TORONTO – Goalkeeper Milos Kocic feels that the slow starts that have characterized Toronto FC's disappointing 2012 season are a thing of the past.
Kocic didn't want to talk about formations or tactics ahead of TFC's return to action Saturday in Kansas City (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Instead he wanted to focus on the new and improved mental state of the club following the appointment of Paul Mariner as the new head coach.
“Obviously the mentality going into a game, it’s going to be different,” Kocic said after Monday’s training session at Downsview Park, the first under Mariner. “I don’t think there’s going to be sluggish people going on the field anymore.”
Nothing can be done about the sleepy start to the season, though. The 1-9-0 record is so far is already in the books but Kocic feels that the coaching change might erase some of those somnolent starts to games. The reason, he said, is that Mariner is more vocal than Aron Winter, the man he replaced last Thursday.
“Here in training, it’s more vocal than Aron and maybe the guys were a bit sleepy coming into the game,” Kocic said. “With Paul it’s more [energy] and I think that’s a difference that we can all see.”
Kocic made his season debut after the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against the LA Galaxy on March 7 at Rogers Centre, and has played every minute of every game across all competitions since then. However, he was in a battle for the No. 1 spot all during preseason with Stefan Frei, who suffered a broken leg during training on March 23, the day before the home opener at BMO Field.
Kocic agrees that the renewed vigor in training could have something to do with players feeling they must show the new coach that they deserve a spot on the team.
“That’s the best thing in sport,” said Kocic who was all too familiar with being a backup in his career before the second half of last year. “You have to earn your spot and if you earn it too easy, you’re not going to appreciate it. If you fight for something and you earn it and then you’re going to appreciate it much more. I think that’s a huge part of every athlete’s life to compete for a spot. I think it’s very important for this team.”
Toronto FC have not played a game since May 26 when they defeated the Philadelphia Union 1-0, their first league victory.
Nonetheless, Kocic said he feels that he was back in the swing of things after one day of training. And his teammates are right there with him.
“I think everyone is focused on the game,” Kocic added. “Everybody is relaxed and rested and ready to go.”