Thursday marked a new era in the history of Toronto FC, with the Major League Soccer club undergoing a major managerial makeover.
The club named former Dutch national team star Aron Winter as its new coach and technical director during an afternoon press conference at the Air Canada Centre. In his dual role, Winter will oversee TFC's entire soccer operation and set the direction of the team.
Serving under Winter will be Englishman Paul Mariner, who was named director of player development. Mariner will be responsible for the team's scouting, player acquisition, player development and TFC's youth academy.
In North American sports parlance, TFC fans can think of Winter as the new general manager, with Mariner reporting to the Dutchman as the assistant GM.
What about De Rosario?
There is no Dwayne De Rosario controversy.
That was the message from Toronto FC officials during Thursday's news conference
New TFC coach Aron Winter told reporters he sees De Rosario as a part of the team's plans moving forward.
De Rosario, TFC's captain and all-time leading scorer, began training with Glasgow club Celtic during the Christmas holidays, unbeknown to the Major League Soccer outfit, which stated it had not granted their captain permission.
The MLS club later worked out a deal with Celtic that allowed De Rosario to train with the team, the latest development in the continuing saga of TFC and its captain, who has gone on record as saying he wants his contract renegotiated.
De Rosario, a 32-year-old native of the Scarborough area of Toronto, is midway through a four-year contract that paid him $443,750 US this past season, the third-highest salary on the team behind fellow Canadian Julian de Guzman ($1,717,546 US) and Spanish forward Mista ($987,3370 US).
Paul Mariner, TFC's new director of player development, expects De Rosario to return to the team in time for the start of pre-season training camp.
"The Dero situation, as far as we're concerned, is that he's flying back on [January] 18th and we have no reason at the present moment to understand that he's not going to be in camp," Mariner stated.
Mariner went on to call De Rosario "the spiritual leader of the club," and hinted the team is trying to renegotiate the captain's contract. "There's things that we're trying to work out with the league," Mariner revealed.
Fellow Dutchman Bob de Klerk will act as Winter's first assistant coach. Both Winter and de Klerk worked with the youth academy of Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam the past few years.
Winter, as the man charged with turning around the fortunes of Toronto FC, certainly has his work cut out.
The Reds have failed to make the playoffs since entering the league in 2007, and the team has made one misstep after another both on and off the field, going through five head coaches and two GMs in four years.
Turning this team into a playoff contender and regaining the confidence of a loyal but disenchanted fan base will be a tough job, especially with the 2010 MLS regular season set to kick off in 10 weeks.
But Winter stated that the challenges TFC must overcome in order to attain success was what attracted him to the job in the first place. He's confident he can lead the Reds out of the doldrums.
"My style of playing soccer is going to be different from the team's [coaches] in the past, and I'm convinced with hard work and [new] ideas and how we're going to play that we can be successful," Winter said.
Winter hinted he could see the team playing with three forwards in a style somewhat similar to Ajax's, and promised TFC would play "attractive soccer" and try to "dominate [games] with a lot of movement."
The first order of business for the Dutchman will be evaluating the team's current roster of players and what moves he will have to make in order to play a possession style of game.
"We're going to assess the team and also which positions we need to be better, but we need time to play the way how I want to play soccer," Winter explained.
Mariner is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work, but he also called for patience, stating it would take TFC a bit of time before it can play the brand of soccer preached by Winter.
"Rome was never built in a day. There's a lot of education to [take place] with the players as the season progresses," Mariner cautioned.
TFC had been without a full-time coach and general manager since Preki and Mo Johnston were fired last September.
Earl Cochrane, in charge of TFC's youth academy since its launch in 2008, had served as the club's interim GM, while former assistant Nick Dasovic coached the Reds for the remainder of the MLS season.
With Winter's arrival, Cochrane has been given a new title, director of team and player operations, while Stuart Neely takes over as director of the team's youth academy.
Dasovic and former captain Jim Brennan, who was Johnston's assistant GM, will remain with the club, as will coaches Danny Dichio, Mike Toshak and Jason Bent.
Winter, 43, enjoyed a successful playing career with stints at Ajax and Italian clubs Lazio and Inter Milan.
He also scored six goals in 84 appearances for the Netherlands national team from 1987 to 2000. In total, Winter played at three World Cups, scoring for the Dutch against Brazil in the quarter-finals of the 1994 tournament.
Mariner, 57, is a former manager of English club Plymouth Arygle. He was an assistant coach with the New England Revolution of MLS from 2004 to 2009.
During his playing days, Mariner turned out for such clubs as Arsenal and Ipswich Town and scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for the English national team from 1977 to 1985.
Mariner will act as Winter's right-hand man, and use his past MLS experience to help acclimatize the Dutchman to the league.
"I'm here, initially, to fast-track Aron as quickly as possible about MLS," Mariner said.