New TFC coach Paul Mariner ready to set new course | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerNew TFC coach Paul Mariner ready to set new course

Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 | 11:42 AM

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New Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner takes over a team that has lost nine of its 10 matches this season. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) New Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner takes over a team that has lost nine of its 10 matches this season. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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New Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner clearly wants this team to play to its strengths - whatever they are. Mariner is not interested in discussing systems or formations, at least not publicly.

But, unlike the departed Aron Winter, he believes the players must dictate the tactics, not vice versa, to give themselves the best chance of being successful.
Tom Anselmi should know the speech by now.
 
With some minor tinkering, like changing the name of the departed and welcoming his successor, it is one he has delivered on occasions too numerous to mention in recent years. It is a duty which gives the COO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment no pleasure but someone has to take responsibility.
 
Someone. Anyone?
 
In the end Anselmi had no choice. He was forced to ditch the Dutch experiment because the results were catastrophic. Toronto FC's attempt at total football was a total disaster and history will remember Aron Winter as just another former European international who tried and failed to import a philosophy which doesn't fly in Major League Soccer.
 
You can't blame him for trying. It was, after all, the way he was taught to play the game and the way he schooled the next generation at the Ajax Academy. But there's a world of difference between educating teenagers and man-managing seasoned professionals. Winter soon discovered you really can't teach old dogs new tricks.
 
So much for vision and style. It is no surprise the axe fell before its time. Indeed the only surprise was the stay of execution. Despite the delivery of another Voyageurs Cup, which had as much to do with the opponents' ineffectiveness as it did with TFC's supremacy, this is a team which doesn't do the basics well enough, often enough.
 
By and large it never has. Every now and then it has risen to the occasion and been rewarded. But every now and then is simply unacceptable in professional sport. The soccer field is the players' office and they are paid, in some cases very handsomely, to do a job to the best of their ability game in and game out.
 
We can draw one of two conclusions. Either the individuals are not good enough at this level or they are not working hard enough on the field of play. Technical ability varies from player to player of course but the capacity to stay fully focused for 90 minutes at a time should be part of every player's skill set.
 
Mistakes happen. These are humans not robots but humans learn from their mistakes. A player caught out of position learns not to be so cavalier in future yet Toronto FC has become soccer's version of Groundhog Day. The same errors continue to cost this franchise dear with alarming regularity.
 
Paul Mariner insists the players are "good enough". He would say that wouldn't he. In his previous guise as Director of Player Development, the man now handed the task of getting the club out of its deepest ever hole has been directly involved with the compilation of the roster over the last 18 months.
 
He accepts the team has often lacked a competitive edge and promises that will change. Unlike his predecessor, Mariner is no diplomat. He tells it like he sees it and his players will be left in no doubt as to his opinion of their performance either as a whole or as individuals. It is now his job to get the best out of what he's got on a consistent basis.
 
Mariner operates a simple selection policy. It is his assertion the players, themselves, decide whether they make the starting eleven based on previous performances. In theory it keeps all players on their toes, regardless of reputation or seniority, but Mariner knows the TFC depth chart remains worryingly shallow and wholesale changes would be a recipe for disaster.
 
He clearly wants this team to play to its strengths - whatever they are. Mariner is not interested in discussing systems or formations, at least not publicly. But he does believe the players must dictate the tactics, not vice versa, to give themselves the best chance of being successful.
 
Above all he must command respect. Despite a long and successful playing career, Mariner is short on senior managerial experience. He certainly knows the League and was a highly effective assistant to Steve Nicol in New England. But history tells us great number 2's do not always make the grade when given a shot at the Head Coach's position. John Carver, now an integral part of the Newcastle United backroom staff, is just one name among many which springs to mind.
 
For the record, Mariner becomes TFC Coach No. 7 less than a third of the way through season 6.

That alone demonstrates why this club, once described as a "model franchise", has become a laughing stock around MLS. Except no one is laughing at BMO Field.

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