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Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Unlikely stories in 2010

Well 2010 is upon us. It's the future ya know?! Another year without jetpacks, flying cars and Roy Scheider isn't any closer to Jupiter, God rest his soul. Oh well, at least football still exists... until the robot uprising of course. Then it will all be Chelsea Robotics and their rich Robo-Owner "AbramoBot" buying all the best robots from around the world. Until then though, our 99% human Toronto FC will play on and hope that 2010 doesn't create these headlines...

11. De Ro gone for season after freak lawnmower / corn row accident

10. Montreal gets MLS expansion - League bans term "Tabernac!" from all stadiums

9. Strike at Carlsberg - supporters forced to drink own tears

8. Players forced to train extra 2 hours a day to learn how to pronounce Preki's full name

7. MLS labour dispute cancels season - Pro Bocce Ball League moves to BMO

6. Bitchy The Hawk goes crazy - dozens injured, pecked

5. Reality show featuring out of work footballer debuts - "Roaming With Ricketts" a ratings disaster

4. TFC promotions department lauded as local kids invited on-field to "Pet Julian De Guzman's hair"

3. Chad Barrett starts new "Goals For The Environment" charity - global warming rises by 20%

2. Canadian Championship shocker as Nutrilite Cup won by "Baltimore CSL Colts"

1. Chip Butty... is people!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TFC Media League - Championship

------------------------The coveted Graham Legatt Trophy

The TFC Media League has come to an end as 2009 draws to a close. For those of you who may not have followed the race, The Yorkies' TFC Media League is a competition to track which of Toronto's main media outlets best covers Toronto FC through the year. The winner is awarded the Graham Legatt Trophy named for the venerable Scottish host of TSN's old Soccer Saturday program.

2009 was quite a year for following TFC and there were no shortage of stories. The early season promise, the Miracle in Montreal, the Putrid in Puerto Rico, Carver's departure, Dichio's retirement, Real Madrid's visit and so many more stories have filled the airwaves and pages. However, only one outlet could be champion and the very tight race for the title came to a close this week.

The Toronto Star takes the first annual Graham Legatt Trophy narrowly edging their derby rivals Red Sun Toronto aka The Toronto Sun. All sports radio station The Fan 590 had a solid showing as did Gerry, Craig and the Sportsnet gang. The Globe & Mail were surprisingly strong but the big shock was how truly poor TSN's showing was. The "Sports" Network treated TFC with just slightly better coverage than that annual Hot Dog Eating competition. Lucky for TSN the TFC Media League is like MLS and doesn't yet have relegation.

With that, 2010 is about to dawn as is the new Media League season. Let us know if you think any other Toronto media outlets (not including football specific ones) deserve to play in 2010. Congrats to the Toronto Star and may 2010 have even better coverage from all the teams who are aiming for the Graham Legatt Trophy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dear St. Nick... not Garcia

Dear Santa,

We are a football team from Toronto, Canada and this year we were very good boys. We may not be the best team around but we try not to get too many red cards and we often let other teams win so they will feel good about themselves. Our dad Mo says we are a great bunch of boys even if our new Uncle Preki doesn't seem to like all of us.

Here is our Christmas wish list Santa. We hope you can bring us everything we ask for. Please don't make Little Chad cry. We will leave you out a Chip Butty and a Carlsberg on Christmas Eve before we go to bed. Sorry we don't have a chimney - watch out for the hawk, she bites.

- Permanent Argos Repellent
- Some decent pre-game music
- Chip Butty stain remover
- An Automatic Corn Row Setter
- A Kick-Ass new lawnmower
- A new Fitness Coach
- A year's supply of Hawk-Chow
- Make all of our games only 75 minutes long
- Some new African trialists
- Please make MLSE love us
- Oh, and 2 defenders, 2 wingers and an established striker

Thanks Santa, oh… if you have an extra MLS Cup in your sack, that would be great too!

Love, The Reds.


Monday, December 21, 2009

The 12 Days of BMO

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Mo Johnston sent to me...

Twelve Hundred seats expanding,
Eleven Preki's Preking,
Ten hawks a-Bitching,
Nine Serioux' a-tackling,
Eight Garcia's own-goaling
Seven Frei's a-saving
Six Chad goals a-missing
Five De Ro cornrows,
Four African trialists,
Three late goals,
Two expensive friendlies,
And a day old Chip Butty for free!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

John Carver returns in Argyle

What is usually England's quietest outpost for football, the West Country, has been the centre of attention for the last two days. First came the news yesterday that Plymouth Argyle's Home Park was listed as one of the venues if England wins the right to host the 2018 World Cup. This was indeed a surprising coup for the Devonshire town.

OK, today's news isn't quite as major a coup but ex-TFC boss John Carver is joining Paul Mariner's management team at Argyle as assistant. Mariner, who was the long time New England Revolution assistant is very aware of Carver from their time in MLS and is "thrilled" to have the robust Geordie join him. For Carver, it is a chance to get back to coaching basics and relate to players without the stress of management.

Never shy to say what was on his mind, Carver left Toronto under strange circumstances early in the 2009 season but did leave town without a bad word. If he does continue to climb back up through the coaching ranks in England, TFC fans will have to wonder how true the excuses given for his sudden departure were. For the football fans in Devonshire - World Cup 2018 and John Carver? Spoiled!

Preki starts the TFC clear-out

A day after the news broke that Amado Guevara was about to sign with Honduran club CD Motagua, TFC confirmed that they were indeed releasing the midfielder. Along with Guevara, two players who were touted as rising stars of the future when they were signed, Pablo Vitti and Lesly Fellinga, were also dispatched.

When Mo Johnston signed Vitti on loan from Independiente of Argentina (after seeing him in a friendly) you could have been forgiven for thinking the Reds had signed Pele Maradona Jr. Johnston was crowing about the great skills of the young Argentine but it became quickly apparent that Vitti lacked one major skill needed in a striker - scoring. TFC already has a striker who can't strike in Chad Barrett, so as of today - one is enough.

Johnston had also shown a great deal of enthusiasm for Lesly Fellinga when the Haitian Not-So-Sensation joined TFC from the Netherlands midway through last season. Another of Mo's "hidden gems" that obviously will never shine at this level. However, Preki seems to have Johnston's ear on who is in and who is out and will hopefully be the one to bring in replacements. At the very least, we won't have to hear Johnston proclaiming yet another mediocre reserve is the "next great thing".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

THE WORD: Adios Amado? Guevara returning to Honduras?

Reports are coming out of Central America tonight that Amado Guevara is set to leave Toronto FC in order to return to his native Honduras. Numerous reports in Latin American publications claim that the mercurial midfielder is about to sign a two year deal to play for CD Motagua. An uncredited quote apparently from Guevara states "I'm excited, it's what I expected. I come to retire in Motagua, that was my big dream." Wow, shoot for the stars there dreamer.

The fact that this has come out of the Honduran blue is mildly surprising but Guevara's possible departure from TFC is not. The writing was on the wall the day that Preki was announced as manager. Preki already dispatched Guevara once and the new manager's body language showed no great affection towards the former MLS MVP. It would be hard for Preki to start off fresh with a moody elephant in the room.

Guevara has been an enigma with TFC. Flashes of dominance and a deft scoring touch have always been marred by an on-field air of petulance and a lack of desire. Many times when the Reds' have been screaming for a veteran to take control of a game, Guevara was barely visible. A new era is beginning in TFC's midfield and perhaps this move will turn out to be addition by subtraction.


Double Blue won't move to home of the Reds

The fears of many Toronto FC supporters were eased today as reports then confirmation arrived announcing that the Toronto Argonauts can and will not move to BMO Field in 2010. What started out as loud whispers from the CFL Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas was later confirmed by the Argos themselves. After studies were completed, BMO Field was proclaimed as not currently equipped to house gridiron properly.

The main stumbling block of the proposed move was that without an estimated 15-20 Million Dollar retro-fit of BMO, a CFL regulation size field could not fit within the current confines. Credit must be given to the CFL for not bending on a feature of their game that indeed makes it different from the NFL. Allowing the Argos to bend such a big aspect of their sport would have been a black-eye for the league and it seems as if that message was loud and clear.

There were other factors that came into play such as the inadequate size of TFC's locker rooms and general gameday facilities that are far too small for a gridiron team. Without the money being available to make these changes to BMO, the league was not interested in coddling two owners whose recent commitment to the Argos has been in question.

The Argos ownership team of Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon immediately released a statement proclaiming the great virtues of their current home, the Rogers Centre, and its many great features which their fans love. No doubt a quick move of damage control on their part as this whole proposal has been mired in controversy and ill will on both sides of the football from the get go. What the stadium decision does to their status as team owners is anyone’s guess.

It is now up to Cynamon and Sokolowski to negotiate a new deal with Rogers Centre that suits their interests as much as possible. Many TFC fans are no doubt hoping it can be a solid 4 or 5 year lease so that this story doesn't continue to be an annual Boatmen tradition. In the meantime, MLSE will hopefully continue to tailor BMO Field for TFC/ CSA football only and the club and the sport can have security in the fact that BMO Field is indeed "Our House".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Paul Winsper leaves TFC - Ali Gerba exhales

TFC players with a sweet tooth can rejoice! The Reds' notoriously tough fitness coach Paul Winsper has announced that he will be leaving the club at the end of the year to take a new role at athletic wear giant/ South East Asian Employer of the Month - Nike.

Winsper, whose TFC contract ends at the end of this month, will move his family to Nike's Beaverton, Oregon Imperial base after a two-and-a-half year relationship with Toronto FC. Widely renknowned in the football world as a no nonsense type of guy, his signing was seen as quite a coup for TFC at the time. Winsper had spent a decade at Newcastle United prior to joining TFC and has garnered a lot of respect from his proteges - except maybe the chubby ones.

The Reds' did show some improvement in fitness over the last year or so but their late game stamina was also often questioned. A fitness coach with the reputation of Winsper is hard to come by but there is no reason why TFC can't put together an equally good program. With the new regime headed by Preki, perhaps it isn't a bad time for a change. Good luck to you Paul, somewhere Collin Samuel is raising a chocolate glazed in your honour.

THE STARTING 11: Mo Johnston player recruiting secrets

The off season is fully under way and it's time for Mo Johnston to start eyeing up players for the 2010 version of TFC. It's not as easy as watching Scottish First Division highlights on YouTube and pointing or taking an annual vacation... I mean scouting trip, to Brazil. No, Mo has to sell BMO Field to potential players - but not to fear, the wily Scot has a few tricks up his sleeve...

11. He texts players in the middle of the night: U wuld look so GR8 in red!

10. If new signings fail at TFC they get a walk-on shot as the Argos' new kicker

9. Adrian Serioux stands behind Mo during negotiations cracking his knuckles menacingly

8. Free Marlies tickets!

7. Hangs around Scottish pubs asking "Do you play any soccer?"

6. Bitchy the Hawk circles potential players' homes ominously until they sign

5. Romantic strolls around Exhibition Place followed by dinner and a show at Medieval Times

4. An Esquire Watch, Purolator Game Ball and a 50-50 ticket as a signing bonus

3. You get to live in Mo's basement with half a dozen Ivory Coast trialists

2. Tells players that they "can be the next Olivier Tebily!"

1. Lures players into BMO Field with a Chip Butty tied to a string

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MLS needs playoff elimination

A few weeks after the MLS Cup Final and outside of maybe Utah, the new Champs - Real Salt Lake, are but a distant memory. The sadder part of the 2009 MLS Playoff residue however is that the two teams who really should have been battling for the title, Columbus and Houston, are a mere footnote in the league's yearbook. It is the biggest downfall of the current MLS Playoff system that the best teams in this league often become discarded soon after the regular season ends.

It is time that MLS stops trying to pander to the "new fan" in North America and starts catering to the established fan who is used to the system used in most parts of the football world. Yes, there are a few leagues around the globe that use some form of playoffs but the top leagues, which most MLS supporters watch in the off-season, reward the best team in the regular season as their champion. There are arguments that North American sport needs playoffs but that is a lazy insult to the intelligence of American and Canadian fans.

It is possible in a few easy changes to create a system in MLS that not only rewards the best club as its champion but also keeps a form of "playoff" style knockout to please the TV advertisers and Soccer Mom panderers. The league has failed when it has tried to "North Americanize" the game but succeeded when it has embraced football's world culture. With that in mind, here is a possible tweak to MLS to push it that much closer to full footy legitimacy.

The first and foremost act is to eliminate the outdated and irrelevant East and West Conference structure. No one is fussed by these false geographical rivalries and in the last two MLS Cup Finals, both clubs were from the same conference. The time to switch to a single table is now. With 18-20 clubs in MLS by 2012, the league can operate a home and home schedule much the same as you will find in England, Spain, Italy or other major leagues. Running along the same time frame as it does now but with the elimination of playoffs, would allow the league to keep more dates open for FIFA conflicts all the while crowning the MLS Champion at the end of the year to the team with the most points.

The no-playoff idea always brings up fear mongering that claims North Americans won't go see their team if they are out of the race. Attendance would probably take a very minor hit but could be helped through a restructuring of the MLS Cup. Changed to play out like the FA Cup or any number of national cups, the revamped MLS Cup would start in late August with all 16 teams entering a one game knockout tourney. With the dates free from the elimination of the old playoffs, the first two rounds could be played out at the same time for all clubs until 4 clubs are left. In order to keep interest in cities that may be out of the championship race the Semi-Final could be played a week before the end of the regular season while the Final would take place a week after the completion of the regular season, much like the FA Cup is in England.

While it may take a while for some casual MLS fans to warm to the new style, a few years in would see the club with the most points be widely accepted as the true Champion of the league. The MLS Champ and the MLS Cup Winner would both still receive Champions League berths and in addition the US Open Cup and the Canadian Championship would add more than enough playoff style competition for the casual fan.

MLS has made some great strides in the past 5 years and now the time has come to continue its' maturation process as well as respecting the maturing football culture in North America who fill MLS stadiums and want their league to be as good as any in the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Surprises during TFC's "Pub Crawls"

Toronto FC supporters may be facing a long winter full of worries about player signings, the new manager and filthy stinking Argonauts but it sure doesn't stop the TFC marketing machine. The annual "Pub Crawls" have been recently under way featuring drunken Reds' supporters fawning over slightly frightened TFC players. Despite the good times though, there are always a few surprises...

11. The bar tab always ends up with De Guzman

10. Mo Johnston plans to study the menu for 4 or 5 years before rushing into any decisions

9. Rohan Ricketts is on trial at Jack Astor's as Assistant Dishwasher

8. MLSE only charges $50 for fans to buy players' used napkins

7. Ali Gerba broke the Dance Dance Revolution machine

6. Crowd always sings at Dichio after his 24th nacho

5. Collin Samuel showed up. Wings: sold out

4. Fans incenced by total lack of Chip Butty options on menu

3. Adrian Serioux gets very angry if his cocktails aren't served with dainty umbrellas

2. Andy Welsh was the head waiter

1. The team decided to do shots - Chad Barrett missed his mouth

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ex Board approves 1249 future empty seats

As expected, the Exhibition Place board approved MLSE's proposal to expand the north end of BMO Field by 1200 or so seats. The plan will now proceed to Toronto City Council in the New Year for a final checkmark which will probably be met with little resistance. A short while ago this would have been joyous news for TFC fans. However, thanks to the Toronto Argonauts, it is just insult to injury.

The CFL team is pursuing a move to BMO Field with an aggression that increases by the day. They are now openly telling their season ticket holders that they can get refunds or relocation if and when it happens - possibly as soon as the 2010 season. The fact that TFC, the Canadian Soccer Association and a grass pitch are the main tenants is merely an afterthought.

The CFL meanwhile is rapidly pushing through a feasibility study regarding Argos-to-BMO. While terms like "tentative" and "far from certain" are thrown about, many TFC fans can feel the CFL's desperation to save the floundering Boatmen. Even if it means making a mockery of the standard CFL surface, you can't help but feel that the league will shoehorn the Argos into BMO in a lame attempt to "save" the team.

TFC supporters can expect no help from the municipal government as they will take whatever option gets them a quick buck. Sadly, this is very short-sighted. The day the Argos and their turf-tearing cleats attached to 300 pound linebackers show up at BMO, the soccer set in Toronto can kiss all of the massive strides the sport has taken here good-bye.

There will be no future World Cup Qualifiers or international friendlies, no more big time Real Madrid-esque matches and worst of all Toronto FC will enter a slide that it may never come out of. Why? Because the CFL will destroy the pitch both physically and visually to the point where real football can no longer co-exist at an elite level.

The international teams and high level club teams will refuse to play on a ripped up, crater-filled pitch and it won't be long before MLS players opt not to play for TFC because of the risk of injury. The fans meanwhile will leave bit by bit. Purist fans will not watch any club play on gridiron lines with giant Wendy's and Rona ads emblazoned across the field. And before you think that they will scrub out the lines - think again. The close schedules of TFC and the Argos but mainly the cost attached will see that this doesn't ever happen.

In the end, the city may well agree to allow the north end to be expanded but it is what is on the field that will inevitably decide the success of the young stadium. We just hope that these decision makers have to face the music in a few years time when TFC are drawing tiny crowds as they play on gridiron and the Argos eventually start talking of moving to a bigger stadium.

Meanwhile, the revenue from a host of FIFA matches will have disappeared to Montreal and Edmonton and as TFC slides into oblivion, right-wing meatheads will cackle "see, soccer just can't work here". We can wish that this is a "far from certain" nightmare scenario but barring major protests or MLSE flexing some serious muscle it suddenly feels very imminent.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Waters around Boatmen story grow murkier

The Argos-to-BMO Field story is truly becoming an annoyance. Just when fans of either TFC or indeed the Argos think they know which way the wind is blowing, something shifts. Everyday that goes by seems to generate a new rumour and a resolution seems more distant.

The North End expansion proposed by MLSE is due to go before the Exhibition Place Board on Friday but little more has been said about it. Even if it passes the Ex hurdle, City Hall will be another unknown until January. It is still a plan in its early stages and who knows if it would even be enough to stop the gridiron from moving in.

The CFL is rapidly pursuing its study on the feasibility of the Argos playing at BMO by 2010 and that will be due in late December. One feels that the CFL is so insanely desperate to save the floundering Argos that they will indeed be willing to damage their league's integrity by allowing one of its' storied franchises to play on a much shorter field than the rest of the league.

The Argos to BMO move seems far more rooted in the Argos' ownership's attempt to add to the value of the club in their quest to sell the team and not in their fans' best interest. In fact, ask most Argos fans about the idea and they are lukewarm at best. If the idea is indeed rooted in a greedy powerplay then it will inevitably be a failure and sadly one that sucks TFC down with it.

The CFL club's ownership is another giant looming question mark. Current owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski seem desperate to offload the club with BC Lions owner David Braley seeming to be the only party interested. Whether Braley, an ardent CFL backer, would be willing to let the Argos play a bastardized version of the game is anyone's guess. That is of course if he really is the only other party interested.

Despite vehement objections to the idea, TFC owners and old man Monopoly-style tycoons, MLSE, have been whispered to be interested. MLSE head honcho/ gazillionaire Larry Tanenbaum spent much of the Grey Cup week palling around with the CFL Board of Directors. It may be harmless association but indeed pricked up the ears of a few locals, especially those fearful of a new BMO tenant.

Quite possibly nothing is going on between the Argos and MLSE... but never say never. Could the Bay Street Bankers have their eye on the pigskin as a pre-cursor to an NFL purchase? Getting a new football (gridiron not real) stadium would be a lot easier with the goodwill of politicians who may see MLSE as a saviour of the dear old Double Blue wouldn't it? Pie in the sky maybe - but until this is finally settled, anything is possible. In the meantime TFC supporters' dreams of a stable future are being held hostage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TFC Media League - Round 8

The TFC Media League is a month away from crowning its' first champion and winner of the Graham Leggat Trophy. It has been a two-horse race for the top spot between The Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun and it is still too close to pick a winner.

The recent news of "Argo-Gate II: The Pinballing of BMO" has shaken up things in the middle of the pack with The Globe & Mail being the surprise mover as of late. With a month to go, a lot can still happen - except for TSN getting out of last that is. Pathetic.

If you want to follow the race and see which media outlet provided the best TFC coverage in 2009, just scroll down the right side of the page and check out the table. 30 days left and all to play for.

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE WORD: MLSE trying to block Argos' punt to BMO?

----------------------Football only. No football allowed.

Just when the Argos looked like they were about to cross into a new BMO Field end zone, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment called an audible. Announcements have arisen today that an immediate North End expansion to BMO Field in a football (FIFA not CFL) configuration has been proposed to the City Of Toronto.

The plan would see MLSE stump up the complete cost (approximately $2 Million) to add a permanent stand rising above the current beer garden which would have 1249 new seats. The proposal will be put forward for approval to the Exhibition Place board this Friday and if it succeeds that hurdle, would go before city council in January. If this follows the same level of success that the new grass did, the TFC fans will be able to see the new stand in time for the 2010 season opener.

Of course, the most important element of this plan is the potential to stymie any power play by the Argos to squeeze their way into the soccer-specific stadium. Poured concrete and tightly fitted stands would leave very little wiggle room to put in an American size field let alone the giant dimensions of a CFL field.

Is this a serious shot right back at the Argos by MLSE? Yes and no. The reality is likely that MLSE's accountants figured that the revenue they could gain from International friendlies, like last summer's Real Madrid visit, and Team Canada matches far outweighs the potential revenue from Argos regular season matches. Even CFL full houses don't give The Bay Street bankers the one night mega millions like The Galacticos did.

Whatever the reason for MLSE's sudden willingness to spend their own cash on expansion is, TFC supporters should be thankful - and that is hard to get out of my mouth. If this plan does not pass then we know that the pro-gridiron faction is too strong at City Hall and the Argos are a shoe-in to be shoe-horned into BMO.

Let's hope Mayor Miller isn't a lame duck yet and can push this plan through fast and easily. If the Mayor can get it done, every TFC supporter (no matter what your political stripe is) owes him a beer for keeping the pointy-ball types out for good and saving this club's long-term future. And yes, as hard as it is to swallow pride - we will have to thank Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. I just threw up in my mouth a bit.


Friday, November 27, 2009

THE WORD: TFC's future about to be blitzed?

----------------------Coming soon to a BMO Field near you

This time you have to think it's for real. The Toronto Argonauts owners are aggressively petitioning The City of Toronto and the CFL to move the team to BMO Field. When this has been rumoured in the past it was always ignored as hot air from the Argos' camp but this time politicians are weighing in and it's bad news for Toronto FC supporters.

Numerous councillors including Joe Pantalone are already backing the plan if the Argos and the CFL can get their act together. Changes will have to be made to BMO Field to incorporate the long field and eliminate the curved stands currently used for real football leaving BMO as an awful place to watch a TFC match. The worst change will of course be the pitch, completely covered with gridiron lines, Rona and Wendy's ads and huge chunks out of the grass that TFC supporters begged for for three years.

Many TFC supporters will believe that MLSE will ride in and save the day but so far they are playing the victim. They will quietly cry foul that the mean city took away their soccer stadium all the while rubbing their hands with glee at the extra revenue they will receive from another 9 or 10 events. Don't look to MLSE to "protect the soccer experience" if it means getting in the way of a few extra bucks.

MLSE will believe that nothing can destroy the faithful TFC supporters, they are after all "Leafs Fans 2.0" right? Wrong. One season of soccer on gridiron will be all it takes to deliver the death blow to Toronto FC. Football has been successful this time around in Toronto because it looks like football and that's what Torontonian's like. It will look like bush-league NASL re-runs with the Argos influence on BMO Field and Toronto fans will react by not showing up.

This may be more opinion rather than fact-based, but remember where you read it first if and when it does happen. If the Argos move into BMO Field, TFC will become an off the field failure within two seasons and be sold to David Beckham's consortium so that they can be re-located to New York and become the Nu-Cosmos. If this sounds impossible, we will leave you with this quote from Toronto Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone - “We’re prepared to get married, but we need a proper proposal. Absolutely (an Argos move to BMO Field), would be good for Exhibition Place, the city, and the CFL.” Sounds like a touchdown.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Union take a pass on TFC's extras

The grinding of teeth you may have heard this afternoon would have been Preki's when he realized that MLS new boys Philadelphia didn't make his life easier. Amado Guevara would seem to be the 300 pound headache in the TFC dressing room and the new manager was likely hoping that Union would relieve him of the Honduran. But alas, Philadelphia did not select any of TFC's unprotected lot and Guevara will have to be dealt with by Team Preki another day.

Good news however would be that TFC manages to hold on to Brian Edwards as their back-up goalkeeper. Despite the 5-o drubbing by New York at the end of the season, which no one should blame Edwards for, he is a very capable # 2 to Stefan Frei and the duo make a nice tandem.

So The Reds stay intact for another day with changes most likely on the horizon. The only real negative to come out of today was that Chad Barrett's inclusion on the protected list actually wasn't a joke and he will most likely be starting on day one of 2010. Maybe the new NASL is having a draft - he'd look great as an Atlanta Silverback!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To swerve and protect

--------------"I know, I can't believe I'm protected either Amado!"

You would like to think that tomorrow's MLS Expansion Draft is on the up and up but you can't help but wonder what negotiations and side deals were cut with new boys Philadelphia Union beforehand. TFC and the other existing clubs had to reveal their protected players yesterday and the names on the BMO Field list threw up some curiosities indeed.

On the protected side, the great Chad Barrett mystery continues. Where this Muppet garners his TFC respect from is shocking. What has he shown? Jim Brennan was a slight surprise as well and likely has to do more with "first player in" loyalty than any remaining quality. The only other interesting name was Adrian Serioux. The big Scarborough defender is a free agent and perhaps his protected status speaks to TFC's interest in re-signing "The Predator".

The unprotected list seems to highlight two areas of flux in the TFC line-up. Under-achievers (both mentally and physically) and those making big money. The hinted at attitude issues surrounding Amado Guevara as well as his history with new manager Preki make his status a no-brainer. The fact that he is going to the World Cup and makes a good wage also means he could be an unlikely candidate for Philly.

Patience seems to have run thin with Gabe Gala while the on-field production of Ali Gerba and Pablo Vitti made them available for drafting as well. The inclusion of Carl Robinson is most likely a safe one for TFC as Union won't want to spend 300K plus on a veteran who may very well leave MLS if it meant leaving Toronto.

With remaining choices being "The Human Own-Goal" Nick Garcia and the unproven Lesly Fellinga there is a good chance that Philly ends up looking at The Reds' back-up keeper Brian Edwards. It would be a shame for TFC to lose Edwards as he is a very capable number two to obvious starter Stefan Frei. At a good wage and with a good deal of MLS experience, Edwards may prove tempting.

In the end, it will come down to Philly's approach at team-building. If they go for the slow build (Not a Mo Johnston 20 year slow build) then Edwards may be a good choice for the Blue and Gold. If however, the Union of the Snake wants to replicate a Seattle and aim high, then perhaps former MVP Amado Guevara is the big ticket they seek. Something tends to make us believe that a certain Preki wouldn't shed a tear if the mercurial Honduran was on the first flight to the City of Brotherly Love.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Editorial: MLS championship a "Real" joke

Imagine the headlines in Europe this past May if Major League Soccer ruled UEFA: "Man United 1st in Premiership - 8th Place Tottenham new Champions". "Palermo Wins Scudetto after coming in 8th - Inter look to next year". How come that kind of absurdity seems so ridiculous everywhere in football but is accepted as a justified reality in MLS?

Kudos to Real Salt Lake for knocking off one MLS favourite after another on the way to the title but is this what North American football fans really want? The need for a playoff structure in North America is seemingly necessary to attract fans late in the season but the result is one that insults true football fans.

When you look at this policy of playoffs, which has made the likes of Columbus and Houston mere footnotes in 2009, you realize that it is just part of the problem that truly keeps MLS on the outside of the world football community. The problem is that the league is still far too obsessed at reaching out to marketing demographics rather than the core football supporter. While it is true that the casual fan is necessary for financial purposes, they are also the most fair weather and likely to disappear.

The true football supporter is often overlooked in MLS's quest to corner the Volvo Mom demographic and it is to its own detriment. If you consider the football friendly changes made in the last few years such as more football-only stadiums, club names and kits that don't look like roller hockey and standardized FIFA rules, they have all complimented a fairly good product. On the other hand, MLS's history of "dumbing down" the sport have all been abysmal failures that didn't attract new fans and alienated true fans.

It is time for MLS to take some more steps towards full football legitimacy and the playoff structure should be one of the first moves. There are many different structures that could be implemented to move MLS closer in line with the rest of the world while keeping its North American necessities. In the end, it's the football that counts and RSL, a sub-.500 club, as MLS Champions is a poor showing for the league. Changes are needed, they just need to be done by football minds - not marketing ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Great ExPrektations

To paraphrase Preki during his first TFC press conference - "he didn't blow smoke up anyone's... butt". Forgive Toronto supporters for smiling at that idea as we've been having our butts smoke blown (oh grow up) for three years plus. Most of that smoke has been blown by the other man at the press conference table today but in one of his main off-season duties, Mo Johnston succeeded.

Yes, Preki has indeed been handed the keys to the jalopy and named as Toronto FC's new head coach on a three year deal. Unlike most new coaches though, the straight-talking Serbian seemed to call it like it is. There were no grand statements about "how great the team is already", now false admission that TFC is "really close to winning" and no promises that things would change overnight.

The only promise Preki would give is that the days of TFC's locker room being an easy place to be are over with him as boss. He was optimistic about changing the character of the team work and instilling a hard work ethic. If any of the current squad thinks they are exempt, Preki offered this invitation to his new team "are you in or are you out?" Based on this past season, some are definitely out.

Preki likes to build his teams from the back and touts the importance of strong no-nonsense defence. "Defence builds championships" the new boss said, adding that he will "organize from the back". When asked about the already wafer thin back line, the coach said "we are looking at a couple of players already".

As far as the current squad goes, it seems as if Preki will not suffer fools easily and laziness will be punished. He famously did that at Chivas USA when he felt Amado Guevara was too lazy which most TFC fans can commiserate with. On the topic of inheriting Guevara again, all Preki would say was "Guevara had a good year for Toronto". Chilly was the best way to describe this part of the conference.

In the end, Preki laid it on the line when saying TFC "does not have enough players to win." This is of course a much different message than the one Mo has been saying throughout 2009 so now we will see where the truth lies. Preki can be successful in Toronto but Mo Johnston has to do two things: get the coach the players he needs and then get completely out of the way.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

THE WORD: Prek-tacular announcement soon?

The media reports are heating up that Mo Johnston, fresh of his Scottish Football Hall of Fame induction (insert joke here), will announce the signing of Preki (scientific name: Predrag Radosavljevic) as TFC's new manager. Sources are saying that negotiations are well under way and that an official announcement could come as early as Thursday.

There is no doubt that signing Preki would be considered a major coup for TFC's Scottish Lord so soon after the former MLS Coach of the Year's departure from Chivas USA. There is definitely surprise in these circles as many here thought that another no-name British coach are worse still Nick Dasovic/ Danny Dichio would be the likely outcome of Mo's search.

Mo seems to have been hit with the lucky stick on this one as he really didn't have to search hard at all nor make introductions. The two men have been teammates in MLS as well as England and no doubt have an existing relationship. What Mo will have to offer Preki to join TFC aka "Where coaching careers go to die", is another question.

Preki will not want to leave a situation where he had much control over personnel choices and line-ups to come to a worse team and be the puppet to a Director with itchy fingers. Preki will likely want a guaranteed establishment of powers such as a title of "Head Coach and Technical Director".

The one problem of that scenario is - suddenly Mo Johnston is the second smartest football man at MLSE. Will Mo be willing to put his neck on the line to acquire a coach that TFC desperately needs? For the sake of the club, supporters can hope that it's time we "deserve a Prek".


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Time for De Ro to get the credit he is due

Yesterday, Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario was named into this year's MLS Starting XI. It is the dynamic Scarborough native's fourth time on the year end honours and the third club he has done it with. Most notably, his appearance is the first for any TFC player.

While De Rosario is enough of a fan favourite, mostly from being local, it is fair to say that his star has yet to rise to high enough levels in Toronto. TFC without De Ro is a shockingly poor scenario. Where would this team have been this season with his 11 goals and game changing plays?

Expectations were indeed very high when De Ro arrived last winter and were perhaps too high. The midfielder has an abundance of talent but was often stymied by the lack of equal skill around him. The natural attacking midfielder was forced into scenarios where he had to shift to the wing or move far forward to compensate for Toronto's impotent strikers. The fact that he had to do so much heavy lifting actually caused him to be the target of criticism from some of BMO's less enlightened mob.

Hopefully this season's accolades will be enough to persuade The Reds' supporters to get behind De Ro more fervently than they did this year. He is after all a very rare commodity in today's professional game - a local boy who is not only the best on the team but one of the best in the league. It's time for De Ro to get the same treatment reserved for Danny Dichio. It's time to embrace the present and our best player in the club's history.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

THE WORD: All Day Prek-fest?

A surprising bit of rumour is making the rounds in the weekend papers that could possibly have some legs. Reports are linking the recently departed Chivas USA manager Preki to the vacancy on the Toronto FC bench.

The merit that this rumour has is that Preki, or Predrag Radosavljevic for our Serbian readers, was a long time teammate of Mo Johnston's at KC Wizards. Johnston seems to have a very limited network and often reaches out to ex-teammates and clients of his agent when jobs arise. A recent example of flying in a former comrade was this year's signing of veteran defensive stalwart Nick Garcia - and look how good that turned out!

Preki however, is no equivalent to Garcia. He is a quality MLS manager with a very good knowledge of the league. Here though lies the rub. Preki has been proven to be a tough manager who like to be in charge, something he would no doubt demand in any new bench boss role. If Mo Johnston thinks that because Preki was a former pal then he would in turn be happy to be the Scotsman's puppet, Mo will be wrong.

Preki famously fell out with TFC's Amado Guevara at Chivas and dispatched the petulant midfielder to Toronto without a second thought. He then quickly turned a poor Chivas team into a contender and was always the boss. With other rumoured job offers, such as an assistant on the USA Men's National Team, a TFC offer will have to give the former MLS Coach of the Year what he wants - to be fully in charge.

The question is, will Mo Johnston be willing to cut the puppet strings for the good of the team even if it means sticking his own neck out for once? Considering the TFC official site is mentioning Preki as a "candidate" means that there is some smoke to the fire.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

THE STARTING 11: MLS Playoff surprises

While we are no big fan of the playoff structure in MLS, it seems to be a necessary evil in a North American league for now. The 2009 MLS Playoffs have actually been quite good though with 3 out of the 4 teams who remain being deserving. Sometimes however, there are off the field occurrences which can be just as interesting...

11. Houston advance to Semi-Finals - Texan high school football gets better TV ratings

10. Rohan Ricketts is on trial to be a ball boy at the MLS Cup Final

9. Chivas USA claim they were thrown off by Beckham's homoerotic lumberjack beard

8. Dwayne De Rosario failed in attempt to dye his jersey from red back to orange

7. RSL called in religious "favours" from the Mormon Church - squad now has to convert

6. Steve Nicol blames loss on his uncontrollable laughter over rumours of him taking the Toronto FC job

5. Red Bulls still somehow lost despite not playing

4. Chad Barrett got a hat-trick... playing FIFA on X-BOX

3. Guillermo Schelotto is still laying on the ground

2. After Seattle's loss, Drew Carey found sad and drunk by the Plinko board

1. MLSE still claims that TFC has a "good shot" at the 2009 Playoffs

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Odds not good for quality new manager

Make no mistake - Mo Johnston needs to make more than a few good player acquisitions this winter in order to improve TFC. However, the decision that will have the deepest impact on The Reds will be who Johnston hires to manage the team. There are high expectations from the supporters but betting on a big name may not be smart.

There are a few serious warning signs to all prospective new managers. The football coaching fraternity is a small one and word of TFC's dysfunctional backroom will be legendary by now. Three managers in three seasons, a Director who seems to have too much control over the on-field decisions, a poor record of acquisitions and world-renowned penny pinching by the ownership hurts TFC as an attractive place to manage.

There are positives to taking a chance with The Reds, such as a half built squad, a good game-day atmosphere and a high level of media exposure (at least in MLS terms) but the negatives may be quite the hurdle for the top level candidates to overcome. We take a look now at some of our odds on the type of possible new managers:

Very little chance of an established international manager at Toronto. The simple stumbling block would be cost. MLSE has a tradition of hiring the lowest cost coach available and will not be willing to spend big money on a big name that the Board has never heard of. Not necessarily a bad thing though - remember Ruud Gullit in Los Angeles?

The fans' choice right now would be Steve Nicol of New England with others like Canada's own Frank Yallop getting talked up as well. The reason these kinds of managers will be wary of Toronto is simple. They are strong men who like to be in charge and will not want to be told what to do through the puppet master style of Mo Johnston. A manager like Nicol will want a level of control over personnel that Johnston won't hand over - it would put his job on the line far too easily. Johnston wants to be the only brain in town.

Unfortunately the most experienced MLS assistant Paul Mariner, formerly of New England, has returned to England but there are still some experienced men out there who are looking for their first chance at being in charge. MLSE may balk at this route as they would likely have to pay compensation to the club that any assistant is currently employed with.

This is an area where Mo will likely centre his primary search. There are a few names circulating the North American landscape with the most recent being DC United's recently departed Tom Soehn. The price on an ex-MLS manager would be right and Mo could trumpet their experience but there is usually a reason they are unemployed. A good manager could be persuaded to take little money in order to get back in the game but Toronto's "Manager Pit" reputation will alarm the best possibilities.

Perhaps the reason Mo is putting a February deadline on a new hiring is so he can see who is fired from England's League One or Two and/or Scotland's First Division. Mo loves these kinds of managers and would love to proclaim the great experience the new man had with his time at Luton/ Swindon/ Lincoln/ Grimsby/ Dundee/ Queen of the South/ (insert your favourite lower league club here). Also, easily fired a year later (see Carver and Cummins).

Who can't see this coming? After a long "exhaustive" search, Mo will suddenly proclaim that the best men for the job are already here. Nick Dasovic will be proclaimed as a "great, young Canadian coach" with North American experience while Danny Dichio will be the tonic to placate the sheep in the crowd who expected better but will still have an excuse to sing "The Dichio Song". No mention will be made of the bargain basement price and the eerie similarities to the Raptors' promotion of under-qualified Canadian Jay Triano. Dasovic will end up being Scapegoat # 3 and Dichio will take his place as "Toronto's Kevin Keegan".

Thursday, November 5, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Least popular new GolTV programs

One of the more quiet acquisitions that MLSE made this summer was a controlling stake in the football specialty channel GolTV. The purchase may be the first step towards making a TFC TV channel but of course that means MLSE will need to create a full line-up of programming. As with any network, not all of the shows can be big hits - such as...

11. Late Night With Sam Cronin

10. Supporters Group Karaoke Sing-A-Long Show

9. The Food Building Chronicles With Collin Samuel & Ali Gerba

8. Relaxin’ With Ricketts

7. Straight Talk With Mo Johnston

6. Survivor: Head Coach

5. Amado Guevara Reads The News

4. The Happy Time Fun Kid's Hour With Adrian Serioux

3. Are You Smarter Than A Chad Barrett?

2. Pullin' Groins With Paul Winsper


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Culture of failure starts higher than Mo

It seemed astonishing when Mo Johnston recently claimed to be shocked by the level of criticism that he was receiving after TFC's recent failure. Was the wily Glaswegian watching the same team the supporters were? Why the shock on Mo's part?

It should be no surprise however when you look at the acceptance of mediocrity that comes from places higher in the organization. In interviews this week, MLSE VP Tom Anselmi was going to great lengths to back Mo's work as TFC's Director of Football. Anselmi also used the thinnest margin of improvement to claim that progress was made in 2009. While the team did manage to secure a few more points, "progress" is a generous term.

While discussing Johnston's apparently amazing job, Anselmi outlined the Director's responsibilities which include - “providing overall leadership and vision, putting the roster together, (and) to build infrastructure (i.e. coaching and scouting)". To those jobs, Anselmi claimed "... I think Mo has done a good job." If he is true to his word, then Anselmi must have a fairly low bar for success.

Johnston has provided very little public leadership and only appears in times of absolute crisis or when he can receive kudos. His vision is unclear and confusing with constant roster changes the norm. His ability to put together a balanced roster is very poor considering he has not found a solid back line, an established striker or capable wingers in nearly four years. As far as infrastructure goes, TFC has an academy which is fine, even though MLS doesn't yet allow the ownership of local players without the draft, but scouting is an absolute disgrace. It is only Mo and one other staff member doing scouting (despite annual Brazilian holidays) with the majority of newly signed players being on the roster of Mo's own agent.

In an interview with CBC, Anselmi was waxing about how TFC was "so close" this year. So close to what though? A playoff spot? Is that the pinnacle of expectation at TFC? Shouldn't the goal of every pre-season be winning the Cup? According to Anselmi's CBC interview “our expectation was to not make the playoffs the first three years. We didn't think we would." The VP continued that the "100 per cent focus" of 2010 is making the playoffs. Sorry… we thought that was 2009's focus.

What do we really expect from the corporate entity which brings us other success stories such as the Leafs and the Raptors though? MLSE is a business where profits are paramount and trophies are a nice but unnecessary bonus which can then be used for marketing. If Mo's boss has such low expectations then it is fair to see why Mo himself is "shocked" at the criticism. The sorry thing is though, if MLSE aims low, and Mo does too, doesn't the TFC head coach and then the players, staff and all the way down to the academy aim low as well? As much as Johnston is truly at fault, the rot starts way at the top and spreads down through every inch of the club.

Friday, October 30, 2009

No Hall of Fame for Mo's transactions

---- -----------------"Can I get back to you in five years?"

One thing has become crystal clear over the last few days of post-season naval gazing at BMO Field. It doesn't matter, who the head coach is, it doesn't matter how the star player feels, it doesn't matter what the supporters want - Mo Johnston (Yes, the Scottish Hall of Famer!) will do as he likes with Toronto FC. The Wee Glasgow Dictator quickly learned what it takes to excel under the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment umbrella - profit equals success, trophies are a bonus marketing tool but not necessary. In turn MLSE has given the keys to the jalopy to Johnston - with no questions asked.

Mo Johnston should be a head North American/ NCAA scout but that is all. His draft prowess is actually quite remarkable but his day-to-day control of the club is mediocre at a charitable best. In nearly four years on the job, Johnston has yet to establish a solid back-line, acquire a consistent striker or create a balanced line-up.

Somehow, Johnston still has a lot of backers in this city but there is an error in a common defence of the Director. While his drafting has been good, his transaction and transfer skills have often been equally lauded. This is simply not fact. Taking away the motley crew that was the 2007 MLS expansion draft crop, a look at Mo's moves since will reveal far more failure than success.

A couple of wily trades in 2007 and the signings of veteran English-based free agents were solid early on but have only been complimented by a Scarborough trio in the three years since:
JIM BRENNAN: The captain has been a hardy mainstay but his time is clearly up.
DANNY DICHIO: Journeyman at best, but a permanent folk hero nonetheless.
CARL ROBINSON: Underrated engine of the midfield and the true captain.
MARVELL WYNNE: Mo's best steal but development may have peaked.
AMADO GUEVARA: Not that good, should be a maybe at best - disappears far too often
DWAYNE DE ROSARIO: Without a doubt the best player TFC has seen but unhappy.
ADRIAN SERIOUX: Sometimes error-prone but tough, mean and solid at back.
JULIAN DE GUZMAN: Not enough time but a great talent if surrounded by quality.

One of the big problems with TFC has been the revolving door of players. When you don't create a system built around a solid managerial style with talented coaching, what can you expect? The answer: a lot of mediocrity, many courtesy of Mo's agent pal:
CONOR CASEY: Bring in a guy who can’t play on turf - blame him for leaving.
ANDY WELSH: Couldn't cross a ball above a defender's chest.
COLLIN SAMUEL: Didn't hit the net - always hit the buffet.
JEFF CUNNINGHAM: Scores tons of goals. Except in Toronto. Why?
MARCO VELEZ: Usually played Marco Polo with oncoming attackers.
LAURENT ROBERT: Played great for 1 game. Sulked. Went home.
CARLOS RUIZ: Took three weeks to show up but never really did.
ROHAN RICKETTS: Professional Bridge-Burner who Twittered his way out of town.
KEVIN HARMSE: A shocking lack of football intelligence. "No Harmse - no fouls"
TYRONE MARSHALL: Useful defender who should have been kept for another year.
JOHANN SMITH: Previous career high was Bolton's Academy. Nuff said.
OLIVER TEBILY: He came. He saw. He disappeared.
CHAD BARRETT: Not only an awful acquisition but a four-year deal too. Genius.
PABLO VITTI: Has there ever been an Argentine so afraid to take a shot as Pablo?
NICK GARCIA: The human own-goal.

It's a little more evident when they are balanced out like that isn't it? A lot of transactions with little quality. The non-stop revolving door of bargain basement squad players only brings instability and an entire lack of cohesion to an already poor team.

Johnston has prevailed in the art of procuring players who are not wanted elsewhere and available on the cheap while using MLSE's PR machine to trump them as "the next great thing". The man can indeed draft, exactly like a head NCAA scout should. As far as being Director of Football, he is much like many of his transactions: overrated, unwanted elsewhere and needs to be shown the door.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Headlines that would have made 2009 worse

--------------------That is some quality toad. Nice hole too.

Well, that's it then. 2009 is done and dusted with Toronto FC having nothing but a big wad of mediocrity to show for it. But have no fear brave TFC supporters - Mo Johnston is working feverishly to make everything better! (You! Step away from the ledge!) Well, you always have to look on the bright side though right? Imagine opening the newspaper and...











1. MO JOHNSTON SIGNS 2 1/2 YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION.... (What?... Really?... But I was joking... Aww crap.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Scapegoat # 2 fired

So Mo Johnston's big state of the no-union address was to remove the "interim" tag from head coach Chris Cummins title. He also removed the word "head" and "coach" from the affable Englishman's job description as well.

Yes, the ever-humble Johnston dispatched yet another manager from the TFC bench with Cummins being the convenient excuse for the mediocrity which Mo has taken nearly four years to build. But not to worry TFC supporters, the Scottish genius and # 1 on Richard Peddie's Christmas card list, "hopes" to have a new manager by February. No... not a typo... February!

Why exactly will it potentially take a professional club over nine months since the departure of John Carver to find a manager? Could it be that he needs to wait for Danny Dichio to get his coaching papers before being announced as Nick Dasovic's assistant? Is Mo waiting to see if the current Luton/ Crewe/ Swindon Town (insert low English league club here) manager is fired and suddenly available? Or maybe Barry MacLean, Mo's agent who seems to represent 75% of TFC, needs more time to do Mo's job for him?

Considering that the coaching style of your on-field manager should reflect upon your squad, how exactly are off-season moves going to be decided? Obviously it will be Mo (and his agent) fully deciding on the draft and any (if any) off-season acquisitions. This series of events will of course mean that any new manager will likely just be another extension (i.e. puppet) of the Scottish Lord and doomed to be Scapegoat # 3 in the "Keep Johnston at MLSE For Life Program".

And, in case you missed that sweet little nugget today, Johnston admitted he has agreed upon a 2 1/2 year contract extension pending finances. Joy! TFC supporters can expect a whole lot more of the same for a long time to come. Simply sad.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Late Night Playoff Update: Come on you Washington, Osmonds Massive, up the Ewings... how you doin' Mo Johnston?

------------------ "Sing when you're winning" - RSL = 40pts

After having to swallow a 5-0 debacle in New York, one thing was clear - any team other than Toronto FC had to make the playoffs tonight. There was that brief moment where it was still possible that the Reds, that unbalanced, built-on-the cheap by Mo Johnston squad could still make the playoffs despite the club's horrifying display and completely mediocre season. Thankfully, the MLS gods don't have a morbid sense of humour and the truly undeserving TFC are done for the year. I don't care who grabs 8th as long as Johnston can't claim he did a good job. And that is mathematically final.

------------------"Hi there... I'm Washington" - DC United = 40pts

---------------------------"So close y'all" - FC Dallas = 39pts

------------------------------------This guy = 5 year plan

So Mo, builder of "something special" - this season's tally is a few extra points, the slimmest of victories over two USL sides, a meaningless friendly, a head coach evacuee and Chad Barrett's 5 goals. On the theme of 5. Here's 5 adjectives for tonight's "must-win" match: miserable, gutless, shameful, heartless and disgraceful.

The South Couch Report : New York v. Toronto, or... The Last Kick of the Can

It's a Saturday night, and I didn't want to watch the damn game at a pub on an f'ing delay for whatever reason MLSE had in mind. And technically, should "f'ing" begin with an "an" instead of an "a", because if you say it, it's more like 'effing'... semantics.

We've got a damn rain delay. Sure, there's thunder and lightning, but big deal. Let's get on with it alread. An interview courtesy of Tony "OOOOOOOOOVERRATED" Meola talking about the glory days. I didn't realize the MetroStars had glory days.

The pre-game has been going on and on (and on) about the importance of Giants Stadium. Sure, the place, historically, is important, but I question the sentimentality to the people who went to the ground and watched soccer felt endeared over a stadium where they were the secondary tenants.

Toronto is currently lying in the bed that they've made. Mediocre play and weak late game collapses has put them not only on the outside looking in, but needing other results to fall into place. Hopefully the off-season, if any one of them truly cares, will allow them to work on mental toughness.

But it's OK. Because we'll sing for them like they're heroes that have accomplished something... let me know when that happens (and no, the NutCan isn't good enough)

1 - The first mistake is made - The Chad is starting. Again. Also, the legend that is Giants Stadium has puddles in front of each goal.

2 - GOAL - Kanji gets a half chance splitting Attakora and Gomez and buries it from about 16 yards out. Two mistakes, two minutes.

For the record, I did joke that Angel would bag 4... so we'll lose by 5 now.

6 - Angel loops a volley way over the bar. He's totally trying to meet my expectations.

10 - Guevara lets a skidding ball go from 25 yards out just wide of the goal. You know, for range, the gridiron lines ain't so bad.

11 - Coundoul mistimes a cross and The Chad lets a ball back into the box, set for White only for him to get 30% strength on it and die in the water.

12 - De Rosario leaps for a header ahead of the NYEB keeper and puts it wide. Push you red bastards, push...

14 - Guevara rifles a shot back in from a spoiled clearance forcing a leaping save from Coundoul. Pretty uncharacteristic stuff from Toronto. I could get used to it.

OK, The Chad comment was unfair and I apologize. Old habits and all... until he shanks a sitter, that is.

16 - Serioux has a go from 18 yards out, Coundoul with a diving stop. WHERE WAS ALL THIS SHOOTING FOR THE FIRST TWENTY-NINE GAMES?!

18 - The Chad makes a marauding run into space and Coundoul comes out to just beat The Chad with a slide tackle and takes Barrett out. Replay shows that there might have been a bit of malice from the NYEB keeper, but I didn't see anything with it.

20 - The Chad comes back on. He's OK folks.

Looks like NYEB has survived the shooting gallery. For the American readers who "don't understand SOCKerrr", this would be the equivalent of the end of the first quarter.

27 - Corner punched away by Edwards (I got his name right this time) but it is strange that I get nervous with the play by play team name-drops Andrew Boyens' name?

You know, I can't wait for New York's new stadium. 8000 people won't seem as pathetic in a 27,000 seater...

29 - You know when you see a low, fast cross and you get a little excited? Cronin just let one of those suckers in. They're usually the kind of cross that ends up in goals. Sadly cleared by NYEB back four.

32 - SUB - The Chad is done, Gerba in. This is a new role for Ali Gerba because he's got more than 3 minutes to make a difference (eat it Cummins)

33 - GOAL - Kanji lays the ball off, one sweet touch and a low right shot puts NYEB up 2-0 and Angel bags his 11th of the season. Three more and I'm Nostradamus.

I'm starting to think I pissed away $5 more for 'the rest of the season option' with the MLSnet live streaming account. There is a chance they can make it with a tie, but that means we need to score something.

35 - A cross allows for White to loft a ball over top of the bar. Not by much.

38 - Guevara free kick from 20 yards out JUST misses the right post on a free kick. I remember those halcyon days where Guevara would have 5 shots a game... it's like reliving the glory days.

45 - DeRo half-volley shanked wide left. At least they're shooting.

1 Minute of added time

HALF-TIME : I get the feeling that swearing here won't make up for the fact that it's frustrating.

With 45 minutes left of a disappointing season remaining, here we go.

48 - Brennan cross gets into the NYEB box, bounces around and Cronin lets an attempt just go wide.

51 - Cronin crosses to the left, headed down by Gerba to be left for White, only to be cleared away by the defenders.

Shep Messing, NY Cosmos goalkeeper and Playgirl centerfold (it was in the Cosmos documentary) is claiming that Toronto needs to put more pressure and chase the game being down 2-0. Messing hasn't watched many TFC games apparently. Now he's talking about how Vitti must be disappointed for being on the bench. Messing hasn't watched ANY TFC games apparently.

57 - I can hear the Toronto away support singing the PAOK song "Oooooh, Toronto... I'm goin crazy, oh yes it's true..." except the irony is that it's undying instead of stress-driven.

59 - YELLOW - O'Brien White gets a booking going up in the air and elbows his opponent. No intent in it, but I am not an official.

63 - GOAL - Angel. Who cares how. I need two more for my prediction to be true.

66 - SUB - Vitti in, Brennan out. Cummins has waited how many games to bring back the 4-3-3?

67 - Coundoul with two saves in a minute, a point-blank header from Gerba and then rushes a challenge to prevent another opportunity. I've got my man of the match chosen cuz it's nobody in red...

68 - GOAL - Kandji. Edwards gets caught out in a mistimed challenge. Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH... I don't see New York playing any Redbullnaccio any time soon.
74 - Gerba loses his marker, gets a header down past Coundoul, but not past the post.

75 - Now Gerba is swinging at everything. ABOUT TIME.

76 - Vitti shoots (haven't said that in forever) diving stop from Coundoul, pushes it to Gerba who shoots wide at a bad angle. Fackin'ell...

77 - SUB - White out, Sanyang in. At FOUR-nil?

87 - DeRo scores from a very offside position.

90 - Angel is subbed off. My prediction has been officially quashed.

3 Minutes of additional failure

90+3 - PENALTY - Bad foul from Serioux, but mandatory, hauling down Kandji. No booking.

90+4 - GOAL - Mbuta converts.

FINAL SCORE : New York 5, Toronto 0

Man of the Match : Bouda Coundoul. Excellent.

Goat of the Game : where do you start? You can properly blame Edwards for one goal. The other three is the gaping defence. Our forwards aren't fully taking advantage of their opportunities, and aren't getting enough quality ones to begin with... a la midfield service.

Ref meter : 3 out of 5.

For the record, I'm going to start writing this at the 73rd minute, to save myself from reminiscing over this abomination of a display and insult of a season. We sign players that don't fit our playing style and show no attempt to shape to that talent. The talent is above average, but the result is sad.

With their backs against the wall, Toronto FC FAILS. Hell, with a lead, Toronto FC USUALLY FAILS. But it's OK. Because we got grass. A designated player. Some of the best Canadian footballers on the planet, which would be competitive in MOST LEAGUES (not all).

If I can say anything positive about Mo is that he's drafted very well. O'Brien White and Sam Cronin have been OK and excellent respectively. And Frei too. Frei has been outstanding, and as much as I didn't want to see Sutton go, it made sense. Identical keepers, one younger and cheaper than the other.

Free Agents, he's done well.

Trades have been pathetic at best. We're trading like an expansion team. And we get guys who don't want to play here, leave and resume their old pace of goal scoring. There MUST be a better reason why people don't want to play here.

With the talent we have, even our somewhat unstable back four, this result is unacceptable. Thankfully our last game was played on the road, because the Yorkies may be the only supporters who would be visibly and vocally upset by this display. And that would put us in the minority in the south stand somehow.

My sense of ha-ha is gone for this season. And with a 15% ticket increase next season (like this past one) only MLSE will continue to be truly in on the joke.

See you next season. *sigh*

Friday, October 23, 2009

Match Preview: They Might Be Giants

Giants Stadium - Saturday, 7:30PM EST
TV: GOL-TV - RADIO: The Fan 590

In the wacky world of North American soccer football there are very few historical sites. While we will stop short of comparing East Rutherford, New Jersey's Giants Stadium to the likes of the San Siro, Nou Camp or Wembley, you have to admit it has played a large concrete role in the continent's footy story. Saturday's match between NYRB and Toronto will mark the final competitive match at the "Big Grey House that Pele Built". Giants Stadium was the epicentre during the NASL's heyday and was home to the aforementioned Brazilian as well as Beckenbauer, Cruyff and the rest of the Cosmos super-team. It also hosted matches at the 1994 World Cup and many other big-time friendlies and internationals. The stadium's awful NFL-laden Astroturf and its crumbling architecture make it a dinosaur in the current MLS world but it will always be the place where "soccer" made its first big American splash. And hey, if the results don't go TFC's way - at least they will be on a trivia question one day.

NY RED BULLS - 4-6-9 18pts - 7th in EAST (15th OVERALL)
What can be said about the Metrostars’ truly awful 2009 campaign? Winless on the road and only 4 W's at home is quite the collapse for a team who played in last year's MLS Cup Final. While it's true that they fluked their way to the Championship match last year, no one expected a level of futility as bad as the 2009 version of American Salzburg. That being said, perhaps TFC could be in for some bad luck as New York may want to shut down the old stadium with a bang. The shiny and awesome Red Bull Arena (too bad about the neighbourhood) awaits the Energy Drinkers and maybe this is the fixture which looks towards their future. It may very well be Juan Pablo Angel's New York swan song as well and if so, the Colombian ace will want to go out blazing as well as marketing himself to potential suitors. Even on this terrible team he managed a 10 goal tally (I wonder if he likes red?) With John Wolyniec out injured, Jamaican international Dane Richards will likely partner Angel up front and despite having a bad year he is still a top MLS player. Kevin "Bobcat" Goldthwaite is out with injury so if NY does turn out to be spoilers, at least it won't be with ex-TFC irony. See you in Harrison 2010 - The Gateway to Newark!

TORONTO FC - 10-9-10 39pts - 3rd in EAST (8th OVERALL)
Every time a certain Italo-Canadian in our section at BMO senses a TFC attack, he excitedly proclaims "THIS IS IT!” Well my Sicilian pal, this is indeed - it. Last match of the season and all to play for - it's 3 points or playoff bust for Toronto FC, nothing less will do. Toronto has had a horrendous road record this season and that has to end on Saturday. It is time for TFC's veterans to step up in a big way and carry this squad on their backs. With Carl Robinson out, Julian De Guzman must make good now and De Ro must snap out of his funk if TFC are to grab a win. With Stefan Frei still out, Brian "Brian Williams" Edwards will start and try to continue his solid form in goal. The injured Marvell Wynne will unlikely play against his old club meaning TFC will once again try wing play with no wingers. We could wish that Chris Cummins won't start Chad Barrett but we know how that will go - I used to want a "CHiPs Big Wheel" for Christmas and didn't get that either. That means it's a great chance for O'Brian "The Malvern Muscle" White to turn this match into his MLS coming out party. Goals need to be scored - goals need to be kept out. Easy as that. If TFC can get the win, they will have to wait for the late start Seattle vs. Dallas match to learn of their playoff fate. Before that though, they have to be Giants - or go home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are the 2009 playoffs TFC's poisoned cup?

Just because you can do something, doesn't necessarily make it the best option. As Toronto FC head into their last gasp attempt at making this year's playoffs, that conundrum does indeed rise. The enigma that is this season's Reds are quite frankly lucky to even have the chance to qualify for the post-season but that is the reality of MLS parity. Toronto does have a lot of individual talent but as supporters of the club have seen this year they lack structure, positional balance, tactical knowledge and far too often... heart. What, if anything, could an unlikely trip to the playoffs do to the face of the club?

The talents of the individual TFC players are often muted by the lack of positional options on the pitch. A glut of talented central midfielders hampers the club’s natural tendency to look for wing-play while the weak centre back combinations are only spared the goat’s horns by the truly appalling impotency of the forward line. This poor team structure sits at the feet of Director of Football Mo Johnston. In nearly four years of construction, and heavy rotation, Johnston hasn't been able to construct a balanced squad. Yes there is talent, but talent alone doesn't make a good team unit. Would a playoff appearance this year validate Mo's insistence that he is "building something special"? If an extra two matches means Johnston's ego is inflated more (if possible) and he can rest on his far from finished laurels, is it worth it?

There are of course positives that could arise from the post-season. Perhaps the taste of success, albeit minor, could propel the core of the team to move forward to bigger and better things in the future. If the younger members of the team can taste what the veterans already have, even briefly, it may be a benefit in 2010 and beyond. It is one of the veterans however whose attitude it may help the most. Many observers have been alarmed that Dwayne De Rosario has not looked himself in the past month or so. Frustrated, at times upset or on the odd occasion, uninterested - many have feared that the mediocre season has taken the shine off of the star's homecoming. Being in the limelight of the playoffs, where De Ro has always shined, may be just the tonic for the Scarborough superstar and his future in T.O.

The future is in fact the biggest concern as far as playoff residue is concerned. Could an October trip to Columbus or Houston put the brakes on progress that is already slow to begin with? Would a playoff-qualified TFC not feel the need to replace the nice but woefully under-qualified interim manager Chris Cummins? Further, does it mean that off-season player acquisitions are kept to a minimum as the team is called "good enough" or "close to competing" even though they are not? And, perhaps worst of all, does MLSE dine out on a playoff glimpse and use it as a marketing tool for the next 3 or 4 years of mediocre football?

Only time will tell of course, but as a fan, would you want to roll the dice on what could be two humiliating post-season matches in exchange for shaming the management into improving the club long-term? If the CONCACAF Champions League experience taught us anything, just getting there is often enough for TFC.