Photo: Aron Winter (right) "very happy" with progress at Downsview (Giamou/TorontoFC.ca)
Tuesday’s Kia Training Ground & Academy announcement was more than just a name unveiling and a boost to youth player development. The facility – a few weeks away from completion – will also provide Toronto FC’s first team with much needed consistency.
“I’m very happy,” head coach Aron Winter told reporters at the Downsview Park event. For the TFC boss, training ground uncertainties in his daily preparations are about to end.
“Last year it was always a problem to get a pitch to train. Now you've got your own facility, a lot of pitches.”
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Video: Aron Winter happy to see Kia Training Ground.
The 75-kilometre roundtrip to Oakville for a two hour training session wasn’t ideal. Neither was the field (and often weather) conditions at Cherry Beach where last year centre back Adrian Cann tore his ACL on the artificial surface.
Every coach that has led Toronto through its six seasons has faced training field limitations, and along with it geographic challenges that compound issues such as timely treatment of injured players and meal preparations.
A top flight professional club must address these details.
Winter is about to inherit seven pitches, including two artificial fields with a winterized bubble for year-round use. Inside the fieldhouse, which provides a balcony view of the main grass pitch for the coaches, there is a physiotherapy and rehabilitation area along with a large dining room. Players can step off the pitch after training and receive trainers’ attention or nutrition without a bus ride back to BMO Field.
Newly appointed assistant coach Jim Brennan experienced first-hand the incongruity of previous years. The first player in TFC history welcomes the new developments.
"It's something we've been waiting for a very long time now," Brennan told GOLTV Canada. "Long gone are the days when we had to go out to Oakville, find a pitch all over the city. Now we have a place to call home."
The first team will undoubtedly be the star attraction of the new facility, but the driving force for this project was the potential to tap into the abundant soccer talent in Southern Ontario by growing the Academy.
The prospect delights Brennan, the former hometown player who coached Academy’s Under-17 team prior to his senior team appointment.
"Now we're able to go even younger (with the Academy). We're going to have the fields and space to do so."
Currently Toronto FC Academy goes down to under-12 but plans to identify talented eight and nine year old players. Nurturing future stars for a decade until they are ready for the first team is part of the long term vision.
Winter, a major proponent of homegrown talent, pride and identity, echoed his assistant saying “the most important thing is that you've got more time to develop the players better. The Academy, the first team, it's all together. It's great."
Discuss this with Asif in Toronto.