Toronto FC challenge new GM Ali Curtis to improve on Bezbatchenko's legacy

Bill Manning, Ali Curtis, Greg Vanney - Toronto FC - at Curtis press conference

TORONTO – To have a plan is to have a vision for the short-, medium- and long-term.

As he steps into the general manager role at Toronto FC, Ali Curtis is still formulating his, but can't wait to sink his teeth into the task issued by club president Bill Manning.

“What I've challenged Ali with, as he gets to know the organization over the next four-six months, is what can he add to that, how can we improve on what we're doing and continue to grow this club,” said Manning at Thursday's introductory press conference. “He's not coming in to a bare cupboard. We're set for 2019 with the exception of a few additions.”

Toronto have already made two big offseason acquisitions – Laurent Ciman and Nick DeLeon – and has 25 of 30 roster spots filled heading into next week's MLS SuperDraft. But with players reporting for preseason in less than two weeks and their quest to go a step further in the Concacaf Champions League getting under way on Feb. 19, Curtis will not be wasting any time as he acclimates to his new surroundings.

Curtis said he looks to tennis legend Arthur Ashe as his guide: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

“When come to new situation you listen, you learn, you process and analyze, but you roll up sleeves and you get your hands dirty,” explained Curtis. “I'm not worried about the tight deadline. They're challenges, but they're also opportunities.”

On the heels of their longest offseason since 2015, TFC are well rested, primed to make amends for a disappointing 2018.

Perhaps the biggest personnel question hanging over his new side is the future of the three Designated Players: Jozy AltidoreMichael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco, who are all entering the final season of their current contracts.

Curtis would not tip his cards hours into the new gig, but he did speak to his personal philosophy of roster building.

“It has to be balanced,” he said. “Designated Players, TAM players, Homegrown Players, local players, players from the draft. There is strength in diversity.

“This club has always been one of the top spenders. That needs to continue,” added Curtis. “That's one of the reasons why you come to TFC: You have latitude, opportunity to build out a roster how you see fit. I'm excited by that. Jozy, Michael and Giovinco, I'm looking forward to working with those guys and speaking with them about how we help this team.”

Curtis' experience with the New York Red Bulls, as well as in the league offices, marked him out as a strong candidate for Manning. But the club president kept going back to his new GM's “competitiveness” as he explained the hire.

“He learned a lot at the Red Bulls experience. There are some things he would absolutely do over again and some he would do differently,” said Manning of Curtis. “I learn everyday. How can I be better, do this better?

“I'm not looking to hire him just to replace Tim [Bezbatchenko], but for us to get better. That's the challenge,” he added. “I know with his competitive juices, he's going to get after it.”