In the days after his appointment as head coach of the Philippines women’s national team, Western United boss Mark Torcaso details in a KEEPUP Studios exclusive how the move came to be, his ambitions and managing two teams at the same time.
Mark Torcaso can certainly attest to knowing how much can change in the space of 12 months.
This time last year, Torcaso had never coached at the highest of level of Australian football. He was gearing up for another tilt at NPLW Victoria success with Calder United, along with preparing to take over Western United ahead of their introduction to the Liberty A-League.
Now, he’s the reigning Liberty A-League Coach of the Year off the back of his exploits with Western and is set to embark on his latest coaching journey – taking on the role as manager of Philippines’ women’s national football team.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” Torcaso told KEEPUP, as he reflected on the last 12 months.
“It’s only due to the fact that I’ve got huge support from the club from Western United, from the players, from St Monica’s my school and now with the Philippines.
“You’re only able to do what you can do because of the support you get. If I didn’t have this support from Western… I wouldn’t be able to do this and the same goes for my other job with St Monica’s and with Philippines now.
“The journey’s been amazing because of that and even with my support staff at Western. These are the people that help with the journey to make it the best, so it’s been overwhelming but also I’ve been grounded because I’ve got those people around me that can support me.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be interesting and we’ll just take it every day as it comes.”
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Torcaso sat down with KEEPUP only days after the announcement was made that he would be Alen Stajcic’s successor as head coach of the Filipinas following their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup exit.
It’s something that – in his words – he never saw coming.
“It was a bit of a shock because obviously we’re preparing for an A-League season here and, to have that phone call, it was very overwhelming,” he said.
“I actually had to ring a few people first to find out if it was a legit phone call!
“Pretty proud and excited by it, and just excited to basically get started.”
In fact, when the initial phone call happened to see if he was interested in the role, he had to get in touch with one of his now, former players and Philippines international Angie Beard to see if it was real.
“I did ring her and I actually asked her, do you know anything about this?,” Because I didn’t believe the phone call initially,” he said.
“She goes: ‘Mark, you’d be great at this level’. It was great to hear that from a player who I’d coached for many years but I’m looking forward to working with her in that environment.
“We’ve got another player, Jackie Sawicki, who’s our captain at Western, who also is in the Philippines team, so it’d be great to work with both of them in an elite, professional environment.
“But also it’d be good to see how they continue to progress and develop as players as well and I’m glad that I’m part of that and Angie’s been a very important part of my coaching journey as a player and she’s supported me for many, many years.”
Torcaso joked that the two are almost joint at the hip, having worked together for many years at Calder and most recently, Western, before her move to Swedish powerhouse Linkoping FC this week.
“I’ve had a long journey with Angie. I coached her at Calder as well many, many years ago,” he said.
“So she’s probably sick of my face, to be honest!”
Torcaso faces a unique set of circumstances once he gets into the weeds of coaching the Philippines, as he prepares to juggle not one but two senior coaching roles at the same time.
It’s a scenario that’s not completely foreign to coaches throughout the history of the game, including legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson – who coached both Aberdeen and Scotland at the same time – and more locally, Ricki Herbert (Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand).
The Liberty A-League Coach of the Year, however, is ready to embrace what’s ahead, believing he has the support staff around him to make it work, with A-Leagues legend Andrew Durante and South Melbourne NPL Technical Director Sinisa Cohadzic joining him as assistants of the national team.
“I wouldn’t compare it to Sir Alex Ferguson, but he did it many years ago as well,” he said.
“Unfortunately in the women’s game, you don’t have a lot of full-time opportunities, so the two roles effectively makes up for a full-time role.
“Western is only full time for a certain amount of time and with the Philippines, it’ll be full time for the whole year now, I guess.
“I know that I can manage it. I’ve worked in spaces where I’ve had to manage, dual roles in other areas. It’s about creating a good staff around you as well and the support network and, bringing Dura (Andrew Durante) and Sinisa (Cohadzic) is going to be very important for us because they’re good coaches.
“They know what I want and what I expect so that their support is critical, but also from a Western United perspective, we’ve got the right people at Western for when I’m absent from training, that they’ll be able to look after that as well.
“I’m actually excited by it because it’s going to be a challenge. It’s literally doing football every day, thinking about football every day. I’m excited by it, but know there’s going to be some challenges and it’s just about what you do when those challenges are there and how you literally fix it.”
Torcaso is determined to make the most of this opportunity as well, using the support of his family as an inspiration.
“When that phone call came, it wasn’t even like I needed to look or talk to anyone else about it,” he said.
“Obviously, my family is really important. I spoke to my wife and we spoke to the kids about it and it was very important for us to make a decision that was best for us, but also best for my football career.
“It was crazy not to take this opportunity. Probably my family is the one that’s been inspiring for me to do this because they’ve accommodated and supported me through this whole time.
“You can compare it to people like Sir Alex Ferguson where they’ve juggled it and there’s other places, other sporting codes that do these type of things too.
“I’m inspired by my family and the support that they’ve given me and that’s the fire and the drive, I guess that I’ve got to make sure that I do it right, so I can give back to them what they’ve given me.”
Philippines were one of the great stories of this year’s Women’s World Cup, after securing qualification for the first time under Stajcic’s tutelage.
Torcaso’s predecessor led the Filipinas to an incredible 1-0 victory over co-hosts New Zealand in Wellington, before falling short of qualification for the Round of 16 after they were beaten by Norway in their final group-stage game.
He understands the expectations are heightened as a result of their success this winter, but hopes to continue the good work left by Stajcic as they embark on a new chapter.
“It’s important to note, every coach has got their own different way of the way they coach and the way they approach situations,” he said.
“It’s important to have the success and I guess continue that on, but it’s also critical for us to bring our own style and way that we want to bring our coaching, which hopefully brings the girls to another level or a different level.
“It’s going to be hard to match getting to a World Cup, but our challenge is that we want to be the best that we can to help the players become the best they can.
“The success was great for Staj but now it’s obviously a different chapter and we’ll hopefully, impact it as good, hopefully better. We’ll just have a good crack at it.”
Torcaso’s first set of games in charge will be in September at the upcoming Asian Games, before Olympic Qualifiers in October, where he will face the Matildas.
He remained coy about what sort of brand he’s style of football he’s bringing to the team, but hopes to implement a solid culture from the off.
“I don’t know if we’d call it Mark Torcaso football, but we’ll definitely call it football,” he said.
“It’s about creating a really nice environment and setting. Every sort of environment I’ve been in, if it’s here at Western, even at Calder (United) or even St Monica’s – the school I work at – is just trying to create an environment where everyone really wants to be there for each other and work for each other.
“I probably can’t comment too much on the style yet because I need to touch base with the players and work out what actually they want and how they want to continue their football.
“For me it’s just bringing in a togetherness type of culture and environment that everyone wants to be there for each other, not just the players, but also for the staff and then build from that.
“Then hopefully we see some results and my brand or I guess our style will come out there at that point.”
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Mark Torcaso CV
- Head coach Philippines women’s national team: August 2023 – present
- Head coach Western United A-League Women: July 2022 – present
- Head coach Calder United NPLW VIC: December 2015 – 2023
- Head coach Bundoora United women’s team
- Head coach Whittlesea Zebras Under-16 girls
- Director of Football St Monica’s College Epping: January 2001 – present
- Goalkeeper coach Melbourne Victory A-League Women: December 2013 – December 2015
- Head goalkeeper coach NTC Girls: August 2010 – August 2015