MLS Archive

11

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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4

FC Edmonton hopes for a Cup “clanger” with Impact

Frank Jonke: Outside of DPs, no difference between MLS and NASL teams.

Frank Jonke: Outside of DPs, no difference between MLS and NASL teams.

Colin Miller still remembers the 1995 Scottish Cup semifinal. He was part of a Hearts team — a Scottish Premier League side — that was supposed to crush the lower-division opponent, Airdrie.

That day, the majority of the fans at Glasgow’s Hampden Park were wearing the burgundy of Hearts; they’d made the trip down from Edinburgh to see what they thought was going to be a stroll in the park.

They went back to Edinburgh with tears in their eyes. Airdrie upset Hearts by a 1-0 count.

Now, as manager of FC Edmonton, Miller hopes his lower-division side can do to the Montreal Impact what Airdrie did to Hearts 19 years ago.

“That’s the romance of the Cup,” said Miller after FC Edmonton finished training in the blustery winds and light snow Tuesday at Clarke Stadium. “It’s filled with clangers. And we hope we have another clanger tomorrow night.”
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Fixture clash: Floro looking to add two MLS players to Canada’s roster for May friendlies

Benito Floro

Benito Floro

Canadian men’s national team coach Benito Floro is hopeful that he can negotiate the releases of a couple of MLS-based players for a pair of upcoming friendlies.

Floro said Thursday that going with an entirely European-based lineup for an upcoming camp in Austria — with friendlies against Bulgaria (May 23) and Moldova (May 27) — would leave the team short in two positions.

“I would need two MLS players for the two positions,” said Floro. “But we will have to depend on the MLS clubs if they will release them or not.”’
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3

As MLS announces expansion franchises, the temptation to add more playoff teams needs to be curbed

Don Garber

Don Garber

I’ve always been a big believer of a playoff system that might exclude some good teams rather than one that includes mediocre teams.

I preferred it when Major League Baseball went straight to National League and American League Championship Series. Two division winners in each league was enough. Its playoffs were once about best vs. best, and were far more compelling in the ‘70s and ‘80s than they are now.

If the NFL could find a way to lower the number of playoff teams, that would be great. Personally, I’d love to get rid of the divisions, because the law of averages suggests that one of the eight groupings of four teams will be so collectively awful that a 9-7 or an 8-8 team will get into the post season. If it was up to me, top four teams in the AFC and top four teams in the NFC make the playoffs. That’s it.

The NHL continues to worry me, with rumours of adding more playoff teams in seasons to come.

I’m not anti-playoffs like some Euro soccer snobs. I grew up in North America. I’m fine with a league champ being determined after a post-season process. I just don’t think playoffs that are super inclusive are nearly as interesting as ones that are exclusive in nature.

Before the start of the NASL season, commissioner Bill Peterson declared that the league would not increase the number of teams that go to the post-season, even when (and if) the circuit gets to its goal of 18 franchises. The NASL will have four teams go to its “Championship” rounds this season, out of a 10-team league. Peterson vowed that the format would not change.

To me, it’s a great compromise. For the traditional soccer supporters, who believe nothing should be more important than league play, a four-team set-up makes for a very exclusive playoff process. The difficulty of getting into the Championship means that the regular-season games will matter, that there won’t be as many occasions where a team can take a week off. But there still we be a few playoff games satisfy the North American sports fan.
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8

NASL commissioner to meet with CSA execs: To discuss how NASL “can be a better partner” to Canada

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson will be in the nation’s capital on April 19, when the Ottawa Fury plays its first regular-season match on the Carleton University turf against Minnesota United.

As part of the trip to Ottawa, Peterson will meet with the Canadian Soccer Association officials. His stated goal? To find ways that NASL “can be a better partner” to the CSA. He said that, now that he’s settled in as the league commissioner, he wants to create a closer working relationship with the CSA.

Peterson said the league “will explore options on how we can better align ourselves with the CSA’s professional goals.”

What that means is unclear. The Canadian Soccer Association has a mandate to create a series of regional Division-3 leagues, but the NASL’s role as a recognized Division-2 league in Canada is untouched. But, as the NASL fights for relevance, the optics of going to the CSA with a “how can we help you?” stance definitely scores PR points for Peterson and his crew. Remember that the Canadian Soccer Association’s continuing plea to have Canadians recognized as domestics in Division-1 MLS has consistently fallen on deaf ears. In 2009, Canadians saw an average of 1404.1 minutes per team in MLS; in 2013, that number had plummeted to 1025.2 minutes allocated per team to Canadians, despite the fact that the number of Canadian franchises had gone from one to three in that time.
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2

Plastic Pitch launches on Apple — now available on all IOS and Android platforms

PpitchThe release of Plastic Pitch is complete.

Late Thursday night, we got word from Apple and our developer, MAZ Digital, that the magazine is now live for iPhone and iPad. It’s already available to Android users through Google Play and Amazon, so the rollout is now 100 per cent done.

For those who subscribed through our Kickstarter campaign, your e-mail address is key to unlocking your subscription. Thank you!

Inside, you’ll find a chance to win one of three Canadian national-team jerseys, courtesy of Umbro Canada.

And why should you pick up the first issue? From looking at Canadians in NASL to the BMO Field controversy in Toronto, we’re providing a comprehensive guide to soccer in Canada — through storytelling. No filler. No season previews or match previews or predictions or lists or power rankings, the kind of content that’s made just for the sake of creating content.

Here’s what you’ll find inside!
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4

PLASTIC PITCH has launched! Canadian Soccer. Canadian Stories.

PpitchPLASTIC PITCH is ready for download! The app has been approved and the first issue is set to be enjoyed on your smartphone, tablet or device of your choosing. (OK, not totally of your choosing; you couldn’t use an old Commodore PET.)

Right now, the app is available for all Android-ready devices. You can find it Amazon’s app store. You can find it in Google Play. It should launch on Apple in the coming days. The app download is free, issues are $4.99 (five bucks in Canada, we got rid of the penny, didn’t we?) each or a one-year sub (for issues) is $14.99 ($15).

For those who supported this new and unique Canadian soccer magazine through our Kickstarter campaign or other advance subscriptions, the e-mail address you provided is the key. When you download the app, your subscription will be unlocked by that address.

If there are any issues, please contact teamworkpress@rogers.com as soon as possible, and we’ll work to resolve them. As this is the launch of the app and the first issue, we can’t possibly expect to everything go 100 per cent smoothly.

For those who haven’t subscribed, we invite you to download the app and try the first issue. We think you’ll find it filled with fresh voices, interesting art and, most importantly, no cheerleading. Magazine quality hasn’t been sacrificed. You can still subscribe for as little as $15 for a year (four issues). That’s about the price of a beer and a snack at the stadium.
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New Voyageurs’ Cup sked: For NASL teams, short-term pain for long-term gain

PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/Bob Frid

PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/Bob Frid

If you’re a fan of FC Edmonton or Ottawa Fury, the Canadian Soccer Association’s announcement of the coming scheduling changes to the Voyageurs’ Cup may have you slightly perturbed. Or angry. Or furious.

That’s because, to accommodate the change to a new summer schedule for the Voyageurs’ Cup, no NASL team will be able to try and qualify for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.

But you shouldn’t be angry. Anything but. Really, the new scenario is the best thing the NASL teams could have asked for.

OK, let’s backtrack to the announcement made earlier Friday. To try and make more the Amway Canadian Championship — which has been plagued by poor ratings and terrible gates as it went head-to-head with the NHL playoffs — more fan-friendly, the CSA is moving the tournament to the summer, starting next year.

This year’s tournament, which begins April 23 with the first of a play-in two-game series between FC Edmonton and Ottawa, will go ahead as normal. The winner of the five-team tourney gets the Canadian spot in the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League.
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If not resolved by April, PRO referee lockout could also affect the NASL season

pro_logo_headerMajor League Soccer has a slate of replacement referees who will look after this weekend’s First Kick matches.

But the decision by PRO, the body which assigns the officials, to lock out its member referees, doesn’t just affect MLS. Remember that NASL also takes its American-site officiating assignments from the PRO pool. Last season, there were many cases where a PRO referee would look after an MLS game one week, and an NASL game the next.

The NASL doesn’t begin play till the second week of April, and the league has declined to make any official comment on the referee situation. But, it did confirm that the dispute will not impact games played in Edmonton or Ottawa, as the Canadian Soccer Association, not PRO, handle the referee assignments for those matches.

But, when FC Edmonton opens the NASL season in Tampa Bay, and the Ottawa Fury visits the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (both on April 12), there’s a growing possibility that those games won’t be overseen by PRO refs.

Sources have told The 11 that NASL is working to have a contingency plan in place in case the first-choice referees aren’t available to work in the league’s eight U.S. stadiums.
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