Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen: "I wish I had more time" ahead of opener

TORONTO – For as long as the preseason has been, Ryan Nelsen wishes it could have been a little longer.

Nelsen will make his coaching debut with Toronto FC when the Reds open their season against the Whitecaps on Saturday in Vancouver (6:30 pm ET; TSN/RDS in Canada / MLS Live in US), and he goes into his first match with a team that is still very much under construction. 

“For me, I wish preseason could go on for probably five or six more weeks, but I think the guys are ready for it,” Nelsen told reporters after Wednesday’s training at the club’s Downsview Park training facility.

Nelsen, who ended his playing career as a stalwart center back when he left English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers to coach TFC earlier this month, goes into the league opener with a team that will probably look a lot different in a couple of months.

READ: Can Nelsen lead a culture change at Toronto FC?

He was announced as head coach on Jan. 8 but played for QPR until Jan. 29 with a week off to work with TFC during the opening of training camp.

“Obviously, when we came in we had to see what the infrastructure of the club was, what was the recruitment and the scouting and the players we had,” he said. “Yes, I wish I had obviously a lot more time. But I think the guys are ready, they’re organized and they’re really looking forward to it, so we’ll see.”

Among the most recent changes, former German international Torsten Frings retired earlier this week after trying to come back from hip surgery leaving the Reds with an open Designated Player spot. A loan deal was then reached with QPR to bring in 24-year-old midfielder Hogan Ephraim until at least June.

Welsh international striker Robert Earnshaw, who announced he was joining the club in a tweet on Thursday afternoon, and attacking midfielder John Bostock, 21, a Tottenham Hotspur property, also joined the club for trials. A couple of players from Honduras and a young Designated Player from Argentina are also possibilities, according to club president and general manager Kevin Payne.

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But Nelsen said that decisions won’t be rushed.

“We don’t want to make decisions just on one game or two games or three games,” he said. “It has to be what’s going to benefit the team down the road, and if we have to take a bit of extra time to do the due diligence to get the right sort of player that we want in, then so be it.

“Is the team going to be the same March 2 as it is going to be May 2? I think it might be changing, it might change a bit. But we’re not going to sacrifice the due diligence just for the sake of kind of one game.”