TFC coach says he believes in Attakora
'I have all the faith and confidence in Nana,' asserts Winter
Nana Attakora is not being frozen out by Toronto FC. So says TFC coach Aron Winter.
The Dutch tactician maintains he values Attakora but that he hasn't been using the Canadian defender because of his subpar performances this season.
"He's still on the roster. I don't see problems. If some of you [in the media] are writing [such] pieces, they're not well-informed. … I have all the faith and confidence in Nana," Winter told reporters after the team's Friday practice.
Winter was responding to a CBCSports.ca article published earlier this week that quoted Attakora's agent Marcos Serioux as saying the defender was being punished by club management because of his reluctance to sign a contract extension. Attakora confirmed his agent's assertion in the CBCSports.ca story.
Attakora, a 22-year-old native of Toronto, is in the last year of his current contract, which expires on Dec. 31. He was one of the lowest-paid players on the Reds last season when he earned $40,000 US. His agent said the club tabled an improved contract offer in January, but the defender turned it down.
Serioux explained that Attakora wants to play out his contract because he is uncertain about the future. Since its inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2007, TFC has gone through six coaches. Winter was hired in January, taking over as coach and technical director. Serioux stated the coaching turnover is the main reason why Attakora is in no rush to re-sign with TFC.
Former TFC teammate Dwayne De Rosario expressed his support for Attakora via Twitter Friday.
"The drama continues. Nana keep your head up!" De Rosario tweeted.
Winter said there was no merit to Serioux's claim that Attakora has lost his place in the team over a contract dispute.
"I've spoken a lot of times with Nana, and he knows how I think about him. I like him, I like him as a player, but at this moment I'm not satisfied about him, because he's not playing well, and that's normal and fair," the Reds coach stated.
Winter went to great lengths to explain the reasons for Attakora's lack of playing time, including not bringing him to Texas for Wednesday's 1-0 loss to FC Dallas, are strictly tactical, and not personal.
"No more than that, and no less than that," he asserted.
Winter also said Attakora has lost out due to increased competition on the roster for starting positions, especially at the back.
"If you compare now with last year, I think last year [Toronto FC] only had four defenders and this year we have eight or nine, and that's the difference. [We have] more options," Winter explained.
The TFC coach went on to politely chastise local media in general, saying stories as the one published by CBCSports.ca cause Attakora to lose focus as he attempts to rediscover his best form, and make his job as coach harder.
"For Nana it's going to be much more difficult [in that] he has to be focused. If everyone is writing things or saying things that aren't true, at certain moments it's going to be mentally [tough for him]," opined Winter.
"For me, it's a pity because I want to work in circumstances that are very quiet. But you are all creating the problems for nothing. There are no problems. That's what I want to be clear about."
After joining TFC in 2007, Attakora made his professional debut the following year. Since then, he has blossomed into one of the Reds' most consistent players, so it hardly comes as a surprise that the club wants to lock him up.
Looked far from best
But Attakora looked far from his best in the team's 2011 season opener, a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and he didn't play in the Reds' 2-0 win against Portland the following week because of injury.
Error-filled performances in TFC's next two games saw Attakora lose his spot in the starting line-up when Toronto was held to a 0-0 draw by the L.A. Galaxy on April 13. Three days later, he came on as a first-half substitute in a 3-0 loss to D.C. United. That was his last appearance for the Reds.
Attakora trained with his teammates Friday, but wasn't sure he whether he will play in Saturday's home game against the Chicago Fire.
"That's the coach's decision," Attakora said. "If he feels he wants me in his line-up, then hopefully I will be involved."
The Canadian defender admitted he was disappointed about not making the trip to Dallas but said that he has moved on.
"I had two games where you could say they weren't my best, but no player is going to be perfect. As you can see, not one player on this team has been perfect," Attakora said.
"The performances weren't as bad as people trying to make it out to be, but that's what people do. That's their opinion, I've moved on from it, and I'm back fit and looking to get myself back into the team."
Also on Friday, Winter confirmed that injured forward Alan Gordon (groin strain) won't play against Chicago after missing Wednesday's match. He said Gordon is day-to-day and might be fit again by late next week.