TORONTO – As far as Paul Mariner is concerned, he has the best job in the league.
“By miles,” the Toronto FC head coach told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday.
Mariner took over from Aron Winter on June 7 and, as far as he knows, will return next season.
“Absolutely, that’s my understanding,” Mariner said at the club’s new training facility in Downsview Park. “I’m working diligently now behind the scenes. The NCAA scouting is almost done, just got to go see a few more games. The international scouting is well under way. Our preseason is already done. As far as I’m concerned, it’s full steam ahead.”
Toronto FC (5-19-7) will miss the playoffs for the sixth year in a row and have not won in league play since July 18. Designated Players Danny Koevermans (knee) and Torsten Frings (hip) are out for the season after surgery. A third DP, Eric Hassli has an ankle injury and is doubtful for Saturday’s game against D.C. United (15-10-6), who currently occupy a playoff spot.
Mariner knows he has a big job ahead of him and the challenge makes it “extremely appealing.”
“This is a very big job,” Mariner said. “Sometimes when people sit in their armchairs watching the game, they just think it’s sort of the 90 minutes that you’ve got to deal with.
“But there’s a lot more to it with the Academy and this magnificent training center. For me, it’s the best job in Major League Soccer. The new board are fantastic, the support group around it is sensational, so why wouldn’t you want to be head coach here?”
The Reds were 1-9 when Mariner took over and have been 4-10-7 since. They are also 2-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
“Even though I’ve only been in this job a few months, I’ve felt, and even going back to my New England days [as assistant coach], this is a big market, this is a big stage, the fans are demanding, which is fine, there’s a lot of media interest, a lot of spotlight on this club,” Mariner said. “Some people can handle it, some people can’t handle it. I know I can handle it, but the jury is out on whether the players can handle it.”
And starting next spring, Mariner says, he and TFC will be ready for another go.
“We’re not that far away on the field,” he said. “We’ve got to get some of our big players fit and back in business and then we just add five max, four definitely, and we’re in business.”