As Aron Winter prepares to participate in his second MLS SuperDraft, Toronto FC's head coach and technical director tells me he is keen to extend his stay with the club beyond his current three year contract.
Last Friday, Winter celebrated his one year anniversary in charge in Toronto, and after beginning his re-build through the 2011 season, the former Netherlands World Cup star is thinking long-term.
"I want to stay longer because this is now my home," Winter said. "I like being part of this company and working with the people around me and most importantly I want to realize all of my plans. It is an amazing job and I believe 100 percent in what we are trying to do here."
The last year has not been without its surprises and Winter admits the size of the rebuilding job has been bigger than he anticipated.
"It has been a little bit different to what I expected," he said. "Most clubs around the world have existed for over 100 years, but this is a new club and needed a whole soccer system to be built.
"When I arrived, I thought there would already be a foundation, but it was not like that and in the past, decisions had only been short-term. I started from the beginning working with my management team to establish a structure."
Winter has also spent much of his first year in the job getting to know the many rules in Major League Soccer including the parameters he has to work within to build his 30 man roster. The 44-year-old still expects to add "four or five" players to his squad before the season kicks off in March, and is looking to take advantage of the two picks the club holds in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City. The Reds are slated to pick fourth and 12th overall.
"Those two picks I am not going to trade," he said. "You should always go for the best player, but for me it is important that we look specifically for positions we need to fill. If those players aren't there then we will look at other positions and get the best player we can. For example, if there is a very good midfielder, then we should take him, even though we are strong in midfield. It is also possible to get a couple of Generation adidas players which would be great."
Winter's philosophy revolves around developing young talent through the club's Academy, but he certainly isn't disregarding the potential of the players available in the draft. He just feels his club's own products are in a better position to succeed in the first-team at an earlier age.
"Players picked in the Draft are likely to need more time to develop, but there are some good players available who can make the squad stronger, if not straight away then later.
"If you look at players that we have brought from our Academy such as Matt Stinson and Ashtone Morgan, the process goes quicker than if you are drafting players from College. That is to be expected because the College season is very short and our players are playing and training the whole year in a professional environment."
So far, six Toronto FC players have graduated from the Academy to sign professional contracts, and Winter says more youngsters will be invited to train with the first-team over the next few weeks.
"There are some other Academy players who will join us in the preseason. Some of them will start with us on the 23rd of January and then I will decide if any of them will come with us to Orlando."
Lindsay Will Miss Season
Winter has confirmed that Toronto FC Academy product Nicholas Lindsay will miss the entire 2012 season. The 19-year-old has been out since injuring his knee last winter and missed the whole of 2011.
Lindsay has now undergone three separate surgeries to repair the damage and Winter tells me the Brampton teenager will need another twelve months before he is able to make a comeback. The speedy winger made his MLS debut for the Reds in October 2010 and finished the season with three assists in four matches.
The MLS SuperDraft will be broadcast live on TSN 2 on Thursday, January 12 at 12 p.m. ET. Join Luke Wileman and Noel Butler for a live chat during the draft on TSN.ca.