Tag Archive | "BMO"

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Red tide rising

Posted on 24 June 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Fresh off a 7-1 aggregate win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Canada’s national team will take on Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica in a four-team home-and-away round robin series beginning August 20th. Early reports are indicating that the squad will line up against Jamaica at BMO Field on that date.

A victory in their first semifinal match could prove vital for Canada’s World Cup hopes. At this stage of the preliminary tournament for the World Cup in 2002, Canada, fresh off a Gold Cup win in 2000, were beaten by Trinidad & Tobago at Commonwealth Stadium in dmonton. The sour mood around the stadium at half-time was only compounded by the fact that the organizers had invited a Caribbean steel drums band.

In 2004, hopes were high after an 8-0 aggregate win over Belize after two games at Richardson Stadium on the Queens’ campus in Kingston, Ontario. They were quickly dashed once again, however, as Canada fell 2-0 to Guatemala in Burnaby, B.C.

With two soccer-specific-stadiums and a growing fan base, 2010 could be the year that Canada finally makes reaches the biggest stage in world football since 1986. As CONCACAF’s second representative behind hosts Mexico that year, Tony Waiters’ men impressed defensively but slipped out of the tournament without scoring a goal.

Many of the leading lights on Dale Mitchell’s squad have already expressed a preference for the immaculately-groomed grass surface at Montreal’s Saputo Stadium, and indeed, the short-passing game favoured by Canada’s new breed of superstars was out in full force on Friday night at Saputo. Last month’s 3-2 defeat to Brazil at Qwest Field was another exercise in joga bonito by both teams, who took full advantage of the grass surface brought in for the night to create a football spectacle.

Toronto’s soccer-specific-stadium has a lot of things going for it, including the raucous atmosphere that Toronto FC season-ticket-holders are likely to bring to any Canadian fixture; one thing BMO Field lacks, however, is grass.

When the plans for Canada’s first Major League Soccer franchise were being drawn up, community use at BMO Field was high on the agenda. In the winter, youth teams play on the fieldturf under a bubble protecting the stadium. Natural grass, it is argued, could not survive continued use throughout the cold months of the MLS off-season.

The ground’s owners, the city of Toronto, are unlikely to renovate the playing surface at BMO anytime soon if it means reduced usage for the community. That unwillingness, coupled with Montreal’s relatively shorter distance to European airports (where most of the Rouges squad will be travelling from) has made Saputo Stadium the venue of choice for players like Paul Stalteri and Julian de Guzman.

But what of the half-dozen fixtures the Canadian Soccer Association is obligated to schedule at BMO Field – our National Soccer Stadium, as the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007 made clear – every year? Ah, but on closer inspection of the fine print, those games don’t need to feature the senior men’s team. The under-20 squad’s 1-1 draw with Argentina in May counts as one, while a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica will make two. Throw in a few more youth fixtures and matches involving the Canadian women’s team and the CSA’s duties are met.

The question, then, remains – is the chance that Toronto fans will replicate the atmosphere at a TFC game enough to keep the games from Montreal, the players’ choice?

BMO Field – sorry, the National Soccer Stadium – hosted it’s last (and only) game involving Canda’s senior squad last September, when Costa Rica came to town for an exhibition and were drawn 1-1. A combination of factors including a seemingly non-existent marketing strategy and expensive tickets kept Canada’s fans from coming out in full force. Should that happen again in August, Quebec is beginning to look like a viable option to hold nearly all of our national team games.

The groundskeeping team at Saputo will have another chance to showcase their surface on September 6th, when Honduras visit in the second of a six-game semifinal stage for Canada. Edmonton’s massive Commonwealth will host Sven-Goran Erikkson’s Mexico on October 15th in a potentially must-win game, but should Canada advance to the six-team final round of qualifying, one expects that the lion’s share of the five home dates will be divvied up between Toronto and Montreal.

As a regular at BMO Field for league action, I’ll be the first to snap up tickets for the Jamaica clash and help to create the sea of red that Canadian soccer fans have dreamed of for years. The chance to host a major rival for World Cup qualification in a soccer stadium in our nation’s largest city is one that can’t be passed up.

Get your friends involved, as this is one night when European loyalties are set aside. It’s up to us, the Canadian fans, to prove that a 20 000-strong atmosphere can outweigh the benefits of a grass surface. To borrow a phrase from TFC, All for One, and One for All.

Allez les Rouges.

Semifinal round home dates (subject to change):
Jamaica @ Toronto on August 20th
Honduras @ Montreal on September 6th
Mexico @ Edmonton on October 15th

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Soaring Crew visit BMO

Posted on 15 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC and Columbus Crew will renew hostilities in the Trillium Cup on Saturday, with Toronto getting their chance to host their newfound rivals after a 2-0 loss in Columbus to begin the season on March 29th.

Since then, both sides have been in top form early this season after a momentary hiccup. Both sides lost their next match but Columbus have since recorded five straight wins while Toronto have gone on to a 3-1-0 record.

They’re not alone, however, with six of the seven Eastern Conference sides sitting at .500 or above. A win for Toronto on Saturday would put them five points back of Columbus at the league summit but with a game in hand and restore hope of winning the inaugural Trillium Cup.

The competition, which will be decided on the teams’ three regular-season encounters this season, will conclude later this season at BMO Field. If Columbus win the upcoming clash they’ll have an unassailable lead in the Trillium Cup standings despite facing another trip to Toronto on September 13th.

A win for the Crew would also represent Toronto’s first home defeat of the season. The draw with New York two weeks ago ruined an 100% record at BMO Field but John Carver’s men have yet to taste defeat since their home opener in April.

If the wheels are going to come off Columbus’ excellent league run, BMO Field may be the place for it. The typically buoyant home crowd will be in full voice on Saturday, with the burgeoning rivalry between both sets of fans exacerbated by the large amounts of Toronto fans who made the trip to Columbus earlier this year.

Injuries certainly haven’t helped Crew manager Sigi Schmid, with Duncan Oughton, Adam Moffat and Stefan Miglioranzi all sidelined for Saturday’s encounter.

Once again, Toronto aren’t reporting any injuries, a remarkable turnaround from last season and a testament to the physical training methods of the club’s new fitness coach John Winsper.

Joining the former Newcastle physio last week were staff members Nick Dasovic and Chris Cummins, reported on ASN last month and just recently made official by TFC.

One player that will hope to make a difference on the turf at BMO is Robbie Rogers, the most recent MLS Player of the Week based on his two goals in Columbus’ 3-2 win in San Jose last weekend. Argentine midfielder-forward Guillermo Barros-Schelotto was also on target for Schmid’s men, who will travel to Toronto as the team to beat in MLS.

With a clean injury list, Toronto’s selection dilemma lies in who to start up front. Danny Dichio has a goal to his credit this season but has been lonely up front in a 4-5-1 formation, and with four more games in two weeks following Saturday’s clash, Carver may be looking to reap the benefits of squad rotation.

Jeff Cunningham and Andrea Lombardo have been restricted to substitute appearances this season but could see starting time sooner rather than later, with Toronto balancing MLS play with their first Canada Cup appearance in Montreal on the 27th.

Amado Guevara, Rohan Ricketts and Laurent Robert are likely to reprise their roles as an attacking midfield trident for Toronto. None of the trio were TFC players yet during the club’s trip to Columbus in March.

Another new arrival has been defender Olivier Tébily, but the Ivorian has seen his playing time blocked by the stunning turnaround in Marco Vélez’s performances at the heart of Toronto’s back line. The Puerto Rican scored a free header against New York, with his own upturn in fortunes helping the club to a goals-against record of just 1 in their three home matches so far in 2008.

Between the sticks

Greg Sutton is set to start his fifth straight match for the club, having recovered from the trauma of being passed over in the early-season trip to Columbus in favour of draft pick Brian Edwards. The two straight clean sheets he recorded in the run-up to New York’s vist early this month pushed him past Kenny Stamatopoulos as the all-time shutout leader in Toronto’s short existence.

Crew stopper Will Hesmer

Will Hesmer has started every match for the Crew this season, conceding nine goals but making the difference on numerous occasions for his side. The 26-year-old made several important stops, including a penalty save, against Toronto in March.

A win against Columbus would improve Toronto’s home record to 3-1-0 ahead of another revenge mission next week, the visit of D.C. United to BMO Field in the last of a five-game home stand for Toronto. United were 4-1 winners at RFK Stadium in the second game of Toronto’s season, a match that marked not only Laurent Robert’s debut but Maurice Edu’s late consolation goal, a strike that seems to have marked a turning point for TFC this season.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus will kick off at 4 PM EST on CBC in Canada. Visit here for the Crew’s perspective.

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Observations from the Emirates

Posted on 13 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Notes from 114

In addition to his reporting from the press box at BMO Field, Scott Ferguson is a Toronto FC season-ticket holder in section 114. Notes from 114 includes his musings not as a reporter but a fan of the Canadian MLS franchise.

Observations from the Emirates

emiratessmall.jpg

Emirates Stadium

I recently had the chance to watch Arsenal vs. Everton at Emirates Stadium in north London. While there, I couldn’t help but compare certain aspects of the gameday experience at Arsenal’s stadium in comparison to BMO Field.

from Ultras 114:

1. They have nothing on the Ultras

Arsenal’s fans tend to stay seated for most of the game. Most of the “hardcores” are spread throughout the stadium, which means there are no tifo displays and few organized chants. The Emirates Stadium is more of a “family day out” than some of the traditional English grounds, but there were no signs of the classic hooligan element associated with British teams. There were a few songs going around, mostly centred in one corner of the stadium, but it’s difficult to get 60 000 people on the same page.

2. Their matchday organization is light-years ahead

There were huge crowds in and around the stadium, but it was remarkably easy to get in and out before and after the game. Compared to the log-jams of 20 000 people in the vast expanse of Exhibition Place, I was amazed at how easy it was for 60 000 people to make their way out of the tiny roads and residential areas surrounding the Emirates. Police and stewards were helpful and had exit routes planned and monitored from the final whistle. Granted, there were two or three local tube stations to stagger the flow of people, while at the Ex, the Go station and streetcars are in the same location; but it seems like that with more organization and coordination we could avoid the huge waits in the concourse, parking areas and public transit stations at BMO.

3. Less police problems

Things might be different at more working-class London stadiums like Milwall’s New Den, but the police seemed more likely to help direct people than to make arrests. With three times the flow of people — most of whom were drinking all morning — you’d expect a confrontation by Canadian standards, especially with the large amount of travelling Everton fans, but things went off without a hitch. I didn’t see anyone being told to pour their beer out or stub a cigarette, rather, the mounted police were more concerned with funnelling people into the proper tube stations. When the Canadian officers come out of the Ricoh on a Saturday morning determined to locate trouble, they’re going to find it — the truth is that more cooperation with fans and supporters groups would cause a lot less problems for all of us.

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