MLS Archive


Garber hints that Canadian-player rules in MLS may change: Why we need to look at minutes played, not roster spots

Don Garber

Don Garber

In a Facebook chat with fans held on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was greeted with the thorny question about Canadian players in the league.

Francis Ghanimé asked him: “Will Canadian players ever stop counting as internationals for American clubs?”

And this was the answer from the commish.

“We are working on a new approach to our international player rules as they relate to Canada. Stay tuned.”

We have asked MLS for more clarification on the issue.

But, we do know the rules as they pertain to Canadians are on the radar. We also know the Canadian Soccer Association has lobbied MLS to changes the rules so Canadians are seen as domestic players, league wide. This would then put MLS on an equal footing with USL-PRO, which allows Canadians to be domestics on U.S. clubs.

Right now, the Canadian teams are required to each carry three Canadian players on their rosters. On the U.S. teams, Canadians are counted as international players and take up roster space that many American teams would prefer to give to players from, well, sexier parts of the soccer world. Meanwhile, on Canadian teams, Americans are seen as domestics.

The timing is interesting. We know CSA has been pushing for changes for a while. But, now, the CSA has gone public with its stated goal of having Canada’s own “Division 1A” (CLICK HERE or see issue 2 of Plastic Pitch), and reports continue that NASL, CFL owners and the CSA are discussing the formation of a Canadian division — something that NASL won’t deny, but says it simply can’t comment on… at this time.

So, pressure is no doubt building on MLS.
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The ifs and buts of bringing a New Westminster team into USL-PRO

uslThere is one key word to take out of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ announcement that the club hopes to place a USL-PRO affiliate in New Westminster.


There are still a lot of variables in play. Some should come easier than others: It’s hard to imagine USL-PRO not wanting to approve this. To be fair, the league has approved far more speculative expansion pitches over the last several years. With the backing of an MLS side and two more investors willing to put themselves out in the open, the New Westminster pitch will arguably be one of the best pitches USL-PRO will have seen since the third division’s partnership with MLS was announced ahead of the 2013 campaign.

Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects Corp., and Gary Pooni of Brook Pooni Associates are the new partners in the New Westminster proposal.

The promise is to have Queen’s Park Stadium refurbished for the new USL-PRO if the franchise is granted. So, there shouldn’t be a venue issue.

The Whitecaps hope to have their USL-PRO affiliate in New Westminster for the 2015 season — which would be far more convenient for the club than to ship prospects to the Carolinas for their professional seasoning. The proximity of the USL-PRO affiliate to Vancouver would, logically, allow for the team to better supervise and manage its young players.

The biggest “if” might come from the Canadian Soccer Association; though, the national sanctioning body for the game in this country has softened what had been a hardline stance towards USL-PRO.
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Burt, Raudales make the trip to Edmonton

Cristian Raudales

Cristian Raudales

Trialists Chad Burt and Cristian Raudales have made the trip back to the Alberta capital with FC Edmonton, as the team has wrapped up its pre-fall season schedule.

While neither Burt or Raudales, who both hold American passports, have been confirmed as FCE signings, both will continue to try and impress coach Colin Miller after joining the team last week in British Columbia.

Raudales, who is a dual Honduran/American citizen, helped his cause by scoring the opening goal Sunday as the Eddies defeated a Seattle Sounders side featuring players who weren’t part of Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Vancouver in MLS play.

Horace James also scored late in FCE’s 2-0 win over Seattle, which raised the Eddies’ record to 3-0-0 in preseason play. The Eddies also beat the PDL’s Victoria Highlanders and a team of all-stars from Kamloops.
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Montagliani’s vision: A Canadian Division 1A that “coexists” with MLS, NASL

Victor Montagliani

Victor Montagliani

The second issue of Plastic Pitch, released today, features a 16-page section on Canada’s bid for the 2026 World Cup, with stories from five different writers.

(For those new to us, Plastic Pitch is our dedicated magazine for iPad, smartphones and Android readers — you can get either issue 1 or 2 or subscribe through iTunes, Newsstand, Google Play or Amazon, links at the bottom of the article)

But, there’s one part of that World Cup section that’s sure to get a lot of attention. And that’s the stated Canadian Soccer Association goal of an all-Canadian Division One — or “1A,” as CSA President Victor Montagliani called it in our interview.

Say it with me. An all-Canadian league. Division one, not two or three or four.

Over the last year, I’d heard whispers about the possibility of an all-Canadian Division One. But getting anyone to confirm that… well, that was the thing. It was like the Great White Whale. Now, it’s out there. Officially. The recognition that Canada needs its own league; that we can’t redefine our developmental pyramid unless a Canadian Division One — which puts the interest of Canadian soccer at the forefront — is at the top.
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The anticlimactic final: Montreal wins Canadian title

trophyIf you were to review the finale of the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship, you might liken it to the final season of Dexter. The bizarre final episode of Seinfeld.

Like so many TV series that don’t really know how to end on a high note, the final impression of this year’s tournament to determine Canada’s soccer champion will be remembered as the denouement, not the climax.

Montreal won Wednesday’s second leg of the final 1-0 at home, giving itself a 2-1 aggregate triumph over Toronto FC. The goal, from Felipe, came off a rebound from a Marco Di Vaio shot that had crashed off the crossbar. The goal came at the death, as TFC was pushing men forward, playing four natural attackers, in hopes of erasing that Impact away goal from the first leg.

But, despite TFC’s heavy artillery up front, finishing the game with Jermaine Defoe, Luke Moore, Gilberto and Dwayne De Rosario looking to score, the Reds rarely looked like they wanted to score. The real story was that it took 82 minutes for the match to come to life. TFC’s Jonathan Osorio cut across Impact defender Karl Ouimette, and lashed a low shot across keeper Evan Bush. The ball came off the post.
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Jekyll-and-Hyde Impact gets vital away goal in Toronto

Justin Mapp

Justin Mapp

If there’s one thing that this year’s Amway Canadian Championship has taught us — it’s that you can’t possibly figure out the Montreal Impact.

This teams goes from “off” to “on” so often, it’s like the soccer version of a strobe light. It’s not as if this team goes from good to bad from game to game; you see the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformations at least a few times per game.

The Impact got a positive result, a 1-1 draw against Toronto at BMO Field, in Wednesday’s first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final. But how the Impact got there was anything but straightforward.

For the entire first half, the Impact looked as if it was doing it’s best not to threaten Toronto’s goal. Yes, it was a bit of a shock to have Nelson Rivas come back from a lengthy injury spell, make his first touch in the second minute, shake his head, and then leave the field. But professionals need to recover and focus.
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The Issey Nakajima-Farran trade: The kind of transaction MLS needs to avoid if it wants to be a world-class league

On Wednesday, Issey Nakajima-Farran celebrated a Voyageurs' Cup win with keeper Joe Bendik. On Friday, he was traded. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/BOB FRID

On Wednesday, Issey Nakajima-Farran celebrated a Voyageurs’ Cup win with keeper Joe Bendik. On Friday, he was traded. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/BOB FRID

It wasn’t a trade that would go down as one of the biggest transactions in MLS history, in terms of on-the-field pieces.

On Friday, Toronto FC sent Canadian national team veteran Issey Nakajima-Farran to the Montreal Impact for Collen Warner. Some allocation money was involved. Outside of the fact the Nakajima-Farran has been in and out of the national side of late, the news wouldn’t be making anyone imagine new glories for the two football clubs involved.

But, in terms of how MLS is seen, and how it wants to be seen, this is a prime example of how the league must change if it truly wants to be one of the world’s best by 2020.
Nakajima-Farran, a player who has spent most of his career abroad, came to Toronto FC just after the start of the current season. He scored some goals. He was still in the process of getting settled and, less than two months after first donning the TFC shirt, he was told he was getting traded.

Sure, no big deal, right? Trades happen all the time. It could happen to an NHLer or an NBA rookie or a baseball veteran.

But, that’s the issue. If MLS wants to attract talent from abroad to boost the league, it must eventually understand that strictly following North American practises — such as trading a player just a few weeks after he’s been offered a contract — don’t sit well in the global soccer marketplace. MLS must compete for talent with leagues that regularly pay for their players’ accommodations and transportation, and who guarantee a player will be settled for the length of his contract. If a player is to be sold, his agent is consulted. There are no surprises like showing up for training to find out you need to relocate to another city — and can you make the next flight?

Nakajima-Farran took to Twitter right after the trade and put the hashtag #inhumane right next to MLS. He told his followers that he has to leave Toronto, even before his stuff arrives from Spain. Read the rest of this entry »


V-Cup: FCE “devastated” over controversial call, six minutes of added time in Montreal

For 95 minutes, the Montreal Impact and FC Edmonton staged a thrilling Amway Canadian Championship match, one that showed those cynical about cup competitions that there is indeed some magic to these midweek games.

Drew Fischer

Drew Fischer

But, in the end, no one will be talking about the 95-plus minutes. They’ll be talking what happened in the last minute of stoppage time. They’ll be talking about referee Drew Fischer. Because, in the end, he was the story.

The situation: The Impact led the Eddies 3-2 in the second leg of their semi-final matchup. But, the aggregate was at 4-4, with the Eddies ahead on the away-goal rule. Six minutes of time were added on, as the Eddies were certainly milking a few, ahem, injuries down the final 20 minutes.

A free kick was played into the Eddies’ box, it was deflected by Impact defender Heath Pearce, about a couple of feet away from FCE centre back Mallan Roberts. Fearing a handball call, Roberts had his hands behind his back. The ball hit Roberts on the shoulder/upper arm, and Fischer decided to point to the spot. Did Roberts try to play the ball with his arm? He had his hands behind his back. Could he had avoided a ball that was deflected by Pearce a couple of feet away.

Patrice Bernier buried the penalty kick. And, the cameras showed a full Eddies team accosting the refs after the game in a way that reminded you of that time after the 2007 Gold Cup, when the Canadians had a winning goal at the death waved off for a phantom offside call — and the Americans got through. Finally, we saw FCE coach Colin Miller and Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo trading heated words. After the game, Miller joked that he wished Saputo a ”Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

“The guys in the dressing room are broken-hearted,” Miller said over the phone after the match. “We knew we deserved better from the game. We are devastated. The players are devastated and the technical staff are devastated. I feel so bad for our fans and our owner.
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The rabbit strikes: FC Edmonton stuns Montreal

FCE's Hanson Boakai pulls away from the Impact's Karl Ouimette. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

FCE’s Hanson Boakai pulls away from the Impact’s Karl Ouimette. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

It was spotted maybe an hour before the teams went onto the Clarke Stadium turf.

A rabbit. Maybe it was a hare. Semantics.

Fans saw it. Security people saw it. FC Edmonton’s harbinger of good luck. How important is the rabbit as the spirit animal for every FCE player? Each FC Edmonton jersey has the image of a running rabbit pressed on the back, below the collar.

?The supporters know; when a rabbit is seen at the stadium, good things happen for FC Edmonton. Maybe it was the mystical power of the rabbit that made Montreal Impact defender Karl Ouimette blow an 89th-minute defensive header on a long kick. Maybe it was the rabbit that gave FCE substitute Michael Nonni the foresight to jump on Ouimette’s turnover, round keeper Evan Bush, and score the goal that gave the NASL Eddies their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship win over MLS opposition.

The rabbit, er, FC Edmonton 2, Montreal Impact 1.

Yes, the Impact got the road goal — and still have everything to play for next week when the scene shifts to Stade Saputo. But Nonni’s goal gave FC Edmonton its most famous win in team history.

It started with a long goal kick from FCE keeper John Smits. The ball sailed all the way to the top of the Impact’s penalty area. Ouimette got underneath it, meaning to flick it back to Bush. And then it all went horribly wrong for Montreal.

“I thought that I’m going to take a gamble on the ball,” said Nonni. “He’d been flicking it back to the keeper all game long… when I got the first touch, I knew I was going to bury it.”
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Impact’s Bernier has high regard for FCE coach Miller

Patrice Bernier

Patrice Bernier

Montreal Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier has a lot of respect for FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller.

Miller was in his first stint as the interim coach of men’s national team back in 2003, and he called up Bernier to the squad for a friendly against the Czech Republic. It was Bernier’s first cap for the national team.

“I know Colin from the national team,” Bernier said Tuesday after he and his Montreal Impact teammates finished their training session at a blustery Clarke Stadium. “I know how he expects his team to play.”

He expects a Miller coached team to be a very tight-knit unit and “to come out with conviction.”

Because he knows Miller, Bernier won’t take FC Edmonton for granted when the two teams meet Wednesday in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal. It doesn’t matter to Bernier that Montreal is the defending champion and MLS big-shot, and FC Edmonton sits in last in the 10-team NASL.
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