A new era for Toronto FC began on Tuesday as the club named Ryan Nelsen as the successor to head coach Paul Mariner, who was let go earlier in the day.
Nelsen, 35, is still under contract with QPR of the English Premier League and said he still has "obligations" to the club. The defender made no indication as to how he would balance his coaching duties with TFC and his playing responsibilities with QPR, which is currently bottom of the Premier League table.
A graduate of Stanford University, Nelsen was drafted by D.C. United in 2001 and went on to make 81 league appearances for the club. He wore the captain's armband during his time at RFK Stadium and led the club to the MLS Cup title in 2004.
Nelsen made the move to England in 2005 to join Blackburn, captaining the club for seven years. He joined Tottenham in January 2012 before making the switch to QPR in the summer.
"It's the dawn of a new era, as far as I'm concerned," Toronto FC President Kevin Payne said in a press conference Tuesday morning. "I always thought that Ryan would end up becoming an outstanding coach."
Nelsen takes over for Mariner, who became Toronto's seventh coach when he replaced Aron Winter on June 7, 2012. He went on to post a record of 4-12-8 in league play in 2-2-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"This was a difficult decision, but one that was made in consideration of the strategic and cultural direction our club is taking," Payne said of the decision to part ways with Mariner. "I want to thank Paul for his dedicated service to Toronto FC. He had a difficult task last season when he was asked to take over the club after a tough start. On behalf of our club, we wish him well in his future endeavors."
Nelsen, who does not have any coaching certifications, will not be at this week's MLS Combine or next week's MLS SuperDraft. Fran O'Leary, who was named assistant coach and director of recruitment for TFC on Tuesday, will oversee the first-team responsibilities in Nelsen's absence.