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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.