Offside with Taylor Twellman

John Herdman on mission to turn Toronto FC into an "apex predator"

Twellman Herdman

Toronto FC are among the most pleasant early-season surprises in 2024, entering a new era under head coach John Herdman.

Herdman, who fostered a reputation as a turnaround artist during his time leading Canada's men's and women's national teams, is trying to apply a similar formula at the club level.

"It's worked wherever we've gone," Herdman explained on _Offside with Taylor Twellman_. "And there's a group of us. I said this to [club president] Bill Manning when I took the job, 'This isn't a job for John and two assistant coaches. If you don't afford me the opportunity to bring six people...'

"It takes around that, six people, to transform a culture. We literally go out to the 76 people in the whole organization, from the guys who work on the pitch, to get them part of our, we call it a train to win culture, and get them understanding the principles [of] how they contribute to our success."

It's still early, but the returns have certainly been positive.

Entering a Matchday 8 test at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), Toronto are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 3W-2L-1D record (10 points). It's a much stronger start than pundits expected, especially after TFC finished bottom of the league table last season.

"It's going to take time, but you don't know. Sometimes it just happens because all the stars align," Herdman said. "That could be this season. You never know.

"We've had a lot of injuries to start with at the beginning of the season, but we're still sitting right in the fight. So, it's not about taking just little baby steps, it's about taking this apex predator in the East and putting the teeth back in it and getting it fighting again. And that's the starting point. I think that's what people will see."

Toronto used to be an Eastern Conference powerhouse, highlighted by their historic treble in 2017 – a season that brought home MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship silverware. By contrast, Toronto haven't made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs since 2020.

"Absolutely [there is pressure], he said. "If you ever come in, you'll see the mountain image, and it's around the environment and the mountain is the quadruple. That's what we came to do. Year one, year two, year three, whatever it takes. Or whether I'll lay a foundation for someone else to take it to that quadruple.

"The club's been suffering for a long period of time, but that's the mission that Lorenzo \[Insigne\], [Federico Bernardeschi], everyone that's in this environment currently, from the groundsman, they know the quadruple is our mission, to be the first team to hit that."