Mariner puts friendships aside as TFC host New England

Paul Mariner

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TORONTO – Paul Mariner will put friendships aside on Saturday as he seeks his first win as Toronto FC head coach against the New England Revolution at BMO Field (5:30 pm ET, MLS Live).

Mariner, who was assistant coach to Steve Nicol over five years with the Revolution, took over the head coaching job at Toronto following Aron Winter's June 7 departure. The Englishman has a point to his name from two games thus far, and at 1-10-1 in the league, the Reds are desperate for wins.

“Every game is a cup final for us, we’ve got to produce, it just so happens [Saturday] it’s New England,” Mariner said Friday after training at Downsview Park.

He said he has “very fond memories” of his days with the Revolution, but any reflections on those must wait until after the game.

Mariner was with the Revolution (5-7-2) from 2004 to 2009 and the club reached the MLS Cup final three years in a row during that period, from 2005 to '07.

The former England international has maintained a friendship with and a strong respect for Jay Heaps, a longtime stalwart defender for the Revolution, now in his first year as their head coach. Heaps has said that Mariner has helped him both as a player and as a coach.

“I know Jay really well,” Mariner said. “This team reflects him. They’re a good, honest, strong, difficult team to break down. It’s going to be a difficult game, obviously, but I think we might have a couple of surprises.”

History is certainly on Toronto’s side – the Revolution, 1-6-0 on the road this season, have never won at BMO Field, going 0-2-3 in their five trips to date.

However, Toronto will be without midfielders Nick Soolsma and Luis Silva and defender Miguel Aceval for the second successive game as the investigation continues by the league and the players’ association into their arrest for public intoxication in Houston early Monday morning.

The three missed the team's 3-3 draw with the Dynamo on Wednesday and although it left him with a short bench, Mariner said the situation was not a distraction.

“No distraction for the players that were available, no distraction for the staff,” Mariner said. “It was a bit of a black eye for me, a thorn in my side. But it doesn’t matter about me, it matters about the players and I think for 75-78 minutes [in Houston],  we gave a good show of ourselves.”

Defender Adrian Cann, who left last Saturday’s 2-0 at Kansas City with a sprained knee also is unavailable for Saturday. He was set to undergo an MRI on Friday.