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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Goofy display caps off Micky Mouse tournament

--------Too bad he's not Scottish or elderly, Mo would love him

Did the boys stay up too late on the rides at Disney World? Dizzy from the Tea Cups? At least those reasons wouldn't fill TFC supporters with the dread many of them are feeling at the moment. Yes, yes, we know, "it's only pre-season blah, blah, blah" and while that is true, it doesn't excuse all faults. Especially not a 4-0 effort-free drubbing at the hands of the very team who ended our season 5-0. But that was last season right? This is a new year - big changes! Sure.

Yes, in the final match of the Walt Disney World Annual Pro Soccer Superstar # 1 Extravaganza Don't Mention The Strike Trophy, TFC were whipped by New York Red Bulls and their old nemesis Juan Pablo Angel. While the Colombian supremo did his thing, Mo Johnston's Travelling Roadshow answered with a defence that must have still been in line at Space Mountain. It's not as if the offence was much better but TFC can't score unless our most prolific striker, Ugandan trialist Vincent "That's Why I'm Easy" Kayizzi, gets on the scoresheet. No, that's not frightening at all.

Toronto will leave Disney World with their cartoon tails between their legs and very little to show from a month's worth of training camp. A few brief glimpses of trialist fun against NCAA teams and MLS B-Squads but when faced with something closer to a full MLS line-up like this evening, same old story. And again yes, perhaps too early to get our mouse ears in a knot but there are two words which Mo Johnston has forced upon friendly line-ups that will no doubt appear in the not too distant opening day: NICK. GARCIA. Count on it.

One last Disney reference? Oh okay, you twisted my arm, but you have to sing (to the tune of Small World)... "It's a crap team after all. It's a crap team after all. It's a crap team after all." (BIG FINISH! You in the back) "It's a crap team - after all!" Well done.

But not you Johnston. Dumbo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MLS Players' Union between a rock and a hard place

It's all quiet at MLS Headquarters... too quiet. It seems as if the cooler heads are losing their grip as the CBA negotiations between the league and its players are grinding to a halt. Where optimism at a deal existed only a couple of weeks ago, the only words coming from either side this week have been decidedly sour. It is unclear today whether the opposing sides are even in the same room and as more deadlines come and go, the toughest decision is left at the feet of the union.

MLS has taken the upper hand in the PR war by not locking out the players and seeming like the sensible party who wants to negotiate. The truth is closer to the fact that Don Garber and his wily group of owners know that the union doesn't hold a lot of chips in this game. The players are left with very little on the table to negotiate with and will have to decide soon if they are willing to hit the picket lines.

If the union does decide to continue to operate under the expired contract they at least take back some of the public sentiment. Fans will likely side with the players as most supporters realize that MLS players are definitely the poor cousin of worldwide FIFA players, but is PR enough? Sticking with the status quo could lead to the players eventually settling on a watered down agreement not much different than the current one. On the flipside of that however is the fact that at least they will still continue to get paid. For some of the players who are only making slightly better than minimum wage - that's a big issue.

Ironically, if the union chooses the strike option, it may end up creating a result as bad as or much worse than the current climate. Observers can't help but feeling the ownership is actually prepared for a work stoppage. It is definitely a fool's logic but who ever claimed the league was run by geniuses? The league might even welcome the opportunity for a player caused calamity which would give them the chance to fold a couple of money losing franchises - and blame the union at the same time. A long shot, and probably unlikely, thought process… but hardly impossible.

The more realistic fear for the union has the league filling its strike-hit squads with replacement players. Yes the quality would be lower but in a league with little face recognition, bar a few major stars, the current players could find themselves readily replaced. Further, in a worse case scenario, a long work stoppage could damage the league so badly that it doesn't survive in its current form. This result again means massive job losses for the union membership and a PR black eye along with it. A lot of mid-range players could be out of high-level professional football permanently.

Chances are likely that some form of negotiations will continue for the time being. The bright thinkers on both sides (we hope there are a few) will realize that this is a Cold War much like the real one. If either side pulls the big trigger then everyone gets burnt in the end. In that doomsday scenario however, the real losers would be North American supporters who have suffered through decades of ridiculous show "soccer" leagues (sorry original NASL sympathizers) only to have the closest league to the "real thing" face extinction at the hands of two stubborn teams.

Monday, February 22, 2010

THE STARTING 11: Rejected new foods at BMO Field

As TFC struggles to sign new players and Major League Soccer itself seems ready to implode due to a strike, it's nice to have some home comforts in the off-season. One of Toronto FC's enduring traditions has been the winter food tasting evening. Once a year a group of guinea pigs... er TFC supporters are invited downtown to taste the new foods which will be available that season at BMO. The 2010 version took place a few days ago and surprisingly, not all on offer was approved...

11. "Bitchy's Catch O' The Day"

10. "The Politically Correct, Offend Nobody Italian Sausage in a French Crepe with Caribbean Hot Sauce deep fried in a Ukrainian Perogie served by a Portuguese-born Greek"

9. Things "Found" in the Food Building

8. Jamaican Patty Ice Cream Bars

7. "De Rosari-Oh's"

6. "Chairman Mo's Kung Pao Chicken" (currently on trial)

5. "Collin Samuel Eats Half Your Sandwich"

4. Toad-In-A-Hole-On-A-Stick

3. "Dichio-Ghetti"

2. All Day Prek-Fast

1. Chip Butty Smoothies

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FC Edmonton could change the future of Canadian club football

----------Edmonton Drillers circa 1981 - Canada's Blackpool FC

A few weeks back, a quiet little press release came out of Edmonton, Alberta which could blow over Canadian football (balls kicked by feet not eggs thrown by hand) like a warm Alberta chinook... or cast a chill like an Arctic wind. With extraordinarily low fanfare, it was announced that a new football club named FC Edmonton had been founded and had been granted admission to the all new and improved NASL 2.0 with the team entering in 2011. The immediate first reaction was a sigh of relief and a sage head nod that the club had chosen a proper football name and identity but on further thought, there is the realization that FCE could mean much more.

The very few things that FCE have announced so far have been positive. The name is a smart move and follows in the footsteps of Toronto FC's image building; choosing to play at the small but intimate Foote Field as opposed to the horrid Commonwealth Behemoth will offer fans a better game experience; the immediate hiring of Dutch Canadian Dwight Lodewegas gives the club a manager who has held the helm at PSV Eindhoven and NEC Nijmegen, as well as being a local throwback to the old Edmonton Drillers. After the debacle which was 2004's USL entry, Edmonton Aviators (who existed for all of one season), the early signs seem to show a club with a much better understanding of football culture.

It may seem like a big ask for a club that barely has a website yet but if FC Edmonton can manage to harness a decent level of success on and off the pitch it could have great ramifications for the country's football environment. If FCE can show that running a club in a mid-size Canadian market (as opposed to USL/ NASL in big city Vancouver and Montreal) then there will be interest from other areas of the country as well. With the NASL still looking to expand to the 16 team range, a successful FCE could spawn new NASL interest from the likes of Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and Winnipeg.

Only time will tell if FCE can succeed. In fact, until they actually play their first match Edmontonian football fans will likely keep their excitement to a low boil. However, if the club continues to follow along their current path and with their automatic inclusion into the Canadian Championship in 2011, they might be successful. First year visits from MLS sides Toronto FC and Vancouver won't hurt the attendance figures and that may be just enough to entice a few wealthy business people to give the NASL a shot in their Canadian town. If it fails, then those same potential owners could get gun-shy and think their investment would be less Toronto FC and more Edmonton Brickmen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mickey Mo heads for the Magic Kingdom

------The MLSE Board of Directors are thrilled with Mo's work

Finally, Little Chaddy Barrett can stop calling Uncle Mo in the middle of the night asking "when are we getting to Disney World?" TFC said their goodbyes to cosmopolitan Bradenton, Florida yesterday and travelled the Interstate to Orlando for the next phase of training camp which includes the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic (the WDWPSC to its friends) tournament later this month. Apparently the mouse-eared trophy is highly sought after by Pro Soccerers.

The Reds finished off the Bradenton portion of camp with a goalless draw against DC United on Wednesday which saw the ongoing inclusion of trialists in Preki's squad. Paul Dickov made another appearance, despite rumours of his ongoing courtship with Leeds United, as well returns for Dan “The Man” Gargan, Vincent “The Ugandan Kid” Kayizzi and the awesomely named keeper Hunter “The Jock” Gilstrap. There were debuts for new trialists as well: Argentine forward Martin Saric who has bounced around Argentine and Balkan lower divisions; Serbian striker Kosta Bajic who has only played at an amateur level in Serbia; and, a very surprising, but still unofficial inclusion of Finnish International Alexei Eremenko.

Eremenko is a step above your average trialist indeed. the talented 26 year old Russian-born Finn has 40 caps for his nation and has played for some decent sized squads such as FC Saturn, Lecce and HJK. The odd thing about Eremenko's inclusion is that by all accounts he is in the midst of a 3 year contract with Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv. If Mo could pull this Thumper out of his hat it could be quite the coup and a big help to TFC's often limp left wing. His contract status as well as his wage would seem like major stumbling blocks however. As the days go on at The Mo-gical Kingdom, hopefully the news from the top will be more Aladdin and much less Pinocchio. Sing it together now… “It’s a small squad after all…”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THE STARTING 11: Sexy MLS euphemisms

Valentine's Day has come and gone. If you just realized that, you no longer have a girlfriend/ wife. It's ok newly single guy... it's understandable what with TFC being in training camp and all. How can you be expected to remember to buy a card and chocolates when the Reds are playing against Florida based NCAA teams? (Apparently even Mo Johnston forgot to send out cards: "Roses are red, violets are blue. If you once played in Scotland, here's a trial for you!") However, if you want to sweet talk your girl back into the bedroom while keeping the MLS vibe alive - here are some handy/ randy words...

11. Closing the Giants Stadium

10. Hoisting the NutCan

9. Expanding Whitecaps

8. The Beckham Experiment

7. The Schelotto Dive

6. Packing the Rio Tinto

5. Giving Dickov a trial

4. Bringing it to Don Garber's attention

3. Introducing a DP

2. Supporting the Timbers

1. Joe Cannon

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nothing to fear... Paul Dickov is here!

-------------------"What? I thought it said Top Trials!"

Nothing can go wrong now! International Mastermind Mo Johnston has done it again - literally. Apparently the answer to TFC's woeful striking problems is to bring back 37 year old (!!!) Paul Dickov on trial... again. For those of you who like to play TFC Trialist Bingo this would be the second time that wee Mr. Dickov has worn the famous red pinny. Yes, it was only a bit more than a year and a half ago when the little man from Livingston gave TFC a look before Dickoving back to Leicester City.

Since that time, the striker made 21 appearances for The Foxes until being loaned to their rivals Derby City for the first half of this season. The rapidly aging forward managed 4 goals in 37 matches since his first Toronto tease but was released from his Leicester contract recently and is giving the most desperate team he could find another look. For Mo, it's a no-brainer. What better way to take fans' minds off of one tiny, useless Scotsman than with another, even tinier useless Scotsman? Nice to know that Mo has really widened his search since Dickov was last here.

In case you missed the camp-opening friendly from earlier this week, where TFC was held 1-1 by Central Florida frat-boys, TFC managed to introduce a few more trialists. Joining the ever expanding list is American defender Dan Gargan, Ugandan winger Vincent "Kamala" Kayizzi and (who for comedy writing purposes alone, I pray is signed) American goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap. What a name! Gargan had a seemingly solid game but at this stage of camp it means little. Starting week three of camp, Dickov's inclusion also means little but looking at 37 year olds as the answer is always an alarming trend. Oh well, at least it won't be hard to change leftover "DICHIO" banners.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ty Harden in - Jorge Andrade... not so much

--------------------Oregon's Jorge Andrade, apparently

Somewhere in Toronto FC's media relations department, a hack is spellchecking "Franz Beckenbauer" for Mo's inevitable comparison between Der Kaiser and TFC's newest defender Ty Harden. There of course is no comparison, Harden is just another mediocre body in TFC's new "Adopt-a-Rapid" campaign acquired today for a third-round draft pick in 2011. Of course that has never stopped TFC PR from trumpeting lesser players in the past has it?

"He's a good quality, young defender and there are many things I like about him. He showed a lot of promise in his rookie season with the Galaxy and we hope he can add some toughness to our back line" crowed manager Preki from TFC's Florida camp. What he didn't mention apart from Harden's fair rookie season with Galaxy was that the player left football to pursue charity work in Kenya for a year before returning to MLS with Rapids last season. That's a sign of a fine gentleman no doubt but hardly the making of the new Roberto Carlos. Harden played in 7 matches with Colorado last season and had a 1 match loan spell with Rochester in the USL. Exciting.

Harden is as stated, a body to be added to a paper thin defence. As depth, he is passable, but he will not be any kind of changing force in a back four that alarmingly looks like it could include Nick Garcia on opening day. Harden seems like a solid citizen and his year in Kenya is a wonderful act but from a purely football perspective he is yet another one of Mo's on-the-cheap specials - and don't let the TFC PR machine tell you any different.

Of course the PR department will probably be busy now making up excuses on why their trialist saviour - Jorge Andrade, didn't even bother to show up to training camp. Yes, the man who was meant to be the possible stalwart of TFC:2010's defence has so far been a Florida no-show. No official word yet if Andrade has hooked up with another poorly managed club or if his non-existent left knee gave out on the way to the airport. One thing is for sure, The Yorkies' PR department won't be comparing Mo Johnston to Franz Beckenbauer as a director of football.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

THE STARTING 11: Florida training camp surprises

Ah Florida... it's The Sunshine State ya know? Oranges, Space Shuttles, flamingos, swamps and now Toronto FC! Our beloved boys in red track suits have departed the polar confines of Canada and have done what many Canadians do this time of year - head south. Mo's Marvels and a U-Haul full of trialists have decamped to cosmopolitan Bradenton, Florida where they will run around like puppies on natural grass and try not to get injured/ make the team. It's not all wind sprints and keepy-uppies though; there are always a few odd surprises...

11. Due to tiny size of squad, team is sharing a one bedroom motel room

10. Tourists gather daily to watch the British players turn bright red in the Florida sun

9. Rohan Ricketts asked to attend - thought TFC was going to see "Flo Rida"

8. Team had a 3-3 draw in match against the remaining cast of "The Golden Girls"

7. Florida's numerous retirement homes perfect for TFC scouting trips

6. During tour of The Everglades, team found members of Tampa Bay Mutiny roaming around aimlessly

5. Trialists keep asking Mo "where the Return half of their airline ticket is?"

4. Club took a team building trip to Disney World - left Chad Barrett on The Teacups

3. Jim Brennan and Marvell Wynne keep showing up to practice dressed as Miami Vice's Crockett & Tubbs

2. Every morning, Mo stands on the beach hoping that cheap Cuban players may come to shore on a raft

1. New back-up goalkeeper on trial - an alligator

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Honest Mo's Trialist Warehouse

------------------"TFC's lookin' great in 2010... honest!"

“No off-season signings? No problem! Come on down to "Honest Mo's Trialist Warehouse" and he can outfit your soccer team at low, low prices! Got no salary cap left? Not to worry - Honest Mo will ship out your high-priced, experienced assets and replace them with trialists who have no where else to play! They can't help but sign the lowest contracts around - they need the cash! Act now and Honest Mo will call every newspaper in town and tell them that your new trialist is quite possibly the best player since Pele Maradona Junior! Take a look at what Mo has in stock for 2010!”

Need a defender? Have a cardiologist on staff? Do you enjoy the Blue Square Premier? If you said yes and you love Scottish Canadians then Ross Smith is the defender for you! The 29 year old Guelphian (Guelphite? Guelphwegian?) enjoyed his best years with the mighty Ebbsfleet United of the English non-league. Had a shot with Colorado Rapids until they found out about his aorta problem! Not to worry though - he had heart surgery and is ready to go! No risk!

Oh boy! If you like it spicy and Middle Eastern then Ibrahim Said is the man for you! This very fiery Egyptian defender will put the fight into your line-up right away. He will also fight with his teammates, match officials, coaches and fans! How exciting! His best days were in the early 2000's with Al Ahly but he did have the chance at the big time while on loan to Everton. Said decided that the Toffees weren't to his taste though and pretended that his mother was sick in Egypt and flew home the next day. Staying power! The sometime Egyptian National (when not banned from the team) was last with Libyan league club Al-Ahly Tripoli. “Libyan League - catch the fever!

This is top of the line stuff. Not too many owners, top flight experience, Champions League veteran! This mighty Portuguese defender is a steal at 31 years old. Stops at Porto, Deportivo La Coruna and Turin giants Juventus can't be wrong! What's that? You like players with both knees? Jeez - so fussy. So what if Andrade only has part of his left knee and it has had four operations in three years? Beggars can't be choosers! Juventus owners loved his career prospects so much they said this of it when nullifying his contract: "Impossibility for the player to recover to play professionally". Oh those Italians - so silly!

If there’s one thing Honest Mo loves - it’s a mediocre player from a mediocre club in Scotland or northern England. Mo has outdone himself this time with Kevin Kyle. This enigmatic striker spent most of his years with Sunderland where he tallied a whopping 18 goals in 91 appearances and got quite the reputation for his love of baked goods! Honest Mo may not have this one on the lot for long though as Kevin is having his best year in ages at Kilmarnock with 14 goals in 27 matches and is still with the Scottish club. Who needs that kind of output anyways? Where’s the fun in signing a trialist who actually scores? Crrrraaazzzy!!!

Did you like the lumbering style of Danny Dichio but found him way too quick? Think you want another big bald target man but without those pesky goals getting in the way? If you said “oh yeaaah!” then Honest Mo has got the trialist for you! 28 year old, 3-time Armenian International Ilia Javorjian has been bouncing around the Israeli league with 4 goals to boot (that’s more like it Kevin Kyle!) and is looking for a new home. The Armenian Assassin (catchy no?) has a mysterious background but scouts have labelled him as “heavy and limited in his movement” and “clumsy”. Unofficially called the “Armenian Collin Samuel“.

Honest Mo is anything if not “honest! Adam Street is maybe not the right kind of lad to sign. Who need’s long-term projects with potential future value anyways? You need elderly back-ups and tons of delicious allocation money - that’s what winners are made of! Street has played through most of the Canadian International set-up’s youth systems and has shined at times. He has been training with West Ham’s renowned academy and has raised many eyebrows there as well but who needs that when there are perfectly good USL third stringers available? Pass.

Looking for a diamond in the rough? We mean really, really rough? Well Honest Mo mined the diamond laden lands of southern Africa and has dug up 30 year old Namibian defender Ngarizemo! What better way to shock MLS offences than with a defender who has hardly played anywhere else? In three years with South African club FC Cape Town, he didn’t register one first team statistic. From those lofty heights, Maleagi (aka Namibia’s Nick Garcia) moved to the world famous Namibian league’s African Stars Windhoek. Surely though, 3 caps with Namibia’s National squad in 2008 (nicknamed The Brave Warriors - FIFA ranking 113) can’t be a fluke!

Honest Mo has done it again! A few days before the Trialist February Sale starts, Mo has identified 27 year old Dutch striker Muhamadu as a top notch item. The forward has spent most of his career floating around the Dutch, Belgian and German second divisions with his career best being a spell at the Dutch Eerste Divisie club MVV. Yes - that MVV! The Gillingham of Dutch football. In his time there, Ibad (chant this: “I-Bad I-Bad, you know it!”) notched 17 goals over two years. Trust Mo on this one because the last time he plucked a gem from the Netherlands he came up with Toronto FC future Hall of Famer - Lesly Fellinga!

“Don’t wait soccer lovers, this sale won’t last forever! Honest Mo can’t keep these hot properties on the shelves. Remember Kiki Musampa? Snapped up by FC Seoul after a TFC camp where he was being proclaimed as the best thing since Johan Cruyff Van Nistelrooy Rijkaard! Who needs established players like Guevara, Robinson and so-called “first team players”?”

“If trialists weren’t the new stars of soccer would Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment really keep Honest Mo around? If you think that, you would have to believe MLSE only care about profits and have zero soccer knowledge in the head office and don’t care about winning and love Mo because he makes them huge profits and we will have this conversation every February and he will be here for 10 more years… and that’s just crazy! Honest.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Week one is a weak one

From the moment Preki was introduced as the new TFC manager most supporters thought that the dawn had finally broke on the gloom that surrounded the team. Forget about the first year expansion mess, the second year building phase, the third year re-building phase - 2010 would be the true start of the real Toronto FC. No more coaching changes, no more locker room drama, a deep solid squad and playoffs - delicious, chewy playoffs! All we had to do was patiently wait through winter like anxious hungry bears for training camp.

KABLOOEY!!! One week into training camp and the steaming pile on the yet to be grassed BMO Field pitch is the smouldering relics of many supporters' dreams for 2010. Fans kept their optimism going on faith alone as the winter months passed and Mo "MLSE Employee of the Month" Johnston didn't manage to sign one player. But not to fear - surely before training camp things would get better - right? No. From the moment the media was allowed to look behind the ex-Wizard's curtain it was clear that the rot hasn't been cleared but has indeed festered.

ADRIAN SERIOUX: The hometown hardman and true heart of the defence is unlikely to be re-signed. Whispers are floating as to whether this is due to the free agent's injury status or penny pinching at the MLSE level. Either way, if The Predator doesn't return, it means a bigger role for Nick "Which one is our goal?" Garcia and that is very bad news. A press release would be nice.

DWAYNE DE ROSARIO: There is something very wrong in Camp De Ro. TFC's first real star (sorry Dichio) was injured in the Canada v. Jamaica friendly but then refused to talk to media at all. The fact that he is gone for 2-4 weeks is completely overshadowed by the rumours that the corn rowed Scarberian is very unhappy with his contract status and the supposed promises he had received from Mo to restructure it. Unhappy De Ro is bad news for TFC's impotent offence.

CARL ROBINSON: If it wasn't insulting enough for the classy Welshman to have his face broken last season by a useless trialist, TFC has done their best to marginalize the midfielder ever since. Despite any opinions on Robinson's skill level, no one can dispute his leadership and steel in TFC's midfield since day one. It is the worst kept secret that Mo is trying to ship him to any taker to solve salary cap mismanagement but the manner in which it has been done is classless. Robinson, unsurprisingly noble, has not spoken publicly about the mess... or at all.

THE SQUAD: Going into training camp, TFC has the least amount of signed players of any MLS club. For a team that has lacked depth for four years this is just unacceptable and blame is squarely on one inept Scot only.

INJURIES: However fun it would be to blame Johnston for injuries, we can't. Chad Barrett can't kick a ball because of a foot injury (goal tally unaffected), De Rosario picked up a knock in the Canada match and there are a host of minor niggles as well. Jacob Peterson however is Mo's, and indeed Preki's, mess. The one, single, solitary player that management signed in an off-season so full of holes - can't even fully train for another 2 months. Poor.

MANAGEMENT: Our feelings here towards Mo Johnston’s management are no secret. From day one his decision making, attitude, vision and execution have been truly poor. Yes there have been a few bright signings and draft picks but after four years on the job TFC has no depth, gaping holes on all areas of the pitch, a noted toxic atmosphere in the dressing room and most of all very little in the way of wins or winning ways. It is too early to pass any judgement on Preki but the wily Serb may need to be a little more forthcoming with the Toronto media. You're not at Chivas anymore Mr. Radosavljevic. Preki may also want to keep a healthy distance from Mo - another "Yes Man" is not what TFC needs.

Overall, after waiting for the breath of fresh air to roll in after the memories of 5-0 at Giants Stadium, the odour has been more of a funk. In no way is this a final indictment on TFC:2010 but somebody has to take hold of this club and pull it up by the bootstraps in a hurry. The quiet from Johnston on all things training camp has been deafening but the one silver lining - if he does allow this club to fail this year, he may not be around to do it again in 2011. As tempting as that may be, it shouldn't be our goal for this season.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

THE WORD: Adrian Serioux not re-signed for 2010 - opposing strikers heard giggling

-------------------Is it really the end for The Predator?

Scarborough FC may be without a major piece in 2010. News coming out of yesterday's training camp/ media day was that TFC will not be renewing the contract of tough defender Adrian Serioux. There are duelling reasons floating around the rumour mill that is BMO Field but many suggest that the hard nosed Scarberian/ Predator look-alike has racked up one injury too many.

Depending on the source, Serioux could have a badly damaged elbow or possibly a career-threatening neck injury. Either way, a TFC back four without Serioux is an extraordinarily weak prospect. It is very possible that after all of Mo Johnston's "marvellous" and copious deals, TFC could line up on opening day with Nick "The Human Own-Goal" Garcia in the backline. Wynne-Attakora-Garcia-Brennan is a defence that will absolutely bleed goals and boot loose balls into the stands on every occasion.

But not to worry - right? It's training camp and hope springs eternal! That is unless you look at what Mo Johnston has brought in to bolster one of the league's worst defences. As of this moment that would be... NOBODY! Yes we've got trialists coming out the wazoo but which one to choose from? Oh the choices are so great! Do you want the Scottish cast-off with a dodgy ticker, the wild tempered homesick Egyptian or the Portuguese long ago-maestro who is missing one of his knees?

Think that Mo will swing a last minute deal for a quality defender with future first round picks? Think again - his mismanagement of the salary cap has left TFC unable to bring in a proven player unless major funds are released (i.e. dumping Carl Robinson) and the salary cap is increased in a new CBA. If only there was a way to keep Serioux and ditch Johnston, at least that would keep the rapidly diminishing glimmer of 2010 hope alive. And it's only day two.


Another kick at the NutCan - Canadian Championship fixtures 2010

--------------Also great for dips, snacks and fondue parties

In addition to yesterday's MLS 2010 fixture list, The Canadian Soccer Association ("Lowering Expectations since 1912") announced the schedule for this year's Canadian Championship. The Nutrilite Canadian Championship (or the NutCan to its friends) will once again involve TFC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and FC L'Impact du Montreal Ou Est Le Bibliotechque.

This will be the last year that Toronto FC will be the sole MLS representative as next year VWFC will be making the step up. Not that having two USL (now NASL) rivals ever stopped The Reds from doing their best to play badly though. TFC are indeed the current Cup holders and have aimed their sights high on holding onto the cup. Mo Johnston has even said winning it this year would be a "bonus". Wow, big words from a man who always aims TFC towards the stars.

The schedule is as follows - adjust your NutCans accordingly...

Wednesday, April 28, Toronto v Montreal 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 5, Vancouver v Montreal 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 12, Montreal v Toronto 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 19, Vancouver v Toronto 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 26, Montreal v Vancouver 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 2, Toronto v Vancouver 8:00 p.m.

(All times EST. Suck it, Rocky Mountains)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Reds Go Marching On" - 2010 TFC fixtures announced

------"I say, one does get tired of invading Columbus every year!"

Yesterday being Groundhog Day (no word if Mo Johnston saw his shadow) it comes as no surprise that TFC will wake up to Columbus Crew ("I Got Crew Babe") once again this season. Most supporters already knew that The Reds were opening in The Mid-Ohio Riviera, as MLS still tries to shove false rivalry down our throats, but Wednesday saw the league release the rest of the 2010 fixture list. Fixture List Day - it should be given an animal too. I think hedgehogs are available.

As already announced, then rescheduled for ESPN purposes, TFC opens at home to MLS new boys Philadelphia Union on April 15th. The rest of TFC:2010 unfolds like so...

03/27 - Saturday at COLUMBUS 4:00 p.m.
04/10 - Saturday at NEW ENGLAND 7:30 p.m.
04/15 - Thursday PHILADELPHIA 7:00 p.m.
04/18 - Sunday at COLORADO TBD
04/25 - Sunday SEATTLE 2:00 p.m.
05/01 - Saturday at REAL SALT LAKE 9:00 p.m.
05/08 - Saturday CHICAGO 4:00 p.m.
05/15 - Saturday at LOS ANGELES 10:30 p.m.
05/22- Saturday NEW ENGLAND 4:00 p.m.
05/29- Saturday at SAN JOSE 10:00 p.m.
06/05 - Saturday KANSAS CITY 4:00 p.m.
06/26 - Wednesday LOS ANGELES 7:30 p.m.
07/01 - Thursday HOUSTON 7:00 p.m.
07/10 - Saturday COLORADO TBD
07/17 - Saturday at PHILADELPHIA 3:30 p.m.
07/24 - Saturday FC DALLAS 4:00 p.m.
07/31 - Saturday at KANSAS CITY 8:30 p.m.
08/07 -Saturday CHIVAS USA 4:00 p.m.
08/11 - Wednesday at NEW YORK 7:30 p.m.
08/21 -Saturday NEW YORK 1:00 p.m.
08/28 - Saturday REAL SALT LAKE 7:00 p.m.
09/04 - Saturday at FC DALLAS 830 p.m.
09/08 - Wednesday at CHICAGO 8:30 p.m.
09/11 - Saturday D.C. UNITED 4:00 p.m.
09/18 - Saturday at HOUSTON 8:30 p.m.
09/25 - Saturday SAN JOSE 4:00 p.m.
10/02 - Saturday at SEATTLE 3:30 p.m.
10/09 - Saturday at CHIVAS USA 10:30 p.m.
10/16 - Saturday COLUMBUS 4:00 p.m.
10/23 - Saturday at D.C. UNITED 7:30 p.m.

A more balanced schedule for TFC as compared to years past with no more than two games on the road in a row currently scheduled. The promised World Cup break is included with TFC being handed four matches at home in a row during June and July. Toronto pays the price in October however with three tough away games out of four in the midst of the playoff shuffle. The Canadian Championship is yet to be shoe-horned into the schedule but overall it seems kinder to Toronto than we have experienced in the past. Now the hard part... winning these matches.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Will Mo Johnston see his shadow this year?

------------------"Hang on there Punxsutawney Preki!"

At the beginning of every February, people eagerly watch on as a ginger coloured rodent appears after a long winter of hibernating and doing very little. His rare post-slumber appearance is said to signal whether better days are ahead or if long, dark, miserable suffering will continue. In a completely unrelated matter, Mo Johnston opens Toronto FC training camp on Monday and the 2010 season will officially get under way. Honestly... just a coincidence.

TFC fans are indeed hoping not to wake up to "I've Got You Babe" on the alarm clock again this year but off-season "moves" by our Scottish slumber enthusiast seem to have a very groundhoggish feel to them. In other words - not much has happened. While it is too early to start ringing alarm bells, TFC's front office hasn't exactly raised the bar too high this winter.

There are good developments:
- Preki and his new coaching staff seems to represent the best coaching staff the club has had and will hopefully instil a solid playing style and stable leadership
- The club will be playing its home matches on real luxurious (hopefully groundhog-free) grass
- Amado Guevara and his dubious reputation have been shown the door

There are mediocre developments:
- Preki-admired Jacob Peterson being acquired - but with a big ACL question mark looming
- Drafting Zac Herold as a very long-term diamond in the rough with a relatively low pick
- Veterans such as Carl Robinson and Ali Gerba returning from injury-plagued 2009 seasons

And some disappointing developments:
- Amado Guevara and his dubious reputation, but mercurial skill, not being adequately replaced
- A bunch of over-the-hill "last chance" trialists invited to camp… again
- Adrian Serioux in contract limbo with a possible long-term injury problem
- Still a shocking lack of bench strength and yet no transfer signings

As the current crop of returning Reds get ready to drop their shorts for team medicals, it is fairly easy to categorize them into easy-to-sort categories:

TIME TO CALL IT A DAY: Nick Garcia, Jim Brennan

TIME TO MAKE THE NEXT STEP: Nana Attakora, O’Brian White, Sam Cronin

SOLID IN THE BACK: Stefan Frei, Brian Edwards

QUESTION MARKS: Adrian Serioux, Carl Robinson, Jacob Peterson

THE YOUNG AFRICANS: Emmanuel Gomez, Amadou Sanyang, Fuad Ibrahim

LAST CHANCE TO SHINE: Marvell Wynne, Ali Gerba, Chad Barrett

TIME TO LEAD: Dwayne De Rosario, Julian De Guzman

So there you have it, opening day of training camp presents a team with some gaping holes still needing to be filled. A leaky defence and an impotent strike force were a big part of the reason TFC missed the playoffs last year yet come into camp without any resolution. Funny, it seems like last February’s pre-training camp report sounded exactly the same. Never mind - just hit the alarm clock and hope that you don’t hear Sonny and Cher in 2011 as well.