Archive for May, 2011
Thursday, May 26th, 2011
What we just wont know until after the MasterCard Memorial Cup is over is if this nationally recognized junior hockey event is enough to wake up the GTA and stop coming up with excuses as to why they wont attend an OHL game.
The attendance is good at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre. Thanks in large part to pre event ticket sales and the die hard junior hockey fans who make the trip to this event no matter where it is held.
On the ice this has been an intriguing tournament. The Sea Dogs of St. John are as advertised. Talented, confident and in the final Sunday. The rest of the pack is so even, it’s hard to know who will try and not let The Dogs out on the weekend.
The Mississauga Majors are into the semi. The Majors win over Owen Sound a solid victory and effort, and a game in which it appeared Mississauga should have run away with. (unless you are an attack supporter, I am aware you will wear different glasses on this). Mississauga was handed a number of power plays on the night, but had a tough time taking advantage of them. The Majors were one for nine with the man advantage. A microcosm of the night happened late in the third period when The Attack pulled the goalie with 1:50 to go, down by one. Mississauga’s Joe Cramarossa had a shot at an empty net miss the target. The Attack came right back down the ice and JP Anderson made a save on Andrew Shaw that prevented the game from going to overtime. Owen Sound kept the game close despite not playing with top line players in Joey Hishon and Garrett Wilson. The latter lost after a hit that occurred early in the final round robin game vs. Mississauga on Wednesday night.
So the stage is set for a tie breaker game Thursday night between the WHL champs the Kootenay Ice play the now officially banged up Attack. Owen Sound was pushed to OT in game seven to win the OHL title on the road. Now they may have to play the tie breaker without their two offensive leaders. Never question this teams desire and drive. You can wonder of any team, is there enough gas in the tank now though to climb this hill to the final.
Kootenay is a team that knows it has not played its best game of the tournament yet. A bit of a break from the rink on Wednesday may have been just what the team needed to clear the heads of the start of the tournament and start fresh as if it were another regular season Thurs, Fri, Sunday weekend.
The people around the tournament have done a marvellous job with the volunteers and the co-ordinating of the event. Hats off to you. Lets hope there are no offside calls missed from here on in towards the championship Sunday night on Sportsnet Radio The FAN590.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
I know you are out there. I know you will comment against my opinion on this one. I am ok with that. But just know that I am not Anti “my country”. Here we go again with players being taken from MLS teams during the regular season, so they can play for their country in an international tournanment that to be extremely honest, does not even send the tiniest of shockwaves through the soccer world.
Toronto FC and other teams are about to lose players for purposes of representing their countries in The Gold Cup in June. Julian DeGuzman (Canada) and Dicoy Williams (Jamaica) will be unavailable to TFC head coach Aaron Winter for two regular season games, both away in LA and New England. I get that these games for a national side are important with World Cup Qualifying ahead. But to diminish the importance of TFC’s regular season and quest to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history should not be looked upon as anything lesser. Toronto went through this same thing last year with DeRosario leaving TFC when his team needed him the most during the season and at the time a push to be included in the playoff hunt.
Is it fair to Aaron Winter or any other MLS coach, who’s jobs are on the line, to take their best players away from them while thier job is at hand? Imagine this news crossing your Blackberry or Ipad. “Today Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos all committed to Hockey Canada for the upcoming Golden Puck tournament in the US next month. All three wil be lost to thier respctive NHL teams for two weeks. NHL owners and coaches happily released all players saying “Country matters”. “Today it was learned Lebron James and Kevin Durant have announced they will leave thier NBA teams for two weeks during the season so they can take part in the “Golden Hoop” tournament in June. NBA owners agree its the right thing to do in releasing the teams best players, while ticket buying fans are left out in the cold”.
There has to be a better way to get national teams to have time to train and play together. Why is it always ok that it comes at North Americas expense? We in North America need to get rid of this inferiority complex when it comes to soccer/football. I want to see MLS grow and get better for the game and its fans. I dont think taking its star players away from its clubs during the season is how to do that.
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
MLS week 9 Observations.
I begin this blog with a pledge to myself and to you the listener. “I pledge to never again rail on an MLS referee, but to just make the call from the booth of the decision on the field. Never to judge, just to describe and move on.” Gosh I hope I can do this!
Woe are the Vancouver Whitecaps. One win in MLS as I write this. It came on opening day vs. Toronto FC against the mountain backdrop in British Columbia. Thank goodness the win happened on that day for soccer fans in Vancouver and not in Houston, KC or Columbus where the fanfare just would not have been the same.
Isn’t it great for MLS that Beckham, Donovan and Henry are all on the score sheet in week 9! Beckham continues to put the ball where he wants to at ease in MLS. (please re-sign David, don’t listen to the haters). Henry has scored five goals in his last four games. Other marquis names around the world will soon be seeing how much fun these world class players are having playing in front of almost sold out stadiums at home in NY and LA, and sold out parks they and their teams visit. Lets hope this opens the minds of some more players around the globe to join the party that is MLS.
Speaking of open minds. Some Toronto FC watchers are still haters. Seems some media can’t let go of the past and see what current GM Paul Mariner and coach Aaron Winter are trying to do. It is called a rebuild for those who are in denial for some reason. What went on before Mariner and Winter arrived at times mirrored a circus with player, coach and GM drama behind the scenes getting in the way of the on field product. Winter is trying his best to keep the issues “on the pitch”. This franchise needs this kind of focus, and it is why Tom Anselmi hired this particular group of men to run the soccer franchise for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Even with the loss of two points at home, or a close loss on the road, if you look close and let go the hate for past failures (four seasons worth), there are good moments showing themselves in every TFC match. After the blow out in Seattle, TFC has done a decent job of picking itself up off the mat and getting back into the fight.
Good to see DeWayne DeRosario score his first goal for the NY Red Bulls. DeRo’s penalty kick strike was brilliant and we in Toronto have seen that many times thankfully while he wore Red!
If you have not seen the green fever that has taken over Portland with the arrival of the Timbers, CHECK IT OUT! You Tube it, MLS.com view and watch. I can’t wait to make the trip in July and experience the atmosphere.
One more thought. I am always asked why don’t you guys in sports radio talk more about MLS and Toronto FC? He is the secret my friends. You need to call the radio station, you need to ask the hosts to talk about MLS and TFC. It is that simple. If you build it, the media will be forced to follow.
Congrats to Hudson Wileman and family.
Friday, May 13th, 2011
One of the easiest things to do when you call a game on radio or TV, is rip on the officials for a call gone wrong, or seems iffy in your eyes. Every time I bite that hook I feel myself trying to wiggle off of it, but I find myself biting harder and deeper into the trouble I have found in spewing my opinion of a call. But I must say, the MLS officiating I am witnessing this season is awfully tasty bait!
In Dallas, Toronto FC did themselves no favors towards coming away with one or three points against FC Dallas. Veteran goalie Kevin Hartman had too easy a night minding the real estate between the posts in stormy Frisco. The referee had nothing to do with that. The officials had nothing to do with the fact Toronto FC is noticeably thin up front when it comes to a bonified striker/finisher. That’s not to suggest players are not trying or working hard. Right here, right now, I feel TFC is just not deep enough up front to put a constant scare into their opponents.
All that said, once again an MLS referee stole the post game spotlight, at least in Toronto’s eyes. After a first half extra time penalty shot was awarded to FC Dallas, and the goal converted in an eventual 1-0 win, the back and forth in the press box began. FC Dallas supporters, (yes that includes Dallas media), said “How can you argue the call?” Toronto media (yes that includes yours truly) watched the replay and said, that play happens almost every game played and is never whistled down for a kick from the spot. Toronto associate coach Bob deKlerk sprang from the bench, went a few steps onto the field and the linesman played the role of squealer (as is his job in this instance) and had the referee order deKlerk to the locker room for the rest of the game.
The moment had me flashing back to my first trip around MLS with Toronto FC, and an evening in April of 2009 at Pizza Hut Park that saw a game end on a hand ball call against then-Toronto defender Marvell Wynne. A play that saw the ball clearly play the defender, yet the referee called the penalty kick late in a 2-2 game that ended 3-2 FC Dallas. Shortly afterwords I was in the hallway with then-coach John Carver, who blew his lid about the refereeing. It would be Carvers last stand really, as John eventually left the team, unable to cope with the frustrations of being the coach of an MLS franchise in Toronto.
Just as angry, but more composed, first year head coach Aron Winter had choice words for the officiating in Dallas. Winter will not be stepping aside despite his obvious frustrations with MLS officials. The classy Dutchman is looking consistency from the referees. Coaches know they will win some and lose some in the category of “that call sucked”. But what Aron, I will assume, needs to see is consistency. A week ago, a linesman, on the opposite side of the field, helped to overturn a referees ruling of a penalty kick that was about to be awarded to TFC at BMO field. In Dallas, the referee did not call upon his linesman, who this time was closest to the so called infraction.
As mentioned above, while frustrating, the game is about more than one moment. Yes a single moment can change a game, and if well timed it can win a game. But looking back, a call made against you in the 44th minute, that does not leave you playing with ten men for the rest of the game, while frustrating, should not determine the outcome of the game. Players in TFC uniforms had 45 more minutes to find a way to have an impact on the game, and that did not happen.
Monday, May 9th, 2011
That was the game MLS wanted and needed in Toronto! Perhaps you were one of the people who bothered to notice the MLS marquis match up in LA in early May of 2011. If you were, you saw what Toronto soccer fans and all of MLS was counting on to have happen by the shores of Lake Ontario last November. With all due respect to the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas, a Torontonian can not help but wonder what might have been had LA Galaxy and NY Red Bulls had met for the MLS CUP in a city that has embraced it’s “Reds” but still can’t name more than one player on any other team at best. David Beckham offered more proof he will be missed if he decides not to re-sign when his current deal wraps at seasons end. Passes lofted directly in stride to the intended recipient. Landon Donovan is able to flourish with Beckham setting the table for the US national with ease. NY’s Thierry Henry is finally earning his DP status this season. Now more comfortable in MLS, Henry scored his fourth of the season with some nifty footwork in taking a sweet pass from Dane Richards in the fourth minute of the game. 37 Minutes later it was Beckham to Donovan and the game was even, and finished level at one a piece.Toronto FC had more bite in its line up for the Reds home date with Houston. The moves made by head coach Aaron Winter paid off with a 2-1 win, fueled by the two smallest men on the pitch. Joao Plata with a goal and an assist, and Julian DeGuzman with perhaps his best overall game in a TFC uniform led the charge. DeGuzman is fit, and took command of the midfield with his play and noticeable communication. Toronto’s DP has been ripped in the past, and should be given credit now. Richard Eckersley proved he is fit and ready for MLS. No doubt with lessons to be learned, as is the case with Plata. I like the young players energy and desire and I can live with watching them learn on the job as long as they entertain as they did vs. Houston.And finally, what is going on with boneheaded tackles in MLS this season. Chivas’ Marcos Mondaini, in the 38th minute of a match with RSL, tackled Javier Morales from behind and broke Morales’ ankle. The RSL playmaker is out for at least four months. Mondaini was beaten cleanly by the speed of Morales and it was a cheap shot slide from behind. Mondaini was shown red and should be suspended for the act. It was, in my mind, clearly intent to injure.
Friday, May 6th, 2011
The Toronto FC is a work in progress. This season, even with the losses of late in MLS play, you can see a direction and dedication with the team that has been lacking since day one.
No longer are players bought only to be sold for cash. Players are now brought in with the sole purpose of being developed. Players are being brought to Toronto’s soccer club to be part of something going forward. The only reason a player need look over his shoulder now is for lack of his own performance on the field.
Head coach Aaron Winter played a line up vs. Edmonton on Wednesday that I think should start vs. Houston Saturday. I don’t think Joao Plata has anymore to prove in Canadian Championship play when it comes to his ability to find players and create scoring chances on the pitch. Yes MLS will present much tougher match ups defensively, but the little big man brings an edge, and confidence to TFC’s attack. Plata’s head is up as he comes off the wing with the ball and carried across the top of the defence. He is looking for where the ball needs to get to next. At the same time, Plata has kept defences honest with his willingness to shoot from the 18 yard line as well. I know there is something to be said for Plata’s energy and creativeness coming off the bench. But with two 3-0 losses very close in the rear view mirror, TFC need a better engine to pull away from opponents.
Richard Eckersley is a player I also think has shown fitness and confidence to be an active part of TFC’s MLS line up, not just a Nutri-Lite plug in. The 22 year old on loan from Burnley FC was up and down the pitch with bite for a full 93-minutes on Wednesday night. The young man has done nothing to suggest he is not ready to take on MLS strikers. Again, the talent level will be higher than Richard has faced playing Canadian Championship games. But the technique is there, and going forward, I think he needs to play against better players, take any lumps now and allow the coaches to help him become a starter in MLS sooner, rather than later.
Houston is now an eastern conference team. Toronto has gone without a win in their last five MLS games. It’s time in my opinion to get these new faces into the starters mix and see what they can come up with.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
MLS thoughts through week seven
Congrats to RSL for their run to the Concacaf final vs. Monterrey. Sadly I fear the fact RSL did not make it to the FIFA World Club Championship, does little for MLS.
Houston home to DC United. Not sure I have ever seen a player at the pro level get so far behind a defense on a throw in from midfield en route to a goal. Cam Weaver did, and he made it count for the Dynamo.
Good to see the Union doing so well so soon in Philadelphia. Over 18-thousand showed up at PPL park to watch their Union beat san Jose. Memo to Denver Colorado soccer fans, you have an MLS team.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have come back down to earth it would seem. New York has found its stride with Henry and DeRosario starting to click.
Toronto FC coach Aaron Winter is miffed at his teams shortcomings of late. TFC have given up seven goals in their last three MLS games.
Sounders fans and the organization were fantastic in how they showed their support for the injured Steve Zakuani. Well done with the eleventh minute salute to #11 with the place cards with Steve’s number held high while fans chanted his name at a sold out Qwest field.