Toronto FC, the expansion team set to join Major League Soccer in 2007, has chosen former Red Bulls head coach and Scottish legend Mo Johnston to be the team's first head coach when it begins play next year.
According to sources within Major League Soccer, Toronto FC and Johnston are finalizing a deal that will make the Scottish legend head coach of his second team this season, just two months after being fired as coach of the New York Red Bulls. The sides are expected to reach an agreement later this week.
Johnston beat out a group of candidates that included current D.C. United assistant Tom Soehn and former U.S. national team assistant Curt Onalfo.
The first MLS franchise to be based outside of the United States, Toronto FC will begin play in 2007 with a roster that will be made up mainly of Canadian players. Unlike the other teams in MLS, which count American players as domestic players on their rosters, Toronto will field a team where Canadian players count as domestic players. MLS officials are still finalizing the parameters of Toronto's roster restrictions but a league source said Toronto FC will have between four and six slots for non-Canadian senior players. Construction on Toronto FC's new home, National Soccer Stadium, has already begun and the 20,000-seat venue is expected to open next spring.
Johnston expressed interest in the Toronto position even before he was fired by the Red Bulls. Johnston's first meeting with Toronto officials came on June 26, just a day after his final game as Red Bulls head coach and a day before the Red Bulls fired him. According to a source, Johnston drew the wrath of Red Bulls officials, who gave Johnston permission to meet with Toronto, after learning that Johnston informed the team of his meeting with Toronto before the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to Chicago on June 25.
Johnson, who played for Scotland in the 1990 World Cup, became a popular figure in European soccer after signing with Scottish club Rangers after having played for and after being a life-long supporter of archrival Celtic. Johnston spent six seasons in MLS (1999-2001) and served as captain of the Kansas City Wizards' MLS Cup-winning squad in 2000 before retiring as a player in 2001. He joined the MetroStars in 2003 as Bob Bradley's assistant coach, serving in that position for three years before replacing Bradley at the tail end of the 2005 season. He became the club's full-time coach after helping the MetroStars qualify for the 2005 MLS playoffs with a 2-0-1 stretch in the team's final three matches.