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Toronto taps Ryan Nelsen to coach

TORONTO, Ontario -- Toronto FC hired veteran New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen as its new coach. But there is some question about when the Queens Park Rangers player will be free to start his new position.

The MLS team, which struggled to a franchise-worst 5-21-8 season in 2012, introduced the 35-year-old Nelsen at a news conference Tuesday at BMO Field. He replaces Paul Mariner, who took over 10 games into the 2012 season.

Nelsen remains under contract with QPR, who clearly want him to remain on the field to help its relegation battle in England's Premier League.

Toronto president and GM Kevin Payne acknowledged the circumstances were unusual, but said he was willing to put up with them to secure Nelsen's services

"It's not an ideal situation. I'd love it if Ryan was able to start full-time tomorrow or today," Payne said. "But we understand the situation. And frankly one of Ryan's qualities that I appreciate so much is his sense of responsibility. And his understanding he needs to fulfill his (QPR) obligation."

Nelsen, the eighth coach in six years for Toronto FC, played for Payne at D.C. United. He also spent time in England with Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham.

"Ryan wouldn't be the person that I know he is if he just walked away from QPR at a time when they're in a critical situation," Payne said. "So again, it's not a perfect situation but it's one that we will deal with."

Fran O'Leary, the assistant coach and director of player recruitment, will lead the team in Nelsen's absence.

As for QPR, the club acknowledged Nelsen's new position in Toronto while noting he remains on its roster.

"Nelsen is under contract with QPR until June 30th 2013, however, he has requested to enter dialogue with QPR boss Harry Redknapp to discuss when he will join up with his new club," the London club said in a statement. "In the meantime, Nelsen will be available for the R's Barclays Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend."

QPR finishes its league schedule May 19 in Liverpool. Toronto, which opens camp this month, kicks off the 2013 season on March 2 in Vancouver.

Nelsen was the captain of the New Zealand national team at the 2010 World Cup. He spent the second half of last season at Tottenham.

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