Toronto FC deciders: as always, hopelessly fascinated with all things European

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I adore the city of Toronto, a place of wonderful international diversity. It helps supply the place a special feel.

But when it comes to professional soccer in the city, I’m wondering if the deciders should think a little more provincially?

Yesterday brought some interesting news, as reported by the site Soccer By Ives. The report said Orlando City SC coach Adrian Heath had rejected a $300,000 a year offer to become Paul Mariner’s top assistant and to eventually take over as the top man.

First, is any assistant worth $300,000, an amount that tops the salary of plenty of current MLS head coaches? Or is this just more financial mismanagement from one of the league’s worst organizations – a very bad team that happens to have one of the league’s highest salary bases. It doesn’t look like money destined to be well-spent (and that’s no offense to Heath, but rather a comment on spending practices). Either way, in this case Heath may have save the Reds from themselves.

But here’s the bigger point:

How about hiring a coach from North America? What’s wrong with a manager (or head coach-in-waiting, as in this case) from the United States or Canada? You know, the place where the majority of players are coming from.

Heath is English through and through. Nothing wrong with that per se, nor with Heath himself; It’s the offer in context that troubles me.

Toronto FC’s ongoing fascination with all things European looks like one of the problems for a team that will go into its seventh MLS campaign still wondering what playoff soccer feels like. Let’s look quickly at the TFC bosses who have overseen the league’s chief stumble-bumblers since the team was born in 2007.

  • Mo Johnston – Born and raised in Scotland, a former Scottish international
  • John Carver – English born, former player and manager in English leagues
  • Chris Cummins – English born, managed there previously
  • Preki – Born and raised in Yugoslavia, a naturalized American citizen
  • Nick Dasovic – Born and raised in Croatia who arrived into North America in early 1990s. A naturalized Canadian citizen who played 63 times for the national team, he is the closest Toronto FC has had to a head coach from North America. He was interim manager briefly in 2010, soon replaced by …
  • Aron Winter – Born and raised in the Netherlands, a former Dutch international
  • Paul Mariner – Born and raised in England, a former English international

(UPDATE: The information on Dasovic is incorrect. He was born and raised in Canada and then left at age 19 to pursue a career in Croatia.)

Here’s the thing: U.S. and Canadian coaches work well in MLS.

There are 10 coaches about to guide their teams in the MLS playoffs. Eight are more “American” than anyone who has ever coached at TFC.

I suppose you could quibble with a couple of their chops as a “real Americans,” whatever that means. Chicago’s Frank Klopas, for instance, arrived into the United States when he was 8 years old. Houston’s Dominic Kinnear when he was 3 years old. To me, they identify culturally more with the United States than with the lands of their births.

Six of the 10 playoff coaches were former U.S. or Canadian internationals as players. Two were former U.S. or Canadian national team coaches.

The point is, managers equipped with a better understanding of the systems and the athletes here tend to be more successful in MLS than imports. We’ve seen it over and over in the 17-year-old league – even if the deciders around Toronto apparently haven’t noticed.

Six of the last seven MLS Cups were won by American managers: Bruce Arena, Jason Kreis, Sigi Schmid, Dominic Kinnear (twice) and Steve Sampson. Colorado’s Gary Smith, from England, was the exception.

There are further exceptions, obviously; other foreign-born bosses have managed successful in MLS. For instance, Hans Backe is from Sweden, and yet he is the first coach to guide New York into the playoffs three years in a row.

Word to the men in charge around BMO Field: there are plenty of qualified coaching candidates who did not cut their soccer teeth on the game across the Atlantic. Go find them!  (And we’ll let you know where you can send some of that money you will save, because you will not have to offer these fellows $300,000 a year just to be rejected.)

Report: Mourinho to get bumper $89 million extension at Man Utd

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Jose Mourinho is in the third month of his second season in charge of Manchester United, and may join Antonio Conte as men to get a second contract early in his term.

Goal.com says Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in Mourinho will spur United chairman Ed Woodward into action.

Unlike Conte, who received improved terms and the same length at Chelsea, the report says Mourinho will get a new five-year deal.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

The report says Mourinho’s terms would be worth almost $89 million over the length of the deal, close to $18 million per season.

The 54-year-old has never spent more than four years at a club, his longest stay as an assistant as Barcelona. Last season, he won the Europa League and League Cup for United while finishing sixth in the Premier League.

This season, United is off to a second-place start, leading Spurs on goal differential following a first loss of the season Saturday at Huddersfield Town.

This is about money and security for Mourinho who, let’s face it, probably won’t stay at United for five seasons. It would go against his record, and it’s difficult to imagine he’ll buck his career trend and make it five years. The new deal would be a raise, keep him from PSG for now, and probably will do the trick.

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Report: Yaya Toure lined up by New York City FC

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There are few details, but a report tabbed as exclusive by The Manchester Evening News says a new midfield force could be headed to Major League Soccer.

Yaya Toure’s resurgent 2016-17 has not been followed by a busy 2017-18, at least not yet, as the report says Yaya is set to head to New York City FC following the departure of Andrea Pirlo.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Toure, who turns 35 in May, has regularly been on the subs bench for Pep Guardiola this season after signing a one-year contract. He’s played 29 minutes as a sub over the last two Premier League matches, and his lone start came in a League Cup win over West Brom, where he captained City.

Toure has 59 goals and 33 assists in 222 Premier League matches.

The Ivorian is not a pace monger, but neither were Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and both were effective when healthy in MLS. Toure’s powerful presence in the midfield could be worth the wage packet and headache, but we’d pay a penny for Patrick Vieira’s thoughts.

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Italy’s once-vaunted ‘BBC’ defense is showing its age

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ROME (AP) With a combined age of 99, Italy’s once vaunted “BBC” defensive trio is showing its years.

The Azzurri will still rely on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup playoff against Sweden next month but the signs in Serie A lately have not been encouraging.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Bonucci’s red card with AC Milan over the weekend was the latest in a series of poor performances after his high-profile transfer from Juventus made him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Chiellini and Barzagli were beaten for goals twice by Ciro Immobile in Juventus’ 2-1 home loss to Lazio less than 10 days ago, and Chiellini was again off form in the Bianconeri’s 6-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday.

Chiellini was fooled by Stipe Perica for Udinese’s first goal and then left Danilo unmarked to head in another as he appealed for an offside call that never came.

Bonucci is 30, Chiellini is 33 and Barzagli is 36.

While Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has shown interest in developing new talent, he has shown no indication that he plans to cast aside the “BBC” when it counts.

After all, Italy has historically been slow to incorporate younger players, especially defenders.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Bracket set ]

That means the likes of Daniele Rugani (who plays for Juventus), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) or Mattia Caldara (Atalanta) – who are all in their 20s – may have to wait for their chances with the Azzurri.

But Ventura would do well to remember how Marcello Lippi kept Fabio Cannavaro and other veterans in the lineup at the 2010 World Cup only to acknowledge after the first-round exit that he made a mistake and was overly influenced by the older players’ performance en route to the title four years earlier.

From Franco Baresi to Giuseppe Bergomi to Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cannavaro and the “BBC,” strong center backs have been a source of uninterrupted pride for the Azzurri for decades.

Gianluigi Buffon in goal has also provided a security blanket for nearly 20 years but he, too, is approaching the end of his career and will likely retire after this season – or after his record sixth World Cup if Italy qualifies.

Italy’s hopes of avoiding the playoffs were dashed with a debilitating 3-0 loss in Spain last month that offered a first hint of defensive problems. The defeat ended Italy’s 11-year unbeaten run in qualifiers for World Cups and European Championships.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The Azzurri attributed the loss to Spain on Sept. 2 to a lack of physical condition so early in the season.

Bonucci, it was figured, just needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings at Milan.

In July, Bonucci completed a surprise transfer from Juventus, where he clashed with coach Massimiliano Allegri last season and was memorably left in the tribune for a Champions League match at Porto.

The transfer fee topped 40 million euros (nearly $50 million) and Bonucci signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros (nearly $12 million) per season. He was also made captain before he ever wore a Milan shirt.

When Milan started to falter a month ago, physical trainer Emanuele Marra was fired – reportedly in large part because Bonucci demanded better fitness preparation.

But Bonucci was out run by Mauro Icardi on Inter Milan’s first goal when the striker scored a hat trick in a 3-2 derby win eight days ago. He was also to blame for the second, failing to mark Icardi in the area.

Things got even worse for Bonucci when he was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

[ LIGUE 1: Neymar sent off ]

Bonucci will likely be given a multiple-match ban, which would exclude him from facing Juventus next Sunday and could affect his form for the Nov. 10 and 13 playoffs.

“Leo is a champion,” Buffon said. “He’ll become decisive again. But it makes me feel calmer knowing that we won’t have to face him on Saturday.”

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

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Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

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