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Lots of familiar faces return to Toronto for MLS Cup

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For Toronto FC fans, who the team and league hope will fill BMO Field for next Sunday’s FC Dallas-Colorado final, the game will feature a heck of a lot of familiar faces.

But, not all of those familiar faces will be all that popular in Toronto.

FC Dallas striker Jeff Cunningham, who wasn’t needed in his team’s 3-0 dismantling of the Los Angeles Galaxy in Sunday’s Western Conference final, likely won’t start in MLS Cup; coach Schelles Hyndman prefers to use MLS No. 2 all-time leading scorer off the bench. Cunningham struggled mightily in parts of two seasons in Toronto; he scored just six of his 132 career goals with the Reds. He consistently ducked the media. Before he was sent to Dallas, he was asked to move out of his stall in TFC’s main dressing room.

Cunningham’s low point came in the first-ever edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, where he had a chance to score a last-gasp game winner in the final game of the tournament. The Montreal Impact won the 2008 title because Cunningham didn’t lay out to try and get to a ball that was just inches from the goal line. After that game, then-TFC coach John Carver said: “” I thought, how’s he scored 99 goals in this league?”

And no team in MLS has cross-pollenated with Toronto FC as much as the Colorado Rapids. In the off-season, Toronto FC brought Nick LaBrocca, Ty Harden and Jacob Peterson over from the Rocky Mountain State.

Meanwhile, Marvell Wynne, Toronto FC’s former regular right back and fringe U.S. national teamer, was sent to Colorado at the start of the season. He played 27 games for the Rapids this season, many of them at centre back.

Wynne recorded this YouTube message aimed at TFC fans, urging the supporters — many of whom, incidentally, booed Wynne late in a 2009 season in which he struggled — to support the Rapids.

Wynne came to Colorado for LaBrocca and a third-round draft pick. Wynne became a regular starter on one of the most-improved teams in MLS. Outside of a strange wind-blown goal against the Chicago Fire, LaBrocca was at best a peripheral figure for TFC. Unless that third-round pick turns into the next coming of Kenny Cooper, the deal was a major, major win for the Rapids.

Conor Casey, scorer of 13 goals this season, scorer of 16 goals in 2009, had two appearances for Toronto FC in 2007, both as a sub. Casey yearned to go home to Colorado, and he didn’t enjoy playing on the FieldTurf; so he wanted to move. But the Reds got only a third-round pick back for Casey, a pick that turned into Joseph Lapira, who never played a day for TFC.

“When I was with Toronto, I was a little banged up and had some knee issues,” Casey said in 2009, when he was battling FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunninghan for the MLS scoring title. “It didn’t help training on the turf there, so it made it very difficult for me to do the day-in, day-out routine.”

Now, when I first wrote that the Casey deal was maybe the worst deal ex-director of soccer Mo Johnston made in his time at the TFC helm, I received a heck of a lot of mail asking me why I didn’t take the fact that Casey wanted out of Toronto into consideration. But, a bad trade is a bad trade; it doesn’t matter if a player requests the deal or not. TFC held out when it had Brian McBride’s rights in 2008… and didn’t deal the former Fulham striker to the Chicago Fire right off the bat. The Reds held out, waiting for a better deal; it got Chad Barrett, a player who has been one of the hardest-working players the team has had on its roster.

That wasn’t the case with the Casey deal.

So many subplots for the Toronto FC fans who will attend MLS Cup. And, a lot of salt in the wounds, too.

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