One of the most noticeable differences in this year’s Toronto FC preseason training compared to years past is the competition for jobs.
The most obvious example is at the goakeeper spot, where Stefan Frei opened last season as the clear No. 1 but is getting a stiff challenge from Milos Kocic this time around.
And that’s the way head coach and technical director Aron Winter likes it.
“There has to be competition,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday by phone from Orlando, Fla., where TFC are set to play in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. “The most important thing is those players are keeping each other sharp.
“It means, at a certain moment, the quality of the training and the quality of the games, they’re going to be much higher and the players are going to be much better. It’s only good.”
Frei had been the undisputed starter for the past three years in Toronto before an injury sidelined him and gave Kocic a chance to show his worth between the pipes down the stretch.
Now back at full health, the Swiss netminder welcomes the challenge posed by his Serbian counterpart.
“In every position, you need to have that competition," Frei said. "I think it always has to be open to whoever is better plays. If you lose that kind of atmosphere in the team, if you lose that competition, it’s going to hurt the team overall. It’s more important for the team to keep the competiveness at every single position and to push each other.”
Said Winter of Frei's outlook: “That’s a good attitude. It’s a good mentality because it keeps you sharp.”
The competition for jobs will continue on Saturday, when the Reds play their opening match in the Disney Classic against USL Pro side Orlando City, one of two non-MLS clubs in the eight-team tournament.
If there is competition in camp, it means there is depth, and that comes into play in the long MLS season that also is dotted with games from other competitions.
“The players know also that it is impossible that in this league you can play all the games from the first until the end,” Winter said. “It‘s going to be a long season.”