TORONTO – Aron Winter left for the MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday afternoon with a specific need in mind: defense.
While the TFC head coach and technical director will obviously pluck the best talent available with the team’s two first-round picks — fourth and 12th overall — of next week’s MLS SuperDraft, he’s hoping at least one promising back-liner stands out and becomes an obvious choice.
“Our priority is always the best player,” Winter said at a media conference before his departure. “We’re looking also defensively, because in the front and the midfield we have a lot of players.”
Winter said that reinforcing the back line through various means is something the club has been working on over the offseason. Central defenders Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams had their 2011 seasons cut short by knee injuries, leaving the Reds woefully short-handed at times last year. Their return dates are still uncertain, which would seem to be an argument toward trading for veteran reinforcements — especially with the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals looming.
However, the club is unwilling to deal either of their first-round picks to fill the need.
“For me, it’s important that for the positions you need specifically, you’re going to look for them," Winter said. "But if those players are not there, then you’re going to watch for other positions.
“Defensively, we’re going to watch. But what I’m saying also if there’s a very good midfielder, then you’re going to take him. It depends.”
Rongen appointed as new director of TFC Academy
The club announced Friday that former MLS and US U-20 coach Thomas Rongen is the new director of the Toronto FC Academy.
Winter and Rongen, both Ajax Academy alumni, are quite familiar with each other. As a former Dutch international, Winter remembers Rongen working with the Oranje during the 1994 World Cup.
They became reacquainted last year at the player Combine and Winter said Rongen quite obviously fit the requirements for the job.
“You need a guy who knows the league, who knows all the rules, who has worked with the youth,” Winter said, “and someone who has a lot of experience of how you have to work with young players and with trainers and everything that is involved with the academy program. I’m very happy we were able to hire him for the position.”