TORONTO – Greg Vanney is the new head coach of Toronto FC, and in his introductory news conference he made it clear: He’s a man with a plan.
Vanney – speaking as the team’s head coach for the first time on Sunday – and TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko outlined a number of areas that they intend to address down the final stretch of the season.
“First and foremost, I think it’s the energy that we’re putting out on the field,” Vanney said, when asked what he was going to try to change at the club. “We need to be more aggressive and less fearful of making mistakes. We need to be more aggressive to try to go get three points and not necessarily not lose two points or three points.”
Vanney’s remarks come on the heels of Saturday’s dispiriting 3-0 loss to New England, a listless performance that rang down the curtain on now-former head coach Ryan Nelsen and his staff.
“My first concern is the energy with which we start the game,” Vanney explained. “The passes backwards, where we start the game in our own half of the field, that’s not an energy-positive way to start the game, especially when you come off a long game prep getting ready for that first whistle. The starts have been passive and negative and we need to be more aggressive right at the start.”
It’s not just in attack that Vanney has seen room for improvement; it’s in defending as well. The Reds are without captain Steven Caldwell and starting left back Justin Morrow, and those absences showed.
More worrisome, though, was the lack of urgency on display from their replacements.
“In terms of conceding goals, we need to be a little stronger and firmer in holding our ground,” Vanney said. “We need to be more compact to work together and cover each other. Looking back at yesterday’s goals, all of them came from somebody basically dribbling right down the middle of the field and nobody closing it down. We have to feel more comfortable that we can stay more compact to be able to step out of our lines and confront balls and get support.”
Tactically, Vanney says the team has been set up to play in a 4-4-2 and he will continue in that formation for the rest of the season. As for new acquisitions, Vanney said he was happy with the squad he had and wasn’t necessarily looking to add new players. He said that his challenge rests instead in making sure the players he does have perform to their maximum potential.
More importantly, Bezbatchenko says, it’s about picking up points, of which 30 are up for grabs in the final 10 games of the 2014 season.
“The priority here is to unleash the players a bit and allow them to express themselves,” Vanney said. “Over the last two, three games, we looked [like we lacked] energy.”
This new appointment was also made with a mind on analytics, an area of expertise that Bezbatchenko says Vanney can offer his side.
“Analytics are very useful in managing workloads and helping the players prepare week in and week out, and help in terms of injury prevention,” Vanney said. “They aren’t the be-all, end-all of things but they’re great to take a look at to make sure we’re covering all our bases. It [highlights] what you see on the field; the ground covered, the sprints that are put in, those types of things.”
“We see a team that has more to give and we need to continue to push them,” Vanney said. “They’re ready for the challenge.”