TFC's Koevermans getting used to MLS trades
Danny Koevermans hadn't even made it to his first Toronto FC practice when he noticed a teammate was already missing, shipped to another Major League Soccer team.
"I thought 'What is this?"' he said. "But everybody says in the dressing room 'That's MLS, get used to it.' It's a little bit strange but that's how the things go over here."
Trades are new to the six-foot-three Dutch striker, who is more accustomed to players coming and going in Europe when their contracts expire.
North American soccer will no doubt produce more surprises for the 32-year-old Koevermans, who was unveiled June 29 along with fellow designated player Torsten Frings.
Koevermans, who turned down England's Birmingham City before coming to MLS, took part in his first Toronto FC practice Friday. Frings, a former German international midfielder, has been working out with the squad since he signed on.
With the MLS transfer window officially open, both are eligible to make their debut next Wednesday against visiting FC Dallas. They are being counted on to bring some firepower [Koevermans] and steel [Frings] to the struggling 3-9-9 MLS side.
The 34-year-old Frings collected 92 yellow cards in the Bundesliga, third most in league history. He also made headlines for his role in a 2006 World Cup punchup with Argentina, that forced him to sit out the semifinal against Italy.
In practice Friday, he showed his ability to take the ball off opposing players. Although when contact was made with a teammate, he was quick to acknowledge it with a pat. He has other qualities, as well.
"The vision that he has is tremendous," goalkeeper Stefan Frei said of Frings. "He sees those little holes and he's not afraid to play the ball through them."
Frings is being counted on for leadership and to share a world-class soccer pedigree, although coach Aron Winter said Friday that forward Maicon Santos remains his captain if healthy and playing.
"I've got another five days to think about it," Winter added. Frings, with his experience and 79 caps for Germany, would seem a natural choice if a change was to be made. Koevermans' role is simple. "I'm here to score goals," he said.
Both Koevermans and Frings have already received a thumbs up from the Swiss-born Frei.
"They're both great guys, first and foremost," the goalie said. "DPs [designated players] who have played in the best leagues in the world, coming into the MLS maybe it's a bit of a change for them. But they're part of the team. I think they don't look at themselves as anything but that. And they're great to hang out with, to talk to.
"Most importantly they're here to make the team better and succeed."
The two new marquee men seem willing and able, although the Dutchman is working on getting back into game shape.
Koevermans (whose name is pronounced Coover-muns) last played a game on May 17 and that was against an amateur team. His career with PSV Eindhoven hit a roadblock as he fell out of favour with the coach.
"He just didn't use me and I don't know why. He didn't tell me."
Enjoyable, but 'very hard'
His first practice with Toronto was enjoyable but "very hard," he said, citing his fitness.
Frings, whose last game was May 29, says he's ready to go. Koevermans, who speaks flawless English, German and a little Spanish, arrived for good last Sunday with his wife and two young kids.
He's in a downtown condo but says it is too small and hopes to move to a house away from downtown. Frings has found an apartment and says he's comfortable in Toronto. With his long hair and tattoos, the five-foot-11 German cuts a distinctive figure but is managing to keep a low profile when it comes to being recognized.
"It's not as bad as in Germany but once in a while I do sign an autograph," he said. His support group includes his girlfriend and two kids.
Frings used an interpreter Friday for a media scrum but it was clear that he understands English, often answering the question in German immediately after it was posed.
He says he speaks English to teammates but uses the translator with the media "because I don't like making mistakes."
The Swiss-born Frei can always help. He speaks German, as do members of the coaching staff. Teammates Julian de Guzman and Gianluca Zavarise also speak some German.
Winter helped sell Toronto to Koevermans by saying it was a good sports city.
"They like hockey, they like soccer, they like everything," he recalled the coach saying. "Get used to the fact that although this is Canada (and) in Europe you think Canada is not a soccer country, when you are in Toronto you will notice that it is a soccer city. That's what he's told me and I've seen it [in the game] against Vancouver — the stadium was full."
Koevermans and Winter have a connection. They played together at Sparta Rotterdam as Winter, a star player, was wrapping up his career and Koevermans was starting his.
Now they are back together.
"It's a small world," said Koevermans.