The Jürgen Klinsmann Era Begins
In a short press release today posted on their website, Toronto FC officially began what might end up being called at some point in the future the Jürgen Klinsmann era. Here is the release in its entirety: http://www.torontofc.ca/news/2010/11/toronto-fc-finalizes-klinsmann-deal
And here is the key quote from it that speaks to the scope of the mandate Klinsmann and his consultancy firm Soccer Solutions has been given by Toronto FC owners Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
“…Jürgen’s knowledge of the game and track record of international success, combined with Earl (Cochrane) and Jim(Brennan)’s experience will allow us to objectively look at everything from players to people to processes and conduct a comprehensive search for new leadership…”
There is no word if there will be a press conference today or anytime soon that will allow us to actually get to hear from Klinsmann directly. Nor is there any comment in the release about time frames nor what sort of ongoing role he might have with Toronto FC after the new front office and coaching staffs are in place. So we do not know much more than we knew last week when Steven Brunt originally broke the story in the Globe & Mail other than the fact that the hiring is now officially “official”.
So the speculation can now officially begin as to what the new TFC is going to look like considering that Klinsmann will be given the mandate to look at just about the entire organization it seems. When the official announcement in one sentence speaks to “…players to people to processes…” I think it is fair to speculate that Jürgen Klinsmann is being given just about a free hand by MLSE to rebuild this club from the ground up.
More than anything else I think the major area of speculation over the coming weeks will be how the front office and coaching staffs will be reorganized and what sort of organizational model will the club follow heading into 2011. MLS is definitely a league in transition when it comes to how clubs are organizing and running themselves these days. And there is more than one successful model to look at and maybe emulate. Clubs that may have had only three or four technical staff in previous years now have a dozen or more. Other clubs like the LA Galaxy (rebuilt after a disaster of a season in 2008) and the Seattle Sounders (built from essentially scratch as an expansion team in 2009) went with the “traditional” model and hired experienced MLS men like Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmidt respectively to both run the front office and coach their clubs on the field. Without a doubt Arena and Schmidt have had successful runs at their current clubs, success that TFC would I am sure like to emulate. Compare that approach to a new expansion club like Vancouver, that have hired a relatively large number of individuals that have split the duties of coach and GM into a number of different individual roles and you start to see the differing approaches Klinsmann and his consultancy may suggest.
I have been thinking hard since season end as to which model would be best served for Toronto FC to follow. Two hypothetical examples come to mind of which direction the team could take.
The GM/Coach Model
If the consensus from the club and the consultants is to hire a person of the Bruce Arena/Sigi Schmidt/Stevie Nicol ilk (i.e. extensive MLS success, MLS experience, comfortable with MLS rules/knowledge of the league and a willingness to hold both roles), then having a single person ultimately calling the shots on and off the pitch has been proven to work in MLS over the years. This is still the case in this “new” MLS that has been emerging over the last few years with the increase in size of front office staffs. The way ahead of course here is to make sure that there is enough soccer brain power and experience on the staff surrounding this person to give them every resource they need to succeed. And most importantly you need to hire the right person for this massive job. Mo Johnston was originally given this very type of role in 2007 and we all know how that turned out. There is significant risk in entrusting the fate of what is a bruised organization into the hands of one man, especially if that person does not have a track record in this league or does not delegate some of his duties by working well with others.
The Management By Committee Model
The New York Red Bulls at the end of last season faced arguably a much larger rebuilding process going into this season than TFC faces going into 2011. Not only was there almost a complete tear down of the on field product but the front office and coaching staffs were virtually completely gutted and replaced as well. They brought in a coach in Hans Backe from Europe that had no MLS experience at all. Backe was just responsible for the tactics on the pitch and of course the final word on player personnel was left to the group of staffers in the front office to decide upon. They are now a solid contender for MLS Champion this season, showing that a turnaround from also ran to contender can happen quickly. The fledgling Vancouver Whitecaps that are entering the league in 2011 from D2 are following much the same structure. For example Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson has no MLS coaching experience yet the club believes his tactical acumen and man management skills can translate into MLS success. Vancouver has made sure that they have surrounded him with many different individuals in the front office with varying skill sets to try and make sure that the club has everything it needs to be as successful as it can be out of the starting blocks. Specifically to name a few, Paul Barber was brought in from Tottenham Hotspur for his overall soccer mind and international experience/contacts. Tom Soehn formerly of DC United was brought in for his extensive knowledge, contacts and experience in MLS. And of course long time stalwart Bobby Lenarduzzi was kept on for his knowledge of Canadian soccer, his long time affiliation with club and community and likely for a sense of continuity for what will be a club facing massive change in the years ahead.
Both models work. Both models can work for Toronto FC if they are implemented by the right sort of person or people.
And we won’t get a real handle on which of these approaches a person like Jürgen Klinsmann wants to go with until we see some of the hirings. If he recommends the hiring of a coach from Europe for example of the ilk of a Donadoni or a Dowie (two names for example linked to the job) I think it fair to say that the Red Bulls/Whitecaps model will hold sway and we will see an influx of new staff to fill out the front office along with the new field boss. If we see for example men like Dominic Kinnear or Stevie Nicol getting hired (and they are hypothetical of course) them I think it is also fair to say that TFC would in that case be going with a more traditional management setup.
I personally think that there are few people available that can ably enough fill the GM/Coach roles themselves other than the aforementioned Arena and Schmidt and maybe New England boss Steve Nicol or Houston supremo Dominic Kinnear. Arena and Schmidt are not going anywhere. Kinnear and/or Nicol perhaps both might fancy a change of scenery and a new challenge with an ownership group willing to spend. However there are more unemployed European coaches then there are MLS gurus out there and TFC might just want to emulate the path of the Red Bulls anyways. Again only time will tell.
My money is on “Management By Committee”.
What do you think? Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.