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Portents appear good for TFC Add to ...

Well, it certainly looks good on paper.

Bringing in a trio of established soccer men, two of whom have represented two of the proudest soccer-playing nations on earth at both World Cups and European Championships, to oversee an until-now failing Major League Soccer franchise naturally feels like a breath of fresh air.

After four years of false dawns and broken promises, Toronto FC did the only thing left available to it after dismissing head coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic and director of soccer (Trader) Mo Johnston back in September, putting their faith in a proven winner such as Juergen Klinsmann to lead the club out of the dark ages.

The former German coach turned consultant took his time, but in bringing Aron Winter, Paul Mariner and Bob de Klerk to Toronto, he’s held up his end of the bargain, delivering some world-class footballing names in Winter and Mariner, and introducing someone schooled in one of the most famous football factories of them all in De Klerk.

While the romantics among us will dream of a new era of Johan Cruyff-style Total Football being ushered in at BMO Field in the years to come, the reality is going to be much different, and the trio of newcomers had no problem admitting that.

Having to assemble a squad under the $2.55-million (U.S.) salary cap shoots down any notion of the Reds stroking the ball around the park like the second coming of Barcelona, but Winter did promise an attacking, aggressive brand of football, utilizing three attackers in a 4-3-3 formation, much like the Ajax teams with which he learned his trade.

But Winter also acknowledged the short timeframe he has in which to get up to speed, with just 10 weeks to assemble a team before the season opener in Vancouver against the Whitecaps on Mar. 19.

Winter also admitted he hasn’t really had time – understandably – to assess the talent level of the players he’s inheriting, so his dreams of a Total Football with a Canadian twist may have to be tempered slightly once he’s had some time to witness the squad’s strengths and weaknesses first hand.

He was also smart to do his research, admitting that he had talked to former international teammate Ruud Gullit – who had a failed season as head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy three years ago – about MLS and what he could expect from the North American circuit.

Still, Winter will benefit from the presence of Mariner, who spent a number of seasons helping Steve Nicol turn the New England Revolution into one of the league’s biggest success stories. Mariner understands the limitations of the cap system, and with his role also encompassing a supervisory role of the club’s academy, he will be responsible for providing a pipeline of talent into the first team.

How this all plays out will obviously define Toronto FC’s 2011 season, and most likely the years to follow, but at first glance it appears an astute move, but as the Englishman Mariner would be apt to say, the proof is in the pudding.

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