December 6, 2006 Gansler brings experience to Toronto FC (from Canadian Press)
Gansler brings experience to Toronto FC
By NEIL DAVIDSON
TORONTO (CP) - He's taken the U.S. to the World Cup and won both the MLS championship and coach of the year award. Decades of coaching have taught Bob Gansler a few things about soccer.
Now Gansler is returning the favour with Toronto FC as an assistant to head coach Mo Johnston. The 65-year-old coach, who looks a decade younger, makes it sound simple. "Coaching is teaching in short pants," Gansler explained in an interview.
For Gansler, soccer is all about selecting the right players and giving them an environment where they can flourish and achieve together.
In Toronto, he and Johnston get to start with a blank page with an expansion team.
"I enjoy coaching and when this opportunity came along, it's a challenge I've never encountered," Gansler said. "To help start a team from scratch, that's the challenge here." Gansler likes what he sees already in Toronto's work-in-progress 12-man roster.
And he expects substantial benefits from the local talent given that Canadians like Greg Sutton, Marco Reda, Adam Braz, Chris Pozniak and Jim Brennan have played together for Canada. Gansler knows all about national teams, having coached the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup.
Now 65, Gansler was fired in July after seven seasons in Kansas City, where he coached Johnston and led the Wizards to the MLS championship in 2000 - when he was named MLS coach of the year - and the U.S. Open Cup in 2004. He still holds the record for the longest tenure by an MLS coach. Gansler says he would have hired Johnston as an assistant coach, had the job been open when Johnston retired as a player. He always saw the coach in the Scot. "Without a doubt.
He was the captain of the team. Everyone enjoyed playing with him," he said. "As a captain you need to know how to play and Mo knew how to play. But what Mo was extremely good at was he made everyone around him better." Johnston was also a leader off the field "like a pied piper" to the young guys. "Not only because he bought the beers.
But they knew that he could play and that his heart was in the right place. People enjoyed playing with him, so I have absolutely no doubt that people will enjoy playing for him. That's a big part of coaching, people have to know you care and they to have to like the way you approach things. And Mo's got that." Johnston will also have to use that personality to sell MLS in Toronto. "He's done a good job already as the face of this team," Gansler said approvingly. "In North America, soccer is "still a project. You've got to sell every ticket. You've got to sell every game, every time. So you better be pretty adept at the PR part - and he is."
It's been more than 20 years since he was anything but a head coach, but Gansler says he's happy to do whatever's needed to assist Johnston.
Like most veteran coaches, Gansler has won and lost. Owners have shown him their appreciation - and the door. "In our business, fair has nothing to do with it," he said. "The folks that make these decisions, they have a right to come to them. ... It's OK." Gansler acknowledges the Wizards - 6-10-2 and losers of six straight - weren't performing when he was let go this summer. But he also notes the team wasn't that different from the one that reached the MLS Cup in 2004. "Seven years and change, it was a heck of a run," he said. Johnston, Gansler and fellow assistants Mike Matkovich and Carmine Issaco face a unique challenge in assembling a Canadian MLS team, with the league tweaked its roster rules to accommodate a team north of the border. Like its competition, Toronto FC will sport an 18-man roster with an additional 10 on a developmental roster.
The full roster can include four senior internationals, three U.S. senior players and five youth internationals (born in or after 1983). The rest will be Canadian. Toronto can already count on Irish winger Ronnie O'Brien.
"He's as good as they come at his position," says Gansler. It all makes for some number crunching. O'Brien and Uruguayan midfielder Jose Cancela have green cards to work in the U.S., so they can fit in as an American or foreigner.
As far as imports, Gansler says the push is to get the best player available that fits into the salary cap. "If other factors can be weighed into this, then fair enough. But for sure, we need someone to score goals. I think that individual will be celebrate regardless of ethnicity, religion or anything else. "What you try to do is put a winner out there and that's the number one priority."
While it's getting better, it's still a tough sell bringing overseas stars to MLS, he acknowledges. Unlike Europe, the money just isn't there. "There's three Argentinian national teams and probably four Brazilian national teams who are playing in Europe on any given Saturday. They're not home and there's a reason," he said.
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