Mariner miffed after USL coach backs out of deal to join TFC

Paul Mariner

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Toronto FC believed they had a new assistant coach when there was a handshake deal made last week, according to TFC manager Paul Mariner.

But the search continues after it was announced this week that Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath decided to extend his stay with the Florida club after signing a new three-year contract.

“As far as we were concerned, the deal had a handshake on Thursday,” Mariner told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Torreón, Mexico, on Wednesday. “A handshake as far as we’re concerned is a done deal, but obviously not as far as he is concerned.”

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Mariner said he has already spoken to another candidate for the job and has 10 more on his list, but also admitted he was disappointed that Heath declined the job.  

“I’ve known Adrian for a long, long time,” Mariner said. “I spoke to him quite some time ago. He’s been up to Toronto twice. Not to put a finer point on it, we gave him an excellent proposal. He brought his wife up this weekend. [TFC director of team and player operations] Earl Cochrane shook on a deal with him on Thursday and we were just waiting for the lawyers to get the contract through.

“He called me on Monday morning prior to training and gave me the news. I was actually trying to work out flights for him to go scouting so I think he got pressure from Orlando. I think he wants to remain No. 1 in the USL, which is his prerogative. But I think pressure came to bear from various positions. I don’t want to go into where that was.”

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In a TV interview in Orlando, Heath indicated that there was an understanding that he would have eventually become the Toronto head coach. But Mariner said there would have been no certainty of that happening.

“I think every coach is groomed to be a head coach, it’s whether you rise to the occasion,” Mariner said. “There’s no assurances in football. There’s none. You can discuss and talk about it, but there are no assurances and we all know that.”

Mariner wanted to make one thing clear when he talked about his list of possible candidates: “There’s no shortage of people wanting to come to Toronto.”

Larry Millson covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.