On Nov. 29, Toronto FC beat Columbus Crew SC 1-0 to become Eastern Conference champions and cement the team’s place in the MLS Cup final for the second year in a row. Toronto will now face the Seattle Sounders in a rematch of MLS Cup 2016.
But how did Toronto FC go from being a team that struggled constantly to make the playoffs a few years ago to becoming one of the best teams in the MLS?
Head coach Greg Vanney is large part of the reason why Toronto FC have been so successful in the past 3 years.
Greg Vanney was named as head coach of Toronto FC on Aug. 21, 2014 and is the ninth coach in the clubs history. (torontofc.ca)
Vanney is an MLS veteran, starting his career at the Los Angeles Galaxy, where he helped lead the team to three MLS Cup finals, a Supporter’s Shield, a US Open Cup championship and a CONCACAF Champions Cup title. He also played for FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids and D.C. United. (torontofc.ca)
Vanney was hired at a pivotal moment in the club’s history. The fans were not happy with the state of the club. Toronto FC was underperforming and constantly letting the fans down.
The team needed new players and a new leader. That’s where Greg Vanney comes in. As a player, he was a natural born leader, and as a coach, he implemented the same mentality into the squad.
One of the first major additions was bringing in Italian attacking mid-fielder Sebastian Giovinco to the team in 2015. He fit in perfectly with the team and immediately took the league by storm, outclassing defenders, creating chances and scoring goals left and right.
After a difficult finish to the 2014 season, Giovinco’s presence helped Vanney win 49 games in his first three seasons as head coach.
One of Vanney’s attributes is his calmness and quietness. He never draws too much attention to himself or seeks out the spotlight. He is very soft spoken and often avoids media attention. This is how he was as a player too. Sportsnet reported: “Vanney was that type of player, too.
As an MLS defender of some repute during his playing career, he quietly went about his business on the pitch, anxious to not draw attention to himself. Once one game was over, he was already thinking about the next one.” (sportsnet.ca)
We saw this behavior in full action as he was seen off to the sidelines politely applauding Toronto FC’s win against the Columbus Crew when the players were madly celebrating. It seemed that his mind was already on the MLS Cup final.
In my opinion, I think this is what makes Greg Vanney such a great coach. He has a set plan, and he goes about his business in a quiet and uninterrupted manner. I think the fact that we as fans don’t know everything about him and his methods is what makes him so great.
Toronto face off against Seattle in the MLS Cup final on Saturday December 9, and I hope Vanney can redeem himself from last year and bring an MLS Cup to Toronto for the first time in the club’s history.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org