TORONTO – For Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney, the upcoming 2015 preseason is going to be about more than just fitness and formations.
Entering his first full season as coach, Vanney is planning for up to 10 preseason matches spread out between Toronto and Florida, a regular preseason destination for the club. But from the opening week of training camp in Toronto, Vanney has big plans that go beyond the practice field.
“In Toronto, candidly, we’re going to get our fitness base sorted out, get our touches and feet sorted out with the ball,” Vanney said at the club’s year-end news conference. "We’re going to spend that week having a very, very clear classroom to field, to classroom to field.
While his players have praised that classroom approach, Vanney says that video sessions alone won’t be enough. What his team does on the training field will be important, but so, too, will be the culture fostered in the locker room.
“We’re going to set a foundation as we come in to be immediate, in terms of how we want to set our culture and how we want to work,” Vanney said. “If the culture is driven by the coaching staff, it’s not good enough. It has to be owned by the players and has to be owned down in the locker room.”
Establishing that culture was made easier after it was announced that Toronto FC retained the options of 23 players in the offseason. With a healthy core of players coming back for next season, Vanney will have a group of players with chemistry.
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Wednesday's Expansion Draft and potential future trades could lead to some roster turnover, but Vanney said the players who do come in will need to adapt to the group and not the other way around.
“Every time you bring a new player into the club, they have to fit into that culture that is in that locker room,” Vanney said. “We as the coaches, because we need to improve our culture, are going to be the forefront to helping to establish that culture. That’s going to be on myself, my staff…everybody that’s around this building that will function next year at a higher standard.
“The players won’t have an escape,” Vanney continued. “They won’t be able to find somewhere else to find a different, softer culture. This is how we’re going to work on a daily basis and this is going to be our expectation. We’re going to work differently. We need to find players that are willing to embrace it, drive it and own it and when we bring in a player from the outside, they’re going to adapt to what our culture is."
Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.