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Toronto FC names veteran defender Nelsen new head coach

The Canadian Press

1/8/2013 1:06:31 PM

TORONTO, Ontario -- Toronto FC has named veteran New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen its new head coach. But there is some question about when the Queens Park Rangers centre back will be free to take up his new position.

The MLS team, which struggled to a franchise-worst 5-21-8 season in 2012, unveiled the 35-year-old at a news conference Tuesday at BMO Field.

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

Toronto president and general manager 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 fulfil his (QPR) obligation. 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.

"So again it's not a perfect situation but it's one that we will deal with."

Fran O'Leary, named 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 later this month, kicks off the 2013 season on March 2 in Vancouver.

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

He replaces Paul Mariner, who took over 10 games into the disastrous 2012 season for the MLS club.