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Attakora seeking stability for Toronto FC

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CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — On a frigid desert evening in practically the middle of nowhere, in front of a handful of people, a Major League Soccer veteran played through a groin injury.

That last part probably wasn't good news for Toronto FC, which opens full-team preseason training for 2011 in just a few days. Central defender Nana Attakora went up for a ball during the first half of a training match for Canada's U-23 Olympic team Thursday night and landed awkwardly. But he kept playing, and afterward, holding a bag of ice over his inner thigh, expressed his excitement about his club's new direction.

Toronto FC named Paul Mariner new technical director and Aron Winter head coach earlier this month. Attakora, only 21 but a veteran of all four of TFC's seasons in existence, looks forward to playing for Winter.

"To see that the club wants more stability now, that's what they've said and every year there's been a new coach, I'm excited," Attakora said. "He (Winter) brings a different element, something different that Toronto hasn't experienced yet. Total soccer."

Attakora hasn't met his new coach and admits to knowing only what teammate Julian de Guzman has told him about Winter, but likes what he's heard. He's expecting what he labeled an FC Barcelona style of play: a lot of possession and attacking options.

"Last year we had a more defensive mentality, which caused us a lot of problems because you can't defend for 90 minutes in today's soccer," Attakora said. "I think the new coach is going to help us build from the back into an attack. It will help us a lot. We'll be able to last longer in games."

Winter will be Attakora's sixth head coach as a player for Toronto FC. He's learned from each one but cites an inability to adapt to so many coaching styles that he hopes will settle down with a longer term for Winter. 

Last year, with Preki as head coach until the final month of the season, Attakora said formations would change from week to week and there wasn't a consistent starting lineup. 

"Some of our players didn't get accustomed to the kind of football he wanted to play," Attakora said of Preki. "A lot more behind the ball, a lot of running. It was just more defensive. When Preki was there we were a lot better defensive team, so there was positives and some negatives there. But we didn't have the flair going forward, and that eventually caused us problems."

TFC hasn't made the playoffs since it began MLS play in 2007, and as one of the most highly-supported teams in the league, fans want a winner.

"Our fans want to see results, and this year we need to start getting them," Attakora said. "The one thing that I think we need help with is a lot more attacking-minded players, a lot more creative players. In today's game, midfielders are able to interchange, playing right or left. That causes other teams a lot of problems. If we could get that, it would make us a tough team to play against."

Attakora hopes to remain with TFC for a long time. He was raised in Ontario and said he can't see himself playing anywhere else in MLS.

"The fans actually want results. They actually want to see a winning team, and that's special," Attakora said.


  1. “A lot more behind the ball, a lot of running. It was just more defensive. When Preki was there we were a lot better defensive team, so there was positives and some negatives there.”

    It’s pretty easy to look good as a CB when you have a defensively minded shield of midfielders in front of you. His performance (and much more notably, Cann’s) became less effective when Dasovic had the team become more attack minded.

  2. He’s pretty clearly grabbing onto his jersey (you can see it’s bunched up around his hand). And really, a frame grab of a scuffle like that doesn’t tell much or any of a story.

    Though I do feel like I’m feeding the trolls here.

  3. Im happy Nana is looking forward to the new season but a few things made me laugh like you cant play defensive soccer for 90mins. The kid has obviously not met 75% of the EPL and most of italy. He probably hasnt heard of Lord Mourinho.
    Id wager that there are much, much more defensive teams out there than there are offensive ones.

    But thats enthusiasm. Its like basketball, do you want to play for J.Van Gundy or Mike D’Antoni?

    New coach to the league can go either way but again an english DT makes me think that ‘grit and toughness’ will be on the agenda, not tickytacka players. Canada and England share the distinction of claiming a game where they dont produce skilled technical players and managers but rather pride on the ‘guts’ of their local products.
    Winter has never coached a team and has been assistant for 3 years I believe, so Im not exactly falling over that an ex-international player is now getting his first chance at a job.
    And Total Football isnt exactluy the modus operandi of dutch football anymore. Im not talking about the awful national team here.

    Saying you want to play Barcelona style sounds nice but that’s like my pickup b-ball league saying they want to play the Princeton offense: yes, wed all like to play that smooth free flowing stuff but there is one problem: YOU NEED to have the players to do this. The TFC players are limited skill wise, the first touches mediocre at best.
    The creator of the team is a guy who spend 10 years as a defensive destroyer who had limited technical skills to do much more. The idea that a player can just like that switch styles and succeed like that is only validated because the MLS is inferior to La Liga but the DeGuzman experiment has been a total failure.
    No matter who the coach is, the ball CAN NOT pass through his feet like he was some kind of Fabregas. SUre, he covered some excellent midfielders in Spain but asking him to play the other role has been a failure.
    An expensive one.

    Yes, we need more talented midfielders Nana. He is right about that but so is everyone else.
    Right now we have the same team as last year which was technically woeful and were gonna ask them to play an even more technical style.
    It has about as much chance of working here as it does at Stoke.
    You adjust to the players you have.
    And right now, its the same old.

    I want to see Arsenal like ball movement. Who doenst?
    But just because youve got a dutch coach doesnt mean you can plug any player into this system.

    PS: Yes, I know that Barcelona’s TikiTacka is not technically the same thing as Total Football which focuses on positional interchange rather than ball movement but both demand superior technical skills.

  4. Wow… you are total idiot.

    Seriously, ***holes like you read one article or see one picture and think they know a person.

    Havent heard anyone say a bad thing about Attakora’s atitude in Toronto but you obviously have.

    Thanks for sharing your ignorance with us.

  5. He has strong man marking skills. Not particularly convinced of his ball playing skills so maybe that’s why there’s no rumour trail leading to a club on a bigger stage. However, I think he’s a quality CB in this league and I wish him bigger and better things sooner than later.

  6. Two guys choking each other, bigger stronger defender winning. Attakora’s record for playing clean is one of the best in the league for his position, and you, quite evidently, know nothing about him or his play.

  7. This kid’s a loose cannon kinda like Josh Wicks. If he can control his immaturity, he may be able to have a long career in the MLS.


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