Four years and 54 losses after joining MLS, Toronto FC is still floundering on the field.
So the league's first Canadian franchise has turned to former German coach and star player Juergen Klinsmann to find its identity.
The MLS franchise, owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, confirmed Wednesday it had hired the California-based Klinsmann and his company SoccerSolutions as advisers "as the club reorganizes its soccer infrastructure."
"It's going to be something that I'm looking forward to and in fact I wish we had done it four or five years ago," Tom Anselmi, MLSE's executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said in an interview.
Klinsmann, 46, has already been to Toronto and Anselmi said the partnership had "already started basically."
"I sat down with DeRo (captain Dwayne De Rosario) today in fact. We spent about three seconds talking about 2010 and we said 'Right, 2011 starts right now,"' Anselmi said.
The hiring comes in the wake of the club dumping director of soccer Mo Johnston and coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic in mid-September.
Anselmi says Klinsmann's mandate is extensive and his approach "thought-provoking."
"It's more than just helping us hire a new manager, a new leader," said Anselmi. "It's looking at helping us organize or reorganize the whole front office, everything from vision for the club, what do we stand for, what's the style of play that we want to adopt for the rest of our lives to the people that we need to be able to deliver on that: players, coaching staff, the like."
Anselmi said he and Klinsmann agree that "you can't put people in place until you know what you want to be."
Anselmi, who said he approached the German about the job, said he expects Klinsmann's tenure to finish "some time in the spring."
The German icon will work closely with interim director of soccer Earl Cochrane and assistant general manager Jim Brennan, TFC said in a statement.
Anselmi says TFC has done well on the business front, with thousands on a waiting list for season tickets. But the on-field product, 9-13-8 this season, needs vision and identity.
"On the pitch, we need to stop and kind of take stock," Anselmi said. "What do we want to be about?"
Klinsmann, who is expected to be formally introduced within two weeks, believes strongly in team identity.
"A style of play means you have to identify with it and you have to live for it," he says on a post-2010 World Cup video posted by MLS. "If you don't want to live for it, if you don't want to live an attacking style of soccer, then don't commit to it.
"And I think every country has its own style and every environment, every MLS team should have its own identity based on their neighbourhood, based on their environment, the people that grow up in that neighbourhood, what they stand for . . . You've got to kind of point it out what it is and then you've have to communicate it. You have to tell your players, your staff, and especially your fans 'This is what we want to build,' so they know exactly what to expect once they go to the stadium."
Klinsmann was quick to point out that identity is not necessarily hinged on the nationality or the players from different countries that populate a team.
"Look at Arsenal . . . or Man United," he said.
Klinsmann played in Germany, England, Monaco and Italy, scoring 280 goals for club and country. He delivered a scoring smorgasbord, with goals ranging from laser-like headers to long-distance rockets and bicycle kicks.
As a coach, he led Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup.
Klinsmann has also coached Bayern Munich (fired in 2009 with a 16-7-6 record and the team three points out of first place) and worked with the Los Angeles Galaxy as a technical adviser for the 2004 season (when the team went 11-9-10).
TFC's gain comes apparently after U.S. Soccer's loss.
Klinsmann told Sports Illustrated in September he had come to an agreement in principal with U.S. Soccer to coach the American national team, only to have the deal break down because of the paperwork couldn't get done.
Instead Bob Bradley was rehired.
"We couldn't put into writing what we agreed on verbally," Klinsmann said on the MLS video.
Klinsmann's reputation is someone who knows what he wants, and who likes to have his people in place to accomplish it.
"Nobody works at Apple not believing in the Apple product," he said in the MLS interview. "And it's the same thing with soccer."
Toronto FC has yet to make the playoffs in its four seasons, compiling a 34-54-32 record.