THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — After a dismal start to the season, Toronto FC offered some hope for the future Wednesday by signing a pair of marquee players in German midfielder Torsten Frings and Dutch striker Danny Koevermans.
The two players offer leadership and a proven pedigree, said head coach Aron Winter.
And Winter promised more new faces ahead for his struggling 2-7-9 team, which was winless in nine Major League Socce outings going into Wednesday’s night game with the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.
"I think there are going to be more changes," Winter told a news conference. "But it depends also if I can get the players in MLS that I want, then it’s possible (the changes come sooner)."
Otherwise, he suggested, the changes will come in the off-season.
The 34-year-old Frings and 32-year-old Koevermans (pronounced Koo-ver-mans) join Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman as the MLS’s side’s designated players.
Frings, who most recently played for Werder Bremen, has won 79 caps for Germany while Koevermans (PSV Eindhoven) has four caps for the Netherlands.
"A massive step," is how Paul Mariner, Toronto’s director of player development, summed up the acquisitions.
He called the two imports "unbelievable role models" for the other squad members.
Koevermans’ averages a goal every two games, said Winter, whose team had a league-worst 16 goals ahead of Wednesday’s game.
The two players seemed like chalk and cheese at their news conference. The six-foot-three Koevermans, who speaks excellent English, looked like a young executive in a jacket and open-necked short.
The five-foot-11 Frings, who spoke through his agent-interpreter, looked like the free spirit of the pair — a T-shirt showing off tattooed arms and shoulder length hair stuffed under a cap. He looked like he had left his chopper parked outside.
Frings made headlines at the 2006 World Cup for a post-match brawl in a game with Argentina that saw him suspended for two games for punching an opposing player.
Winter, who looked like a kid in a candy store, clearly sees a different kind of leadership.
Defensive midfielder Frings and forward Koevermans add to the spine of his team, joining a strong goalkeeper in Stefan Frei. The Toronto coach acknowledged he wants a strong defender to add to that nucleus, probably a North American.
Koevermans had one goal in 14 games last season with Eindhoven, which is home to Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson.
Frings was released in May by Werder Bremen after reportedly being unable to reach a contract extension. He said former national team coach Juergen Klinsmann, who led the management search that brought Winter to Toronto, helped sell him on the MLS franchise.
Under MLS rules, only $335,000 of a designated player’s salary counts against the salary cap. Because the two newcomers aren’t eligible to play until the MLS transfer window opens July 15, the hit to Toronto’s cap for each will be half that and teams can also buy down that hit by using allocation money.
Neither player will have come cheap, although TFC declined to detail contract terms on the deals. Koevermans said his contract is for two seasons after this.
Toronto will have to pony up $250,000 to use a third designated player spot. That one-time payment is split among teams that don’t have a third DP, in the form of allocation money.
De Guzman, who is due to make $1.9 million in 2011, came into the season recovering from knee surgery and has been recovering from a knock sustained while with Canada at the Gold Cup.
Winter suggested somewhat bluntly that de Guzman has not been able to show his best.
While de Guzman is a quality player, Toronto has not hit home runs with its DP choices to date.
Mista, as Spanish forward Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez was known, was a flop. He has one assist in nine MLS games and was released last November after half a season.
Toronto has struggled under Winter, who has had difficulties fitting the players at his disposal into his fluid Dutch style, know as Total Football.
The two newcomers won’t be eligible to begin play for Toronto FC until July 20 against FC Dallas.