Soccer

Klinsmann ready to help reshape Toronto FC

Juergen Klinsmann, former German national team player and manager, will have a major say in reshaping the embattled Toronto FC franchise, taking a detailed look at how the team functions and making suggestions for changes.

Juergen Klinsmann won’t be taking over as coach or general manager of Toronto FC.

That much was made crystal clear when he categorically ruled himself out of the running to fill either of those vacant positions during a Thursday press conference that formally introduced him as TFC’s newest consultant.

But the former German national team player and manager will have a major say in reshaping the embattled Major League Soccer franchise, as he has been given the responsibility of taking a detailed look at how the team functions and making suggestions for changes.

Klinsmann and his company, U.S.-based consultancy group SoccerSolutions, will not only provide a critical analysis of the club's soccer operation, but also help the team in its search for a new GM.

Klinsmann, 46, plans to visit Toronto several times over the next few months and give his recommendations to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the team, before the start of the 2011 season. It will then be up to MLSE to decide whether to act on his counsel.

The German said he hopes to hand over his dossier of suggestions to MLSE by January, but that he will remain in contact with the organization once his job is completed.

By talking to players, management and club officials during his upcoming trips to the city, Klinsmann wants to gain a better understanding of Toronto FC and help the team develop a clear operating philosophy, on and off the field.

Considering TFC has gone through five coaches in four seasons since entering MLS, the team’s fluctuating tactical approach on game days has been a major problem, and Klinsmann is wise to focus his attention on that as his first order of business.

Forging clear identity

"One element that is very important is, 'What do you stand for, as Toronto FC?' What is the style [of soccer] you prefer? What do your fans want to see when they go to the stadium?" he said.

"You need to identify [those elements] and then you can go further and identify what kind of a coach plays that way, what GMs think that way."

That’s music to the ears of Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president of MLSE, who said the decision to hire Klinsmann and his consultancy group wasn’t based on what kind of services they offer, but on helping TFC forge a clear identity.

"It was about the philosophy behind building a team and it was about things like, 'What do you want the legacy of this team to be about in Canadian [soccer].'" stated Anselmi. "What influence do you want it to have … and how are we going to use that as a foundation to build from?"

Klinsmann was one of the top strikers in world soccer during the 1980s, playing for a handful of marquee clubs, including German outfit Bayern Munich, Inter Milan of Italy, London-based Tottenham and France’s AS Monaco.

He also coached the German national team from 2004 to 2006 and guided his country to a third-place finish at the World Cup four years ago.

Klinsmann said he will draw upon on his first-hand experience and knowledge of the top European leagues, as well as his global network of contacts, in making his recommendations to MLSE.

"I have a pretty good picture of how the best practices work around the world," said Klinsmann, who scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for Germany and helped his country win the 1990 World Cup.

Considering the mess Toronto FC is in, he has quite the job ahead of him.

The Reds are mired in crisis, having missed the playoffs this year for a fourth consecutive season. The team has also been without a full-time general manager and coach since Sept. 14, when Mo Johnston and Preki were fired.

Earl Cochrane has served as interim GM, while Nick Dasovic has filled the void left by Preki.

"There is a good base here," said Klinsmann. "There is a foundation, so we will just try to see what elements there are to improve, and what elements are there that work well."