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Toronto FC 's Joao Plata, left, celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot with head coach Aron Winter during second half MLS action against Houston Dynamo in Toronto on Saturday May 7, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young/CP)
Toronto FC 's Joao Plata, left, celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot with head coach Aron Winter during second half MLS action against Houston Dynamo in Toronto on Saturday May 7, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young/CP)

PAUL ATTFIELD

Toronto FC gains steam Add to ...

He’s been in this country fewer than 10 months, but that’s already been more than enough time for Aron Winter to stake his claim as the most successful head coach in Toronto FC’s short-lived history.

Though the club missed out on Major League Soccer’s playoffs once again – that’s now 0-for-5 for those keeping score at home – the former Dutch international has achieved what none of his predecessors ever accomplished in leading the team to the knockout phase of a tournament for the first time.

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After last Tuesday’s 3-0 win in Dallas – without doubt the most important win in franchise history – TFC will now join the Montreal Impact in the annals of Canadian soccer by playing host to a CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final next March, although what the team will look like by that point is anyone’s guess.

Winter, ably abetted by director of soccer Paul Mariner, has already overhauled the team to the nth degree – just two players who started in March’s 4-2 season-opening loss to Vancouver made the first 11 for Tuesday’s match. Designated-player additions in the shape of German World Cup veteran Torsten Frings and Dutch striker Danny Koevermans added a much-needed spine to the team, and their contributions will be needed for TFC to break their duck at the MLS level next season.

Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman certainly left no doubt that Winter’s current squad has the ability to go where no TFC team has gone before.

“If Toronto had had that kind of performance all season,” he said after Wednesday’s 3-0 loss, “they wouldn’t be finishing the season up this weekend.”

But the team that takes the field for Saturday’s home game against the New England Revolution may be very different to the one that starts the new season in 2012.

Stefan Frei, Julian de Guzman and the on-loan Joao Plata are all high-profile players who may not be calling BMO Field home next season, but then the ability to successfully remodel a squad year after year is what MLS is all about.

Follow on Twitter: @paulattfield

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