Toronto FC Archive

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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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Bezbatchenko’s arrival at TFC a “Theo Epstein kind of hire,” says Leiweke

Tim Bezbatchenko

Tim Bezbatchenko

Every announcement of a new management hire (not just in sports but in any business) brings forth the usual platitudes about putting the past in the rearview mirror and looking towards the future. Toronto FC’s introduction of Tim Bezbatchenko as the club’s new general manager indeed carried promises of a brighter future for the snake-bitten franchise, and yet Bezbatchenko’s hiring seems to have come as a direct result of TFC’s past roster construction woes.

“As we looked at our history and kind of opened the wounds here, we began to ask what have we done wrong and why have we not been able to make sense of this here,” MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke explained. “One of the things that was very clear is that we’re always struggling with the cap here. We’re getting out-traded, we were always in trouble with our cap, we were always trying to get rid of bad contracts from day one….this has always been an issue here. We’ve never done a great job of analyzation, we were always about flash and not about work.”

In order to address this issue, the Reds hired Bezbatchenko, a 31-year-old attorney who has spent the last three years working in the league office overseeing contracts, arranging signings and various other player personnel duties for six MLS teams, one of which was Toronto FC. While Bezbatchenko has impressive credentials and was highly regarded by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, he’s also a neophyte not just as a GM, but in any sort of team front office environment.

It’s a risky move for Leiweke to begin his stewardship of TFC with a rookie general manager, yet he sees Bezbatchenko’s hiring as a forward-thinking move. As if expectations weren’t high enough, Leiweke even described the move as “a Theo Epstein kind of hire,” drawing comparisons to the former Boston Red Sox GM who was hired at age 28 and eventually delivered two World Series titles to the long-suffering baseball team.
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TFC loses to Red Bulls: Toothless Reds possess, but don’t threaten

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry

There are two things that strikers must do (other than score, of course).

They must command fear from the opposition. They must force opposing defences to respect them.

If opposing defenders and holding midfielders fear the strikers, they won’t commit forward as much; they hang back to try and mitigate counterattacks. And, that opens up space for other teammates; if the strikers are marked, then there will be openings that allow a midfielder to make a run.

But it’s clear that Toronto FC doesn’t have a healthy striker who can command that fear and/or respect. It’s evident on how opposing teams can crowd out TFC in the final third of the pitch. The strikers don’t pull defenders out of position. And, TFC, try as hard as it might, can’t create any real threats in the final third.

Case in point: Saturday’s 2-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls. The result now leaves TFC with 23 points with five games left to play. With Houston’s win over Philadelphia Saturday night, the Reds are officially (as in, mathematically) eliminated from playoff contention. If somehow lightning struck five times in a row, and the Reds won their last five, they’d get to 38 points. The Philadelphia Union, which held fifth place at the time of this article, have 39 points.
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TFC adds fourth goalkeeper to the roster as Konopka acquired in deadline-day deal

Chris Konopka

Chris Konopka

With the MLS roster freeze set for Friday, Toronto FC, at the moment, has four goalkeepers on its roster.

Starter Joe Bendik, back-up Stefan Frei and teenager Quillan Roberts are now joined on the roster by Chris Konopka. On Friday morning, the Reds announced that they had acquired the keeper from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2014.

The Whitecaps already own Toronto FC’s first-round draft pick in 2014 — which looks to be a top-three selection. TFC had already sent its natural third-round pick to Sporting Kansas City as part of the Bobby Convey trade. The Reds still had one more third-round pick to burn, though, as it had Chicago’s pick as part of the trade that sent Quincy Amarikwa to the Windy City.

Now it’s gone.

So, for the first three rounds of the draft, barring any more trades, TFC is down to one second-round pick and a fourth-round selection. And that’s interesting, as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke has identified the draft as one of the “four pillars” to building a franchise.
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