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.)

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”

Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras

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In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.

After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).

Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.

The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.

Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.

Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.

The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.

The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.

Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.

It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.

[ MORE: Three takeaways from USMNT’s emphatic win on Friday night ]

Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.

Up next, Panama.

Chastain, MacMillan inducted into US Soccer Hall of Fame

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Brandi Chastain looked at the assembled crowd in a tent under the rain and addressed former coach Tony DiCicco, who had just introduced her at the induction ceremony for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

[ MORE: USMNT smashes six past Honduras in CONCACAF WCQ ]

“Thank you, not just for today but for every day that you gave me the chance to play for the women’s national team, and for having the confidence in me and the guts to tell me I wasn’t going to be a forward,” she said.

Chastain, a forward on the 1991 World Cup champions and a left back whose penalty kick won a shootout for the 1999 title, was inducted Friday night along with midfielder Shannon MacMillan, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion three years later.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

The ceremony was held before the U.S. men played Honduras in a World Cup qualifier.

Remembered most for pulling off her shirt after her World Cup-winning goal and celebrating in a sports bra, Chastain grew up in San Jose and talked about her early days playing youth soccer in the area, starting with the Quakettes. After winning her first World Cup title, she was left off the 1995 roster. She revived her career as a defender.

“Change is good. Though, scary, it’s good. And I think we would all benefit from seeing change as an opportunity for growth and development, and for a new adventure,” she said.

Now 38, Chastain scored 30 goals in 192 international appearances and also won a pair of Olympic gold medals. MacMillan, 42, had 60 in 176 international games.

“It was always such a massive honor that gave me chills every time I walked in that locker room, whether it was my first cap, my 100th cap or my last cap,” MacMillan said. “It was something that I never took for granted.”

Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy was given the Colin Jose Media Award.

The Hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010 and a new Hall is being built in Frisco, Texas.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.