AMSTERDAM – With Aron Winter set to take the dual reins at Toronto FC, MLSsoccer.com chatted up a couple of local scribes about the erstwhile Ajax youth coach's prospects for success in Major League Soccer.
The commentators agreed that the 43-year old Suriname native will attempt to translate the Amsterdam club's Total Football approach into "Canadian" at BMO Field, but the jury remains out as to whether he will be found another Dutch master.
"What is he going to do over there? For starters, he's a real Ajax thinker, so I reckon he's going to make Toronto play the Ajax way," Menno Pot, a frequent panelist on AT5's local Ajax discussion show FC Godenzonen, told MLSsoccer.com. "Offensively, he's going to focus on skill, for sure. I think he's going to try to make them an entertaining team.
"The thing is, he's never had a position such as technical director before, so we'll have to wait and see how he copes with that."
Soccer reporter Maarten Wijffels of Amsterdam daily Algemeen Dagblad concurred with Pot on both points.
"He was formed [as a player] during the time of Johan Cruijff," he told MLSsoccer.com. "He was formed in the very typical Dutch football way of thinking – attacking, always in possession, always playing forward. I think he will introduce this type of thinking with his club in [MLS].
"You cannot say he is an experienced trainer in the big leagues or big matches," added Wijffels. "This is a new career step for him. In Holland, he was never in the front position. We could never see him working with the criticism or the whole team or with training. We cannot say how he'll do."
The AD Sportwereld writer did offer up a possible clue as to Winter's MLS prospects, though, referring up the case of former Ajax teammate Johan van 't Schip. The Netherlands assistant to Marco van Basten at World Cup 2006 left that post two years ago to become the manager at Australian expansion side Melbourne Heat.
Van 't Schip already has the team battling in mid-table, and considering the relatively small budget sizes and player acquisition rules Down Under, Wijffels surmised that Winter could have a similar positive impact in building a Total Football annex in Toronto.
"Winter is the same age, the same generation," Wijfeels offered. "I think Aron will talk with [van ‘t Schip] about the job. Maybe [the situations] are a bit the same. He can see what Johnny is doing in Australia and maybe do the same thing in America.”
Wijffels figured the transition will take time and work, but was willing to guess that the Reds will be able to catch on to Winter's Dutch way.
[inline_node:325969]"It's not only the way of playing to adapt, but also the way of thinking," he explained. "You should have players who are always willing to take initiative. Some cultures are always defensive, while we are people by the seas, we are adventurous.
"But it's also an outsider's view that people in North America try to take the initiative and reach for the highest level, always going for gold. Maybe it is better there to bring the Dutch mentality of playing."
Pot, who often can be found at the famed Ajax youth academy De Toekomst ("the future"), did identify one potential problem area for the new Toronto FC boss.
He expressed concern over how well Winter would be able to take on his technical director role, a tricky assignment even before you factor in learning to navigate MLS's different player movement regulations.
"As a Young Ajax coach, you can't pick your players," stated Pot. "It's a squad of teenagers and players in their early twenties. You've got to work with that and that's it. There's no transfers, you can't buy anyone.
"Time will tell. I'm sure Toronto probably talked to him a few times, and that's what their decision is based on because that's all they have."
Pot did applaud Winter's first decision to bring along Ajax youth manager Bob de Klerk, considering him a real catch for the Toronto FC development set-up.
"That man is rated pretty highly within Ajax," he relayed. “He was the manager of the Saturday team, the amateurs, and took them up to the Hoofdklasse, which is the highest level of amateur football in the country. I'm pretty sure he will be valuable to Toronto."
Making the feat more impressive is the fact that De Klerk was winning while far outspent among clubs in the amateur ranks.
"All the players loved him, I know that," Pot said. "He's a very good field coach and probably a good people manager, too. He can build something."
As for Winter, the scribes were again in general agreement that taking this Toronto FC move was very wise for a guy who seemed blocked from advancement in a star-studded Ajax technical staff.
"It's probably the perfect way for him to start and it will be really interesting to tell how good he is as a coach and as a technical director," Wijffels said.
Wijffels also tipped that Winter is likely to try a swoop or two for some veteran Dutch talent to help show the Ajax way.
"I think that Winter is definitely going to take some Dutch players over there," he said. "He will try to make a couple of players enthusiastic to come to America, and you saw that also in Australia [with Van 't Schip]. I think, in the beginning, it will be players in their thirties who want to have one more adventure in their career."