April 23, 2007 Kansas City vs Toronto FC preview (from Globe and Mail)

POSTED ON: 23/04/07
Johnston returns to city of former glory

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO Mo Johnston will lead Toronto FC to the place where he completed his playing career and had one of his most cherished moments Kansas City, where he won a Major League Soccer championship seven years ago.

Toronto will be trying for its first MLS victory in its third game Wednesday night against the Kansas City Wizards at the vast Arrowhead Stadium, where the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs play their home games.

Toronto will also play Kansas City on Saturday in the home opener at BMO Field.

Johnston, Toronto FC's head coach, played longer for the Wizards than for any club in his distinguished career, which included stints with Partick Thistle, Watford, Celtic, Nantes, Rangers, Everton, Hearts and Falkirk. He also played for Scotland 38 times.

"I loved my time in Kansas City, loved the club," Johnston said. "It's a wonderful place. It's a family club. It feels like home when you're playing there."

He came there in 1996 intending to play for two or three seasons and was there for six. He was the captain when the Wizards won the MLS championship in 2000. The coach was Bob Gansler, now Johnston's assistant in Toronto.

Johnston was on teams that won trophies in Scotland, including three consecutive Scottish Premier League titles with Rangers. But the championship with Kansas City, a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium in Washington, holds a special meaning for him.

"It's the best memory you could have," he said. "Chicago were the better team. We hung in there. They threw everything on the day that they had. They missed on a lot of chances. We scored one and we defended. It was 96 minutes I think the game lasted. Obviously, it was great."

Although he was the captain, he said there were "11 captains" on the team that day.

"When I was on the championship teams in Scotland it was easy," he said. "Celtic and Rangers are expected to win championships. To win it outside your country and to captain a team outside your country I think is a great honour."

Johnston was 37 when the Wizards won the championship and he was a different type of player by then. He had been a striker in Europe and became a midfielder in Kansas City, although he would still play up front when needed.

"Whatever they wanted me to play, I played, it didn't bother me," he said.

Johnston, who was an assistant coach and then the head coach of the New York MLS team now known as the Red Bulls before taking over in Toronto, has been busy trying to build the first-year team.

Last week, two losses and no goals into the season, he made three trades and signed one player. He obtained defenders Marvell Wynne and Kevin Goldthwaite and striker Danny Dichio. He gave up midfielder Richard Mulrooney and striker Conor Casey.

Now he says he is done. Although he still might acquire another player or two, he told the players last weekend that no one else would be shipped out. "It's going to be a long season, there's going to be a lot of turbulence along the way, but we're starting to get there," Johnston said. "I told them [Sunday] morning that no one's leaving. Now we've got the group. We just have to add one or two more guys and we'll be fine."

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