Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney to celebrate 100th game in charge Wednesday

Toronto FC coach celebrates milestone

TORONTO — Dropped in the coaching deep end towards the end of the 2014 season, Greg Vanney has managed to accomplish what the eight men before him failed to do — instil a winning culture at Toronto FC.

Vanney, who took Toronto to within one kick of the MLS championship last season, marks his 100th game in charge on Wednesday night when Orlando City visits BMO Field.

Toronto (3-1-4) is coming off impressive wins over Chicago and Houston. Orlando (6-0-1) arrives with the best record in MLS and will be a stiff test.

Since taking over the team on Aug. 31, 2014, Vanney has made good use of the talent pipeline set up by general manager Tim Bezbatchenko. The 42-year-old former U.S. international defender has learned on the job, changing tactics to suit his personnel.

Blessed with a squad that has got deeper each year, Vanney has been an effective man-manager. If any players are dissatisfied with their role, they have kept it in-house.

Vanney has also managed to handle his team’s diverse egos. While the team is harmonious, there is no shortage of big personalities in the TFC dressing room.

Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta, who as Vanney’s nephew knows him better than most, says the TFC coach starts with a work ethic second to none.

“He understands the league and understands what it takes to be successful,” said Zavaleta. “I think he’s done a very very good job over the course of his first game to his 100th game now at adapting, at learning, at listening to his players — doing everything he can to get the most out of his players and get the most out of his team.

“You’ve seen our team evolve over those 100 games in a way that is a lot of credit to him.”

Striker Jozy Altidore says Vanney’s instincts and timing as a coach are spot-on.

“He’s done a really good job in terms of kind of letting the guys sort themselves at times, which is something that sounds simple but I don’t think a lot of coaches do. They try to micro-manage everything and I don’t think he’s about that.

“He kind of lets guys do their own thing but when it’s time to work and be serious, he makes sure he lets us know that. So I think he’s done a terrific job here. You can see with how the team has grown the past couple of years and huge credit to him.”

Vanney, who is backed by a coaching staff with whom he has deep roots, is more comfortable talking about his team than himself.

“There’s lots of ways that I feel like I’ve grown but what’s most important through this stretch is that the team has continued to improve, even on an upward trend,” he said.

Players past and present point to Vanney’s constant study of the game.

Former Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Ante Jazic called him a “soccer nerd.” Toronto defender Drew Moor, who played with Vanney at FC Dallas in 2006, opted for “soccer geek.”

“He watches the best teams in the world to see how he can make TFC better,” said Moor.

Wednesday’s milestone — which covers MLS regular-season, playoff and Canadian Championship games — is all the more remarkable given the franchise’s revolving door approach to head coaches in the past

Toronto went through eight in the eight years before Vanney took charge.

Hired in December 2013 as Toronto’s assistant general manager and academy director, Vanney took over as coach with 10 games remaining in the 2014 season. Toronto finished 2-6-2 under Vanney.

He still remembers that run, recalling a Gilberto goal controversially disallowed in stoppage time that denied Toronto a win against Chicago and a Jermain Defoe penalty kick miss in a loss to Houston.

All the while, he was evaluating his assets and liabilities.

“You learn most about yourself and about your players in moments of urgency and moments where there’s high pressure,” he said.

A father of four, Vanney has plenty to occupy himself at home. A recent trip to see the Blue Jays with his family was a nice break.

But he says the soccer stays with him after a game.

“It takes a while,” he said. “Eventually I fall asleep. But when I’m awake, usually probably every 10 or 15 or 20 minutes I have a new thought or something going on in my head â€” something I have to deal with or something I have to think about.”

In 2015, TFC went 15-15-4 to make the playoffs for the first time. Toronto lost 3-0 in Montreal in ignominious fashion but at least the post-season had been reached.

In 2016, Toronto won the Canadian Championship and dispatched Philadelphia, New York City FC and the Montreal Impact in the playoffs before losing a penalty shootout to Seattle.

His record today at the helm is 41-35-23. Since mid-July 2016, Toronto has lost just five of 29 games (15-5-9) with one of those losses coming in the aggregate playoff victory over Montreal.

 

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

PLACE NAMES: The Lucerne of North America

New Denver, Kaslo, and Nelson all likened themselves to a Swiss city

Firefighters extinguish early-morning blaze in Rossland

Neighbour alerted family of four, no injuries reported

Senior curling provincials setting up for exciting finish

Standings tight as Senior curling teams push for provincial playoffs

Nominations open for Trail-Warfield Citizen of the Year

Award presented annually for a person or group with an outstanding record of community service

Fashion Fridays: Must have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

B.C. police watchdog clears officers in fatal hostage situation outside Cranbrook

A woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning after taking two minors hostage last fall

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Most Read