Thursday, May 24, 2007


It was a respectable result for Toronto FC against Benfica of Portugal at BMO last night. Although the score may not show it, the game offered some excellent soccer. Benfica who played with a makeshift lineup had some excellent sequences, yet rarely tested the Toronto net. Toronto's defence led by Jim Brennan and Marco Reda in the first half was able to keep Benfica at at bay. Reda appeared to tweak something and was limping late in the first half. Aside from a partial break away early in the second half, where Greg Sutton had to make a big save on a rather weak effort, Toronto were rarely in true danger - I felt. Sutton was substituted
for backup Srjden Djankovic soon after, who held his own.

Surprisingly, it was Toronto who created several great chances and were unlucky not to finish on several legitimate opportunities late in the game as the play opened up.

Toronto inserted regular starter Andy Welsh and Danny Dichio in the second half. TFC also inserted youngsters Joey Melo, David Guzman, and Christian Nunez at different stages of the the second half to give them playing time against quality opposition. Andrea Lombardo started up top for Toronto with Edson Buddle and was a pesky presence I felt.

I would estimate the crowd at around 15,000-16,000, though it looked larger as the game went on. It was clear many Toronto FC fans had sold their tickets to Benfica supporters (most likely for a big premium) as the Benfica jerseys and fans were everywhere. Toronto FC fans were very vocal nonetheless. Benfica next plays in New Jersey on the weekend against AEK Athens while Toronto will play Columbus on Saturday night. I was told Benfica would recieve close to $1 million dollars for its North American tour.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Wow. Another shocker. Jeff Cunningham is officially in the fold. Add yet another MLS big name player to the revolving door down at BMO. I just hope Cunningham was made aware of and consulted regarding the trade before he heard the news (see Mulrooney, Guevara).

When news broke of a trade sending Esky to RSL this morning, I immediately thought Toronto was bringing in Toronto native Andy Williams or Jack Stewart who would both count as Canadians on the roster. After all this is a team in need of depth. I could never have imagined Jeff Cunningham was on his way. He is a huge improvement overall on the strikers Mo has brought in thus far. Some believed (including myself) that Cunningham truly deserved to be in Germany last year for the World Cup. He is still a US national team possibility.

That said I feel terrible for Eskandarian. I loved his work ethic, enthusiasm, and how he has reached out into the community. Alecko Eskandarian had quickly and deservedly turned into a fan favourite here in Toronto. Esky was the face of many of TFC's promotional campaigns and even kept his own blog. It was interesting reading his comments to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, regarding how ticked off he was for being mislead by Toronto after being notified this morning of the trade. He made sure to jump the gun on Toronto FC by getting his side of the story out first. He apparently did not want to be traded and was just settling in to life in our great city. He wanted to make sure people understood he didn't ask for the trade, and didn't want Toronto FC to spin it any other way. Let's hope they don't. Although I do understand that some of Alecko's pay was being held back temporarily for taxation complications that surfaced.

Bringing in Cunningham reunites two former Columbus Crew prospects - Edson Buddle the other. They often competed for work, with Buddle eventually kept on in Columbus - a regrettable mistake by Columbus, though they still have Eddie Gaven to show for him thanks to Mo Jo himself.

I still think TFC are lacking that one player that can light up the imagination of the fans. That creative, inspirational player, one who can turn games with one great ball or run, and who can service strikers on a consistent basis. These players of course are not easy to find. Yet someone is desperately needed in the middle of the park to spray balls up to Dichio and now Cunningham. Thus far the midfield, aside from Ronnie O'Brien, is severely lacking. Sure Edu is doing a fine job as a rookie, but Toronto simply does not possess a player in midfield who can turn a match and strike fear in opponents. Carl Robinson, TFC's highest paid player, shows signs of being a very classy player, yet has honestly not been a game breaker for TFC thus far (7 games in). In MLS, anyone making the kind of money Robinson ($315,000) or even Andy Welsh ($205,000) are taking up on the salary cap, they better be worth it. I mean there getting paid more than some of the true stars in the MLS, and that adjustment period they needed to get accustomed to MLS is just about over imo.

With Esky gone, it is clear no one on the roster is safe. I am so very curious to see who Mo will keep around past the "contract guarantee" deadline that is fast approaching. I have a feeling Mo will look to dump some extra salary from the cap, in order to make a move for an international or two in the summer. Time will tell, but Mo who is running TFC like many of us run our fantasy league teams, is far from done!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


- Mr. Toldeo was wearing yellow - clearly though he should have worn the DC United colours today as he was their twelfth man and assisted on the penalty goal. Aside from Brazilian Luciano Emilio clearly embellishing and diving on the penalty call, as he had on several occasions all afternoon (there appeared to be contact from Wynne in fairness), I'm more upset with Mr. Toledo allowing play to continue after Andy Welsh was fouled in the DC United end just seconds earlier, leading to the counter attack and the penalty call.
- I thought Toledo was also very generous to Facundo Erpen who could have been awarded a second yellow on several occasions as well as Bobby Boswell. In contrast, he awarded marginal cards to Maurice Edu in the 25th minute, and another to Jim Brennan late in the match that had no merit in my estimation.
-Mr. Toldeo (one of the 4 or 5 full time MLS Officials) was terrible all afternoon. He called a foul on Emilio in the Toronto box late in the game, interrupting a legitimate scoring opportunity for DC - reason unknown, as Emilio did nothing other than win the ball fairly in my eyes.
- DC have stolen 6 points this year on highly dubious late penalties awarded by incompetent officials. With all their trophies, DC are truly becoming the Juventus of MLS.
- That said it was an opportunity lost for Toronto. Did TFC do enough to win today? I'm not so sure. On the other hand I don't think they deserved to lose either.
- TFC did look very tired after playing 3 games in the last 7 days.
- The service to Danny Dichio and to all the front runners was less than adequate. This may also be a product of opposing teams figuring out how to defend against the big man.
- Glad to see Alecko Eskandarian finally score one. He works hard, and deserves it in my book.
- It is clear that a one legged Ronnie O'Brien is still better than most midfielders in the MLS. Will he move to the middle when Carl Robinson departs for International duty with Wales?
- Andy Welsh continues to improve. Although he has become more productive, he is still guilty of being pushed off the ball much too easily. Welsh was clearly labouring towards the late stages yesterday.
- Andrea Lombardo has been a spark plug. He will have a great future for club and country in my eyes.
- Jim Brennan is a rock on the back line, but I would still love to see him in the midfield.
- I was so impressed (again) with the maturity displayed by Andy Boyens on the back line. I can't believe this is the same player who started the first three matches. With Boyens departing for international duty it will be interesting to see how the back line shapes up in the upcoming matches.
- I don;t know what MO has available to him on that bench, though I was surprised to see he didn't add defensive help after DC scored their first goal. It was clear that DC were attacking with more purpose in the second half.
- I have yet to see a star player or great individual performance at BMO field. Aside perhaps from a great display on opening day from Eddie Johnson of the Kansas City Wizards, Toronto fans have yet to see any of the big name MLS Stars do anything of significance at BMO Field. Thus far the likes of Christian Gomez of DC United and Dwayne De Rosario have been average at best here in Toronto.
- Kevin Goldthwaite was unlucky to deflect the first goal in for DC United. I'm not sure how happy DC United can be with their performance today. An own goal and and yet another questionable late penalty call is nothing to get too excited about in my opinion.
- The all important "Contract Guarantee deadline" is fast approaching. It will be interesting to see what moves, if any, Toronto FC will make in the next few weeks.
- With the Carlsberg Beer Tent taking a new look yesterday at the north end of the stadium, fans without tickets gathered on the steps of the adjacent building to watch the match. Kind of neat to see that level of excitement for soccer again.
- It wasn't as noisy at BMO today. Not sure what to attribute this to.
- On to the friendly with Benfica on Wednesday night. Let's hope Toronto takes the match seriously because an ugly loss to a European side will hurt TFC's credibility in this market.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


MLSE are apparently reviewing policies about allowing umbrellas into the stadium during matches. I hope the ban on "large" Canadian flags will also be reviewed in time for July!!!! How about some TV monitors around the concourses so fans can follow the game while below the stands - near the washrooms or "rest rooms" would be great considering the line-ups.

Was I hearing things or did the announcer actually call the added time "Esquire Added Time" at the Houston match??? Purolator is already on board for the official MLS Match "Ball courier." What's next the National anthem??

I must say the 7:00 p.m start the other night was really tough to make. I managed to make it down from with about 20 minutes to spare having left at 5:15, but it was obvious that most fans made there way in after the game was under way. I was lucky enough to avoid the rush into the CNE that hit around 6:50 pm. It didn't help that the Toronto baseball team was playing at the same time, rush hour traffic was in full swing, and the single lanes around the CNE leading to the parking lots, become parking lots themselves during match days. I think one or two of the newspapers had the game starting at 7:30 as well which probably confused some. With only two more weekday regular season matches and the exhibition matches with Benfica and Aston Villa scheduled for the weekdays, pushing weekday games to 7:30 or 8:00 p.m starts would be awesome.

The in stadium announcer sounds exactly like Andy Frost from the Air Canada Centre and Q-107, and does an excellent job. Yet the lady used for the Canada - Argentina exhibition last Friday was simply terrible. In their attempt to make the match sound like some type of international olypic style event no doubt, I assume the organizers hired a female voice for the U-20 World Cup. Message to those running the show at the Toronto organizing committee- its not swimming and its not figure skating - get her out!!!


DC United roll into Toronto today. As many Toronto fans are still unfamiliar with MLS and its history, DC United is the club that set the standard during the leagues early years. After a tough start in 1996, they pulled it together to win the inaugural MLS Cup. The team included the likes of Bolivian great Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno, Raul Diaz Arce, John Harkes, Eddie Pope, and Tony Sanneh. They were coached by Bruce Arena who moved on to become US National team boss. Bob Bradley served as the assistant. DC won MLS Cup in 1996, 1997, and 1999 (losing in the final to Chicago in 1998) and again in 2004 under coach Piotr Nowak.

They currently sit two points behind Toronto, with only one win to show for the first 5 games of the season. I thought DC were lucky in the first win against Chivas, as the penalty call was a bit sketchy in my opinion.

With all due respect to one of the best organizations in Major League Soccer, from what I've seen of them thus far, this is not one of the better DC United squads ever assembled. New coach Tom Soehn - Canadian fans will surely remember him from his CSL days when he came north of the border to earn a living, has to get things going soon or his long awaited opportunity may be very short lived. I will suggest their major downfall thus far has been defending. Facundo Erpen from Argentina, Bobby Boswell and Brian Namhof have been less than consistent. Talk has a deal for Polish International Bortosz Bosacki are in the early stages according to the Washington Post, and Former US International Tony Sanneh is said to be discussing a contract with his old club according to the Chicago Tribune.

DC United keeper Troy Perkins is far from a world beater. He is still young and will have to cope with the intimidating Toronto supporters in behind the net. That said, I hope Toronto shoots toward the south goal in the first half like last Saturday - its an important advantage in my estimation.

Offensively, Argentinian midfielder Christian Gomez and striker Luciano Emilio, a newly signed Brazilian, have been less than spectacular. Bolivian Jaime Moreno, who was recently called back to the Bolvian National team served as a spark plug against Chivas. DC have also signed Jamaican Nicolas Adderly who was scheduled to play in the USL this season. Ben Olsen, a member of the US National team in Germany last year is a long time MLS veteran. Injuries have hindered Olsen's career (he was once on loan to Nottingham Forrest and looked to be sure bet to land a contract in Europe).

Toronto needs to exploit the shortcomings of the DC United back line. I would suspect that Bobby Boswell will be assigned the Danny Dichio duty. Although I like Boswell, I don't rate him as highly as others in the league that have marked Dichio thus far (Conrad/Curtin). The DC back line will have a tough time with the big man. The question as to who will pair up with Dichio is an easy one. With all due respect to Edson Buddle, who has been much more effective in the last two matches (though he still doesn't have a goal to show for it) in my opinion, this will be Alecko Eskandarian's day to savour - a chance to get back at his old team.

This is the last match before the International assignments for the likes of Andrew Boyens and Carl Robinson, and the Canadians selected for the Gold Cup will soon be away for prolonged absences. Coupled with injury concerns to Andy Welsh, Ronnie O'Brien, Marco Reda, and Carl Robinson and the 6 game road swing during July quickly approaching (this due to the Under 20 World Cup being held in Canada) and you can see that a result today would be very important.

PREDICTION: DC United 0 - Toronto FC 0

Thursday, May 17, 2007


With Dale Mitchell officially announced as the new Canadian Men's National Team coach today, a preliminary roster was submitted to CONCACAF for the upcoming Gold Cup. Interim Coach Stephen Hart, who was announced as the team Canada Assistant Men's coach today, will lead Canada at the tournament. This is only a preliminary roster, changes can be expected as the tournament approaches. A couple of notable absences include keeper Greg Sutton from Toronto FC, Tomasz Radzinski formerly of Fulham in the Premiership, and Paul Stalteri of Tottenham Hotspurs.

Patrice Bernier MD Tromso FC/SWE
Adam Braz DF Toronto FC
Jim Brennan MD Toronto FC
Julian DeGuzman MD Deportivo La Coruna/ESP
Dwayne DeRosario AT Houston Dynamo/USA
Robert Friend AT FC Heerenveen/NED
Ali Gerba DF FC Gothenborg/SWE
Gabriel Gervais DF Montreal Impact
Sandro Grande MD Viking Stavanger
Andrew Hainault DF Said Most FC/CZE
Kevin Harmse MD Los Angeles Galaxy/USA
Lars Hirschfeld GK Rosenborg/NOR
Iain Hume MD Leicester City/ENG
Atiba Hutchinson MD FC Copenhagen/DEN
Daniel Imhof MD Bochum/GER
Ante Jazic MD Los Angeles Galaxy/USA
Mike Klukowski MD FC Brugge/BEL
Kevin McKenna AT Energie Cottus/GER
Issey Nakajima-Farran MD FC Vejle Bodklub/DEN
Martin Nash MD Vancouver Whitecaps
Olivier Occean AT Lillestrom/NOR
Chris Pozniak DF Toronto FC
Josh Wagenaar GK ADO Den Haag/NED
TD: Stephen Hart


The raucous gatherings at the first four events held at BMO Field - three Toronto FC matches, and the Canada/Argentina International last Friday, have caused structural problems at the new stadium. Engineers and stadium officials will be very busy over the next few days as bolts have been falling from below the stands on the west stand. I can confirm that a bolt bounced near me under the east stand on Saturday, while waiting for my order to be completed near the Subway Sandwich cart next to Gate 2. I wrote it off at the time as left over construction materials settling/falling due to the vibration. I hope these problems are minor in nature and can be sorted out quickly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The thunderstorms that swept through the GTA last night claimed my match preview for the Houston match. I'll provide a brief summary below.

* All that rain last night will ensure a very slick pitch for the match this evening
* Rain is in the weather forecast for today and Saturday as well
* 1/5 of the Toronto FC's inaugural season will be completed by the end of the Houston match
* Former Toronto FC defender Richard Mulrooney played right back for Houston in their last match
* Kevin Goldthwaite the player Mulrooney was traded for has been a pleasant surprise for Toronto. He will want to show his old team it was a mistake to let him go
* Toronto Native Dwayne De Rosario leads the Houston midfield, with a talented group of players around him that have been together for several years. The midfield includes talented Ricardo Clark, Brian Mullan, and Brad Davis.
* Toronto is not the only team struggling scoring goals. Houston have only scored 4 goals in 5 MLS matches thus far (3 of the 4 goals came in their last match) Toronto has scored 3 goals in 5 games. The only players to have scored for Houston this season are American international striker Brian Ching, and De Rosario.
* Look out for speedy Joseph Ngwenya from Zimbabwe. Ngwenya should make his debut for the Dynamo after being traded from Columbus last week. He can be clever and extremely dangerous.
* Paul Dalglish, the son of Kenny Dalglish, is a striker for the Dynamo. He has been hampered by an ankle injury and may not play on Wednesday.
* Houston keeper Pat Onstad played for several Toronto professional teams including the Toronto Blizzard, Toronto Lynx and Toronto Rockets over the course of his long career.
* The Houston Dynamo have entered into an agreement to study the viability of building a soccer specific stadium with the City of Houston.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


After CSA President Colin Linford was not able to get the approval from the CSA Board of Directors for the hiring of Brazilian Rene Simoes as Men's National team coach, Dale Mitchell the current Canadian Under-20 and former Canadian International is now set to become the National team boss (according to reports in the Toronto Star & Globe & Mail). Simoes became the number one choice after a panel, including player representative Dwayne De Rosario of the Houston Dynamo, selected him from a short list of 4 candidates that also included former World Cup winner and Tottenham manager Ossie Ardiles of Argentina according to the reports this morning.

My take: Although I would have preferred a foreign coach, someone with the pedigree and respect at the International level and the CONCACAF Region, I was always a bit weary of Simoes since his name was revealed. Simoes clearly understands our region having coached teams in CONCACAF and he did lead Jamaica to the World Cup in 1998 . Of course the manner in which he led Jamaica was not exactly a product of his tactical brilliance or coaching expertise, in my opinion. You may recall Simoes basically recruited players of Jamaican ancestry playing around the world to make up the bulk of the starting team. Many who had never even been to Jamaica before. Sure he had to bring those players together and turn them into a cohesive unit, but the shear number of players he imported into the team diminished the accomplishment of reaching France in my eyes (England based Frank Sinclair, Darryl Powell, Deon Burton, Robbie Earle, even Toronto native Andy Williams amongst others were some of the players brought in).

Dale Mitchell gets his chance, probably not the manner he would have liked, but its a great opportunity nonetheless. He was probably the best midfielder to ever suit up for our country. Mitchell was a brilliant player one of my favourites growing up. I remember watching him closely during his visits with the National team, Vancouver 86ers, and when he played locally for the Toronto Blizzard in the CSL days. American readers may remember Dale from his days in the MISL, where he was one of the best players for many years.

Will he light up the imagination of the soccer fans across the country? Probably not. Mitchell does however offer a true understanding of the Canadian setup and mentality, and probably has a better grasp of the current crop of players than anyone else. He will also understand the limitations of the sport in our country, something that is not easily understood by foreign coaches (Holger Osieck comes to mind). His biggest challenge in the short term as National team boss, in my opinion, will be to lure Toronto native Jonathan De Guzman to come home and play for Canada. His focus until July of course will be the Under 20's. Stephen Hart will lead Canada to the Gold Cup next month.

My dream coach for Canada has always been Canadian born and raised John Van't Schipp, who is Marco Van Basten's assistant with Holland. The former Holland, Ajax, and Genoa player was born and grew up in British Columbia before his family moved back to Holland and he was discovered by Ajax Youth system. Not sure what type of compensation the likes of Van't Schipp would command, but I would assume it is quite substantial, and well beyond the reach of Canadian soccer. I'll keep my dream alive though, after all I would never have thought I would be watching MLS live in my hometown, 20 minutes from my house no less, in a sold out soccer specific stadium a few years back, yet here we are today!

Monday, May 14, 2007


Mo Johnston confirmed during a radio interview on the FAN 590 this afternoon, that Trinidad International Collin Samuel has experienced immigration problems entering into Canada. His trial has therefore been delayed.

UPDATE: Reports in the morning papers claim that Samuel has been lost to Toronto FC as he was not allowed to enter Canada. Several other MLS teams have also expressed interest in his services, and it sounds like he will now explore those options.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Trinidad International Collin Samuel will reportedly be on trial this week with Toronto FC.


What a great couple of days for soccer fans in our area. The sun was shining on Toronto FC today and they came through with their second solid performance at home, and this time with a much deserved win. Like I said in the preview, we were "due". All is well at the moment in TFC land, and the losing streak is behind us. Patience is required by all involved, it is an expansion year after all, with many hills and valleys yet to come. Everyone should be reminded to stay the course (including myself) because the season is young. As frustrating as it was to watch those first 4 matches, desperate times, sometimes don't require desperate measures to correct themselves.

A word to Mo Johnston. I hope you revisit your recent suggestions that there is an immediate need for a designated player. I thought your initial plan to wait out a DP, was brilliant. Don't let the pressure get to you. The Toronto audience, as soccer savvy as we may be, don't know MLS well enough yet. A DP player is not needed at this juncture in my opinion. Your group is starting to come along nicely. Let time take its course. Mo well understands, being in MLS since the inception, that "high profile" players don't necessarily win championships in MLS. Most MLS fans had never heard of the likes of Christian Gomez, Piotr Nowak, Carlos Ruiz, even Dwayne De Rosario, yet these are the type of players I would honestly much prefer Mo bring in - Champions.

What can be said about Toronto's performance today. They played much better, held positive possession,were entertaining, and looked even hungrier than two weekends ago. What else can we ask for?

After watching young Andrea Lombardo's performance against Argentina on Friday night, and how hard he worked, basically by himself up top, when Toronto bunkered up at the back late in the second half, I have to wonder how the heck he hasn't played yet.

The referee was a total disaster in my opinion. It took him nearly 30 seconds to notice the brawl in the first half. How the hell he issued two red cards without actually viewing the altercation - his head was clearly turned the other way from my vantage point (and as far as a few of us in my area thought- he did not consult the linesman either) is beyond me. It felt as if Toronto were playing short handed all day (though I've yet to watch my tape). He was as guilty as anyone for letting the game slip out of control.

I hope the Chicago Fire fans in attendance were taking some notes. BMO field isn't exactly filled with screaming girls youth soccer teams like other MLS venues. Toronto soccer fans have many years of pent up emotion. American soccer players and fans no longer need to head to Europe to get a true soccer atmosphere. Not sure if it was caught on television, yet a Chicago player continued sprinting up the field with the ball well after the whistle had gone, as the noise level was crazy. He must of thought he was in heaven as the Toronto players had stopped.

To that end, if MLS thinks of placing sanctions on the team for the behaviour of fans (the BMO seat cushions being thrown on the field) they are truly hypocrites. The experience at BMO is being created by fans. There is no canned noise, few announcements, and no music blaring over the public address system, and no silly mascots causing a distraction - its simply the game and the fans as it should be. If they want Toronto to struggle at the gate, and discourage the passion they proclaim in their very own advertising - I'll point to the problems that occurred with fan groups during the formative years in Miami (Ft. Lauderdale) and New York. Look where those organizations are now. Blame the marketing genius behind the promotion, not the fans. Chicago have little to complain about in my opinion. As the delays actually worked to their advantage. They occurred when Toronto was doing well and stalled some of TFC's momentum to some extent.

I can't recall the Toronto FC players who approached the fans that invaded the pitch in front of the southeast corner, but they should be commended for trying to calm the situation and the over reaction from the police officers. The hug between the fan and the Toronto FC player was wonderful. I also credit Mo, for keeping his players on the field after the match in order to salute the crowd. Excellent.

I stuck around to watch the first half of the reserve game (actually sat right in front of Dale Mitchell, Kevin Muldoon, Nick Dasovic and a couple of others from the team Canada U-20 staff. It was very interesting listening to their comments. Adam Braz scored a great goal and Miguel Canizalez was tearing apart the Chicago wingers (Woolard & Franks) in the first half. Toronto's reserves were far superior.

My major disappointment of the weekend, occurred on Friday. A policy in place at BMO does not allow large flags (of a normal size I thought) in most sections of the stadium. I was baffled when security asked my 11 year old niece not to enter BMO on Friday night with her Canadian flag. I laughed at first, as I thought they were joking. Here is an enthusiastic young fan, proudly displaying our country's flag and she is asked to put it away. I'm not the type that gets upset easily (far from it), but this really ticked a nerve. Although I voiced my displeasure, I understand security at the gate were simply doing their job (probably for minimum wage no less - and they eventually allowed us to bring it in anyway after they provided a reasonable solution). This is surely a policy that should be revisited with future National team games and the U-20 tournament in the cards. Perhaps readers can let the folks over at MLSE/BMO know what they can do about this silly policy.

On a personal note, after 3 matches at BMO, my throat - what's left of it, is killing me (it took me 4 days to recover after the home opener). Not sure what I'm going to do on Wednesday night.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


As the saying goes - Toronto FC are "due". If not for a win, Toronto are certainly "due" for a result, or at minimum a goal. At this point TFC are on pace to become the worst expansion team in the history of MLS. That said, I'm not suggesting Saturday is a must win, though fielding a competitive side for the full 90 minutes would be nice change. With DC United finally winning on the weekend, Toronto remains in a battle with Real Salt Lake, as the two teams left in MLS still chasing a win. unlike previous expansion teams, Toronto FC do not have a fellow expansion team to beat up on, and the next closest thing - Real Salt Lake, are not in the cards until a July fixture.

The time for excuses and finger pointing is wearing thin. While Toronto are certainly not a playoff caliber team at this point, it is critical for them to salvage some respectability for the sake of the fans (and potential fans), as well as the confidence of the players. That said, TFC showed much better against Kansas City two weekends ago. At a minimum, they proved they could compete.

The Chicago Fire are a top team in the Eastern Conference, a team with considerable depth and experience, so things won't get easier this week. Toronto is also facing the prospect of a very busy schedule over the next two weeks. Toronto FC host Chicago on Saturday, Houston on Wednesday, DC United next Saturday, Benfica of Portugal the following Wednesday and an away fixture with Columbus on May 26th. Though only a friendly, I would suggest the Benfica fixture will be the most important game from a credibility standpoint, as many of the non-converted (of all ethnicity's) in the GTA will gauge Toronto FC and MLS by this result - so it too is a game I suggest shouldn't be taken lightly from a marketing standpoint.

Perhaps in order to deflect some of the attention away from his team's poor start this week, Toronto Coach/GM Mo Johnston has been involved in a war of words with his Chicago Fire counterparts. The Fire have made comments about having to play on the artificial surface, with Mo defending the BMO surface. My take - with three teams in the Eastern Conference unfortunately having to play on the fake stuff, and with the warmer weather on its way, making the Field Turf even more uncomfortable to play on, Chicago might want to stop whining and start better preparing themselves for games on plastic.

Toronto may benefit from a roster that is finally starting to get healthy. The return of Ronnie O'Brien will be a huge addition for a Toronto side that has lacked quality in the midfield all season. Much of the focus of Toronto's dismal start has focused on the defenders and the forwards, yet the midfield has been almost non-existent. Carl Robinson has to step up his game and earn his salary (amongst the highest in the league). Andy Welsh is yet another one of the high priced, highly touted imports that have come in and honestly done very little. Many questions will remain until game time. Will Mo be more daring in his lineup? Will we see a different formation - 5-4-1? Will Chris Pozniak finally see action in the back? Will Marco Reda be given another chance and be re-inserted ? If so do we see Jim Brennan make a move to the midfield (probably not in the cards given Brennan has played at the back through training camp).

The Fire on the other hand have started well this season with a 3-1-1 record. The Fire's last match, a 3-1 loss away at New England, was not one of their better showings thus far. From what I've managed to watch of them this year, they are a quality side and should be contenders. High priced Mexican import Cutuamonc Blanco won't arrive until June. The Fire have produced many quality players over the years winning the MLS Cup in their expansion year in 1998. The Fire alumni include Jorge Campos, Hristo Stiotchkov, and Pole Piotr Nowak who was one of the greatest players to ever play in MLS. Premiership players Carlos Bocanegra who was transferred to Fulham, and Demarcus Beasley of Manchester City started their careers in Chicago, as did striker Josh Wolff currently with 1860 Munich in Germany. The Fire also happen to be the team Canadian International and Toronto keeper Greg Sutton started his professional career with.

With Toronto announcing friendlies with Benfica and Aston Villa this week, Chicago too announced last week a series of friendlies where they will play both MKS Cacovia Krakow of Poland, and Glasgow Celtic.


GOALKEEPER: Matt Pickens is the Chiacgo Fire number one. Pickens augmented his place as a starter last season after MLS veteran keeper Zach Thorton's play deteriorated. Jon Busch, who had a cup of coffee with Toronto FC during pre-season, after being claimed on waivers from the Columbus Crew serves as the Chicago backup.

DEFENDERS: The defence is led by veteran Jim Curtin. Curtain is a rock for Chicago and amongst the best in the league at his position. CJ Brown is a Chicago Fire original that is always consistent. Dasan Robinson is developing into a fine MLS defender, and Costa Rican Gonzalo Segares can be an offensive threat from the back (though it was him who I believe was skinned badly for one of the Revs goals last week in his own box). Young Trinidadian international Osei Telesford, who claimed Toronto FC were interested in drafting him this year (Toronto instead selected Daryl Roberts who never reported and signed instead with Sparta Rotterdam in Holland), has had limited minutes.

MIDFIELD: Chris Armas is the team leader and controls the midfield. A former US National team player, I've always admired Armas for his quality. Armas in his final MLS campaign, is a defensive midfielder that will really make his presence felt alll over the pitch during the course of a game. Armas has had a career slowed by injuries at the most unfortunate times (not that there is a good time to suffer an injury). Injuries that have kept him out of important international opportunities, including a possible starting role with the 2002 World Cup team. He will be remembered by fans of Canadian soccer as the object of an embarrassing protest by CSA chief Kevan Pipe after playing against Canada in a World Cup qualifier. The appeal was later dismissed by FIFA. Armas who represented Puerto Rico in a non-sanctioned FIFA tournament, was thought to be ineligible by Pipe. Honduran international Ivan Guerrero is another very experienced player that will look to exploit Toronto wide on the flank. Diego Guttirrez a Kansas City native, is another threat in the middle. Bob Gansler and Mo Johnston should be familiar with Guttirrez who has been around MLS since its inception, spent several years in KC, and his been a consistent presence. Justin Mapp a National Team midfielder is a very dangerous creator in the middle of the park when healthy. Mapp has been slowed by a nagging injury this year and may not see time on Saturday. If Mapp doesn't get selected, expect talented Brazilian Thiago to start. Frenchman Pascal Bedrossian should also be available.

FORWARDS: Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett are a dangerous duo up top for the Fire. While they will not figure as prominently on an individual level perhaps when compared to Eddie Johnson from two weeks ago, collectively they will give Toronto's back line plenty to deal with. Calen Carr is an energetic option off the bench that will create problems for tired defenders if inserted late in the match.

KEYS FOR TORONTO: In my opinion this game will be won in the midfield (how about that for a piece of insight). If Toronto can somehow limit the effectiveness of the very talented Chicago midfield they may be able to hold on for a result. Of course this will be easier said then done. Toronto has to be more thorough overall in their distribution of the ball and work towards keeping meaningful possession in the final third. TFC have been very predictable when mounting any sort of attack (which has been rare), and turnover the ball way too often and easily in the middle of the park. It won't take long for MLS coaches to figure out how to limit the the long balls out of the back to Danny Dichio either (which seemed the preferred option by Wynne & Goldthwaite vs. KC), thus attacking from wide positions must improve. Toronto doesn't have many options off the bench, though a young unknown like Andrea Lombardo or Gabe Gala may cause Chicago some fits (not sure if Lombardo will be available given he will play on Friday for Canada at BMO against Argentina). Chicago failed to respond to tactical changes made by Steve Nicol in the second half last Sunday in New England, and paid for it.

PREDICTION: Toronto 0 - Chicago 0


According to Nigel Reid of the FAN 590 and the CBC (Soccer Show Tonight on FAN 590), Alecko Eskandarian is out for this weekend against Chicago. This is a huge loss for TFC who are already short on depth. Esky has apparently gone down with a calf injury. With Abbe Ibrahim still not allowed to work in Canada (though he was apparently at practice today), Toronto FC have requested Canadian Under 20 striker Andrea Lombardo be made available for Saturday. Lombardo is scheduled to play Argentina on Friday at BMO field.

UPDATE: Abbe Ibrahim has been cleared to begin working in Canada.

Furthermore, Ronnie O'Brien had said earlier today on a television interview on the Score Network with James Sharmen, that he is in contention to play against Chicago, but not yet 100%. He did not sound totally convinced he would be fit enough to play on the weekend in my opinion. He made reference to coming back too early, and possibly missing another 3-4 matches which of course would be devastating for all involved during the interview. Due to the nature of his injury we should hope he is totally fit, because another blow could have devastating consequences.


Here are the preliminary rosters released for the match on Friday evening at Toronto's BMO Field. This will be the same Argentina side that will face Freddy Adu and the US National U-20's next Tuesday across Lake Ontario in nearby Rochester, New York at Paetec Park.

Gabriel Mercado
Santiago Malano
Matías Sánchez
Gonzalo García
Agustín Marchesin
Santiago Villafañe
Juan Daniel Forlin
Federico Scoppa
Emiliano Centeno
Facundo Coria
Nicolás Dul
Jorge Sotomayor
Leandro Morales
Lionel Vangioni
Diego Braghieri
Milton Joel Caraglio
Diego Perotti
Alejandro Gómez
Marcelo Cardozo
Jonatan Chaves

Keegan Ayre
Asmir Begovic - Portsmouth/Maccasfield town
Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault
Michael D’Agostino - University of Kentucky
David Edgar - Newcastle United
Alex Elliott - University of Portland
Gabe Gala - Toronto FC
A.J. Gray - released by Toronto FC
Marcus Haber
Simeon Jackson
Zach Kalthoff
Olivier Lacoste-Lebuis
Andrea Lombardo - Toronto FC
Stephen Lumley - Toronto FC
Gavin McCallum
David Monsalve -
Cristian Nunez - Toronto FC
Kent O’Connor - 1860 Munich
Jaime Peters - Ipswich Town
Tosaint Ricketts - UW Green Bay


Toronto FC defender Andrew Boyens has been selected to the New Zealand National team that will face Wales and Ukraine in friendlies on May 27th and June 7th. Boyens will most likely miss three Toronto FC games while playing for his country. Toronto FC midfielder Carl Robinson has said he expects to lineup against Boyens in the Wales fixture adding to Toronto's depth problems in early June. Interestingly, Jarrod Smith the first overall Supplemental Draft Pick selected by Toronto FC, was also named to the Kiwi side for the aforementioned friendlies. Smith is listed as currently unattached.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Toronto FC have announced that they will play Benfica on May 23rd and Aston Villa July 25th in friendlies. I speculated late last year that Villa would be the opponent for one of the friendlies as they had announced on their website that they would travel to play the Vancouver Whitecaps in a friendly on the the west coast in July. Season ticket holders who were originally promised 20 games, will now instead receive 18 games as the Villa & Benfica fixtures will be worth two vouchers. Benfica will arrive at the end of their current season, (which could mean a team full of reserves) while Villa will play Toronto as part of their pre-season schedule. The third match as part of the season ticket package will be this coming Friday as Canada's National U-20 team play Argentina at BMO. Season ticket holders are asked to use voucher A for the Benfica fixture and Voucher C for the Villa match. Vouchers B & D according to the email sent out by Toronto FC are apparently now worthless.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Thanks to MLS Underground for the heads up.

TORONTO FC (Base Salary/Guaranteed Salary)
1. Robinson Carl M $300,000.00 /$315,000.00
2. O'Brien Ronnie M $240,000.00 /$258,750.00
3. Welsh Andrew M $195,000.00 /$204,750.00
4. Eskandarian Alecko F $155,000.00 /$175,500.00
5. Dichio Daniel F $150,000.00 /$158,125.00
6. Brennan Jim D $150,000.00 /$158,000.00
7. Buddle Edson F $140,000.00 /$150,000.00
8. Sutton Greg GK $125,000.00 /$132,562.50
9. Reda Marco D $100,000.00 /$105,000.00
10. Pozniak Chris D $90,000.00 /$95,000.00
11. Nagamura Paulo M $89,250.00 /$89,250.00
12. Braz Adam D $67,200.00 /$74,950.00
13. Edu Maurice M $50,000.00 /$132,500.00
14. Wynne Marvell D $47,500.00 /$150,000.00
15. Canizalez Maycoll M $36,000.00 /$40,000.00
16. Boyens Andrew D $30,000.00 /$47,500.00
17. Ibrahim Abdoulaye F $30,000.00 /$31,250.00
18. Goldthwaite Kevin D $30,870.00 /$30,870.00
19. Djekanovic Srdjan GK $17,700.00/ $17,700.00

Gala Gabriel M $12,900.00 /$12,900.00
Guzman David M $12,900.00/ $12,900.00
Hemming Tyler M $17,700.00 /$17,700.00
Lombardo Andrea F $17,700.00/ $17,700.00
Lumley Stephen D $12,900.00 /$12,900.00
Melo Joey M $12,900.00 / $ 12,900.00

The number that stands out for me is the $200k given to Andy Welsh. That is a very good MLS contract, and he has certainly done little to justify that sort of money.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


(1) Toronto FC are (were) tied with DC United in last place of the Eastern Conference. New York are in first.

(2) The first Canadian to score a goal in MLS was not from the Toronto FC roster. Surprisingly, it wasn't Dwayne De Rosario of the Houston Dynamo either. The first Canadian to score in MLS this season is Kevin Harmse of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Harmse, who was signed by the Galaxy in the off season, scored a wonderful goal in the Chivas - Galaxy SuperClassico at the HDC on Saturday night. Harmse scored on a splendid one-two with Landon Donovan.

(3) Not scoring in their first 4 encounters of the season, has helped keep Toronto FC in the spotlight. Both soccer fans and non-soccer fans throughout the Greater Toronto area are talking about the team because they haven't scored yet. While the majority of fans still have no idea who is actually on the team, most know they haven't scored yet. Not scoring has actually given fans and the media a reference point to discuss the team.


According to Gerry Dobson at Rogers Sportsnet, Amado Guevara after many warnings, has finally given up on MLS and will return home to Honduras. The trade was apparently all set to go, but Guevara the most important part of the transaction has instead decided to pack his bags and head home rather than join Toronto. According to Dobson, Toronto will still be sending Paulo Nagamura to Chivas USA in exchange for a draft pick. Apparently Nagamura was yet another of the unhappy campers in the Toronto FC side that wanted out and this trade will address his desire. Here is the link to Dobson's Blog -


According to a post made on the Toronto Red Patch Boys Supporters message boards dedicated to the Guevara trade - poster "mlsintoronto" (aka. Toronto Director Paul Beirne - Toronto's version of Peter Wilt you might say) claimed "its not happening". Its not known if Beirne was ruling out the trade or the associated rumours that Guevara was acquired as bait to secure Dwayne De Rosario from Houston.

Luis Bueno, the soccer beat writer at the Press Enterprise newspaper in Southern California ran the story this morning claiming someone within Chivas USA has confirmed the trade to him. It should be noted that Bueno and Andrea Canales are the writers for LA Soccer News, where the story first originated

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few hours (actually this being MLS - it may take a few days) before we know if the trade was actually completed. Although I like Nagamura and he has tremendous up side at his age, Guevara was traded for a DP, so unless Chivas have something lined up and needed the cap space quickly, I'm having a hard time thinking this deal is a sure thing at this point. Sit tight TFC fans!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Wow. Just when I thought things were settling down, rumour of this huge trade makes the rounds. According to Andrea Canales of ESPN Soccernet, Honduran star Amado Guevara was traded by Chivas USA to Toronto FC for Paulo Nagamura, and an undisclosed draft pick. The deal is pending league approval. Guevara who was traded in the off season by Red Bull New York for a designated player lasted all but 4 matches in Los Angeles with Chivas USA.

This is an odd move in that Mo Johnston and New York general manager Alexi Lalas had it out in a very big way with Guevara prior to the 2006 MLS season. Guevara and Lalas exchanged words in the media, to the point where Guevara apparently did not want to return to MLS last season.

On his day Guevara is one of the best midfielders in MLS. I am very excited and can't wait to see him here. I just hope he shows up with the right mentality - and that he really wants to play here. After all we've already seen Richard Mulrooney, Conor Casey, and Jose Cancela make quick exits because they never wanted to be here to begin with. Lets hope Mo has talked to Amado and made sure he is prepared to commit to the team, and more importantly that bad blood between the two no longer exists.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Toronto FC have solved their backup situation (at least for the short term) with the transfer of 24 year old Canadian Srdjan Djekanovic from the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL. Djekanovic who was born in Serbia, has been involved with various Canadian youth teams and the University of British Columbia, as well as with the Whitecaps FC as a reserve keeper.