Tag Archive | "Impact"

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Reeling from D.C. trip, TFC travel to Montreal

Posted on 26 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Just three days after twice giving up the lead in a 3-2 loss in Washington, Toronto FC will visit Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on Tuesday night to kick off the 2008 Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

In the 13th minute at RFK Stadium, Danny Dichio scored with a close-range header from Jim Brennan’s cross, grabbing a goal from TFC’s first shot on target. D.C. struck back just four minutes before the half, with Gonzalo Peralta getting on the end of Devon McTavish’s flick-on at the far post. Peralta stooped low and headed in from close range to seemingly settle things up before halftime.

Dichio had other ideas, however, and just minutes later he played a give-and-go with Amado Guevara before sending a low shot into the bottom left corner of Zach Wells’ goal to stun the home crowd.

Toronto held on in the second half until the 70th minute, when a marauding Santino Quaranta was felled by a clumsy shove in the area by Marvell Wynne. Jaime Moreno stepped up to take the resulting penalty and calmly slotted past Greg Sutton, a familiar sight for TFC fans who saw the Bolivian tie the MLS all-time scoring charts with a penalty at BMO Field last season.

Quaranta would be credited with another assist just two minutes later as D.C. finally took the lead. Quaranta, who played with D.C. earlier in his career before returning for the 2008 season, unleashed a blast from outside the area that Greg Sutton couldn’t hold onto. The ball fell to the feet of the onrushing Luciano Emilio and the 2007 Golden Boot winner wasted no time in finishing past Sutton.

Tom Soehn and the United bench erupted in a mixture of relief and excitement, while it was difficult to see Toronto getting anything from the match. Dichio’s positional play and cool finishing were not as effective when TFC had to fight a side trying to preserve a lead, with Jeff Cunningham and Jarrod Smith making late cameos to try and rescue a point.

It was not to be, and the club’s six-match unbeaten run, coupled with Sutton’s clean sheet streak, came to an end. The stadium has so far proved unwelcoming for Toronto, as the young side have yet gain a point from RFK in their history.

“They have had a good result tonight,” TFC head coach John Carver told MLSNet. “I can see them going on a run now. Tom [Soehn] is a good coach, a good manager, and [runs] a good organization. People have to be patient with him… he has too many good players for him to be at the bottom of the league.”

Carver refused to blame Sutton for the mistake. “Greg has been outstanding for our football club,” he told reporters. “He has been one of the reasons why we have so many points and have won so many games lately… take the mistake away from it, he still had a great night. I said to him as soon as the final whistle blew, ‘don’t let that worry you, it’s about us picking ourselves up. We have a great run…’ we have now got to go on another run and we have a huge game on Tuesday.”

TFC will have picked themselves up for the trip to Montreal, where they’ll play l’Impact in the first match of the inaugural Canadian Championship. Fellow United Soccer Leagues Division One side Vancouver Whitecaps will join them in the three-team round robin tournament.

Last week’s stadium opener, a regular-season USL clash between Montreal and Vancouver, ended 0-0 in a result that will not affect Canadian Championship standings. The draw means that Toronto enter Saputo knowing that the game’s opening goal will be the first in stadium history. Having conceded that honour at BMO Field to Kansas City’s Eddie Johnson last season, entering the history books at Saputo would be a welcome tonic for TFC fans.

The two sides have started the season with contrasting fortunes, as Toronto have racked up four wins while Montreal are sitting at just 7 points from six games. Don’t let their early season form fool you into thinking TFC will have it easy — the club have never won against USL opposition, having drawn or lost in pre- and post-season friendlies against the likes of Charleston Battery and Portland Timbers.

For their part, Montreal have yet to play an MLS side, having been left out of the U.S. Open Cup along with Canadian USL sides from Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton throughout the last decade.

The winner of the Canadian Championship will gain entry into the 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League and be awarded the Voyageurs Cup, the trophy handed to the top professional Canadian soccer franchise since 2002. Traditionally, Canadian supporters the Voyageurs used USL-1 regular season results to determine the winner, a format that has seen Montreal win all six titles to date. The Canadian Soccer Association has since been loaned the prize and will award it to the Canadian champions, a label Montreal that will be desperate to keep, especially if it means getting one over on their traditional sporting rivals in Toronto.

The motivation will be high because it’s a different championship for us,” Montreal head coach Nick De Santis told MontrealImpact.com. “There is also a pride factor for us to play an MLS team and to do so at home.”

Two former TFC players are a part of the Impact roster for 2008, with right back Adam Braz joined by Cristian Nuñez, the young midfielder who didn’t see any first team action in Toronto’s expansion season last year.

For his part, Braz was looking forward to Tuesday’s match. “It’s always special when you play your former team, but more importantly, it’s a big game for our club,” he said in an interview with the club’s website. “It’s a huge event for the Impact, and we want to represent Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League. You always want to be the best, so that should give everyone added incentive to show that we are capable to beat [TFC].”

Greg Sutton came the other way ahead of the 2007 season after protracted negotiations between TFC and the Impact but only played eight games last season before suffering a concussion at Gold Cup training with Canada. He’s since been in fine form for Toronto in 2008 and should relish the chance to notch a clean sheet against his former club.

Midfielders Maurice Edu and Amado Guevara will not travel with TFC, having been called up to national team duty this week. Edu will play with the United States in a friendly at Wembley Stadium against host side England and LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

With international call-ups and the upcoming spate of games in a short time, Toronto’s depth will be tested. Carver has expressed his reservations about a squad rotation system, but the likes of Cunningham and midfielders Tyler Rosenlund and Kevin Harmse will likely be called into action at some point in the coming weeks.

Following the Montreal trip, Toronto welcome a Beckham-less Galaxy to BMO Field on Saturday. Their next Canadian Championship matches come in a home-and-away series against Vancouver on Canada Day and July 8th, respectively. Toronto will close out the tournament, and hope to lift the trophy, in front of their home fans on July 22nd against Montreal.

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Red Bulls earn point in stalemate

Posted on 02 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC started their third straight home match on Thursday night in the same style as they finished the last two, scoring early through Marco Vélez but conceding a first-half free kick that levelled the scores at 1-1. As the rain fell and the plastic pitch at BMO Field became more difficult to play on, each side looked increasingly content to play out the draw.

{democracy}


Red Bulls fans vote here.

With the home fans slowly streaming into the stadium to make the 7 PM kick off, made worse by the conditions and the resulting traffic around Toronto’s Exhibition Place, both sides struggled to assert themselves in the early stages.

The game came to life in the 20th minute when Jim Brennan was fouled on the left side of the penalty area. With Amado Guevara and Laurent Robert hovering, the New York defense looked unsure how to defend it. Robert sent in a curling cross, and Marco Vélez popped up at the far post unmarked to power a header past Red Bulls keeper Jon Conway.

His first Major League Soccer goal was proudly celebrated by Vélez, who faced criticism early in the season but has since shown signs that he can be a proven MLS defender in Toronto. The Puerto Rican has experience in USL-1 but has at times struggled to keep up to the pace of the opposition so far in his first season at the highest level.

Just as Toronto were beginning to play some free-flowing football in spite of the worsening conditions, New York struck. Reds defender Tyrone Marshall was adjudged to have handled just outside the box, with the visitors lining up the resulting free kick. As Guevara stepped in to help line up his defensive wall, Red Bulls fans may have felt a tinge of nostalgia at seeing the Honduran standing over a New York set piece.

All sentiment aside, Dave van den Bergh sent a left-footed strike into the only gap the Reds had left open. Greg Sutton was unable to stretch far enough to keep the low strike out of the back of the net.

Both sides pressed for a go-ahead goal in the first half, but the slick field made passing more and more difficult. Adding to that, New York lost their talismanic midfielder Claudio Reyna through a leg injury at half-time, replacing the former Rangers and Manchester City man with Sinisa Ubiparovic.

After the break, the most exciting moment of the second half came when Laurent Robert shoved Hunter Freeman to the ground after being fouled by Jozy Altidore. The French winger received a booking from referee Abbey Okulaja but was lucky to stay on the field.

As the match neared completion, it became apparent that New York were largely satisfied with a point and Toronto were increasingly powerless to stop them. Amado Guevara brought the home fans to their feet with a late volley after forcing a turnover from the Red Bulls defence, but the dipping strike fell right into the hands of Conway.

One positive from the performance for Toronto was their ability to contain the highly-touted strike force of Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel.

New York boss Juan Carlos Osorio was as vocal as ever in directing his players, but was unable to force much of an attacking impetus as the match went on. The Colombian’s side were the first to so much as score at BMO Field this summer, ending the home side’s 100% home record but leaving their unbeaten status intact.

Toronto will enjoy a two week break from action until May 17th, a home tie against Columbus Crew that will signify the start of five games in 14 days, including a trip to Montreal Impact on May 27th for the inaugural tie in the Canada Cup. Along with Vancouver Whitecaps, TFC and l’Impact will be hoping to secure the 2008 trophy and a resulting spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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Why MLS needs Canada

Posted on 06 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

At last count, Toronto FC’s travelling contingent to Columbus for the 2008 MLS season opener was standing at 1200+, with some estimates topping 2000. This for the worst team in the league in 2007. Doubters in the Canadian soccer community predicted a drop-off in fan support after the club’s debut season, and while they may yet be proved right, the fans of the league’s worst-performing side have been doing everything right so far.

I’m not going to come out and say that Canadian teams are the answer to the MLS’ problems — the expansion boom in the NASL’s heyday certainly wasn’t helped by franchises like those in Edmonton and Calgary — but the signs that are coming from the soccer community in North America’s most European city are encouraging for an MLS team. Montreal has supported its USL club, the Impact, far better than Toronto’s Lynx (now plying their trade in the PDL) ever experienced, and Canada’s newest soccer-specific-stadium, Saputo Stadium (or is that Stade Saputo?), while wanting in capacity, could be expanded to meet MLS criteria.

Appealing to a range of the population with their marketing strategy was part of the key to Toronto FC’s success in filling the stands, something that MLS clubs stateside desperate to tap into local Spanish markets are trying to unlock.

Canada’s own latin culture, particularly in Montreal and Toronto, is traditionally more heavily influenced by the Italian and Portuguese communities who watch their favourite European clubs on television every weekend. Contrast this to Latin American football fans in the southern United States, whose own favourite club teams not only play just over the border but routinely visit MLS stadia for friendlies and money-spinning tournaments.

A distinct footballing culture is emerging in Canada, itself a local fusion of international traditions. And while Canada’s football clubs may be still be relegated to the back pages of mainstream media outlets, places like the internet and the Italian-language daily Corriere Canadese’s sport pages — the Canadian Gazetta della Sport, if you will — offer fans the eagerly-sought-after coverage that TFC and the Impact deserve.

It may be hard to pinpoint Toronto’s fan appeal, but seamlessly incorporating the city’s different cultural elements without an overtly desperate marketing campaign (or at least a subtle one) may be what American MLS sides with floundering attendance have been lacking. If such a strategy is indeed the formula for Major League success, then Montreal, a team owned by a Sicilian family, coached by a Canadian, and populated with French-, Portuguese- and Italian-Canadian players, is already on the right track.

With such a rich footballing tradition finally flourishing in Toronto and Montreal, promising signs on the continent’s west coast point a to potential future expansion site in Vancouver. Further south, two teams already compete in Los Angeles, San Jose has returned to the league and Seattle are stepping up from the USL in 2009. Factor in the Sounders’ division rivals in Portland and their rabid home support, and the soccer scene out west looks good, with the Vancouver Whitecaps on the outside looking in.

If the ‘Caps are looking to continue their traditional rivalries with Seattle, Toronto and Montreal, they may have to do so in MLS. Stumbling blocks and municipal red tape have delayed the start of construction on a proposed waterfront stadium project funded by Whitecaps patron Greg Kerfoot, but as Major League Soccer becomes an increasingly viable proposition, you have to feel that the opposing parties’ position will be gradually weakened.

That’s not to say that either Montreal or Vancouver bear a divine right to Major League Soccer — the patient, well-reasoned expansion process brought forth by commissioner Don Garber and the league in recent times won’t allow any side, Canadian or otherwise, to jump into the pool without an established framework for long-term success.

Spurred on by memories of the NASL and the contraction of both Florida MLS franchises in 2002, the league’s brass are reluctant to so much as publicly speak out on behalf of either Montreal or Vancouver’s expansion bids, at least until more research has been done.

The signs are good that the league’s cautionary measures, however justified, will eventually be outweighed by the benefits of top-level soccer on both Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Whether or not they are included in the next few rounds of expansion, however, could determine whether the wait is a matter of years or decades.

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