Toronto FC 2-1 Sporting KC – Organised TFC cut the strings from puppet master Zusi.

Starting XI’s wbackgrounds

Ryan Nelsen made one change from last week’s loss in Vancouver with John Bostock coming in for Kyle Bekker, who spent the week in between suffering from the flu. Hogan Ephraim took Bekker’s spot behind Robbie Earnshaw with Bostock coming in on the right, shifting Reggie Lambe to the left.

football formations

Kansas City boss Peter Vermes kept the same XI that came from behind to win 3-1 in Philadelphia on the opening weekend.

football formations

Toronto FC stay organised and compact

It is one thing for a coach to talk about the need for his team to be organised and defensively solid, it is something else for the players to go out and do it. On Saturday Toronto FC, against one of the league’s best teams, did exactly that.

How? The move to a four band system has been essential to their improvement at the start of the season. Toronto are effectively playing a 4-4-1-1 at the moment with their wide players playing very deep. The fact it rarely turns into a 4-2-3-1 with the ball may be an indictment on the overall quality of the players but is also a sign that the players are coach-able and willing to stick to what they are asked of.

TFC vs KC

Playing with two deep banks of four has many disadvantages and can lead to an onslaught by the opposition if they pass the ball well and find gaps in the channels between them. However, despite their second half dominance, the visitors struggled to find space for their playmakers thanks to a combination of a poor final ball and good solid defending.

Toronto FC press intelligently

Playing on a difficult surface this early in the season means it was always tough to press as a unit throughout, but crucially Toronto FC put the plan in place to ensure the four band system was flexible. KC’s back four took the first four spots in overall pass attempts but Ephraim and Earnshaw still intelligently pressed the back four, which led to the first goal, while Jeremy Hall and Terry Dunfield worked well as a unit pressing and covering space at the same time in central midfield.

tfc press

TFC cut the strings from puppet master Zusi

Graham Zusi is a fine player and finds space better than most in this league. Zusi,  usually deployed on the right, loves to work overlaps with his full-back, Chance Myers, but more than anything he loves to come centrally to pull centre-backs out of position. On Saturday he had a difficult time doing any of that.

Vermes started Zusi in his usual spot on the right as he and Myers went up against Reggie Lambe and Ashtone Morgan in an interesting battle on the flanks. Lambe, who was very good defensively in Vancouver, was impressive again in this area despite a move to the left. Myers and Zusi’s attacking tendencies will always put their opponents on the back foot but Lambe stuck to the plan well, playing narrow to show his opponents the line and often shielding Morgan from Zusi’s movement.

Earlier in the first half here is a good example as to why it was important for Morgan and Lambe to work well as Zusi and Myers break by them….

Zusi good 14

You will notice at the bottom of that image that this move got Nelsen up off the bench. Thankfully, for him, it ended with a wayward pass, something too familiar for the visitors. In total Zusi and Myers lost possession 42 times in the game, with a combined pass completion ratio of only 70% (76 of 108).

Lambe wouldn’t make the same mistake twice….

Zusi 54

In total, Lambe finished with four successful tackles and six key recoveries but the best news for him came seven minutes before the interval when Zusi was moved over to the left, mainly to try and get away from excellent work by Lambe and Morgan like this:

Zusi 8

Full backs vs Zusi

Zusi played the first 38 minutes on the right, the next seven on the left until half-time, the first eight minutes of the second half back on the right and then the rest of the game on the left. He finished with 11 successful crosses from 14 attempts and although that number is too high it is a sign that he was unable to influence the game deeper. Zusi only attempted five crosses against Philadelphia the week earlier yet had much more of an impact in the game.

Toronto’s full backs Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan both kept their concentration levels high up against Zusi closing him down and forcing Sporting KC to look elsewhere for intervention.

Morgan steps up again to prevent Zusi from receiving ball in space…

Zusi 11

In the second half, with the American international now on the left, he comes from a deep position and Eckersley follows him rather than the onrushing full back Seth Sinovic who he knows won’t receive the ball…..

Zusi 13

Eckersley is proven right as Zusi comes centrally still tracked by the right back….

Zusi 12

The move would break down again. Although Sporting KC were the best team by far in the second half, scoring a goal on the break to cut the deficit. However, by taking away Zusi’s vision and intelligent running, Toronto forced the visitors to play a more direct style that suited them. Nelsen’s team are no where close to what he wants them to be personnel wise but such a performance tactically so early into his rookie year as coach is very positive.

What next?

Toronto travel to Montreal this Saturday to play a team who are the talk of MLS right now after impressive wins in Seattle and Portland. I will be sure to have a post later this month on the Impact. Sporting KC host Chicago in their home opener. Expect Zusi to be back pulling strings.

Exclusive: Toronto FC close in on Argentine forward Maximiliano Urruti to be their next DP

Max Urruti

Multiple sources have told me the unnamed forward from Argentina that Toronto FC are targeting is Maximiliano Urruti of Newell’s Old Boys.

The 22-year-old, who has been linked with many European clubs in the past six months including Palermo, Levante, Valencia and Helsingborgs, was watched closely by the club’s chief scout, Pat Onstad, recently and the club are trying to finalize details with the player’s representatives to bring him to Major League Soccer in the next few weeks.

Urruti, in his second full year at Old Boys, made his club debut during the Clausera season of 2011 and has seen his stock rise ever since thanks to some outstanding goals for La Lepra.

This is an excellent video, showing many of his skills in front of goal, that is sure to get Toronto FC fans excited at the prospect of number 37 applying his trade in the MLS for the Reds.

However, as South American Football expert Tim Vickery, of the BBC, tells me things haven’t gone as smoothly this season for Urruti: “He is an interesting striker who has lost his place in the first team as a result of the successful repatriation of Ignacio Scocco, but remains an interesting prospect – stocky and strong, able to play up front on his own or combine.”

ESPN South American columnist Sam Kelly, who hosts the excellent Hand Of Pod, issued similar sentiments, saying: “Urruti’s decent enough, but at 22 he’s only played about 30-odd first team games for Newell’s so far – which doesn’t seem like many for Argentina – and hasn’t exactly been tearing up trees as far as his scoring record is concerned. Good movement and link play, though, and he could do well playing as a second forward. His main problem has been having Scocco ahead of him at Newell’s so far this season, who’s been one of the best forwards in the league since returning.”

Urutti and Scocco both got on the score sheet for Gerardo Martino’s team in their last match on Friday against Belgrano, a game that saw Newell’s win 2-0 and help the 22-year-old get some much needed positive headlines, as Vickery explains.

He said: “Unfortunately, he has a racism cloud over him at the moment, after recently he was accused of abusing a Paraguayan.”

This took place last month when Olimpia defender Salustiano Candia issued a racist and discrimination complaint against Urruti after a Copa Libertadores match on the 14th of February.

Although the investigation is still pending it is unlikely to prevent him from missing games for Toronto FC if he signs. It appears the club will know by the end of this month if that will happen after Onstad this week returned from South America hopeful he can get his man.

Toronto FC President and General Manager Kevin Payne, who last week confirmed the club were looking at a young Argentine forward, declined to comment on Tuesday when asked about the club’s pursuit of Urruti.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Toronto FC – Change of shape & tempo at half time gets Rennie’s team three points.

Starting XI’s

Head Coach Martin Rennie, whose Vancouver team played 4-3-3 most of last season, started with the 4-2-3-1 formation they trialed in pre-season and there were no major surprises in their starting XI after it was announced captain Jay DeMerit was fit to play. Turned out he was far from fully fit and left after seven minutes, replaced by Brad Rusin.

football formations

Debut boss Ryan Nelsen opted for a tight and compact version of a 4-4-1-1 with his wide players in deep positions ensuring it wasn’t quite a 4-2-3-1, although that was the plan when they had the ball. Third overall pick Kyle Bekker played just off Robert Earnshaw in attack but made up a midfield three when not in possession.

football formations

Lambe vs Rochat

The first half was uninspiring with both teams creating little which meant Toronto FC gained far more positives than Vancouver. The overall speed of the game suited the visitors who did a good job recognizing Vancouver’s threat down the left. Left back Alain Rochat stepped up a couple of times inside the first 15 minutes and played two excellent balls into a wide area behind the advancing Richard Eckersley for the speedy Kekutah Manneh and Darren Mattocks to run into. However, TFC reacted well by having Reggie Lambe come tighter on Rochat and that, with the combination of Rochat committing two needless fouls, pinned the left back deeper and by the end of the half the Rochat-Manneh combination on the left had been nullified with Manneh switching sides with the lively Daigo Kobayashi.

Rennie changes it up

During his half-time interview Rennie said he was disappointed with the amount of balls his team gave away in Toronto’s half and when he got to the dressing room to meet his players he informed rookie Manneh he would be removed for Nigel Reo-Coker. Manneh, who lost the ball 13 times in the first half, hadn’t had a terrible half but was too often in the positions Mattocks needed to be. The decision to bring on Reo-Coker and the change in tempo that Vancouver brought out in the second half turned the game in their favor. Reo-Coker played in the middle next to Gershon Koffie while Jun Marques Davidson sat deeper to stop Toronto FC playing in between the lines (more on that later). With the fluidity of Kobayashi’s movement it was effectively a 4-3-3 although the front three rotated so often it was effectively a 4-1-2-anywhere.

football formations

The goal

Having kept pace with the home side for the first 45 minutes, Toronto struggled to get in the game in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and it was no surprise to see Vancouver get rewarded for their dominance with a goal shortly before the hour mark. Reo-Coker’s inclusion ensured they kept the ball more in the opponent’s half but he also immediately struck up a good relationship with YP Lee on the right side. With Reo-Coker shielding him, and Marques deeper, Lee had more licence to get forward in the second half and it proved to be key in the goal. When defender Andy O’Brien hit a long, hopeful ball down the right it appeared Toronto had it covered as they initially won the header but Lee, advanced in a forward position, won the key second ball. As you can see below, when he picks up the ball Toronto FC are still in a very good position with four players marking the key space in front of him.

van tfc 1

The next two seconds develop and the off the ball runs by Kobayashi and Mattocks are key as they pull two defenders there way, allowing Miller and Lee to play a simple one-two between themselves that then opens up the space for Lee to run into (that was previously protected by the four defenders).

van tfc 2

Lee times his run perfectly and is now into the danger zone, vacated by Toronto, drawing four defenders all towards him just a split second before he makes a key pass to Kobayashi who is bright, alert and ready for the ball despite being closely marked by Eckersley. At this point Koffie has already made the run from deep, untracked.

tfc van 3

Kobayashi sees Koffie’s run and by the time the midfielder touches the ball for the first time in the buildup he is in a wonderful position vacated by Toronto all because of the excellent play of his teammates. Koffie takes one touch and a nice finish to score the game’s only goal as you can see here.

It was a goal that is sure to have delighted Rennie, as his full back got forward and won a key second ball, his star pupil Mattocks showed the importance of off-the-ball running and Koffie, fresh off a new contract extension, had the ability and desire to get forward and support the attack.

From Toronto FC’s point of view it was a goal that was always going to be difficult to come back from. In the first half they excelled when Vancouver’s confidence was shaken, pressing them high and stopping goalkeeper Joe Cannon from throwing the ball out to defenders, but as the game wore on a now confident Whitecaps just had enough quality to see the game out. They were certainly helped by the inclusion of Reo-Coker, who completed 38 of 46 pass attempts, as well as Davidson sitting deeper to stop the impressive Bekker getting into space.

Toronto FC will be disappointed, not surprised, by the loss and will be able to take some positives away from the game and top of that list will be Bekker. Rarely does an MLS rookie require an opponent to monitor him from the get-go and the need for Davidson to sit deeper and closer to his centre-backs was designed to stop the 22-year-old from finding space. In the first half there were a few examples of the young Canadian making runs in between the lines.

Picks up the ball and comes deep….

photo(6)

Plays it off and makes the run past the referee towards the space….

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Finds the room in between the lines (see Vancouver’s two banks of four) ready to receive the pass….

bekker 3

In the second half those banks of four were gone and Bekker didn’t see quite as much space although his superb deliveries from set pieces made him a constant threat throughout.

What next?

Vancouver stay home and welcome Columbus to BC Place next weekend hoping t gain some momentum off this victory. It is clear they have a very technical player in Kobayashi who can make a difference at this level no matter the formation, which is now up in the air after the much-improved second half showing.

Toronto FC head home and welcome one of the league’s best teams in Sporting Kansas City to Rogers Centre next Saturday. The nature of the opponent and the quality of players available to them will once again make them huge underdogs but with expectations low they have things to build from after this opener, particularly with all of their new players not disappointing in this game.

A diary from Indianapolis: The day Canada took over the MLS SuperDraft.

mls draft 2013

Parts of the city were still dark. The steam from the buildings nearby showed how cold it was as Indiana’s largest city woke up. From my hotel room, I watched the cars drive into downtown Indianapolis this Thursday morning and, for the workers behind the wheels, it was just another ordinary work day – one they’ll likely forget by Saturday.

Unless of course, they were driving here to the Westin Hotel, sitting in the shadows of Lucas Oil Stadium and connected to the Indiana Convention Centre, home of the 2013 MLS Superdraft.

Welcome to Planet MLS, where one can’t walk fifty feet without seeing a club logo or an official from one of the 19 teams. No one walks far here as they are regularly stopped to talk to an old friend. If you are from Canada, everyone wants to talk to you.

The Starbucks inside the lobby of the hotel was the place to be up to 10am. Free coffee coupons from Fox Soccer helped of course, but in a city famous for its 500 mile race, this was the pit stop for the sport’s smartest minds. Fuel up, discuss strategy and go. The ladies behind the counter very likely have never watched a game in their lives, but if they listened, they’d have heard exactly how the afternoon draft was going to go. I decided to give it a go.

“Where’s Bekker going?” I cheekily asked the lady behind the counter.

“Beckham? Is he here?” she replied.

Bless her.

Toronto FC, holders of the third and fourth picks in the draft, after the deal with New England, were the team on the lips of the cups and a Canadian named Kyle Bekker was the trending player.

Bekker, from Oakville, Ontario, had climbed the mock drafts quicker than any player in the past month. Everyone had an opinion and an interest in where he would end up. Even the teams who didn’t plan to draft him hoped he’d go early, leaving them free to take their target.

With my Starbucks source keeping it to herself, it was time to make my way to the draft room to find out for myself. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your draft boards!

10.40am – The suits arrive. MLS teams led by their head coaches make their way to their draft tables and, for the next 80 minutes, all go about their business in their own way. Chivas USA, Philadelphia and New York’s representatives barely crack a smile while other teams look much more loose.

11.17am – As dance music blares out of the speakers as if its Ibiza at 1.17am, Toronto FC President and General Manager Kevin Payne leaves the table to take a phone call. Ryan Nelsen, the club’s new head coach, was the media’s consensus pick for being on the other end, but at the stage, he may well have just called Geico to save 15 per cent on his car insurance.

11.30am – Fans are allowed into the Sagamore Ballroom to watch the draft. Columbus and Chicago fans do their best to sing their hearts out, but they are getting drowned out by a combination of David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia.

12.01pm – Opening statements – after being told how great they are, the fans are asked to be respectful of all picks. Let’s hope there are no New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles fans in the house.

12.13pm – Commissioner Don Garber, who said Canada at least six times (told you they are a big deal here) wraps up his speech with the words: “Our vision is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022.” At least he didn’t say 2-22 like Sepp when he made that brilliant decision to send the world to football hotbed Qatar.

12.19pm – New England selects Louisville defender Andrew Farrell first overall. Absolutely no surprise.  A raw talent who has a big upside and a player they clearly ranked higher than most by moving up to get. Toronto FC, who decided to move down and pass on Farrell, will be hoping he doesn’t become Omar Gonzalez.

12.23pm – Carlos Alvarez to Chivas USA. Thank goodness – considering they just played a feature on him in the ballroom.

12.24pm – Toronto FC are announced on the clock and Columbus fans next to me chant, “Don’t screw up!” followed by, “They’re Canadian, they can’t help it!” and “Coach on layaway!”.  So a combination of funny, insightful, and complete morons then?

12.29pm – Toronto FC select Kyle Bekker and there it is: A Canadian soccer marriage begins.

12.33pm – Toronto FC call a timeout ahead of the 4th overall selection. “Seven year timeout,” chant the funny section of the Columbus fans. TFC announce a trade with Vancouver, swapping number 4 for 10 plus allocation money, and with that it is time for me to head to the interview room….

I find a smiling Bekker, who tells me he wasn’t surprised by his rise up the draft in the last few weeks but knows he is far from guaranteed to start under Ryan Nelsen in what appears to be a crowded midfield: “I have to work for any minute I can get and play where I am asked, I am an attacking midfielder but I can play as a box-to-box midfielder.”

We talk about the modern game and the need for players to be good with and without the ball and his eyes widen: “An idol for me my whole life has always been Dennis Bergkamp, a number ten, but, right now, I like Christian Eriksen and Jack Wilshere, an amazing midfielder and if you can bring any of their qualities into your game then you are doing something right. I’m always trying to move my feet (without the ball) and cover as much ground as possible, get in between the lines of the defence and create chances.”

Vancouver select Kekutah Manneh and Erik Hurtado back-to-back while I chat with Bekker and on the way back to the room I bump into Martin Rennie who talks about his team’s need for speed: “Both players have good pace and a lot of athleticism which you can’t coach, they can improve on their movement and tactical understanding. With Kekutah, I knew his PDL coach Paul Dalglish, so I’ve tracked him for some time and he is willing to work very hard to make this happen. We are starting to build an exciting group of players, we needed to be more creative and find more pace to give us a different dimension to our team.”

So move aside Barry Robson then.

1.02pm- Back in the draft room, Kesha’s awful ‘Gonna Die Young’ blurs out ahead of Toronto FC’s pick at number ten. Then, just as it is about to stop, Seattle calls a timeout so the music continues. New rule –  no timeouts allowed during Kesha songs. Make it stop.

1.09pm – Question to me in press row: “Where is Oakville?”. ‘Oh Canada’ continues to play a big part here.

1.11pm – TFC trade down again, this time to number 16. That means they have now moved from 1 to 16 for allocation money. That is a major problem for people who do not understand MLS.  Rhianna sums it up best as, ‘We Found  Love in a Hopeless Place,’ rings out from the Ibiza speakers.

1.20pm – My twitter followers ask what does all this allocation money actually mean. Wait, shock horror, my educated followers who love this game don’t know what it means? Of course they don’t – it remains a big problem in the league as amounts don’t get published. I overhear an executive from a different club say: “This is a smart move for TFC, it can help a team short term very quickly because they can buy down salaries and use it on transfer fees.”

1.35pm – TFC make it two for two with Canadians as they select Mississauga’s Emery Welshman. “I am coming home to the best city in the world, the best fans in the world,” he proudly says from the podium. Good start.

1.45pm – Montreal Impact, who earlier rose eyebrows across the draft room taking Blake Smith at eight (who isn’t here) selects a second player, Fernando Monge, who also isn’t here.

Time to go meet Welshman, whose love for Toronto FC shines through: “I know Toronto very well. I have grown up there, this is an ideal situation for me. I can’t wait to get back to the fans, which I was once and will continue to be now as a player for this team.”

The 21-year-old forward, who played with Bekker at Sigma FC, offers a glowing scouting report of his new teammate in Toronto: “Kyle Bekker is the most creative, attacking midfielder Canada has. This is a great pick for Toronto, they need some creativity in the middle, they could use some quality there for the box-to-box element, some young legs there and I’m glad he is there with me.”

1.58pm – The second round begins and Don Garber leaves his duties in announcing picks. This is basically now a game of fun between teams throwing darts at player names with little drama. Unless TFC somehow find a way to get back in. Maybe they can flog some old shirts for a pick and allocation money?

2.45pm – I am told Kevin Payne will speak to me. Payne gives a lot in our 13 minute conversation:

  • On Bekker: “He was the best player in this draft from our point of view. We would have taken him at number one if we stayed there. We were very impressed with Kyle from an early stage. He is in a great position to learn from Torsten Frings and Julio Cesar, he may play further up the field, he’s in a good spot and is the kind of player Ryan Nelsen really likes.Technically he is very good, can play quickly and tactically is way ahead of anybody in this draft. He spends a lot of the game in space, that’s a pretty good quality to have. There’s a player whose name starts with X on the B-word team who plays that way, I am not going to compare Kyle with Xavi, but he is certainly a good role model and that’s what characterizes him, how often he seems to have time and sense of space on the field.”
  • On Welshman: “We knew less about Emery because he played on the west coast more, but he does a lot of things well, superior athlete, very strong, determined, needs to work on his finishing but if he can learn to finish the simple chances he is going to be a dangerous player.”
  • On them being Canadian: “Canada is a big country. A guy from the west coast of Canada isn’t that much different from a guy from the United States. We are about Toronto. We love the fact that they are from the greater Toronto area, grew up cheering for the team. The crest means something to them when they put the shirt on and that is important to us.”
  • On trading the first overall pick: “We actually made the deal on Monday, it was embargoed until Wednesday. They approached us, frankly I may have not done that deal with many other teams, but I really trust New England. (General Manager) Michael Burns is a really honorable guy so when I said ‘Lets not talk about this’, I knew he wouldn’t. We had asked them what position they were going to draft, if they had said midfield, we would have asked who and if they said Kyle, we wouldn’t have done the deal but they told us centre-back. It was a good position for us because we got the added value and we knew Kyle would still be there at three. We were still in control of the draft at three and four.”
  • On how confident he was in getting Bekker at three: “Listen you always worry, spend the night tossing and turning, wondering if a crazy deal will happen to get ahead of you but I didn’t think that was likely. We were helped by finding what value was on the number one pick so before we did the deal with New England we talked to a bunch of teams.”
  • On how much allocation money they received in their trades: “We don’t talk about amounts but we have increased what we had by 75%, a big chunk of allocation money now that we can use to make ourselves better. Money is important, we have a bigger salary cap now than what we had when we started. We have some big contracts that I inherited and we have to accommodate so this gives us a better opportunity to build a team around those.This was a really fun exercise today, we were in a great position, in the catbird’s seat.”

And with that Payne left the draft. His team just got more Canadian and his transfer market wallet just got a lot thicker; two significant goals the club will have been delighted to fulfill here.

Whether this goes on to make them better, only time will tell. Time and the Starbucks lady, who I’m off to ask how Toronto FC will do this season.

Toronto FC finally sings from the same hymn sheet after firing Mariner & hiring Nelsen.

Montreal Impact v Toronto FC

Twenty-seven days before Christmas he shuffled in his chair in the front row of the press conference awkwardly.

“I think it’s one of the best signings the club has ever made,” he would later say but deep down he knew it couldn’t have been good for him.

Forty days later Paul Mariner was out of a job and Toronto FC, by announcing Ryan Nelsen as the team’s new Head Coach, appointed their eighth boss heading into their seventh season.

The writing on the wall for Mariner was there that day on November 28th when President and General Manager Kevin Payne arrived from DC.

With Mariner sitting in that front row watching, Payne delivered a strong and ambitious statement to Toronto FC fans and it was clear then that the coach at the time was not the one he felt would be able to do this.

Payne said: “The opportunity to turn things around on the field and repay the fans for their unbelievable amount of commitment and passion is one of the most exciting challenges I can imagine and I see no reason why we can’t be successful in doing that and make this a team that is the standard of MLS.”

It was a message from a man who was thinking clearly past this current year and didn’t want to work with a coach who represented what had happened in the past. It took Payne less than six weeks to find a new man yet his man of choice seems likely to not be ready to start the 2013 campaign with Toronto, instead assistant Fran O’Leary takes charge while Nelsen does what he can to keep QPR in the Premier League.

“I have some obligations with QPR,” said Nelsen to a quiet press room who all suddenly thought the same thing as it became clear the 35-year-old had not kicked his last ball in anger.

Nelsen appears to be a man of great integrity, a man wherever he has played who has made a lot of friends in the game and left a great impact on people.

QPR manager Harry Redknapp called him ‘one of the best professionals I’ve ever met in my life’ while Payne said Tuesday at the press conference that Nelsen has ‘better leadership qualities than any athlete I’ve ever been around’.

Those compliments come to a man who is simply not leaving a football club in their most precarious hour of need. Nelsen has started 17 of 21 Premier League games this season, 1613 of a possible 1890 minutes (85%), which is more than any player at Loftus Road. He is clearly not the player he was and has played too many minutes this season for a club wanting to survive in the league but his presence as a player is clearly still needed in London.

If Nelsen wanted to come to Toronto now it appears that they would be able to get the deal done but Payne summed it up perfectly in the scrum part of the media session, once the press conference was over: “If he just walked away from QPR, I would be shocked. That is not Ryan Nelsen,” he said.

Nelsen earlier had suggested that if his team won five in a row then maybe he could just shake their hands and leave but there seems no doubt that Redknapp’s squad are in a relegation fight that will likely last until the team’s final match at Liverpool on May 19th.

That leaves the reigns of the club in the hands of O’Leary and also sends another direct message that short term should not impact the long term direction of the club.

Smart men who run football clubs must know when they cannot worry about fan backlash. On the outside this looks bad. The football club is coming off its worst season in history (winning just five of 34 games last season) and are now starting a new race with the co-driver taking control of the wheel. However, is it really worse than the alternative?

Mariner was never going to be Payne’s man and giving him the keys for a year would suggest a further backward step than waiting until late May for a man he believes will guide the club for the next five years.

Those caught up in Nelsen’s absence from the team until May would be best served to think that the club hired O’Leary to be the head coach and Nelsen to be his assistant. For now.

O’Leary’s hire is an understated one due to the nature of Nelsen’s fame but should not go unnoticed, particularly because it was announced he will oversee scouting and recruitment for the club.

“Fran and Ryan share a great trust and a common sense of the game,” said Payne.

And in there lies the message. Too often, in their first six seasons, Toronto FC have not had people from the top believing the same as those delivering the message to the players. Whether it is O’Leary or Nelsen, what is essential is the football philosophy in which these men, and Payne, believe in and the need for them all to sing from the same hymn sheet.

As the trio walked away from BMO Field after Tuesday’s press conference they got into Payne’s Audi car and headed back to the city.

Nelsen, perhaps, incorrectly for now, sat in the front while O’Leary sat in the back but at least they all got in the same car.