Tag Archives: Chris

Timberwolves officially hire former Raptors assistant Chris Finch as head coach

Chris Finch is the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team announced Monday after dismissing Ryan Saunders the previous night.

Saunders was fired Sunday after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games. The team quickly hired Finch, who was in his first season as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors.

“Chris brings a wealth of basketball experience from his time in the NBA, G League and Internationally,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA, has success maximizing players, and I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond.”

At 7-24, Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season and already is 7 1/2 games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference post-season. The Timberwolves next play on Tuesday, visiting Milwaukee.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Rosas said. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”

Key players sidelined

It had been a wildly disappointing season for the Timberwolves, who started 2-0 and haven’t had much to savour since. Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, dislocated his left wrist in the season’s second game and missed six games, returned and missed 13 more after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

D’Angelo Russell, the other key piece for the Timberwolves, had surgery last week on his left knee and may be out until April.

There was no sign the Timberwolves had stopped playing for Saunders; they were down by 21 points in the third quarter at New York earlier Sunday, then took the lead in the final minutes before falling 103-99.

“Unfortunately we ran out of time,” Saunders said after that loss.

He was talking about the game.

Before long, that sentence had a very different meaning.

Connection to Rosas

Finch has history with Rosas, working together with the Houston Rockets. He coached the team’s affiliate in what is now called the G League, winning a championship with Rio Grande Valley, then became a Rockets assistant. He went on to have assistant jobs in Denver and New Orleans and was hired by the Raptors in November.

“I look forward to working hand and hand with Gersson to build and lead a team Timberwolves fans will be proud of,” Rosas said. “We have excellent pieces in place and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Flip Saunders died in 2015.

Dismissing Saunders was the first coaching change in the league since this season began. There were nine coaches in new jobs entering this season.

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TFC coach Chris Armas enthusiastic about 1st training camp with club

Intensity and energy were the buzzwords Wednesday as the Chris Armas era kicked off at Toronto FC.

The club is the first in Major League Soccer to open training camp, given a little extra time to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Forge FC. That will decide which team faces Mexico’s Club Leon in the round-of-16 of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on April 6-7.

Most other MLS clubs report March 1 for a seven-day quarantine period, medicals and testing prior to the start of team training March 8. The regular season is scheduled to start April 17.

TFC worked out under the bubble at its north Toronto training centre Wednesday, with the temperature outside at minus-5 C, said to feel like minus-11. Light snow is forecast for Thursday.

Armas somehow managed to exude enthusiasm, even with his face hidden by a mask on a video call with reporters. At first blush, the 48-year-old head coach comes across as an Energizer Bunny-type man with a plan — even in the complicated, ever-changing sands of a global pandemic.

“This time of year, pre-season, it doesn’t get old to me,” he said. “It’s just such a great time.”

Armas said there was plenty of energy on display, even in a video session. Players told him the training session, on a scale of one to 10 for intensity, was a 25, he said.

“What a good first day with these players,” he said.

Where’s home?

Captain Michael Bradley was equally positive.

“It was an exciting first day because we hit the ground running,” he said.

“Chris has come in with his staff and, I think, has set an incredible tone right away in terms of who he is, what he’s all about, the energy that he’s going to bring every day, the mentality, and now starting to get to work with what we’re going to be as a team,” he added.

There is still no word on where Toronto will play its home games, given the pandemic-related travel restrictions that forced it to finish out the 2020 campaign in East Hartford, Conn.

WATCH | Canada’s Davies nets tying goal in Bayern Munich draw: 

Canadian Alphonso Davies scored to pull Bayern even with Arminia at 3-3. 1:06

Florida appears to be leading the pack.

“There’s options. We’re prepared mentally and physically that we might have to set up shop in the States,” said Armas, a former New York Red Bulls head coach.

Armas said there’s a “good chance” that the team will stay in Toronto for the duration of camp. He acknowledged that will present a problem finding pre-season opposition, with a friendly against CF Montreal a possibility.

‘No excuses’

The date and location of the Canadian Championship final have yet to be announced, with mid- to late-March expected.

Even if the team has to move again during the pandemic, Bradley said there will be no excuses.

“It’s been tough for everyone, man. I don’t want to hear that it’s tougher for me or tougher for TFC or tougher for Canadian teams,” he said.

Toronto is coming off a 13-5-5 season that saw the team finish second overall despite having playing just four games at BMO Field due to the pandemic. Its season ended disappointingly in a first-round playoff loss to expansion Nashville SC.

Armas promises to field a team capable of pressing the opposition when they have the ball, one that demonstrates “a commitment and a hunger up the field to not allow teams to build attacks.”

WATCH | Canada’s new women’s soccer team coach discusses her role: 

The new coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team, Bev Priestman, talks about her new job while preparing her team for the SheBelieves Cup. 2:26

The goal is to force mistakes “and take advantage of what we know, which is goals come from transition. More than 50 per cent, 60-something per cent of all goals come from transition.”

In possession, TFC will look to move the ball quickly and break down the opposition.

Armas was named the franchise’s 10th head coach on Jan. 13, filling the void left by Greg Vanney’s resignation. Vanney is now running the Los Angeles Galaxy, taking assistant coaches Dan Calichman, Nick Theslof and Canadian Jason Bent with him.

Armas announced his coaching staff, with goalkeeper coach Jon Conway the lone holdover. He is joined by newcomers Javier Perez, Ian Russell and Ewan Sharp.

Altidore transfer interest 

With camp closed due to COVID-19, information is in short supply. The team has yet to provide a camp roster and Armas said while everyone was in town, not everyone had made it through quarantine, medicals or testing yet.

“We’re almost at full strength,” he said.

Forward Ayo Akinola, who missed a Canada camp in January with an undisclosed injury, is not yet ready to go, however.

As for the future of star striker Jozy Altidore, who has been the subject of transfer interest according to U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, Armas said he look forwards to working with him once he completes the necessary pre-camp routine.

WATCH | Canada set to face rival U.S. on Thursday at SheBelieves Cup: 

The new coach of Canada’s national women’s soccer team says that pride is on the line as they prepare to meet the United States at the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday night. 0:58

“I think we all know that he’s helped build this house. He’s been a really important guy around here,” Armas said. “The passion that he brings.

“Some guys are just winners and he’s a guy that your chances go up when he’s out there.”

Armas said Altidore had sounded enthusiastic in a text exchange about the team’s planned pressing style.

Armas confirmed that veteran fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expired at the end of last season, is expected back. Defender Eriq Zavaleta, also out of contract, is training with the team.

Armas, who won 66 caps for the U.S. as a defensive midfielder and was named to the MLS Best XI five times, said his family will remain in Long Island, N.Y., for the time being, with the eldest of his two sons currently in college.

“They’ll join me here soon enough. We’ll just have to see what the year brings.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Chris Armas already feeling right at home as head coach of Toronto FC

One day into the job and new Toronto FC coach Chris Armas is already feeling right at home.

The former New York Red Bulls boss has extensive ties to his new club. Toronto GM Ali Curtis was sporting director at the Red Bulls while Armas was an assistant coach prior to getting the top job there.

Back in the early ’90s, Armas played for Puerto Rico alongside current Toronto president Bill Manning. Both men spent time in the USL with Armas at the Long Island Rough Riders and Manning — who went on to become the Rough Riders GM prior to working in MLS — at the New York Fever. 

And Armas has known Michel Bradley since the Toronto FC captain was a pre-teen. Bradley’s father Bob coached Armas and the Chicago Fire when the expansion team won the MLS title in its inaugural season in 1998.

The 48-year-old Armas succeeds Greg Vanney, who stepped down Dec. 1 after more than six years at the MLS club. Vanney subsequently was named head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Armas’ introduction via Zoom call Thursday was essentially a love-in.

“He’s such a great human being and he attacks his work and his life with such integrity,” said Curtis. “His work ethic is unmatched he has all the different elements of what we need in a coach.”

“I’ve know Chris a long time and he is a winner first and foremost that was the main important ingredient for us in a new head coach,” added Manning.

Armas said he already feels in sync with Manning and Curtis. “They are in this together with the head coach,” he said.

While both front office men said Armas will be involved in all decision-making, the new coach does not have the technical director title that Vanney held.

“Essentially all player personnel falls under Ali,” said Manning.

As for Armas, he said he welcomes the pressure of succeeding Vanney, TFC’s most successful coach.

“That’s exactly where, I think, real competitors want to be and that’s one of the biggest reasons I came to the club,” he said. “Yes, I want to win. The pressure’s to win.

“This will wake me up early and it will put me to bed late. And then I’ll sleep well. But I’m going to work, I’m going to work hard to deliver excellence, trophies. And I can guarantee that I will coach a team that is clear — they’re clear with roles, we are together, we don’t cut corners and we have a style of play that is on the front foot and we go after every game.”

Asked about his preferred style of play, Armas said: “It starts with energy and passion.”

He said he favours an up-tempo game, “making the game fast, playing vertical and, now of course with this roster, with real intelligence and decision-making.”

On defence, he said he wants his team to take time and space away from the opposition. While the Red Bulls were known for their high press, he says more is needed in the toolbox.

He called it “attacking football” on and off the ball.

Thumbs-up from captain Bradley

Armas, who won 66 caps for the U.S national team, was an elite defensive midfielder over 12 MLS seasons with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago. He served as Red Bulls assistant before being elevated to the top coaching job in July 2018.

He led the Red Bulls to the Supporters’ Shield and Eastern Conference final, losing to eventual champion Atlanta United. Armas was fired last September with the Red Bulls at 3-4-2.

Armas’ appointment has already got a thumbs-up from Bradley.

“I was a young guy fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around that team,” the 33-year-old Bradley told the club website. So for me to have the opportunity now to play for Chris, I’m really excited.

“I think his personality, his leadership, the way he can engage everybody around him, the standards that he’ll have for the team, for every single guy, I think it sets up in a really really good way for us.”

Curtis said the search for Vanney’s replacement was “vast, exhaustive and methodical,” involving everything from checking references to analyzing international clubs to see if their style of play matched Toronto so as to target their coaching search.

“Like everything it’s both a science and an art and then it’s gut,” said Curtis.

A father of two boys, Armas’ wife is a nurse.

Akinola out of Canadian national team camp

Canada Soccer’s plan to showcase its men’s national program to Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola has been derailed by medical issues.

Canada Soccer said Thursday that Akinola was one of four players who did not make the camp in Bradenton, Fla., due to medical reasons. The other three are Toronto’s Liam Fraser, Orlando City’s Tesho Akindele and Vancouver’s Michael Baldisimo.

Canadian team officials did not detail the medical reasons or explain why news of the players missing camp only came out Thursday when players started arriving days earlier.

All players and staff had to record at least two negative COVID-19 test results in the week before their travel. One player, who has not been identified, tested positive upon arrival in camp and is currently in isolation.

The 20-year-old Akinola, who was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one, is eligible to play for Canada, the U.S. and Nigeria. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side in December, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but is not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Akinola, whose Canadian-born younger brother Tom has featured in the Canadian youth setup, has come up through the U.S. ranks and played at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

The Florida camp was seen as a chance to show Akinola what Canada offered.

Two English-based players invited to camp have since withdrawn. Theo Corbeanu, an 18-year-old forward, is staying with Wolves’ first team while 17-year-old forward Marcelo Flores remains with Arsenal’s under-18 squad.

The Canada camp is slated to run through Jan. 24 at the IMG Center in Bradenton, where the U.S. team is also training.

Canada coach John Herdman has added Vancouver’s Theo Bair, Toronto’s Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Jacob Shaffelburg, and FC Edmonton’s Amer Didic to the camp roster.

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CBC | Soccer News

TFC appoints former Red Bulls coach Chris Armas to succeed Greg Vanney

Toronto FC confirmed former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas as Greg Vanney’s successor on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old Armas becomes Toronto’s 10th head coach.

“I could not be more excited to join a club with Toronto FC’s level of excellence and winning tradition and I will work tirelessly to uphold those standards,” Armas said in a statement.

“As an opposing coach I felt the passion the fans and supporters bring to BMO Field. It is next level,” he added. “I can’t wait to put a team on the field that will not only make them proud with the way we play, but also with the way we run, battle and compete every minute of every game.”

Vanney stepped down as head coach and technical director on Dec. 1 after more than six years at TFC’s helm. He subsequently was named coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Armas, an elite defensive midfielder during a 12-year playing career with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire, was let go as head coach by the Red Bulls last September with the team at 3-4-2.

He inherits a Toronto club that finished runner-up in the regular-season standings at 13-5-5 despite playing just four games at home due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. TFC shifted operations to East Hartford, Conn., exiting in the first round of the playoffs after a 1-0 loss to lower-seeded Nashville.

Armas will join the search for a new designated player, with Toronto opting not pick up the option of Argentine forward Pablo Piatti. Depth in the backline is also a need.

‘Excellent winning pedigree’

After succeeding Jesse Marsch as head coach of the Red Bulls in July 2018, Armas led the team on a 12-3-3 run to clinch the 2018 Supporters’ Shield. His overall record with New York was 33-27-11 in all competitions.

“Chris has an excellent winning pedigree and is a fiery, competitive guy who wants his teams to play on the front foot,” Toronto president Bill Manning said. “He is the right fit to build upon the foundation that’s been established at TFC.

“Our fans are going to love his intensity and how that’s going to translate into our team’s style of play for years to come.”

Armas had previously served as a Red Bulls assistant coach for 3 1/2 seasons, two of which were as the top assistant in charge of New York’s attack.

Current Toronto GM Ali Curtis was sporting director of the Red Bulls from December 2014 to February 2017.

Curtis said Armas was unmatched when it came to “integrity, authenticity, and professionalism.”

“While I have known Chris over the years, during the interview process, he conveyed perspective, vision, and coaching qualities, which solidified our belief in him as the top candidate,” he added.

“I am excited about his intensity, passion, tactics, and way of teaching. The resources and support that we will provide to Chris will be different than his previous roles, which we know will be beneficial to his vision and our success. ΓǪ We are a team that strives to win championships, and Chris is the ideal coach to lead us now, and in the future.”

Picked as player in same draft as Vanney

Prior to the Red Bulls, Armas was an assistant coach with the Chicago Fire and head coach of the Adelphi University women’s team in Long Island, N.Y.

The Galaxy drafted Armas seventh overall in the 1996 MLS supplemental draft. That same year, Los Angeles selected Vanney 17th overall in the inaugural MLS College Draft.

Armas, a former Long Island Rough Rider, spent two seasons in L.A. before being traded to the Chicago Fire ahead of their inaugural 1998 campaign. He helped the Fire win both the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup that year.

He was named to the MLS Best XI from 1998 through 2001 before being sidelined by a knee injury. He returned in 2003, earning MLS Comeback Player of the Year and MLS Best XI honours.

Armas, who captained Chicago from 2003 to 2007, played in 264 MLS regular-season games (260 starts) with two goals and 48 assists. He retired at the end of the 2007 season.

On the international front, Armas won 66 caps for the U.S., and was chosen U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000.

Toronto said Armas’ coaching staff will be announced at a later date.

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CBC | Soccer News

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