Archive for April, 2011
Sunday, April 24th, 2011
Major League Soccer has an issue on it’s hands and, in my opinion, commissioner Don Garber has to stand up for his league and its ability to grow. FIFA rules don’t always suit what soccer needs to become in North America to feed the beast here at home (Canada/USA).
Fans who pay money to support this league deserve to be entertained. The play on the pitch is not always of a worldly quality that can sell the game based on skills alone. So when a player wants to celebrate a goal by running to his hometown fans and high five a few paying customers, the referees need to use discretion. Not a card that leads to a players dismissal.
Saturday in Toronto, TFC midfielder Tony Tchani scored his first goal in a Toronto uniform. The goal gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at home over arch rivals (young to have a rival in year five), Columbus. After the goal, Tchani ran with his momentum and jumped over the sideline signage and celebrated with a few fans and teammates. The stadium packed with 18-thousand fans was electric. Moments later, a referee took the entire wind out of the sails of Toronto FC and any fan who might have gone home to tell a friend what a blast MLS is. That fan instead went home and said “what a joke”.
The officials will argue it’s a FIFA us USSF rule that players who celebrate as Tchani did get a yellow card. The challenge from the officials or soccer federations is that the celebration delays the re-start of the game. Are you kidding me? Have you seen the delay of game tactics that unpunished in every single soccer game you have ever watched? That rule for MLS is bogus. I challenge the referees to manage the game a little. Talk to the player, advise him he will be carded if he does not line up to restart the game ASAP. Allow the game and the fans to grow some emotion.
The robotics of soccer, a game I have played and coached my entire life, will not allow the game to grow any more than it is now, regionally at best, if referees and MLS go along with stuffed shirt thinking. Anyone complaining about the Green Bay Packers “Lambeau Leap”? Anyone in a Columbus uniform really give a shout about a player celebrating a goal with the hometown fans for a few seconds? No they did not care. The game was held up by more delay tactics by the Crew with their indecisiveness over who should take a throw in. Early in the game goalie Will Hesmer took his sweet time putting a goal kick into play. The referee blew his whistle and gestured to get the ball in play,. Hesmer ignored the plea and took his time. Eddie Gaven was in the face of the referee over what he felt was a wrong call. Both tactics wasting time, and not one yellow card.
The MLS needs fans to go home happy from thier in game experience, and not go home claiming what they paid for and witnessed was a farce.
Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Soccer fans in North America should be standing up and cheering loud for what went down in Portland Oregon last week. The hometown Timbers won its first two home games in newly renovated Jeld-Wen Field. You can be pretty sure both Chicago and FC Dallas were not feeling so keen on being the first teams to visit a city that was, like Vancouver before them, frothing at the thought of MLS welcoming them as fans into their fast growing club.
Over 18-thousand fan’s dancing, singing, green flags waving, and of course who can’t help but like The “slice of timber” given to the games MVP.
That’s two new teams in Vancouver and Portland and while it’s early, I think the fans have shown win or lose, they are in MLS to stay and a healthy rivalry for west coast soccer fans have been born between Vancouver, Portland and Seattle. You would he hard pressed to find a triumphant of fans in the east with this kind of energy.
LA Galaxy’s David Beckham has seen enough and I for one am glad he spoke out about the officiating in MLS. I always preface my comments towards officiating by starting with “you could never pay me enough to take the heat these men, or women take in trying to do a job”. But the officiating has to get better for MLS to gain respect from players and coaches it is trying to attract from around the world. Beckham was quietly livid after a scoreless draw in Toronto last week and made it clear he thinks the referees are enjoying being part of the games spotlight too much. I have seen it, and I agree.
Not sure of the answer as I write this today but the people who patrol and police the on-field moments in MLS need to do a better job at setting the tone for how they plan to call a game early. Straight reds on what are first time yellows at best are not acceptable for a league that is trying to market it’s players.
Friday, April 15th, 2011
David Beckham just finished his visit to Toronto and BMO Field. He spoke with Sportsnet Radio THE FAN 590 in the post game, and I have a few thoughts on #23′s appearance in Toronto and MLS. You can hear my thoughts by clicking “play” below.
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Toronto FC are full marks for their point per game pace they are on of late. The club has every excuse in the book at their disposal right now with regards to the rebuild and yes this is a rebuild. New management, coaches, 15 new players, injuries to their only two natural front men. yet Toronto FC has managed a point per game since their opening day loss in Vancouver.
The team for some reason has an early habit of starting in a manner in which the players appear to be confused of where to be or go with the ball. Unsettled perhaps. But as the first half marches on Toronto FC has consistently improved its play about 25 minutes into the game. The second half also seems to see the team start slow then get better. I guarantee you the coaches and players are addressing this. The problem is sometimes the more you address this particular issue it weighs even more on the minds of the players and they think too much at the start of the game. Might sound silly to suggest a player could think too much to open a game, but what Aaron Winter (without speaking for he or Bob de Klerk), wants from this teams development more than anything else, is for his players to become so relaxed and confident on the ball the game just flows from their heads to their feet without much need for “where do I go with this now?”
A point in San Jose against an offensive minded team was a good sign for a road team that used to be unsure of how to earn points away from BMO field. The scoreless draw with The LA Galaxy in Toronto could be considered another small win. Toronto survived three goal posts and played without Alan Gordon and Maicon Santos. Those two latter mentioned players are the only real target men of MLS calibre TFC have right now. Anyone else plugged into that role one day might be effective, but that day is down the road.
Friday, April 8th, 2011
Is it wrong that Toronto FC coach Aaron Winter wants to keep the players locker room their own sanctuary pre- and post-game? Not in my opinion. Any team’s locker room should be their own domain. A place where players can vent when they need to vent away from media eyes or ears. A place where players can laugh after a loss and not have the media paint a player as someone who doesn’t care about the fact the club failed on the pitch to achieve its goal.
That said, what Aaron Winter and Toronto FC failed to realize by keeping media out of the locker room is the fact that by allowing media into the players domain, you allow the fans a better chance to get to know the players and the club. For the job of just getting a quote about the game just played from a player, Winter is correct, it does not matter what room you get that quote from. What does matter is the fact stories about these players are lost. You ask any journalist, and they will tell you the best time to sit down and talk to a player and learn something more about them is while sitting beside the player while in their locker room, their domain. Fans need these stories from the media, the team needs these stories to be written, or there will be no connect. You can not just have the teams website post a few facts about a players career as if it were the back of a playing card. That’s not enough to tell the stories that people read. In those stories fans find a way to connect with the players, find reasons to cheer them on, and maybe a reason to come to their first ever MLS soccer game.
The players still hold control of the moment with the conversations happening in their room. if a player feels he is being unfairly portrayed he can get up and walk away and hide in an area of the room the media can not and should not be allowed to get to. After all, locker room access means the players locker area. These days, locker rooms in newer stadiums are a maze of places to hide if a player needs to have his privacy. Players have lounges and games rooms now, as well as pools, saunas etc.
Aaron Winter is full marks for wanting to make changes that were desperately needed with TFC in order to start winning consistently, not just this season or next. This crew, unless they decide to leave on their own, will be here for a few years. The carousel has to stop spinning with regards to coaches and managers in Toronto. Stability is needed and I sense Winter is a stable man. He is calm when he needs to be calm and he has the ability to push players when needed along with his assistant Bob de Klerk. Will they be successful? Only time will tell. In the meantime, stories about who these new players are with Toronto FC need to be told. They can’t and wont be told by a guy riding a bike in a gym with 15 or more media members waiting to get their crack at asking the questions.
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
Some early thoughts on MLS 2011.
It is early still in Major League soccer, but may I say there are some very exciting and intriguing storylines already. I don’t know about you but I am still impressed game in and game out with Chris Wondolowski in San Jose. In 2010 Wondo, as they call him on San Jose and around the league, had his coming out party and won the Budwiser Golden Boot, was third in league MVP votes. The 18-goal season seemed to serve notice that a superstar was hatching. Not a bad trade by the Quakes in 2009 when they sent Cam Weaver to Houston for Chris. Already in 2011 Wondolowski has two goals in 270 minutes on six shots on goal. Every time San Jose works the ball through the midfield with the likes of Sam Cronin and Bobby Convey, you just get the sense that #8 is going to create a scoring chance at the very least. A hungry and deterimined player, the Danville, California native is a great expample of effort and soccer sense meeting at a pub and agreeing to meet there again every game day and go just as hard as they did the first time they saddled up to the bar. Does it get any better when it comes to selling MLS in Vancouver? A week one win over Toronto FC and this past weekend a 3-3 tie vs. Sporting KC that felt like a championship win. This was not just any tie. The Whitecaps were solid in the first half but could not get a ball past Jimmy Neilson in net for KC. Eventually Teal Bunbury scored twice and Sporting was out to a 3-0 lead. If there is ever a game and a lead that is usually a lock, I think we would agree for the most part soccer leads the way. Not in this game though. The Whitecaps crept their way within 3-2, and in extra time the home team sent fans into a frenzy with a near post header to tie the game as the clouds just over Empire Stadium’s west end still hung onto the dark shadows of the Canadian Rockies. Pretty sure soccer fans in Vancouver (who were a lock to come back anyway) will be back in full voice for the next Whitecaps home game.Toronto FC’s Dwayne De Rosaio chapter came to an end last week and a Red Bull chapter for the the Scarborough native started off well. The Canadian National Team member asissted on NY’s only goal in a 1-1 tie against another former MLS home of DeRo’s, the Houston Dynamo. De Rosaio admitts he did ask to be traded out of Toronto. Frustrated that no progress was being made on reworking his deal, DeRosario claims to this day he was promised a new deal would be hammered out if he produced. Fact is this trade came on the heels of a career best 15 goal season. Toronto added two young players in Danleigh Borman and Tony Tchani, as well as NY’s first round pick in 2012. Both Borman and Tchani started for Toronto the day after the trade in a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA in Toronto. Toronto had two glorious chances to score the go ahead goal, including a two on none that in the end new TFC captain Maicon Santos failed to negotiate.The LA Galaxy moved David Beckham to the centre of the midfield for their match vs. Philadelphia. The move paid off. Beckham was much more involved in the game. His vision and distribution skills very evident with his assist in a 1-0 Galaxy win over the second year MLS Union.
Beckham said after the game he is used to playing in the middle of the park and has done so with Manchester United, Real Madrid and England. People still confuse Beckham’s purpose in MLS. I know all about the money, I know the Galaxy will never get that worth out of Beckham as a player alone. But Beckham’s worth to LA is not just his still more than just fashionable skills on the pitch, but the awaraness he continues to bring to the league is priceless. I was on the road with Toronto FC last season and met two people from California. They were from the LA area and admitted they did not know LA had a pro soccer team until David Beckham signed. Having been at Home Depot Centre in LA since that signing, I can safely say, don’t confuse the real reason why David Beckham was brought to MLS. I says this now because if this is Beckhams last season in MLS, the legacy of his ever signing in North America will live on.
The Houston Dynamo may not say it but they were likely feeling pretty good about sliding to the Eastern conference for this season. The move made to blanace out the conference with Vancouver and Portland on board in the West. Now the Dynamo have other concerns. Their captain, Brian Ching went for x-rays this week on his ribs. Ching took a couple of knocks according to the Dynamo in their tie versus NY. Should Houston be without Ching for any lengthy period of time, the Eastern conference race for the top three could be pretty bunched up by seasons end.
A reminder all Toronto FC games can be heard at www.Fan590.com or live on Sportsnet Radio The FAN590.
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
By Dan Dunleavy
We now know one truth that both Toronto FC and Dwayne De Rosario will agree on: The captain wanted out.
When number 14 was traded to the New York Red Bulls on April 1st, 2011 the speculation was rampant. Did Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment get rid of a player who had shown them up on national TV with the cheque signing gesture, and worked out with Celtic while his club team claims they had no idea nor gave permission for such a venture? Did coach Aaron Winter want any and all selfish players, like the press, out of his locker room? Or did the captain of Canada’s first MLS team walk want out because MLSE simply did not live up to a promise made from the first day De Rosario arrived on the scene when he left a Championship side in Houston to play in his hometown?
For very good reasons, franchises will often be more secretive with the facts of any trade, while the player will more often than not offer up their side of the story to save public face with their fans. After all, retirement and legacy go hand-in-hand for the players, while the franchise soldiers on with the same rhythm season to season.
Monday night De Rosario offered up to MLS’s Extra Time Radio that he did ask to be traded:
Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
Toronto FC will not be a playoff team in 2011. Not if they can not break out of the habit of letting home points slip away. It is a new group of players compared to last season, 15 at current count after DeRo’s trade to NY. But the inability to score when chances made themselves available in the 1-1 tie with Chivas USA Saturday, cost The Reds two points I guarantee you they will look back on and wish they had later. Unless this new group can put the habit of not being able to win even at a .500 clip on the road, heck a .250 clip would be, Toronto has no chance of seeing the post season.
It is early in the season so it is hard to rate or surmise where this team is at or where it is headed when it comes to offence. The two on none miss by Maicon Santos and Alen Stevanovic brought back scary memories of failed chances to put teams away at BMO.
The positive going forward starts with the new big man. Alan Gordon is making a statement early with TFC. Get him the ball. Gordon understands the game, his role, this style of play head coach Aaron Winter has put in place. Touch passes, shielding the ball, precise headers as we saw for Toronto’s only goal vs Chivas. A friend of mine went to the game and said to me afterwords. “they should get the ball to #33 (Martina) more often because he just makes something happen, and stop the quick short free kicks in the opponents half when Gordon is clearly winning high balls every time they come near him with a cross.” Could not have said it any better. Possession football is a no brainer. But when you have a clear mismatch somewhere on the pitch, let alone inside the 18 yard box, you’d best go to that player until that play does not work anymore. Gordon and Martina are TFC’s new offensive engine. If Santos stays motivated and fit, this team has the potential to score a lot of goals going forward. Up next, a date in San Jose vs. Wondo and company.
Friday, April 1st, 2011
The trading of a team captain is always a big event. The trading of the one player who scored the majority, and I mean majority of your teams goals for two players who have five goals between them and a draft pick that will be a low first rounder will meet some resistance from fans. Add to that mix, the fact the team captain is home grown and fans liked number 14. Fans paid to see Dwayne DeRosario compete and score goals. A career best 15 last season. A champion, an all star sent away after one win under a new coach and in a new system of play.
Why this trade can work for Toronto is obvious. Does not take a brain surgeon to see the youth, potential and money saved Toronto FC acquired in this trade. DeRosario at the peak of his athletic career is likely to start feeling the inevitable down side any season now. Toronto FC fans have to trust player personel director Paul Mariner with this move. Mariner knows the MLS, knows all about DeRosaio and also is well aware of how to build a team in this league.
Truth be told, while Toronto Fc fans want a playoff spot now, (heck even the play by play guy wouldn’t mind calling one of those this year), reality is this team needed to be overhauled and it is being overhauled. With DeRosario traded you make it 15 players from last years team now gone. Change was necessary. A new style of play was needed. Will this one work? Time will tell. But it appears as if the time was now to trade a very good player, and try to build the Toronto franchise for the present and more-so for the future.