Major League Soccer (MLS) in the USA is enjoying a huge surge in popularity. Stars such as England legend David Beckham and France hero Thierry Henry paved the way for an influx of seasoned big names, and they were followed in summer 2011 by former Germany stalwart Torsten Frings, who opted for a new adventure with Toronto FC after a 14-year career in the Bundesliga.
Around a year later, the combative midfielder remains in upbeat mood, although the two-time FIFA World Cup™ participant is deeply unhappy about his club’s current plight, as they languish bottom of the Eastern Conference, 17 points adrift of DC United who occupy the final play-off place. The Canadians have only managed five victories in 24 games, and their record shows no fewer than 14 defeats. However, despite the lowly league position, the Toronto captain is not the kind of man to go looking for excuses.
“Personally, I'm feeling good," he said, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com. "Professionally, reaching the [2011/12 CONCACAF] Champions League semi-finals was a huge success for the club. Unfortunately, our start to this season while I was sidelined with injury was a complete disaster. We're so far off the play-offs it's basically almost unachievable, but we won't give up until it becomes mathematically impossible," the player added in typically defiant fashion.
The reigning Canadian champions at least have the consolation of building on their international success from the previous year. Frings’ men ran up a convincing 5-1 success against El Salvador club CD Aguila in their first group stage fixture in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2012/13. They now go head-to-head with group favourites Santos Laguna from Mexico on 28 August.
Football man through and through
For the 35-year-old midfielder, the elite competition in North, Central America and the Caribbean represents a last chance of international success. Frings’ contract expires at the end of 2013, when the 1.82m man will be 37. He has not decided whether to stay on a year in Canada or potentially switch clubs.
“Basically, this was planned to be my final club before returning to Bremen, because I've liked it here right from the start," said the former Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich stalwart. "Naturally, I intend to stay in football. It's no secret that I could imagine joining the coaching staff in the youth section at Bremen, allowing me to pass on my knowledge and experience to the younger lads."
It's possible it might have been better for me personally if I'd been a little less forthright. But everything I've done was in pursuit of success, and for the team.
The man capped 79 times by Germany is too absorbed and consumed by football to leave the game, and will certainly pass on a lot more than mere footballing skills to a new generation. Frings, a fan of big cars and striking tattoos, has always been a straight talker, an attribute he feels explains his successful career so far, at least in part.
“I don't regret always forming my own opinion and speaking up for it," he said. "It's possible it might have been better for me personally if I'd been a little less forthright. But everything I've done was in pursuit of success, and for the team. The most important thing is always to have respect for others, even when you disagree."
Looking towards 2014
This philosophy, applicable both on and off the field, has undeniably taken the father of two a long way. A German championship winner with Bayern, Frings also lifted the German Cup three times. With the national squad, he was a FIFA World Cup runner-up in 2002, third at the tournament on home soil in 2006, and a runner-up again at UEFA EURO 2008. It comes as no surprise that the former international regular continues to keep a close eye on the current Germany side, and his opinions are those of an expert.
“This team plays wonderful football and has more talent in a single generation than ever before. But the unconditional and absolute will to win starts in your head," stated Frings, referencing a debate in Germany over a perceived lack of ruthless winners in the current team. "Bayern Munich haven't hired Matthias Sammer for nothing. He embodies that spirit, and in his time in charge of the German junior teams, he showed what can happen if everything else is made secondary to success."
For all that, the midfielder thinks Germany are set for a significant role at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. “Obviously, Brazil as the host nation will do everything they can to keep the Trophy at home. There are still two years to go and anything can still happen, but our team is heading in the right direction."