Toronto FC Archive

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MLS deserves praise for explaining why Morrow’s red card wasn’t rescinded

Justin Morrow

Justin Morrow

Major League Soccer is regularly criticized over its lack of transparency; allocation money, draws held to assign players to teams, we’re not even 100 per cent sure of the roster rules governing the 2015 season because, well, they haven’t been posted by the league as of yet.

So, when the league does make itself more transparent, it deserves to be pointed out — and lauded.

Case in point; on Wednesday morning, the league announced that it an independent panel had rejected Toronto FC’s appeal of fullback Justin Morrow’s red card. Two weekends ago, Edmonton-based referee Dave Gantar ruled that Morrow’s slide tackle had denied Columbus forward Ethan Finlay of a goal-scoring opportunity and sent off the defender. The replays looked to indicate that Morrow in fact got the ball on the challenge.

The incident was sent to the review panel, made up of three officials — one from the Canadian Soccer Association, one from the U.S. Soccer Federation and one from the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), the body that administers officiating assignments in MLS.

To win an appeal, it’s not good enough to get two out of three votes. The board has to be unanimous.

And, in stating why the appeal was rejected, MLS was clear that the lack of unanimity was the issue. The league stated the panel members “were not unanimous that the referee had made a serious and obvious error in the send-off.”

So what we know from this is that the opinions on the panel were mixed. Some thought that Morrow should be taken off the hook, and others didn’t. It gives fans some needed insight into the obstacles a team or player must overcome in order to overturn a referee’s decision.
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2

Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings, Week 3

Marcel de Jong

Marcel de Jong

Four Canadian players made their MLS season debuts (or MLS debuts, period) in the third weekend of the MLS season. That boosts the number of Canadians who have played in the league so far in 2015 to 12.

But, take that with a grain of salt. The two strong leaders in minutes played by Canadians may never ever suit up for the Canadian national side — Philadelphia Union defender Steven Vitoria and FC Dallas strikes Tesho Akindele, who scored this past weekend. Because there is still more than a snowball’s chance in hell that either could play for Canada down the road, they are included in the list.

And five of the remaining 10 have seen nothing more than substitute minutes.

But it is encouraging to see Marcel de Jong get his second straight start (and full 90) for Sporting Kansas City, which puts him in the minute lead for Canadian players who actually have senior national-team caps. And Toronto FC had a bye week, so take the Reds’ numbers with a grain of salt.
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2

Catching up: Canada’s U-17 loss, Week 2 of the Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings

Steven Vitoria

Steven Vitoria

The last few days have been a whirlwind; and it’s meant I’ve had to a take the last 72 hours away from soccer.

Getting the fifth issue of Plastic Pitch to release required a massive push last week; as well, I have until the end of the month to finish the final draft of my latest novel for young adults. And, I am writing this post from an Austin, Tex. hotel room; last night, I attended the premiere of Malcolm Ingram’s new documentary, Out to Win, at the SXSW Film Festival.

(Full disclosure: I’m a partner in OTW’s production company.)

I got the chance to meet some incredible athletes, both Canadian and American, who have come out; and, the film is a reminder — to paraphrase Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler — of the power sport has when it comes to social change. It was my pleasure to be in the company of Dave Kopay, the NFL player who, in the early ‘70s, was the first “out” athlete; Canadian women’s hockey goalkeeper Charline Labonte and her partner, Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis; retired NBA centre Jason Collins and Wade Davis, former NFLer and the director of You Can Play.

And, well, when in Austin, let’s just say the whole town carries a mesquite smoke smell. So, yes, the barbecue is fantastic.

But, I did want to take the chance to catch up on a couple of things: The elimination of Canada’s U-17s from the U-17 World Cup picture and the second instalment of The 11’s Quintessentially Canadian Power Rankings. (For more on the methodology, click here).
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13

Introducing our new quintessentially Canadian MLS power rankings

mls-primary_colorLong-time Canadian international Iain Hume had an interesting take on Saturday’s “Canadian” MLS season-opener at BC Place between the Whitecaps and Toronto FC.

In a tweet delivered just as the game kicked off, Hume used the #farce hashtag to sum up his feelings about the game. With each team starting just one Canadian — Russell Teibert for the Whitecaps and Jonathan Osorio in TFC red — Hume wanted his followers to know he wasn’t happy.

But, looking at the rosters throughout MLS, you can’t help escape the feeling that Hume could tweet out #farce week after week. And, in the spring issue (#5) of Plastic Pitch, we’re going to take a cold, hard look at the leagues we share at the United States and how we’re treated. The issue, which will be out later in March, will ask the hard question: Does being in MLS or NASL or NWSL really benefit Canadian soccer?

And, in keeping with that theme, we’re going to launch a new sorta power-rankings system. Sure, most power rankings are just throwaway click-bait; the kinda of mind-numbing stuff we promise ourselves we’ll never have to write again each time we bang one out.

But this one is different. Throughout the year, we’re going to rank MLS teams (and NASL, too, once the season starts in April) on how many minutes they give to Canadians. We’re not going to wax poetic about U-23 teams or developmental sides; for Canadian soccer to move forward, we need to see players regularly moving from developmental squad to first team, not just more and more Bryce Aldersons (and, look for our interview with Alderson in issue 5 of Plastic Pitch). We also don’t really care that some teams might have a Canadian warming the bench. To benefit our national program, we need our players getting first-team minutes.
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1

Ex-TFC and Bolton Wanderer Johann Smith begins trial with FC Edmonton

Johann Smith

Johann Smith

The New York Cosmos played friendlies in Hong Kong to help celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Jacksonville Armada played a much ballyhooed preseason friendly against Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. Minnesota United is training. The Tampa Bay Rowdies are playing games.

It feels like every other team in NASL has been in camp for weeks, yet FC Edmonton just began its on-field sessions on Monday at Commonwealth Stadium.

So, are the Eddies behind the rest of the NASL when it comes to preparations for the 2015 season? Coach Colin Miller doesn’t think so. He says that his players came into camp in shape — and there’s a risk of starting camp too early and burning players out.

“In the past, we’ve had an eight-week preseason, and the players complained about it,” said Miller.

This year, the players and staff will have just over a month to get ready for the April 4 season opener at Jacksonville. The Eddies will travel to Florida in late March and play all three of that state’s NASL teams in a series of friendlies before the games begin for real.
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A long MLS labour stoppage could act as a massive equalizer for Gold Cup, early World Cup qualifiers

2015_CONCACAF_Gold_CupAs soccer supporters in Canada, we certainly don’t want the MLS season to be interrupted by a long labour stoppage.

Even though the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the MLSPU expired at the end of January, the sides realistically have until MLS First Kick in early March to hammer out a new deal in order to ensure that a full season can be started on time. But the sides remain on separate poles when it comes to the make-or-break issue: Free agency. And, with every report of a cancelled bargaining session or lack of progress, the worries increase that a labour stoppage will disrupt the season.

Let’s for a second imagine that we see a nuclear option: A labour impasse that stretches for a significant period of time. The Gold Cup comes up in July; Canada’s World Cup qualifiers begin a month before that. For Canada, this Gold Cup holds special significance as it acts as our qualifier for the 100th anniversary Copa America, which is set for the United States in 2016.

So, if MLS isn’t playing games, how would it affect the Canadian program?

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani said that this country’s national team would end up faring a lot better than some of the competition.

“From the technical side, there are a handful of players in MLS who could be part of the team that would be at the Gold Cup. And it would hurt if those players weren’t playing. But, when you look at all the countries in CONCACAF, we might be one of the ones least affected by an MLS work stoppage. Certainly, it would not affect us like it would the United States, where the majority of their players play in MLS.”
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Weak Canadian dollar is bad news for Canadian soccer franchises

loonFor some businesses — a weak Canadian dollar is a good thing.

Professional sports is definitely not one of them. The Canadian dollar flirted with the US 80-cent mark on Thursday. And, the currency plunge will soon be hurting the bottom lines of Canadian MLS and NASL teams.

MLS and NASL teams aren’t forthcoming about the terms of their contracts. But the MLS Players Union sheds some light on how the salaries are paid out. According to MLSPU Executive Director Bob Foose: “All contracts are calculated in U.S. Dollars, players can then choose to have them paid in either, or a combination.”

So, according to the union, it’s the player’s (or agent’s) call when it comes to determining if the cheques are paid in American or Canadian dollars. And, it’s hard to imagine a player not choosing to get paid in the more stable currency — the Yankee dollar. In the NHL, where there are seven teams out of 30 are Canadian, contracts are paid out in U.S. figures — including Canadian players on Canadian teams.

Toronto FC has confirmed that all MLS salaries are in US dollars.

The salaries we see published by the MLS Players Union are all in American dollars. So, if Toronto FC has Designated Player Michael Bradley on for an MLSPU-reported salary of $6.5 million, that’s American dollars. So, as of Thursday’s exchange rate, Bradley’s salary is now at nearly CDN$8.05 million, and going up (in Canadian currency) as the loonie plummets.

Try this as a comparison: At the start of the 2014 MLS season, the Canadian dollar was at 90.2 cents US. So, a year ago, Bradley’s contract was worth about $7.2 million in Canadian bucks. This year, it’s over $8 million. And that’s all because of the plunging dollar.
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4

For TFC, is an Altidore reclamation project worth the risk?

jozyThe right player at the right time. That’s the hallmark of a good signing.

But, as news emerges that Toronto FC is favoured to sign American striker Jozy Altidore as a Designated Player, can we actually say that this is a case of the team signing the right player to fill their needs — at the right moment?

Right now, TFC has Designated Players Gilberto, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley on the books. The conventional wisdom is that Defoe will not be back with the Reds in 2015, despite words to the contrary from team brass. But, under the terms of the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement, TFC is maxed out at the DP position.

And, that’s the elephant in the room. When the CBA expires in the middle of the month, we can’t say for sure how many DPs a team will be able to have, and what the cap hits for those DPs will be. Basically, Altidore’s signing would play into a series of moving parts that makes it hard to truly pinpoint the kind of domino effect he would have on the roster.
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Boakai the sole Eddie to make Canada’s U-20 roster

Hanson Boakai  PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai
PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai will be going to the CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica, but he’ll be the only FC Edmonton player making the trip.

The 18-year-old FC Edmonton midfielder was on coach Rob Gale’s final roster for the U-20 CONCACAF Championship, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Canada begins the tournament with a Jan. 10 match against Haiti; but its group-stage fortunes will likely hinge on the result of the Jan. 12 match against Mexico.

But two other FCE prospects, striker Sadi Jalali and defender Mark Aleksic, who had received long looks from Gale in previous U-20 camps, didn’t make the final cut. But, it needs to be noted that this generation of U-20 players is arguably the deepest this country has produced. It will feature the likes of Cyle Larin, who could be a top MLS SuperDraft pick if he chooses to go that route, and Toronto FC striker Jordan Hamilton. Whitecaps keeper Marco Carducci is already a member of his club’s senior roster. Luca Gasparotto is playing at Airdrie in Scotland, and midfielder Michael Petrasso is on loan to Notts County in England.
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PLASTIC PITCH 4 is out today!

10349900_1008071179208840_1372189140274955851_nIssue 4 of Plastic Pitch is out today!

What will you find inside?

• We profile Canadian keeper John Smits, winner of the NASL’s Golden Glove award;

• We sit down with Desiree Scott to talk about her decision to leave NWSL for England, and how she feels about Canada’s preparations for the Women’s World Cup

• Canadians in indoor soccer; a look at the Milwaukee Wave and its Canadian coach, Giuliano Oliviero, and its Canadian star player, Ian Bennett. And we look at how the new Major Arena Soccer League could finally stabilize the pro indoor game in North America

• We look at the birth, successes and trials of League1 Ontario.
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