Dropped in the coaching deep end toward the end of the 2014 season, Greg Vanney has managed to accomplish what the eight men before him failed to do – instill a winning culture at Toronto FC.
Vanney, who took Toronto to within one kick of the MLS championship last season, marks his 100th game in charge on Wednesday night when Orlando City visits BMO Field.
Toronto (3-1-4) is coming off impressive wins over Chicago and Houston. Orlando (6-0-1) arrives with the best record in the MLS and will be a stiff test.
Since taking over the team on Aug. 31, 2014, Vanney has made good use of the talent pipeline set up by general manager Tim Bezbatchenko. The 42-year-old former U.S. international defender has learned on the job, changing tactics to suit his staff.
Blessed with a squad that has gotten deeper each year, Vanney has been effective at managing players. If any are dissatisfied with their roles, they have kept it in house. Vanney has also handled his squad's diverse egos. While the team is harmonious, there is no shortage of big personalities in the TFC dressing room.
Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta, who as Vanney's nephew knows him better than most, says the TFC coach has a work ethic second to none.
"He understands the league and understands what it takes to be successful," Zavaleta said. "I think he's done a very, very good job over the course of his first game to his 100th game now at adapting, at learning, at listening to his players – doing everything he can to get the most out of his players and get the most out of his team."
Striker Jozy Altidore says Vanney's instincts and timing as a coach are spot on.
"He's done a really good job in terms of kind of letting the guys sort themselves at times, which is something that sounds simple but I don't think a lot of coaches do. They try to micromanage everything and I don't think he's about that."
Vanney, who is backed by a coaching staff with whom he has deep roots, is more comfortable talking about his team than himself.
"There's lots of ways that I feel like I've grown, but what's most important through this stretch is that the team has continued to improve, even on an upward trend," he said.
Wednesday's milestone – which covers MLS regular-season, playoff and Canadian Championship games – is all the more remarkable given the franchise's revolving-door approach to head coaches in the past
Toronto went through eight in the eight years before Vanney took charge.
Hired in December, 2013, as Toronto's assistant general manager and academy director, Vanney took over as coach with 10 games remaining in the 2014 season. Toronto finished 2-6-2 under Vanney.