Skip to main content

Toronto FC interim head coach Javier Perez looks on during the match against New York City FC at BMO Field on Aug. 7.Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

In a season that has featured more downs than ups, Toronto FC is looking forward to some stability under coach Javier Perez.

On Monday, the MLS club removed the interim tag from Perez’s title and said he will run the team for the remainder of the season. After practice Thursday, the soft-spoken Spaniard deflected any congratulations on the announcement.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he said. “I think it gives a little bit more stability to the team, if anything. I know that we have to go out there and still get the three points. But the team was very tense every time that we were going out on the field. And I think it’s very difficult to improve performance if you play tense.

Toronto FC to keep Javier Perez in role of interim coach

“You have to still be in athletic focus but at the same time you need some kind of calmness to play. And I think the team felt that kind of pressure, that if we lose the next game there’s going to be another change – what does that mean for the team, what does that mean for us? So right now we have the backing of management, now it’s official. And everybody can feel comfortable – as comfortable as we can be in the position where we are.”

While Toronto has only lost once in seven games (2-1-4) under Perez, it has taken just four of a possible 12 points from four games at BMO Field since returning home. And at 3-9-6, it sits at the bottom of the 27-team league.

But it has shown signs of the team it could be.

After falling behind 2-0 in a dreadful first-half performance Saturday against visiting New York City FC, the Reds looked like a different team in the second half as they roared back to record a 2-2 tie.

Midfielder Nick DeLeon says the announcement on Perez was welcome.

“I think it gives [Perez] better opportunity to play the team as he see fit – instead of being so result-oriented,” he said. “Because at that point he’s fighting for a job himself So now that he has stability, I think you’re going to start to see little different intricacies that Javi brings to this team.

“I’m definitely excited for that and excited to see what he has to bring to the team.”

The 44-year-old Perez, who holds his UEFA Pro Licence and a PhD in sports science from Spain’s Universidad De Leon, is the picture of coaching calmness. At practice, a stopwatch hangs around his neck. During games, he clutches a notebook to record his thoughts.

A TFC tracksuit is his preferred outfit for both settings

While a cool customer, Perez says he is not averse to raising his voice, when needed.

“But everything is controlled,” he explained. “Nothing has to be reactive. When you yell, you look for a reaction from the team, the players. The most important message is just to stay calm, especially when hard time comes. It’s easy to stay calm when things are going our way. But when things are difficult, that’s when we have to manage [things] and stay calm.”

DeLeon says Perez’s calmness and confidence rub off.

“He’s very knowledgeable of the game and he knows how he wants us to play. That demeanour comes off very well with this group of guys and I think these guys respond very well to it.”

Perez has also shown he is willing to make big decisions, substituting Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley at halftime of the NYCFC game.

DeLeon said it feels as if the team is back beginning the season now that it is finally home, and with its coaching set for the rest of the year.

“I feel like this team is getting into that rhythm. You’re starting to see flashes – and maybe it’s a second half and not a first half or it’s a first half and not a second. You’re not getting the full package quite yet, but I feel it’s in that stage [and] we’re building towards it.

“So for me, and especially with Javi getting the green light to continue the rest of the year, I think we’re just going to continue to see a slow steady build. And hopefully the results have to come. We’re in crunch time now.”

TFC stands nine points out of the last playoff position in the Eastern Conference. And things don’t get any easier with Saturday’s visit by league-leading New England (12-3-4).

The Revolution are unbeaten in six games (5-0-1) since losing 3-2 to visiting Toronto in Perez’s first game in charge since taking over for Chris Armas, who was fired July 4 with the team 1-8-2. New England has outscored its opposition 13-4 during that run.

The Revs come into Saturday’s game with 40 points – 25 ahead of Toronto.

Only four teams in MLS history have had more than 40 points at this stage of a season: L.A. Galaxy (46) in 1998, D.C. United (44) in 2006, LAFC (43) in 2019 and Toronto (41) in 2020.

Alejandro Pozuelo, Chris Mavinga, Tsubasa Endoh and Dom Dwyer worked out on their own in the portion of training open to reporters on Thursday. Pozuelo has his own warm-up routine, Perez explained.

Perez said he expects the other three to be back with the main group “very soon.”