Toronto, ON – Paul Mariner's first couple weeks as manager of Toronto FC have been turbulent, but his first fixture at BMO Field on Saturday against the New England Revolution will offer a chance to announce a new era.
Mariner spent six seasons with New England as an assistant manager, aiding the club to three MLS Cups runner-up finishes, and titles in the U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga.
He replaced fired Aron Winter on June 7, lost his debut just over a week later against Sporting Kansas City, had three players arrested before a game against Houston, and then blew a two-goal lead Wednesday in a 3-3 tie at the Dynamo.
With TFC (1-10-1) sitting on just four points - the worst record in the league - there is no where to go but up for Mariner and his new club. And it will not take much to ease the pressure.
Toronto lost its first nine matches, but won its last under Winter, and earned a point in Houston. Although it could have escaped with three points, as Danny Koevermans scored a brace in a three-goal first half, it was still a point.
And for TFC, that cannot be overlooked, or undervalued at this point.
"I'm so proud of the lads and I thought they put in a fantastic performance. A point away from home against Houston is a fantastic point," Mariner said.
Mariner needs to be positive, as it was a negative season for months. Now, the TFC coach will focus on three points against his old club, especially at home.
"We still believe in our club and each other," Toronto's Ashtone Morgan said.
New England has a great idea of what Mariner brings to a team, as he coached current Revolution manager Jay Heaps as a player. In addition, New England has players still on the field who were coached by Mariner.
"I know that's something he's been wanting and hoping for the last couple years is to get his own team and to be in charge of his own team," said Matt Reis, who spent six years with Mariner along with Heaps.
New England (5-7-2) has found some stability this month, as Heaps has used the same lineup in both of its matches, a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire and a 0-0 draw against the Columbus Crew.
But the Revolution have never beaten Toronto FC at BMO Field, going 0-2-3 over its first five trips. And with New England just 1-6-0 on the road this season, the timing could be right for Mariner to trip up his former squad, and get TFC on track.