Top Stories

Nelsen to leave QPR and join TFC on Feb. 1


Toronto FC’s appointment of Ryan Nelsen raised plenty of eyebrows, not the least of which because of the fact it was unclear just when Nelsen would finish playing for Queens Park Rangers.

Nelsen put to rest fears of TFC starting the 2013 season without its coach on the sidelines on Tuesday when he confirmed that he will be leaving QPR and joining TFC on a permanent basis on Feb. 1.

Nelsen will arrive in Toronto on Feb. 1 on a permanent basis to begin the tall task of rebuilding Toronto FC for the 2013 MLS season.

“We had a talk and we needed to give QPR as much time as possible to bring a replacement or sort their things out,” Nelsen said during Toronto FC media day on Tuesday.  “If they knew that I was leaving, it would’ve been hard in the transfer window—prices would’ve gone up, salaries would’ve gone up. We just wanted to be respectful to QPR in the transfer window.”

QPR manager Harry Redknapp will be without one of his key defensive stalwarts for his club’s fight to stay in the Premier League. Nelsen will be available for selection for the blue and white of QPR when they face MK Dons in the fourth round of the FA Cup and then reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City on January 29. Both matches will be at Loftus Road, QPR’s home.

Nelsen will now be faced with the challenge of making the transition from hard-nosed defender to head coach in a league full of intricacies foreign to any of the major European leagues. He’ll be hoping to have his team ready for its season opener at Canadian rivals, Vancouver Whitecaps on March 2nd.

What do you think of this development? See Nelsen having a good first season as head coach? Think Toronto FC can turn things around in 2013?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. If Tal Ben Heim is his replacement, then presumably this February 1 date was set long ago, and that’s why Heim was announced on January 4 followed by rumors of Nelsen-to-Toronto on January 8-ish. Once everything falls into place he officially gives the retirement date, but it was kind of an ultimatum.

    Particularly once it leaks he’s out, all this theory would be rubbish because people know Nelsen is out by May at the latest and sometime in the window possibly. Even if they don’t know the exact date, they know he’s leaving a struggling team and can leverage it. So I get the idea Heim is the fill-in, since he’s happily broadcasting his retirement date.

    • Well, the leverage isn’t as great in the summer, as there will be plenty of players with expiring contracts that QPR would be able to negotiate. Fewer expiring contracts in the winter period, so the majority of player acquisitions would be by sale, or loan (note: I didn’t say ALL).

      I think QPR played it right. Nelsen was just trying to do right by his team. As long as he is retiring from playing, he could essentially do so whenever. He just didn’t want to leave his team in a worse hole than they’re in.

  2. 1. If Nellie were a player-coach, TFC would owe DCU (which still owns his rights). DCU never received allocation money when he left, protected him in the expansion drafts. He’s still on DCU’s books as a player they have MLS rights to.

    2. Nellie’s value to TFC isn’t as a player. Yep, he’s a fine player. But TFC has had a bunch of fine players. TFC’s problems have been that despite a lovely stadium, great location, and amazing fan base, they’ve had a clusterf*ck of an organization. Coaching has mostly been bad. Team management/personnel has been atrocious (Trader Mo in particular). Team executives didn’t understand the sport and couldn’t set a policy and direction.

    Now this team has a President who, for all his pros and cons (and he has some negatives) knows soccer in North America, knows MLS, is a leader, can evaluate coaches and is involved in talent selection and will set a very firm-clear-strong vision and direction for the future. And this guy (Payne) loves coaches who are leaders and motivators. He believes you can get assistants to help with the technical stuff or you can learn how to manage a practice. So he’s very willing to hire an American college coach (Arena), or someone who’s never coached (Piotr Nowak or Ben Olsen) if he believes in their leadership and passion and understanding of the game and commitment. And he (Payne) is willing to go to extraordinary measures in order to get his man (he signed Arena late and then let him co-coach the US Olympic team that year with DCU in order to sign him). Well, I’m confident that Payne got his man (Nellie). Nellie is a real leader, maybe one of the best team captains that an MLS locker room has ever seen, a great example of someone who succeeded not b/c of technical ability or pedigree or athletic ability but through work, smarts, and force of personality and commitment.

    TFC is on the right road. A lot still needs to happen. But Payne and Nellie give this team 2 things they have NEVER had: an Executive and Coach who are knowledgable and aligned about the team. direction.

  3. This explanation makes a lot of sense on the surface and it’s pretty embarassing that no one put this forth as a possibility. Of course he didn’t give his leave date during the transfer window. That certainly would hurt QPR’s ability to sign his replacement. However, if that really was the rationale, why is he speaking up now? The window is still open. QPR only signed one defender: Ben Haim, and that was all the way back on Jan. 4. Weird (though still so much more sane than NYRB’s fiasco).

    • Well, one would assume QPR had more than 2 CBs on their roster in the first place.

      That said, they left his leave date ambiguous (i.e. possibly not until the summer) to discourage teams from price-gouging any replacements, whether or not they found any. I’d say it was a decent strategy, since most foreign management probably doesn’t follow MLS close enough to call QPR’s bluff. On his own time, Nelsen can start the strategizing and he will only miss 2 or 3 weeks of preseason. If they expect to have him for years, that’s trivial in the long run.

    • QPR’s need for a CB is critical, and has been for some time, and have not been able to get a deal done; Chris Samba and Michael Dawson are just two of a host of names they’ve tried to sign at that position over the last couple of seasons. One of the reasons Nelsen played so much for QPR was because they just dont have a ton of options at that position. It’s also one of the reasons this has played out the way it has, QPR quite literally NEED Ryan Nelsen at the moment.

  4. Nelsen has confirmed already that he will NOT be a player-coach so lets just put that to rest.

    I’d like to think that TFC is poised to make the playoffs but because of player turnover in a league that punishes lack of fluidity, I’m gonna say TFC misses again.

    You can also look at the roster and see there are more player changes coming as some guys are “Mariner’s guys” and won’t fit under the new system.

  5. Is anybody aware if Nelson has mentioned coming off of the bench as an option at some point? I know MLS probably wants to steer clear of player-coaches in this day and age but considering how poor the Reds defense was last year it seems like a viable idea, particularly when the going gets rough (and it will).

    • No for two reasons most likely:

      1) Him being a player-coach might mean that TFC would owe QPR some kind of compensation as he would still be playing and not just retiring to take over the TFC managerial position.

      2) TFC has added a lot of centerbacks this offseason (Agbossoumonde, Califf, Julio Caesar if they choose to use him there) and they also have Darren O’Dea as well. Doesn’t make sense to add Nelson into the mix when they can simply let him focus on managing for the first time.

    • And Nelsen has said he is not interested in playing any more, is only still out of a sense of loyalty to QPR given their circumstances.

      Maybe Omar can go to QPR:)

    • Nelsen has said a few times that he’s done as a player, his knees and ankles are “glass” (his words not mine), and that he’s looking forward to moving on to his post playing career.

      Frankly if he WERE to play he’d be one of the best 3-4 CB’s in MLS, right now. But it’s not going to happen.

  6. Risk worth taking for TFC. Obviously a jump without any coaching experience but hiring young ambitous coaches is a trend and Nelsen certainly looks like a coach on the field at least.

  7. It’s way early, but TFC could really make the playoffs this year. Seems like SKC will run away with 1st the way everybody said they would last year (but never really did), Houston and New York probably will make the playoffs (though each could finish anywhere from 2-5), beyond that Chicago and DC have gotten marginally better, Columbus gets a full year of Higuain, New England and Philly seem significantly better though not necessarily good enough to make the playoffs. It’s wide open.

    • I’m worried about us (DC) this season. Our offense has gotten worse: DeRo is older, we lost our top central striker goal scorer in Santos (albeit we needed to) and in his place we got a highly questionable youth Brazilian striker. Other than that, we hope Pontius stays fit and we’re stuck with Pajoy and Tan.

      Rumors are flying we may lose Najar too, who may have locked down the RB slot, but was still able to make a difference playing further up or at least having the freedom to push further up.

      So I think unless we bring in reinforcements we could suffer. However, TFC will have (another) transitional season with Nelsen needing to remember the strict rules of MLS and getting used to coaching.

      I do think NE will be better.

      • if olsen continues to pull the right strings i would not worry but if he starts screwinig up somehow, THEN, i would worry

Leave a Comment