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Mo Johnston Thread

Joe MacCarthy2010-05-12 18:56:00 +0000 #1
Toronto FC names Johnston to coach

By Jason Halpin / Staff

Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston will get to build his team from scratch. (Rich Schultz/MLS/

Two months after being let go by the New York Red Bulls, Mo Johnston has landed on his feet north of the border. Johnston was named Toronto FC's first head coach Friday.

Johnston spent 17 games in charge of the New York Red Bulls earlier this season and late last season, compiling a 5-4-8 record. The former Scottish international took charge of the club, then called the MetroStars, with three games left in the 2005 campaign and picked up two wins and a draw to claim the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.

But the Red Bulls got off to a sluggish start this year, and with the club mired in last place on June 27, Johnston was relieved of his duties.

Toronto FC are confident Johnston's experience both as a player in Europe and MLS and an MLS coach will help him achieve more success at the helm of the league's newest team.

"Mo represents the next generation of MLS coaches who have extensive playing experience in Europe and North America," said Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. "His tenure with the league gives him a sound understanding of its players and teams, which will serve us well as we prepare for the upcoming expansion draft and our inaugural season."

Prior to his tenure as the Red Bulls' boss, Johnston served as an assistant with the club for three seasons. Johnston also played six seasons in the league as a forward and midfielder with the Kansas City Wizards, winning MLS Cup 2000 and earning MLS All-Star honors on three occasions.

Johnston also spent 15 years playing in Europe in the early part of his career. He made his professional debut in 1981 with Scottish Premier League side Partick Thistle; two years later, he moved to England to play for Watford, but returned to his native country after less than a year to join Celtic FC, for whom he played part of three seasons.

After a two-year stint in France with Nantes, the native Glaswegian again came back to Scotland, setting off a firestorm in the process by becoming the first Catholic since World War II to play for predominantly Protestant Rangers, Celtic's Glasgow rivals. Johnston went on to help Rangers win three straight SPL titles.

Johnston also had a successful international career, scoring 14 goals -- including one at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy -- in 38 appearances for Scotland. He tallied 310 goals in 529 career professional games.

Joe MacCarthy2010-05-12 19:03:33 +0000 #2
Johnston ready to start new chapter

TORONTO -- Maurice "Mo" Johnston, the first-ever coach for Major League Soccer's newest entry, Toronto FC, has seen it all.

Once an international star for Scotland, the 43-year-old has played on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been the standardbearer in the move by Glasgow Rangers, one of soccer's most storied clubs, to end their longstanding Protestants-only recruitment policies. He has played in France and the English premiership and made the transition from player to coach.

And now he is trying to do what no one has managed, take soccer interest from the grass roots to the box office for FC who open play next spring at the National Soccer Stadium at Exhibition Place.

"For anyone that isn't sure about soccer, come on game day. Watch one game. I guarantee you'll be sold," he said. " I honestly believe, getting the right players and getting the right combination of Canadians here, it's going to be huge."

Johnston was born into a middle-class family in Glasgow. "I fell into the game when I was born. At nine months, I was up, kicking a ball." His father, Jimmy a former player and a Protestant, was devoted to Rangers. Johnston's mother was Catholic and despite countless trips to watch Rangers, Johnston found himself rooting for Glasgow Celtic, the team with whom he would star for three years beginning in 1984.

Johnston played three years for Celtic and scored 55 goals before leaving for Nates in France. After two years there, he was ready to come home and declared a preference for Celtic. Last-minute negotiations however induced him to play for his father's team, Rangers.

The rivalry between the two teams is so well-worn, they are known in tandem as The Old Firm. Celtic fans were outraged by what they viewed as the defection of one of their own. Meanwhile, Ranger fans who hadn't had a prominent Catholic player since the Second World War burned their scarves and season tickets. "I had bodyguards for nine months, 24 hours a day," Johnston said, "but the people at Glasgow Rangers embraced me and things were cool."

Johnston would stay there for three seasons before moving to Everton in England. "I've always been a bit of a vagabond. I like to meet new people and go to new places."

He played with Hearts and Falkirk in Scotland before signing in 1996 with Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards.

"I loved being in America from the beginning. I loved people not knowing who I was," he said. "You can talk to people. But when you want to, you can get away. In Scotland or England, you can't do that."

Johnston played in Kansas City from 1996-2001 as a forward/midfielder and was a three-time All-Star.

"He was extremely passionate," said Bob Gansler, his longtime coach in Kansas City. "As a player, Mo was a winner, whatever the team needed, for him to be up or back, he did it."

Johnston retired after the 2000 season and eventually turned to coaching. In October 2005, Johnston was named interim head coach of the MetroStars. He guided the team to a 2-0-1 mark and the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. He was fired by the club in June after the club stumbled to a 5-4-8 mark.

Johnston promises a hard-driving, committed team for Toronto FC next season.

"Winning is acceptable, losing is not," said Johnston, who ought to know. "I grew up with it and I won't accept second best."
Joe MacCarthy2010-05-12 19:40:12 +0000 #3 LIVE Chat with Mo Johnston

Recently appointed Toronto FC head coach Maurice "Mo" Johnston joined us on Thursday, August 31, to discuss his plans for the 2007 MLS expansion franchise. Read the transcript below.

Mo is here to chat with us now.

Mo Johnston

I'm glad to be here. Let's get started!

Mark from Toronto

What are your short and long term goals for the club?

Mo Johnston

Short term is finding some players first from the Canadian National team. Long term I want to build a very strong foundation in terms of the coaches and players around me.

Louis from Gloucester, England

What kind players are you interested in acquiring?

Mo Johnston

Top class players, obviously. We're starting fresh and we have a bunch of space in the salary cap and allocations but we have to spend it wisely. I'm already speaking to a lot of guys. We will be making several announcements very, very shortly.

Harmit from Burlington, Ontario

How much of an effort will be made to develop local talent as compared to just buying talent from outside of ontario?

Mo Johnston

We're in the market already. We've got a bunch of people working very, very hard. It's the backbone of organization. We have to be develop our own players. We've been in discussions with the league and we really need to sit down and go over a lot of things, like playing in a different country, but we'll be trying desperately to try and develop local talent not just in Toronto but all over Canada.

Gerry from Toronto

Mo what's the first result you look for from the UK: is it Rangers, Everton, Partick Thistle, Watford or Hearts?

Mo Johnston

All of the above.

Steve from Hamilton, Ontario

How generous do you think MLS is going to make the other teams be when it comes to the expansion draft?

Mo Johnston

Hopefully very generous (laughs). We all have the same guidelines but there is certain help needed here because it's a brand new organization. Look what happened to Chivas USA and Salt Lake. We don't want that to happen to us. We willl fight tooth and nail for everything. There are certain rules and regulations that need to be broken because we need a host of Canadian players. We're only allowed three Americans.

Brian from Westerville, Ohio

How will international and domestic players be handled? Since Toronto will now be a part of the league, does that mean Canadian players will no longer be International players?

Mo Johnston

There's not set ruling at the moment. Obviously we'll have a lot of Canadians, three Americans and four foreigners. We have to be very careful on this because there's nothing set right now. We have a conference call but we've got to get this stuff down on paper.

Johnny from Oakland, Calif.

Will you pursue bringing Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto?

Mo Johnston

(laughs) Obviously Dwayne's a wonderful player. Did you see his goal last night? He's a talented, young individual and he's Canadian. I'm looking at all Canadian players but it would be unfair to Houston, Dwayne and Dominic Kinnear for me to comment on who I'm looking for.

Chris from Sudbury, Ontario

We have many experienced Canadian players playing club soccer overseas, like Olivier Occean and Iain Hume. Will you be attempting to sign some of these players?

Mo Johnston

Again, it's very unfair to target specific players. We're looking at things overseas but it's unfair to target specific players. But the names you guys have given me, they are very talented.

Brandon from San Jose, Calif.

Will being in a different country be an extra challenge for traveling to road games?

Mo Johnston

It's always a challenge when you're on the road. I don't see it being a major obstacle. It's not really that far to places like New York. No, not really. We'll have a good, strong team. I'm more than confident in that. I'm confident in our ability to pick up exciting foreign players that will be exciting to fans here. We'll be on the road for the first four or five games but hopefully we're strong enough to handle that. You never know if some guys will forget their passport but I don't see it being a problem.

Matt from Columbus, Ohio

Mo, do you know what the competition format will be for Toronto? Will you be in the Eastern Converence or are they getting rid of the two conferences?

Mo Johnston

There's nothing set. I would imagine we'd be in the Eastern Conference because we're so close to our neighbors in New England, D.C. and New York. It makes sense to go with the single table with the top eight qualifying but I don't know how you go about doing it. I'd imagine we're in the Eastern Conference.

Stephen from La Quinta, Calif.

What qualities/skills are you looking for in the players you will be drafting?

Mo Johnston

Obviously the best that's out there. When I was working with Red Bull, you start getting prepared now. I've been looking for talented players who can come in and help immediately. When you draft someone like Marvell Wynne, you're looking for guys that can come in and help. Look at Mehdi Ballouchy in Salt Lake City; he's played a lot of minutes. Look at Sasha Kljestan at Chivas USA; he's done very well. Young kid Bornstein's been very good and he was a local kid they picked up.

Talha from Toronto

Can you draft players ONLY through the MLS draft system? Will you be taking trials of local lads and inducting them into the squad if you find them good enough?

Mo Johnston

Oh, for sure we'll always be looking at local kids. Certain individuals can come in and play with the reserves and hopefully make a push to the first team. We'll be talking to all the youth coaches for national teams and doing our homework. There are two players from overseas I'm looking to get who I can't name but would be of high quality.

James from Mississagua, Ontario

Any update on who the assistant coach(es) will be?

Mo Johnston

Right now we're in talks with an assistant coach who is of the highest quality and I'd be excited to have him on board. He probably won't join me until December 1 and I'm very excited if we can get him and it would be a major coup for Toronto. All the other coaches will be named later in the year. I want to secure my assistant coach and he's told me he can't join me until December 1 and when he does I think people will be impressed.

Erik from New York

Mo, Best of Luck in Toronto. Comparing the management situation you experienced in New York to Toronto's, why do you feel you can acheive better success north of the border than with the Red Bulls?

Mo Johnston

When Bob actually left, a part of me had left, too. Across the board there were wholesale changes. Bruce Arena will do a great job and obviously having 150,000 of Galvan-Rey's money will be no doubt that he can get it turned around. I've got no doubt they'll move forward. But, when you have a salary cap and are restrained. And the fans don't know this, but I spoke to the agent of Edgar Davis, Pavel Nedved; there were certain guys I would have loved to have brought in but with the salary cap, it was tough. They wanted to come to America. Those are two of the biggest names in world soccer.

Nelson from Toronto

Will Toronto FC have a youth academy or a youth system like the teams in Europe?

Mo Johnston

We plan on bringing up a youth academy. I think it's important to the team and the city and to the country. If we can get the right people on board running the system, it can only benefit Toronto FC and the Canadian National Team. Only thing is we have to crawl before we walk; we're starting fresh.

Brian from Cincinnati, Ohio

Mo: First, congrats. New franchises have historically struggled to win, and MLS has been no exception. What are the two or three things you'll focus on most to improve Toronto's first year win-loss record?

Mo Johnston

As I said before, building a good group behind me and getting better players here. New teams have made mistakes in the past and we intend not to. With my assistant coach and myself to get the best foreign players and Canadian players here. People will take note because there's a host of great Canadian players that have been overlooked in America. We look to bring a lot of guys back, maybe from England or Scandanavia and elsewhere. That's how we're going to do it.

Carl from Buffalo, N.Y.

Is it more important to be win-oriented or trying to develop players to play the game at this level?

Mo Johnston

Got to win. Got to win right off the bat. We certainly want to develop players but I hate losing. Never have, never will. We have to win right off the bat.

Phillipe from Montreal, Quebec

What do you believe will be the impact of Toronto FC on the performance of the Canadian National Team? Also, what's your biggest sales pitch to attract Canadians who are currently playing in Europe?

Mo Johnston

Talking to a lot of them at the moment. I'm getting a great response. We have certain guys on board and will make announcements shortly. Obviously, we look to bring the best back. If we can attract 5 to 9 or 10 players from the national team group, that will be great from the national team. The national team coach will have an office in the stadium and will be able to be around those players all the time instead of traveling the world to see them.

Nicolas from Toronto

Being that there are only 5-6 spots for "international" players on the roster, do you plan to fill these up with American players or maybe look abroad to Korea/Japan/Scotland or other nations?

Mo Johnston

If there's one American out there that is ideal for us, we'll go after them. We won't close the door on any aveneues. We already have three American players budgeted but we're speaking to English people and our eyes and ears are in the market. I was doing the same thing at Red Bull, talking to a host of international agents and I haven't stopped that since I came here. Got to keep our options open.

Michael from Burlington, Ontario

Sounds like this will be an attacking type of team? Really excited about now having a team in our area. Good luck and see you on the pitch!

Mo Johnston

I like playing attacking soccer. When you're building it from scratch, you have the opportunity to get the right players that are right for you. I'll probably head to Europe sometime around the 8th and go over and meet certain people (Canadian and foreigners) and hopefully make announcements in the early part of the new year.

Isa from Toronto

any idea on kitts mo? when they will be ready?

Mo Johnston

It's a work in progress. They'll be certain things available before Christmas and hoepfully they'll be flying off the shelfs. I've seen the designs and they're top class. Hopefully everyone will be wearing them in the stadium. The Maple Leafs are a wonderful organization and getting a good team is vital for them.

Currently Canada is ranked 70th in the world by FIFA. Do you think this is a fair reflection of the Canadian talent you have seen?

Mo Johnston

No, I think Frank Yallop's done a great a job with the resources he had. It's tough when you have a national team cause you only see them 2 or 3 days at a time. Hopefully now the coaches can see the players work and train every day here in Toronto. I think the rankings and the standings are all wrong.

Thanks for your time. Any final thoughts?

Mo Johnston

We plan on being in the market in terms of hosting supporters clubs, hosting events and hopefully attract a lot of fans. I think we'll have a very good team. It's a great organization and stadium and I think it will be great for fans to come and see MLS teams play. Thanks for having me.



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