Next coach must know MLS

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Mystery and speculation have surrounded John Carver's resignation from Toronto FC since it was announced on Saturday.

TFC director of soccer Mo Johnston cleared up some of the confusion after TFC's 1-0 win over Kansas City yesterday.

What we know is that Carver handed in his resignation Thursday morning. We know Johnston, on Carver's behalf, vehemently denied many of the rumours (problems with MLSEL, or pre-arranged employment abroad) which were circulating as reasons for him leaving.

Regardless of Carver's apparent "disillusion" towards Major League Soccer or whatever health and/or personal reason he is dealing with, over the first month of the MLS season, it became abundantly clear he wasn't the right man for the job anyway.

Because of depth and personnel issues last season, onlookers, including this columnist, gave Carver a clean slate heading into 2009. And quite frankly, his tactical decision-making in 2009 was sub-par.

It was ridiculous to play Chad Barrett up top as the only out-and-out striker.

It was ridiculous to look at this team and think they should play a 4-4-2.

Throw in untimely substitutions and too much complaining about officiating into the equation, and it was clear TFC needed more from its coach.

And it became even more clear after a decisive 1-0 victory over MLS top-dog Chivas USA on Wednesday that Carver's influence should be put into question.

It took Carver being away from the sideline for the team to change to a 4-3-3 system; a tactical formation that seemed like a natural fit for the team Johnston has pieced together.

When asked after the win on Wednesday whose idea it was to put the 4-3-3 into place, caretaker head coach Chris Cummins said it was a decision by the staff.

So who exactly was this "staff?"

Carver, from what we have been told, was hands-off. So that means the change came from Cummins and other assistant Nick Dasovic -- or perhaps the change came from Johnston himself.

TFC will name Cummins, or perhaps Dasovic, interim head coach tomorrow. Johnston hasn't as of yet thought about long-term solutions to the coaching role.

The question Johnston faces is what kind of coach does he want leading TFC over the long haul.

TFC is a club on the rise, on and off the field. But for the team to be great, it needs the right head coach.

Three head coaches in three seasons doesn't look great.

Johnston admits he bit off more than he could chew trying to coach while balancing GM duties in Year 1.

Chalk up the Carver hire as a mistake.

Johnston has to get his next move right.

Could Cummins wind up being the guy? Maybe, but he has a long way to go until anyone can say that with any kind of authority. It's the right move keeping Cummins short term -- the team is playing well and hard, and with the two wins under Cummins, it sits atop the Eastern Conference standings.

But with more teams about to join MLS, it's of the utmost importance to get the right guy and soon.

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This should have been priority for the club from Day 1. MLSEL may have thought it had its guy in Johnston upon the club's inception, but it's unclear whether Johnston saw himself as the long-term coaching solution or saw the position as a necessary stepping-stone to becoming director of soccer.

The two newest MLS teams -- San Jose and Seattle -- made it their priority to go out and get proven MLS coaching commodities with winning track records and high levels of understanding of the North American game.

Attractive coaching candidates are out there.

For example, there are few individuals who know MLS better than John Harkes. The ESPN analyst is an American soccer legend who has experience as an MLS assistant coach and experience with U.S. youth national teams.

New England Revolution head coach Steve Nichol was a compelling name rumoured to be floating around the TFC coaching vacancy at the time Carver was hired. Nichol is employed, but may be looking for a new challenge.

Nichol's long-time assistant, Paul Mariner, may be a better candidate. The former English player has a bevy of experience as an MLS assistant coach under Nichol and has been linked to numerous open MLS head coaching positions in recent years.


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