TORONTO – The uncertainty is over for Toronto FC.
Ryan Nelsen said on Tuesday at the club’s media day that he will become head coach on a full-time basis as of Feb. 1, when the team opens its Orlando phase of preseason training.
Nelsen, 35, was hired on Jan. 8 as head coach, but because he still is playing for Queens Park Rangers, who are battling to avoid relegation in the English Premier League, it was not certain when he would take over his new job on a full-time basis.
“We had a talk and we wanted to give QPR as much time as possible to bring in a replacement or sort their things out,” Nelsen told the media on Tuesday. “If they knew I was leaving earlier, it would have been harder in the transfer window.”
The New Zealand international center back is scheduled to play his final game for QPR next Tuesday, Jan. 29, against Manchester City in an EPL match.
Nelsen, who played the whole game for QPR in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham, has been in Toronto this week as the club opened preseason indoors at its training center in Downsview. He will be with TFC until Saturday before returning to England and then will be ready to conduct training in Orlando.
Nelsen was hired by new Toronto FC president and general manager Kevin Payne, who had drafted the defender for D.C. United in 2001. Nelsen helped D.C. win an MLS Cup in 2004 before departing for the EPL.
The 35-year-old said his knees and ankles have been telling him it is time to retire and that he feels that QPR will avoid relegation without him.
“In honesty, I think they will,” Nelsen said, “with the manager [Harry Redknapp] and the players that they have there. There are some really talented players there. I’m 35-and-a-half, and if they’re relying on me to get them out of a situation like that, they’re in a bit of trouble.
“They understood when I came in that I’ve had job offers before in coaching and they knew that I was going to go at some stage.”
On this side of the Atlantic, Nelsen likes what he has seen of Toronto so far, but understands that the team that has not made the playoffs in its six-year existence and is still looking to add players to reverse that unsavory trend.
“We want to bring in some quality players,” he said. “There are some good players here. Their records in the past few seasons don’t justify their talent. It’s a really good opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong.”