Toronto part ways with embattled head coach Aron Winter
Toronto FC announced on Thursday that Aron Winter has stepped down from his role as head coach and parted ways with the club, and that director of player development Paul Mariner will become the club's seventh head coach in franchise history.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment executive vice president and COO Tom Anselmi met with Winter on Thursday morning, when the two decided a split was necessary to help TFC emerge from a record-breaking rut to open the 2012 season and mounting pressure on a club that still hasn't reached the postseason in its sixth year on the MLS landscape.
"It was a difficult decision for both of us but one I believed was necessary given our team's regular season results," Anselmi said in a press conference. "Our team has made some progress this year. … We've played well enough in a number of regular-season games this year, but the results haven't been there, and that's where it matters most and ultimately we felt that necessitated a change."
Winter took over at TFC in January 2011, but never found the success expected during his time with the club. He led the Reds to the most dismal start to a season in league history during his second year on the job — an MLS-record nine-game losing streak.
The Dutchman finished with a 7-22-15 record in league play overall and, despite a win over the Philadelphia Union on May 26, the Reds are still stuck with the worst record in MLS, with just three points earned through 10 games.
Anselmi said that Winter was actually offered a different role within the club, but he declined the offer before parting ways with the club.
"Ultimately, he was satisfied that the foundation he put in place for the long term and decided it was better for him and his family to pursue other opportunities," Anselmi said.
He did enjoy success during international competition, however, as TFC won two straight Canadian Championships and became the first Canadian team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals before they bowed out to eventual champions Santos Laguna of Mexico.
"We haven't delivered the goods and you can't take that for granted," Anselmi said. "We had a free pass for a few years as an expansion franchise and now it's time to step up to the plate. That's why we came to a conclusion that a change needed to be made. It just wasn't working. Seven wins in 44 games is just not good enough in this league and we had to make a change."
The longtime New England Revolution assistant Mariner (right) now takes the reins, as TFC return to action on June 16 at Sporting Kansas City before playing in Houston against the Dynamo on June 20.
"At the present moment, we've just got to try to change things a little bit," Mariner said. "Only a few minor adjustments need to be made, in my viewpoint. We've got a lot of work to do starting this week. Two very, very big games and very important games. You've just go to wait and see what happens. We're going to get results, it's just that simple."
Mariner was an assistant to head coach Steve Nicol for the Revolution's glory days from 2004-09, helping the Revs to three straight MLS Cup appearances between 2005-07. The Revolution qualified for the postseason every year Mariner was on the bench during his time on the job before he left to manage English Championship side Plymouth Argyle in 2009.
He returned to MLS during Toronto FC's overhaul in January 2011, named to his position as director of player development the same day Winter was named head coach.
"I'm a very modest man, but I've got unbelievable confidence in my own ability," Mariner said. "I know exactly what I'm doing in training this week. I know exactly what the team will be next weekend, barring injuries, I know how we're going to play. It's almost written what's going to occur. … I can't wait to get started."