FC coach expects success

FC Toronto coach Mo Johnston is expecting a lot from the first year MLS team. (Sun Media/Michael...

FC Toronto coach Mo Johnston is expecting a lot from the first year MLS team. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

VAUGHAN -- The possibility that Toronto FC could sell out its entire 15-game Major League Soccer home game package is just what coach Mo Johnston expected when he took the job of guiding the club in its inaugural season.

Johnston emphasised at the team's Ontario Soccer Centre's indoor pre-season training session yesterday that if the club's success at the box office creates pressure for them to be similarly successful on the field, then so be it.

"We are going to get good enough quality players here to play against any MLS team," Johnston said. "I am not fazed by having 20,000 people watching us play."

The Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited-owned franchise already had sold 11,500 season tickets before Tuesday's announcement that David Beckham will play his first game with the Los Angeles Galaxy against Toronto at BMO Stadium on Aug. 5.

As of yesterday it hadn't even opened up sales for individual games.

But Johnston said he expects his players to be able to go toe-to-toe with teams like the Galaxy and that a big home crowd won't add pressure to the first-year squad.

"It doesn't put any pressure on us," he said. "We are going to compete no matter what."

When pressed, Johnston did admit that with a higher profile comes higher expectations.

"But on the other side of the coin if you are selling 20,000 tickets you need to win," he said. "I came into this job looking at it that way and I won't change my mind.

"We are going to compete; we are going to be a good team."

Irish midfielder Ronnie O'Brien -- the most experienced player on the team with five seasons in the MLS -- said he too expects Toronto to be competitive right out of the gate.

"You can't judge a team by what you see in the first couple of days of camp," O'Brien said. "We know there will be some additions to the club when we get to Florida."

O'Brien said that players with the skill of recently signed Welsh international Carl Robinson and the addition of Alecko Eskandarian and Abdoulaye Ibrahim, who will join the team next week at their Ft. Lauderdale outdoor training camp, Toronto FC should be seen as a good club.

"Everything I have seen so far indicates to me that we will have a good team," he said.

Another factor in Johnston's plan to make the team into a top level side is the expected signing -- possibly as soon as today -- of an international striker with European premier league experience.

Johnston said the contract for the unnamed player has already been agreed to but it still needs the approval of MLS head office in New York.

"We are still waiting for the league," Johnston said.

He said that he wasn't concerned that another club might jump in with a better offer if the league delays making a decision.

"We have the first allocation so no one can jump ahead of us," Johnston said.


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