TORONTO – Greg Vanney has been in charge of Toronto FC for only a handful of days, and on Wednesday he faces his first test at the helm when Toronto take on the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE, match preview).
Speaking to reporters at Tuesday's training session, Vanney dove right into the business of the weekly press scrum, providing updates on injured players – Steven Caldwell, Justin Morrow, Jermain Defoe and Warren Creavalle are all out of commission – and also revealed the team has put together a coaching staff, though not a finalized one.
It includes former Bayern Munich and German national team assistant coach Nick Theslof, former Toronto FC and journeyman goalkeeper Jon Conway, Jason Bent (who stays on from the previous regime) and Jim Liston, the TFC Academy’s director of sports science.
With those details taken care of, at least for now, Vanney has already outlined a desire for a higher level of energy and confidence and says he is looking to implement a new style of play, too.
“We want to start the game with the idea that we’re going to win the game,” Vanney said told reporters at training Tuesday. “I want to dictate the game on both sides of the ball. I don’t like waiting and letting the other team dictate what we do. What’s important for me is that we bring a high level of energy to the field and we bring a confidence level to the field that we’re trying to get three points, that we’re not going to try to survive.”
Was that mentality missing in the team?
“I don’t know if it was the mentality of the team in the last few games,” Vanney answered. “In the last game, I think we were a little bit of a shell of ourselves. I think this team went after it early in the season, but in the last couple of games we looked a little timid and uncertain, and I want to release them of that fear and pressure and say, ‘go get it.’
This high-energy style – a direct contrast to Ryan Nelsen’s counterattacking play – is one that Vanney says is “possession-oriented and attacking-minded,” but one that still has to evolve. Only in charge for three days, Vanney said the group of players was built to be dynamic and added that he is more pleased with the team than he thought he would be.
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Vanney is the ninth head coach in eight years for Toronto FC and comes into the team with 10 games remaining in the 2014 regular season, and in the quest for the club's first playoff appearance, he is expecting his club to follow the lead and mentality of Designated Player Michael Bradley.
“I think Michael’s strengths are to play forward and to feel the freedom to move forward and drive the team,” Vanney said. “He’s a great final passer, he’s great at arriving into the box late and outstanding at closing people down. We just have to make sure that we’re all doing it together; it doesn’t make sense if one guy's closing people down and four guys or five guys around him are dropping back. … The whole group is ambitious: They want to go. For us, it’s trying to do it collectively and intelligently, together.”