Setback for Ryan Nelsen as star player retires
Toronto FC's Kiwi coach Ryan Nelsen has lost his captain and highest paid player on the eve of his coaching debut in America's Major League Soccer.
The former All Whites captain is dealing with the retirement of German midfield general Tortsen Frings, four days out from Toronto's opening MLS game of the season away to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Frings, the former German international, was Toronto's captain and, with a salary of US$2.43 million last year, also their highest paid player.
But the 36-year-old - 11 months his new coach's senior - discovered during pre-season that his comeback from hip surgery which cut short his 2012 season would take longer than initially thought, so he has called time on his career.
"I always want to do what's best for the team and that is why I have decided to step away," Frings said in a statement.
"I really enjoyed my time in Toronto and playing for Toronto FC. I wish the club all the best this season and hopefully they can continue to embrace the winning spirit that I brought to the team."
Frings, who joined the club in mid-2011, was a dominant player for Toronto despite being in the twilight of his career, but the 79-cap international was thwarted by too many injuries and the poor-performing side also failed to surround him with enough quality.
Toronto may have seen the writing on the wall, having signed a midfield replacement in Brazilian veteran Julio Cesar during the off-season.
Toronto head into the season on the back of six consecutive years without playoffs football since the club's inception in 2007.
They were bottom of the pile in the 19-team league last season, with a five-win, eight-draw, 21-loss record.
Nelsen was appointed coach last month, ending his playing career both for New Zealand and in the English Premier League and becoming the club's eighth head coach into its seventh season.
Nelsen's lack of coaching experience or qualifications was a hot talking point in Toronto when he was appointed but his supporters believe his inspirational leadership qualities and ability to get the best out of people outweigh these factors.
The Reds have had mixed results in pre-season during the past few weeks, including losses to Major League Soccer sides Columbus Crew (1-0), Philadelphia Union (3-0) and Kansas City (1-0) as well as a 3-3 draw with Kansas City and a 3-0 win over third-tier side Orlando City.
They face Vancouver away on Sunday (NZT) before their first home match indoors at the Rogers Centre on March 10 (NZT) against Kansas City.
Their first match at BMO Field, their regular outdoor home venue which, in the latter stages of winter, is not yet prepared for use, is on March 30.