Under pressure? Raised expectations welcomed in rebuilt Toronto FC locker room

TORONTO – Toronto FC brought in one big name player after another this offseason. And with that winter overhaul has come media coverage, pressure, and raised expectations.

According to the TFC brass and the squad’s veteran players, the response in the front office and locker room is unanimous: Bring it on.

“I think everyone is just motivated to win and do better,” TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko told reporters at the team’s media day event on Tuesday. “Last year and the last few years have been unacceptable to the organization and to our board. You can see the passion of the players with what they have done over the offseason and the way they have come back fit and ready to go. They know it is a new ball game here.

“I’m very comfortable with the high expectations,” Bezbatchenko added. “Everyone is shooting for us and that is one of the reasons that I wanted to come to TFC in the first place, to do something different with the situation, where instead of being at the bottom, we’re at the top and everybody else is trying to catch up to us. Now we haven’t done anything yet, but in terms of what we have done over the offseason, we have set it up and hopefully we take advantage of all the moves.”

When asked what he has told his players about how to deal with the pressure that comes with being the team that every other club will want to defeat, TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen stressed that his players do not need any special instruction due to the club’s projected change in status.

“I don’t have to tell the players anything,” Nelsen said. “They love it and thrive on it. Trust me, all of us wanted to be in this position last year. This is what professional football is all about it. They want to test their limits and to try and win every game. You want everybody to go after you and that is what it is now going to be.”

Midfielder and Designated Player Michael Bradley was quick to concur with his new gaffer.

“We’re excited about [the pressure],” Bradley said. “The new signings and the money that MLSE has spent and the pressure and expectations, that’s why we do this. The chance to walk into a sold out stadium and play with the pressure to win games and eventually win trophies, that’s exciting.

“There is a commitment and determination in every guy here to forget about everything in the past here and that this is the start of something new,” Bradley added. “Obviously it’s easy to talk about and we all know that there will be ups and downs along the way. But the pressure that now comes along with playing for Toronto FC is something that every person here is going to embrace.”

As one of the most successful players in MLS history, Toronto native Dwayne De Rosario knows a thing or two about playing the game with the swagger and confidence that all successful clubs have.

In his estimation, there is no limit to what the current edition of Toronto FC can achieve.

“This team definitely has the potential to be the best team I have been a part of,” De Rosario explained.  “It definitely has that potential, but it is now about us going out there and showing what that potential could possibly do.”