February 21, 2007 Toronto FC story from Florida training camp (from Globe & Mail)

POSTED ON: 21/02/07
Johnston stresses offence, leadership at young team's training camp

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

SUNRISE, FLA. Sometimes an expansion team needs to rely on defence to try to be competitive against more established teams.

When the Toronto Blue Jays came into existence 30 years ago, Pat Gillick, the architect of the team, tried to stress pitching. With good pitching, he reasoned, his team could stay close in games and give itself a chance to win.

There have been expansion teams in hockey over the years that have tried to lull the opposing teams into submission with a defensive style.

And teams emphasizing defence certainly are not unknown in soccer, no matter how long the team has been in existence.

Mo Johnston is trying to put together a competitive first-year team as head coach of Toronto FC, a Major League Soccer expansion team that is training in Sunrise, Fla.

Johnston, who was a goal scorer as a player, realizes the team is a work in progress as it prepares for its April opening and still needs to add certain things.

But he did say yesterday at the team's hotel, "If you look at my roster, I brought five strikers. I'm not coming to bore my fans. I don't want the fans to be bored. I want them to come and see a competitive game, that they know that they're proud of their team. They know that every day we're doing the right thing for them and being competitive and playing for 90 minutes and hopefully send them home happy."

Since Feb. 13, Toronto FC has been working out at a soccer field that is on the hotel grounds. The team returns to Toronto on Saturday and will be in Bradenton, Fla., to train March 5 to 17. Then there is a tournament in South Carolina at the end of March.

"Formations don't bother me, it's getting good soccer players that can adjust and adapt," Johnston said. "I believe I've got that."

What does he look for in players? "I want leadership," he said. "I want people that take the bull by the horns and can change certain things on the field."

Not in quite the same context, yesterday was a day of adjustment in training for Toronto FC. Instead of working out on the field, the team went to the beach for some running.

But conditions on the beach were too soft for useful running and it was putting a strain on the calf muscles. They tried all different parts of the beach to no avail. The going was still too soft.

After about 10 minutes, the running was abandoned for fast walking for about 35 minutes and stretching. Then the players had the afternoon off. Since arriving in Sunrise the team has been putting in two or three sessions a day.

"They've only had one day off and this has been the second afternoon off," Johnston said. "The grounds are hard. We've played a lot of games."

The team took Sunday off and also had Saturday afternoon off after defeating Canada's under-20 team 3-0 on Saturday morning.

"I'm never satisfied but I'm pleased with what I see of us coming together as a group," Johnston said. "We're gelling together with people getting on with each other. I'm pleased with that part. As a team, there's a lot of work to be done."

He does like the attitude of the players so far, the fact that they want to use the services of a nutritionist and want to have strength and conditioning programs.

"I had two senior players come in this morning and ask it was okay if they could go watch a hockey game tomorrow night," Johnston said. "That was two senior international players. That says a lot to me."

A big difference between training camp with a new team rather than an established team he said is "mingling everyone together. Getting everyone mentally prepared," he said. "Getting to know people. Knowing people's tendencies. Just all the little stuff."

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