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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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Impact loses control of playoff fate after season-ending loss in Toronto

Hassoun Camara

Hassoun Camara

The Montreal Impact’s players have a long day of scoreboard-watching ahead of them on Sunday and they have only themselves to blame. The Impact lost its last chance to control ots postseason fate, dropping a 1-0 result to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday in both teams’ regular-season finales.

A win would’ve clinched third place in the Eastern Conference and allowed Montreal to avoid the knockout game between the fourth and fifth-place teams. Now, however, the Impact would happily take that all-or-nothing game since third place will be tough to manage.

“We’re disappointed today because everyone knows it was a big game for us… It’s hard to deal with that. It’s done now, all we have to do is wait tomorrow and see what will happen,” defender Hassoun Camara said.

The urgency of Montreal’s situation wasn’t apparent by how the Impact began the game. The lacklustre attack generated only five shots in the first half, none on goal and none of real danger save for an Andrew Wenger header that went reasonably close to the far post.
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Controversial penalty decision gives Fire the win over TFC, tightens playoff race

Mike Magee

Mike Magee

By losing in Chicago Saturday night by a 1-0 scoreline, Toronto FC has added a layer of drama to the final week of the season.

Mike Magee’s penalty-kick goal followed a controversial penalty decision. His 20th marker of the season put the Chicago Fire forward into a tie with the Impact’s Marco Di Vaio atop the MLS scoring race.

The Fire tied the Impact for third in the East, at 49 points. Each has a game to play. New England is a point back with one match left. Houston is also a point back, but has two games left. Philadelphia, in seventh, is three points back.

And, the Impact finishes the season next week in Toronto. So, you could argue that, by losing to Chicago on the same night the Blackhawks bested the Leafs (the Windy City really had its way with MLSE on Saturday, didn’t it?), Toronto FC actually put just that much more pressure on the Impact ahead of next weekend’s clash at BMO Field.

Magee scored after a penalty was awarded on a play that might remind some of the infamous 2012 Olympic women’s soccer semifinal between the United States and Canada. Back in 2012, it was an American free kick which struck Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault on the arm inside the box, though it certainly didn’t look like she knew much about it, or that the arm/hand played the ball.
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Oh, so we’re talking about an MLS winter schedule again? Will it ever go away?

MLS-logoBack in 2010, just before MLS Cup kicked off in Toronto, league commissioner Don Garber addressed a packed media gallery.

And he talked about MLS going to a winter schedule.

“We’ve got to take the steps to figure it out,” said Garber. (CLICK HERE FOR THAT STORY)

Being in the media room at the time, and talking to soccer reporters from across North America, this was the gut feeling: That, as the United States was bidding for the World Cup at the time, the offer to go to a winter schedule wasn’t a serious one. The consensus was that Garber’s pre-MLS Cup presser was a bit of a dog-and-pony show in order to show FIFA that MLS was at least thinking about being a good international-calendar lapdog, which would, in turn, help the World Cup bid.

Of course, we all know how well that U.S. World Cup bid turned out. Qatar 2022!

So, when news hit Monday (again, sigh) that MLS might look at a winter schedule (courtesy the New York Daily News), a charge that the league denied in Philly.com, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a lot like November, 2010 all over again.

How so? MLS sees its story get out there about a winter schedule. It gets shouted down by its fans (as was the case last time) and we all go back to our normal March-December soccer lives. Once again, MLS can tell the rest of the world, “hey, we tried.”
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TFC’s spoiler effort spoiled by Kleberson’s last-gasp free-kick goal

Kleberson

Kleberson

No team likes playing the role of spoiler. After all, it’s the ultimate admission of “We know we’re not good enough. So we want you to be as miserable as we are.”

But, for Toronto FC, buried near the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings and already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, this is all it has left at this point: Knock off a team that still has post-season hopes alive perhaps ruin its season.

That was the task at hand for TFC here Saturday night on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where the host Union needs every point it can get to secure one of the five coveted playoff spots. With less than a full hand of games remaining on the schedule, Philadelphia found itself on the outside looking in when the night began.

Not anymore, after former Brazilian World Cup midfielder Kleberson bent a free kick around the wall and past a screened Joe Bendik in the fifth minute of extra time, giving the Union a dramatic 1-0 win. That vaults Philadelphia over both Chicago and New England into fifth place in the sardine-tight packed standings with 45 points.

Chicago (43) and New England (42) are right behind. Montreal (46) and Houston (47) are just ahead.

Until Kleberson struck, though, it appeared as if Toronto’s patience was going to pay off in no worse than a tie, with a chance to pull off the upset if Philadelphia desperation led to a counterattack at the other end and a TFC goal.

“We knew they’d come with numbers because it was a must-win for them,” said TFC coach Ryan Nelsen, who kept the locker room closed nearly a half hour afterwards before coming out to meet with reporters. “We knew there was going to be a lot of space for us to play in. It turned out as we hoped. We had a two-on-one and three-on-one, but couldn’t capitalize.”
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CIS wrap: Former TFC midfielder Matt Stinson scores in his York U. debut

Matt Stinson

Matt Stinson

Former Toronto FC midfielder Matt Stinson scored the game-winning goal that gave his new Toronto-based team that wears red, the York Lions, a 2-1 win over Western on Saturday.

The win, coupled with York’s 4-1 win over Brock on Sunday, will likely keep the Lions at the No. 1 spot on the CIS charts.

Stinson, who is officially in his third year of CIS eligibility even though he made his Canadian university soccer debut this weekend, scored the 62nd-minute winner against Western. The other York goal came from former TFC Academy prospect Jonathan Lao, so York’s win definitely had a Reds’ alumni feel to it.

For Lao, it was his eighth goal on the season.

Stinson didn’t make his debut till game nine of the OUA season. Just last week, the MLS Players’ Union released the updated salary figures for September, and Stinson’s name had dropped off the list. Stinson had been shown as still having his contract paid out by the league through the summer, after Toronto FC cut him in mid-March.

Even though Stinson was still a member of TFC in March, he hadn’t played for the team in 2013, which allowed him to become eligible to play Canadian university soccer in September. CIS rules state that pro players can return to CIS if they give up professional status.
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TFC routs the worst team in MLS’s reserve side

Alvaro Rey: First TFC goal

Alvaro Rey: First TFC goal

As tough as things have been for the Reds this season, at least they’re not D.C. United. In a match that had the look (and often the feel) of a glorified reserve-league game, Toronto FC snapped an eight-game winless drought with a 4-1 blowout over the hapless Washington side.

It was a rare easy afternoon for the Reds, who earned their fifth win of the season. The four goals tied a club high, marking the fourth time in TFC history that the Reds had reached the four-goal barrier.

“They were really expressing themselves, looking to take guys on, wanted to get numbers into the box and we did that today,” TFC interim head coach Jim Brennan said. “We had some great service for the strikers and we had some great finishes.”

Technically, the Reds didn’t even beat THE United side who have struggled to just 15 points in 30 games. Of the 11 men who have played the most minutes for DC this season, only two were in Saturday’s Starting XI, as the Red-and-Blacks were clearly saving their regulars for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against Real Salt Lake.

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Dunfield still on the unattached-but-still-being-paid-by-MLS list; ex-Whitecap Paulo Jr. still paid out by MLS despite move to NASL

Terry Dunfield

Terry Dunfield

The Major League Soccer Players Union released its final salary update of the season.

For those interested in some of the intricacies of how the league works and how centrally-controlled contracts are administered, the most interesting bits come at the end of the last page (if you search by team, that is). On that final page, you’ll find the unattached players whose contracts are still being paid out by the league.

Earlier this year, union executive director Bob Foose explained to us that the unattached players on the MLSPU lists are still being paid by MLS. (CLICK HERE)

On the August update, two players cut by Toronto FC this season — Matt Stinson and Terry Dunfield — were on the list of unattached players still being paid out by MLS. But, on the September update, Stinson is off the list, but Dunfield and his US$120,000 salary is still on.
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Collin stays on the pitch after contentious elbow call, and SKC beats Toronto FC

Aurelien Collin

Aurelien Collin

With a nasty early autumn rain, traffic headaches on Lake Shore Boulevard because of road closures, and a team that’s already out of the playoff race as the main attraction, it was no surprise that BMO Field looked like a scene out of MLS, circa 1999.

Empty seats outnumbered those who actually bothered to make it out on a damp Saturday afternoon.

So, when the controversial moment of the match came in the 37th minute, the boos that would have rained down from a normal BMO Field crowd weren’t there.

Let’s back up to the 37th minute of the match. Sporting Kansas City was up 1-0 in a game it would go on to win 2-1. SKC defender Aurelien Collin, already on a yellow, was being pursued by TFC midfielder Alvaro Rey. Collin’s elbow came up and caught Rey in the face. Referee Allen Chapman called the foul but decided, after consulting with his linesman, that no card should be issued. So, Collin stayed on the pitch and SKC was able to play out the game 11 vs. 11. The question is, was the elbow part of the cadence of Collin’s run, or did he raise it higher than normal to catch Rey in the face?
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MLS slaps TFC’s Osorio with two-game ban; De Santis gets a game

Jonathan Osorio

Jonathan Osorio

The MLS disciplinary committee has come down hard on Toronto FC rookie midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

On Friday, the committee slapped Osorio for a two game suspension for kicking a ball off the head of New York Red Bulls defender Kosuke Kimura during last Saturday’s match in New Jersey, which the Reds lost by a 2-0 count.

In the second half, just after Kimura hit the turf and the whistle was blown for a foul, Osorio kicked a ball that was next to the Red Bulls’ fullback. The ball ricocheted off Kimura’s head and a shoving match ensued between the two teams.

The referee in charge of the match deemed that Osorio’s late kick didn’t warrant even a yellow card. The Disciplinary Committee disagreed, stating that it was a case of “violent conduct” that warranted a fine and a two-game ban.

The question is, did Osorio have time to pull out of his challenge? It’s one of those situations that’s actually muddied by the use of instant replay. By slowing it down in replay, it looks as if Osorio has more time to pull out of the challenge than he actually did — and the play looks more malicious in nature when it slows down.

In actuality, there might be at most a second and a half that went by between the time Kimura went down, the ensuing whistle, and the kick. Could an average human being put together an intent-to-injure thought in that short of a time-span? That’s the question.
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