it’s a task that everybody is looking forward to.”