Toronto FC-Sporting Kansas City Preview

Toronto FC players say the first week under their new coach has

brought some much-needed changes.

Now, the club is hoping to improve on its woeful record.

In Paul Mariner’s debut, last-place Toronto will try to build

off the end to a nine-game MLS losing streak Saturday night when it

returns from a lengthy break at Sporting Kansas City.

While the team was on hiatus from league play, Aron Winter

stepped down as coach and technical director on June 7. He was

quickly replaced by the team’s director of player development,

Mariner.

The 59-year-old British native was a former member of New

England’s staff and led English Championship division club Plymouth

Argyle from December 2009-May 2010.

Mariner’s first task is rallying Toronto (1-9-0) from its

miserable start. The club’s 0-9-0 start set a new low for the

league before Toronto edged Philadelphia 1-0 on May 26 in Winter’s

final game.

During Mariner’s first full week in charge on the pitch, there

have been hints at a change in formation but the most significant

one might be a new mentality.

“Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s focused. There’s a new energy with

us and a new mindset during this week. It’s coming along well,”

midfielder Eric Avila said.

A win over Sporting KC (8-3-1) might help that attitude even

more, but that club is also intent on building on the end to a

lackluster stretch.

Kansas City was 0-3-1 before a 2-1 home win over San Jose on May

27. That winless skid had followed a 7-0-0 start, the best in the

league since Los Angeles won 12 straight to begin its 1996

season.

“As we head into this week’s game against Toronto, we’re looking

to pick up where we left off,” assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin

said.

Kei Kamara scored the deciding goal in last month’s victory but

his status is unknown because of international duty for Sierra

Leone. Kamara has a team-best five goals, and he scored two in the

first 33 minutes of a 4-2 home win over Toronto on July 23.

Jacob Peterson could fill in for Kamara in this game after doing

so in a 2-0 win in U.S. Open Cup play over Colorado on June 5, and

Sporting KC will also need to find a replacement for central

defender Matt Besler, who is out following an emergency

appendectomy June 8.

“I’m going to work hard at whatever he asks me to do,” Peterson

told the league’s website. “It’s all of our jobs to make it a tough

decision for Pete, all those guys who are on the bench and who are

fighting to get into the 18. If we do that, it’s healthy

competition.”

Sporting KC 2-0-2 in its last four games against Toronto and

earned both those wins at home, where it is 4-1-1 all-time in this

series.