TORONTO - Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney says he's been told he will be back for the 2015 season and will be looking for players with the right commitment to join him.
Vanney believes that Toronto (11-14-7) has a good core to build around, despite a disappointing 2014 season that seems destined to end prior to the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.
"What I think is important is that we have players that are here that want to be here, don't want to be anywhere else but here and not for just one year but for a minimum of a few years," Vanney said after training Tuesday.
"Because in this league to win, you have to have a core group of players who's very committed, who buy into the philosophy, who are willing to stand and live up to expectation on every single day."
Star midfielder Michael Bradley provided his view on next season's necessary mix on Saturday night after a 3-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls that all but ended TFC's slim playoff hopes.
"It's important that the right balance is found between keeping a good part of the group together and making sure that the guys who have the right mentality, who have the right commitment, who really bring something every day in a footballing sense — that those guys are here and given every chance to continue to grow together and improve," said the intense U.S. international.
Vanney did not name names.
"I'm not going to go through the locker-room for each guy and say who I think is or isn't (committed)," said Vanney. "But I think we need to get guys who (want to be) here. I think we have a very good core group of guys that believe in this project and want this club to be successful and are ready to work every single day we ask them to work.
"We need to add some pieces, for sure. The way the team played prior (to Vanney) is not the same way that I would approach playing the game, so what I would say is that we have to evolve and adapt in a few pieces in terms of personnel and things that we need to be better and what I think is better for the league and for the style of play that we want to get to. But the most important thing is having a group that's committed for the long run here."
English striker Jermain Defoe has been the player with the biggest question-mark over his head this season, with Toronto turning down a club-record transfer bid at the end of the summer transfer window, amidst speculation he wants out of the club.
Defoe denied that upon his return to Canada from rehabbing a groin injury in England, but said he couldn't predict the future. His fellow players have been said the 31-year-old English forward has been a good teammate.
With the playoffs all but gone, Toronto FC is back in its familiar end-of-season position — trying to end the campaign with a little dignity.
With two games remaining, Toronto stands in sixth place in the East, six points behind the Columbus Crew (12-10-10), who hold down the last playoff position.
Toronto needs to win at home to Montreal and away to New England and hope Columbus loses in New York and at home to Philadelphia.
"Mathematically we're not entirely out of it," said Vanney, who is 2-5-1 since succeeding the fired Ryan Nelsen at the end of August. "Plus we're professionals. Plus we are playing at home in front of our fans and they deserve a performance, I think, and a committed team."
Sportsclubstats.com, which tracks playoff races, has Toronto's chances of making the MLS post-season at 1.0 per cent.
Toronto will have to muster its last-ditch challenge Saturday against the Impact without Bradley and centre back Nick Hagglund, both of whom are suspended. Hagglund also limped out of practice early Tuesday after slipping.
Captain Steven Caldwell, the club's defensive lynch pin, acknowledged more was needed.
"I think overall we've let ourselves down," he said. "As a group of players and as a football club, we should have been in a better position than we're in so we all have to look individually, honestly at ourselves in the mirror and ask what we could have done better.
"Personally and as a team, we feel that we left a lot of games out there."
Rubbing salt in the wound is the fact that Toronto dominated the team it has been chasing for the last playoff place. Columbus lost all three matches against Toronto this season: 2-0, 3-2 and 3-2.
Toronto has 40 points, a franchise record that speaks volumes about the sad-sack history of the franchise. It has also set a club record for single-season wins with 11, surpassing the 10 from 2009 (10-11-9, 39 points).
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