“Everybody in the media is like ‘OK Stef is hurt, that’s why Milos is going to be No. 1.’ But I’m telling you what happened and you can ask Stef and you can ask Aron Winter. So I earned my job as No. 1.”
It’s a sore spot for Kocic, who felt even more belittled when Mariner moved down from the front office to take over as head coach after Winter left the club 10 games into the 2012 season.
“When Paul took over he told everybody that ‘My No. 1 goalkeeper is injured, that’s why we’re struggling’ but I don’t think so. I think I had a very good year and I think I helped the team ... but we have to do it with a whole team.
“I just don’t like the way Paul treated me,” he added.
Kocic started 27 games in a season that went from bad to worse. It took a toll on the Serb, who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Kocic and Johnston were often the conscience of the team. But the season wore them down.
And Kocic says it became clear that the team did not welcome his candour.
“These people don’t like that. They like us to hide stuff. I’m not raised that way. I’m not a person who is going to say something behind your back. I’m going to tell you what it is. In the professional world, maybe I’m not going to survive long.... It’s very difficult for me.”
Kocic’s season essentially ended in early September with the arrival of his triplets. There were some complications after the birth and Mariner, showing his human side, gave the goalie time to look after his family.
Toronto turned to No. 3 ‘keeper Freddy Hall, subsequently released. Kocic waited for the season to end – anticipating a change in scenery.
With Kocic gone, Frei rules the Toronto goalkeeping roost. Kocic wishes his friend and fellow ‘keeper all the support in the world.
“We’re very very good friends,” said Kocic. “(It was a) very healthy relationship, (we) pushed each other to do better ... We’re always going to be friends, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that there it’s one (starting) spot.”
Kocic leaves, however, feeling he was never going to get a shot in Toronto.
“No matter what I did at this club I would never get a chance because Stef is an icon of this club.”
The 26-year-old Frei made $175,000 last season.
Kocic always put up his hand – literally against D.C. United in October – when he made a mistake. But he insists some teammates didn’t take responsibility.
Defending is a team effort, he notes, not the sole domain of the goalkeeper and the back four.
“If Iker Casillas was on this team, I don’t think he would do any better,” he said, referring to the renowned Spain and Real Madrid ‘keeper.
Looking back at his soccer career in Toronto, Kocic has warm words for many of the staff at Toronto FC. He is appreciative of Winter’s efforts to help him off the field.
But like the fans that have deserted the club during its decline, he rues the mistakes made. He blames the poor 2012 and run of injuries on poor preparation in the pre-season.
“The players weren’t fit, we had a bad pre-season, we hadn’t done enough in the pre-season. I think me and Stef were maybe the hardest-working players on the field. ... If you’re not fit, you get injured.”
He says Preki had it right when it came to fitness.
“If this club kept him and let him do what he wanted to do, this club would be successful today, I’m telling you. If you ask the players who played, they were so fit, they hated him because we ran a lot, but they were so fit and so ready to play the season. And that’s what you need.
“We weren’t so technical, we weren’t very productive up front, I remember with Preki, but we weren’t conceding the goals so easy back then. I feel like were fighting for something, we had the hunger in ourselves.Report Typo/Error