With expectations already sky-high, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen won’t say much to his players about pressure heading into the 2014 Major League Soccer season.
To a man, they already know.
“I don’t have to tell them anything, they love it,” said Nelsen said Tuesday. “They thrive under it. This is what professional football is all about.”
Toronto FC’s splashy off-season included the acquisition of England striker Jermain Defoe, American midfielder Michael Bradley and Brazilian forward Gilberto Oliveira Souza Junior.
“You want to push the limits,” added Nelsen. “You want to try and win every game. You want everybody to go after you and that’s how it’s going to be.”
And another player who could be in the fold soon is Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
According to reports, Brazil’s national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has confirmed Cesar’s move saying it will better prepare him for the upcoming World Cup.
Nelsen wouldn’t confirm the report at the club’s media day, but he’s no stranger to Cesar after playing alongside him at Queens Park Rangers in England.
“What I know of Julio is that he’s a gentleman of a man, he’s a quality guy and his character is flawless, great around the locker-room,” said Nelsen. “When you see him at work, there’s a reason why he’s played 80 times for Brazil and he’s won everything in the game.”
Bradley, who joined the Toronto FC from Italy’s Roma, said the acquisition of a player with Cesar’s experience makes the target on the club’s back even bigger.
“A week ago if anybody had told us that now there’d be another guy like Julio Cesar coming, I think nobody would’ve believed them,” said Bradley. “Now to hopefully see him walk in through the door in the next few days, I think it’s something that raises the profile of our team and the club and the league even more.”
The hype around Toronto FC is in stark contrast to its first seven years of existence when it failed to make the playoffs.
Toronto finished 17th out of 19 teams last season and tied for the second-lowest goals for (30) with Chivas USA.
The Houston Dynamo had the lowest goal total of any team that made the 2013 playoffs last season with 41. Of the 10 teams that made the post-season, the average goals for was nearly 50 for the campaign.
“The main thing we got to be clear on is, we haven’t accomplished anything yet regardless of who we brought in,” said midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who returned to his hometown club in the off-season. “When the going gets tough, it’s important for us to stay together in those moments most importantly.
“I think if we can over come those, we’ll become a stronger team, especially down the stretch.”
Toronto opens the season on the road in Seattle on March 15 before its home opener March 22 against D.C. United.