TORONTO – Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has no regrets about putting pressure on Ryan Nelsen to lead the team to the postseason, and said the former head coach’s complaints about the GM’s role in adding unnecessary drama to the locker room are nothing more than excuses.
Bezbatchenko made the comments on Sunday, shortly after it was announced that the club had parted ways with Nelsen with 10 games remaining in the season. TFC are currently in a postseason position in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but now longtime MLS player former assistant coach Greg Vanney will lead the team in its quest for the first playoff berth in franchise history.
Nelsen’s final game was a 3-0 loss to the New England Revolution at BMO Field on Saturday.
“I made the decision after the game,” Bezbatchenko told reporters. “It was something I was considering holding off on to see if we could turn it around. The reason that this decision was made was because we have 10 games remaining – that’s 30 points that are out there. If we had waited any longer, I think it might have been too late.”
Bezbatchenko met the media in Toronto on Friday and said the expected his players to “turn it up a notch” against the Revs, a team fighting for its playoff life. Nelsen said Saturday that those quotes “absolutely” unsettled the TFC players, and insisted “this was not (a pressure) game.”
Despite saying that he has a friendly relationship with Nelsen that is “complimentary,” Bezbatchenko took issue with the head coach’s comments and questioned the players’ energy during a crucial stretch of the season.
“I think they’re excuses,” Bezbatchenko said of Nelsen’s post-match comments. “We’re just not in the excuses business here.
“I would not take back anything that was said,” he added. “There was no ‘must-win’ scenarios, there was no ultimatums. It was a challenge to the players because I think we can get more out of them. I believe in them. But we weren’t getting the energy that we needed so that’s my responsibility as a GM.”
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TFC have won just one of their last six games at BMO Field and have three wins in their last 13, a stretch that turned them from an Eastern Conference title contender into a team stuck in a fight just to reach the postseason.
“I was hoping for and really expecting a response after Kansas City and Chicago, and there was no response,” Bezbatchenko said. “ That’s the world we’re living in right now.”
With Vanney at the helm, Bezbatchenko will be hoping for an immediate response in his team, who now face a home-and-home double header against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday at PPL Park and Saturdat at BMO Field.