Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night.
He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him.
In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing.
By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess.
Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best.
But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally.
Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home.
The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing.
One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished.
Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment.
Full press release of Alphonso Davies citizenship announcement below:
Canada Soccer welcomed Alphonso Davies as a new Canadian after the young footballer took his Oath of Citizenship at his Canadian Citizenship Ceremony.
“I am overwhelmed and I am glad I can make my parents proud by becoming a Canadian citizen,” said Alphonso Davies. “It has been a long journey becoming a Canadian citizen.”
The 16-year old midfielder, who has been part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014, can now officially accept his first call up to the National Team Program ahead of a Men’s International Friendly match in Montréal.
“We are very proud to welcome Alphonso Davies into our Men’s National Team Program as a full Canadian citizen,” said Steve Reed, President of Canada Soccer. “Coming up through Canada Soccer’s youth system, he has worked hard to achieve his success and he will be a big part of our future.”
Davies departs for Montréal where he will join an extended Men’s National Team roster training in Laval ahead of the 13 June 2017 Men’s International Friendly. He will look to impress the coaching staff with hopes of making the final squad for the match at Stade Saputo: from the full group of 28 players, Head Coach Octavio Zambrano will reduce the number of players on Friday 9 June after a Thursday intra-squad match.
“I am really excited to be called into Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team,” Davies said. “Canada Soccer worked extremely hard to get me where I am right now and I am very grateful. I am really glad they took their time and put the effort in me in helping me get my citizenship.”
The international match is part of a three-match Summer of Soccer Series in Canada which includes a pair of Women's International Matches in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Women's National Team has matches against Costa Rica on 8 and 11 June ahead of the Men's National Team's return to Montréal on 13 June. All three matches will be broadcast live on TSN.
Davies has been a part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014 when he was just 13 years old. He is currently a professional player with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After making his pro debut at age 15, he became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Canadian Championship at age 16 on 23 May 2017.
Before moving to Vancouver in 2015, Davies grew up in Edmonton, Alberta where he played for Edmonton Inter, Edmonton Strikers, FC Edmonton Academy, and St. Nicholas Soccer Academy. He was just five years old when he arrived in Canada, living briefly in Windsor, Ontario before moving out west to Edmonton.
Advocates for the league system that is commonly referred to as Pro/Rel in this part of the world can be…persistent in their advocating for the system.
At least the more vocal ones, anyway. There’s no need to re-hash the names here. If you’ve spend any time online in North American soccer communities you know who we are talking about.
Ironically, that insistence that EVERYONE talk about Pro/Rel ALWAYS means that no rational conversations about whether North America should move towards such a system ever happen. Instead what happens is that someone says ‘good game by the Crew last night, eh?’ and [redacted] replies ‘WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM??? #ProRel4USA.’
Then it gets worse.
So, last week’s revelation that The CanPL will launch with a plan to move towards a system of promotion and relegation was met with, well, fear by those of us that live in online communities that talk about soccer. The fear wasn’t related to the actual system – most of us would love to have an intellectual discussion about whether this is a good idea – but rather about how the discussion would play itself out.
It will do no one any good to set up in two separate pro and con camps that do nothing but yell at each other.
So far, so good. Perhaps it’s Canadians’ desire to be polite and morally superior to Americans (which isn’t that polite, but I’ll save that conversation for another type of article) that is reigning in the debate thus far, but it’s been fairly respectful.
Let’s keep it that way – for the benefit of both the CanPL and (morally superior alert) our American friends who might benefit from having folks less…entrenched…in their positions debate the merits and risks.
So, is this a good idea? Should CanPL launch with a plan to do something that the USA didn’t dare (or want) to do just two decades ago?
Yes. Yes we should. With a caveat.
That caveat is found in a single word in the question – plan.
A plan doesn’t mean a guarantee and it certainly doesn’t mean that it literally should launch with pro/rel in place (I think all but the clinically insane would agree with that – I mean where exactly would the clubs be relegated to?).
A plan simply means that you’re putting it on the table immediately and acknowledging that in an ideal world it would be great to get to the point where it could happen. That’s the biggest mistake MLS made. They never planned for the possibility of relegation (promotion they are cool with. Just write a cheque). Without that plan in place from the start it becomes exceptionally difficult to implement. It just does, no matter how many times you write the #ProRel4USA hashtag.
As for why it is a good idea – why it is ideal to work towards – well, here is where you have to ignore the hyperbole and vitriol of [redacted] and look at the underlying arguments in favour of pro/rel. Simply put, they are that by allowing smaller clubs to aspire to something greater you can then encourage them to invest more in the game in the hope that they might one day find glory at the highest level of the game. That, in turn, will force them to do everything just a little bit better, which, in turn, means that even if their dream comes up short the whole system benefits.
It’s a kind of trickle *up* economics theory. Like any theory it’s not likely work out perfectly in execution, but in the context of Canadian soccer – and Canada in general -- it does actually make some sense.
See, we have 100 years of history to point to that illustrates that Canadian clubs (of the youth verity, since we don’t have a lot of other types) don’t aspire beyond their own backyards. They just don’t. They’re comfortable. And, more to the point, there’s nothing to aspire to. The thinking then goes that if you provide these clubs with something to aspire to then maybe they’ll start to think bigger.
Here’s the thing though—history suggests that they’ll need to be shamed into thinking bigger. You start a typical North American league tomorrow and nothing changes at that level. Nothing. I almost guarantee it. But, if you start a league tomorrow that is structured in such a way that provides an opportunity – a challenge, really – to these clubs and, well…even the less ambitious are going to understand the need to, well, get off their ass.
Get off their ass and improve infrastructure. Get off their ass and improve coaching. Get off their ass and let someone else with more ambition take over.
The other thing this plan will provide is an opportunity for cities in Canada that aren’t currently in the CFL to aspire to having pro teams. This is a fundamental difference between Canada and the US. In the US there are probably a hundred cities that could, in theory, have a pro team in the North American franchise model. In Canada there are three – and six more if it’s the CFL or hockey (grudgingly accepted by their American overlords).
Kitchener-Waterloo isn’t among that nine, yet it’s an important city in this country. London. Windsor. Kingston. Halifax. St. John’s. Kelowna. Victoria. Saskatoon…
I could go on.
A pro/rel plan from the start will plant the seed in those type of communities that maybe it’s not crazy to dream of professional sport in their communities – even if it’s in the second tier. Even if they understand that they’ll probably never be at the very top.
What do we love about European pyramid? That it’s inclusive and that it provides everyone with a chance to find their level. What don’t we like about the American model? That traps you at a level and shuts out some from being a part of any level.
Will pro/rel guarantee a magically new world for Canadian soccer? No. Would a franchise model doom the sport forever? Also, no. But, if given the chance to plan for an ideal scenario from the get-go then why wouldn’t you do just that?
It appears that there will not be a Canadian quota in the CanPL.
Paul Beirne indicated as much in a post on the Voyageurs discussion board. However, he followed it up by stressing that the league would still be vastly comprised of Canadian players. That would be accomplished by putting a restriction on the amount of foreign players permitted, rather than by putting a specific number on Canadian roster spots.
The information written by Beirne, corresponds with what CSN has been told by various people over the past two years or so.
From the beginning, CSN has been told that there was a resistance to requiring X amount of Canadians per team.
That opinion is informed by the CFL owners, who has experience with the "non-import" rule in the CFL. They feel that the rule artificially inflates the salary of Canadians and puts a financial strain on their ability to build the best rosters possible. TFC argued the same thing back in 2008, after having to vastly overpay for Canadians in year one.
Although restricting "imports" creates the same end result as requiring x amount of Canadians, it isn’t thought to have the same impact on salaries.
However, as Beirne wrote, it's also always been stressed that there is no way this league isn't going to be made up of a majority of Canadian players. The economics of the league will dictate it.
A better question to ask is whether there will be anything put in place to ensure the percentage of Canadian playing minutes is protected -- i.e a starters quota like we saw in the old NASL or in the Voyageurs Cup now.
Unfortunately, the idea of a starters’ quota has also been resisted from what CSN has been told. The reason is the same as why a Canadian roster spot requirement is resisted – fear of salary inflation. If, say, three Canadians are required to start every game then that puts a premium on Canadian roster spots as it’s likely that the club with the best Canadians is going to be at a competitive advantage.
The CanPL Bits and Bites is an occasional article rounding up the latest Canadian Premier League News.
The biggest news dump on the CanPL in sometime came earlier this week when Paul Beirne appeared on SoccerToday with myself and Kevin Laramee. We wil unpack some of the biggest pieces of that in a moment, but if you haven't listened yet do so now. The interview starts at 30 min. I'm mostly talking about Pablo Zabaleta for the first 30 minutes.
Let's look deeper at the three biggest things to come out of that interview:
1 - A team in French Canada was promised
This shouldn't need to be explained, but in case you're new or still holding a Reform Party membership card from 1993, but you simply cannot have a national league in Canada in the year 2017 that ignores one of the major regions of the country. I'll avoid the politics of this (for the most part), but if you don't launch with a team in French Canada -- and preferably in Quebec proper -- you are alienating a significant part of the country and you'll be fighting uphill to gain the respect of that part of the country for many years to come, even if you do eventually get a team in there.
So, I've been long beating the drum on this. The CPL needs to also be the PLC.
Yet, we've long struggled to find evidence of interest in the league in Quebec (or even French Canada if you extend that to include Acadia; no Moncton group seems to be close). Ottawa might work in a pinch, but even there the Fury seem to be dragging their feet. Not only have the Impact been indifferent to the whole thing, it's been suggested that they might actually be hostile to it.
So Quebec looked like a long-shot. Until Paul answered my question.
"Yes there will be a team in Quebec, multiple maybe."
That got me to dig around yesterday. What I learned isn't particularly illuminating, but it was suggested to me that there are two groups that have made what was described to me as "preliminary" inquiries.
One group was, as expected, out of Quebec City. No one could say for sure who might be behind such a bid, but a good guess might be the money people behind the Laval Rouge et Or. Although not really soccer guys they have deep roots in Canadian (gridiron) football. If you're not familuar with the Rouge et Or story have a read. The thinking here is that they might be motivated to invest in soccer because of the possibility that it would 1) put them in good standing with CFL owners, thus making the possibility of bringing a CFL team to Quebec City more of a possibility and 2) it would help get PEPS stadium further expanded, also with CFL in mind.
Soccer fans may not want to celebrate such gridiron ambitions, but sometimes ambition makes for strange bedfellows. Laval is deep pocketed and the success of the Rouge et Or is truly remarkable. Soccer could do worse, so long as he was interested in seeing soccer succeed.
The second group was said to be the local ownership of the former Trois-Rivières Attack. The Attack were a reserve team of the Montreal Impact for several years. The Impact would not be involved.
2. Smaller cities than expected
When most of us think about the possibility of a Canadian league we tend to only consider the largest markets -- markets that we think of as "major league" (in a Canadian context). Basically markets that have NHL and/or CFL teams.
Paul suggested that markets as small as 200,000 could be targeted as potential sites for teams. Further to that he also suggested that creating local derbies was something that he wanted to see happen. That's significant in that it puts many cities on the list that we might currently look at as being "suburban" or part of another, larger centre.
For the sake of playing fantasy franchise let's look at the current markets that are over the magic 200,000 figure right now. Using Canadian census data there are currently 20 centres that are considered Census Metropolitan Areas (which is a fancy way to say "markets") with more than 200,000 people living in them.
Toronto (including Mississauga and Brampton) 5,928,0405; Montreal (Laval) 3,934,078; Vancouver (Surrey) 2,463,431; Calgary 1,392,609; Ottawa–Gatineau 1,254,919; Edmonton 1,321,426; Quebec City (Lévis) 800,296; Winnipeg 778,489; Hamilton (Burlington) 747,545; Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 523,894; London 494,069; St. Catharines - Niagara (Niagara Falls, Welland) 406,074; Halifax 403,390; Oshawa (Whitby, Clarington) 379,848; Victoria (Saanich) 367,770; Windsor (Lakeshore) 329,144; Saskatoon 295,095; Regina 236,481; Sherbrooke (Magog)212,105; St. John's (Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise) 205,955.
There are an additional 21 CMAs that are between 100,000 and 200,000, most of which are trending up in population as Canada gets increasingly more urban.
A couple things jump out about that. First, when you consider where top flight teams are in the rest of the world there is nothing inherently preventing Canada from finding enough markets. Particularly when considering an initial 10 or so teams. There are 10 markets with a half million or more people on that list, and London is just a shade away from making it 11.
That said, Canadians will need to adjust their thinking of what a professional market is away from a North American mindset into one that more closely resembles the rest of the world. Are we ready to see, say, Oshawa as a separate market to Toronto? It will be a challenge.
There is, however, an existing league that we do that in -- The Canadian Hockey League. The CHL is amateur in name only. It's highly successful. And it's probably a closer model to what a successful CanPL will look like than the CFL is.
3. We kinda, sorta know the league business structure
Not that it was shocking, but Paul confirmed that there will be a form of salary control in place. As stated, that there will be a cap (or budget, or whatever you want to call it) shouldn't surprise anyone. That's the North American way. It's also the only way that most of the potential owners would have agreed to become a part of the launch.
It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a bad thing that no one is looking to lose money forever in this league.
Reading between the lines of what Paul said -- and being careful not to put words in his mouth, the following is me reporting from other sources -- it's increasingly clear that the CanPL will launch in a way that very closely looks like MLS in its early years. The naive, purist reading this might not like this, but the reality is that some form of...let's call it collective...ownership is vital to getting through the early years.
What I've previously reported and have confirmed of late is that a major component of the CanPL business model will be equal shares (I'm told they will cost about $1.5 million for initial investors) in a marketing arm that will be similar in scope and purpose as SUM is to MLS. There's a good possibility that Don Garber's recent comments about opening a Canadian office of MLS is directly related to this part of the plan.
Will CanPL look exactly like MLS single entity? I doubt it. It will have the advantage of having 20 years of history to learn from. CanPL owners will know what did and didn't work in MLS 1.0 and will probably be a bit less centrally controlled than MLS was back in the early days.
Just not as fully independent as some might like.
Lastly, Paul suggested that we will know much more about the league in the next 90 days or so.
That might be the most exciting thing of all.
By now everyone (or at least everyone that cares to visit pages like this one) knows the dream of the Canadian Premier League is a reality.
It was 1:33pm ET on May 7, 2017 when I first saw the news I’d been waiting to see since I first reported it more than three years ago. I was sitting on the Ossington bus, just north of Queen Street W. Two things make that spot a bit amusing to be where it was that I was when the news became official. First off, it’s on the very bus that I have taken to get to TFC and Canada games for years. I happened to be going to a rugby game, but the symbolism of the fact that the bus almost always represents the beginning of a soccer journey for me wasn’t lost in the moment.
It’s also exactly where Canada’s largest hospital and residential treatment centre for mental health is located. I don’t think I need to explain to you how that fits in to covering Canadian soccer and the birth of this league*.
(* Allow me some levity, while understanding that I would never really compare mental illness with cheering for or covering Canadian soccer, but the story did drive me a bit batty over the three and a half years that I chased it.).
My reaction? I started laughing hysterically. Then smiling. Then Tweeting. Then planning how I could get a job in the league. Then tearing up. Then laughing again.
It went like that for a while.
To be perfectly clear the birth of this league isn’t about me, it’s about what it might mean to the sport. However, there are thousands of personal stories and reactions that did matter at that moment. See, the fight for this league was always about the will of people to out care and out believe the cynicism that was overwhelming at times.
This is the story of influential people like Victor Montagliani, who almost single handily killed the Sack the CSA movement with his drive and determination to provide the type of leadership the CSA has lacked for generations.
It’s the story of activists and roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-it-done people like Dino Rossi who tirelessly worked to launch League1 Ontario and show-us-don’t-tell-us that crazy dreams can work if you just get out and do it.
It’s the story of non-soccer people like Scott Mitchell that bought in early and sold the idea to those who can make it happen
It’s the story of rich dudes like Bob Young that are putting more than hope into the project.
It’s the story of people like Anthony Totera who passionately sold the idea to any and all that would listen.
And, it’s the story of fans that bought in and spread the word to other fans. No league, anywhere, matters without that.
I’m proud of my small role – I’ll never break a bigger story in my life – and I’m more than content knowing that there are many out there that doubted my reporting that will still find a way to spin this so that I come out wrong. I’m just a blogger, after all (my two degrees and five years of previous newspaper experience be damned).
All that matters is that the league is going to happen. We – all of us – made the impossible happen. Celebrate it. Enjoy the moment for a couple more days then get back to work.
There’s still a great deal to do to convince those that just heard of this wacky idea on Saturday. There’s still a lot of doubters to be convinced or to overcome.
And there’s still half the population to do right by. The fight for the Canadian Women’s Premier League started at 1:34 ET on Saturday.
Keep fighting; keep caring; keep supporting local soccer.
Days like Saturday are our reward for fighting the good fight. There will be more like it soon enough.
Recently John Molinaro wrote a wonderful oral history of TFC. Go read it it. I'll wait.
However, the article focused a lot on the more positive parts of the TFC experience. That's understandable as it was an oral history and no one involved with the club would want to focus on the less...fun moments in the club's history. Things that I like to call WTF TFC Moments. So this week's Big List will focus on the Top 10 WTF TFC moments of all-time.
10 - One wild night at Club Escobar, 2012
There is no debate about what TFC's worst season was. It was 2012. That was the bottom, the year even the diehards were considering taking up softball as a new hobby. And, the lowest point of the lowest season of all came in the early morning hours of June 18 in Houston when Miguel Aceval, Luis Silva and the infamous Nick Soolsma were arrested for public intoxication after an altercation broke out between the players and the locals. Amusingly, Julian de Guzman bailed them out of jail, in what might have been the DPs biggest contribution to the team in many fan's minds. What is a well known secret, but that has never been reported, is that the only reason this got reported in Toronto is because Soolsma's Toronto girlfriend got angry at him for being at the club and started calling Toronto reporters to rat him out. I wish I was kidding. Shakespeare would have found TFC's 2012 season too tragic to write about.
9 - UFC 167 - Winter v Mariner, 2011-2012
This one was more of a slow burn, but the front office civil war between Aron Winter and Paul Mariner -- the latter hired to assist the former understand MLS -- that raged on for the better part of 18 months basically killed three seasons of TFC. The fact MLSE hired two guys that were never going to get along was a reflection of how little they still knew about soccer four years into the club, and the lack of decisive decision making at the club. Mariner eventually "won" the battle, but not before alienating half the fan base and dooming himself moving forward. In the end, everything had to be blown up again and it would be another two years before they could even see the corner, let alone turn it.
8 - Jermain Defoe's boo-boo, 2014
It only took about three months for the Bloody Big Deal to become a Bloody Big Joke. Jermain Defoe got hurt, then got sullen, then disappeared back to the UK for an extended period of time while the fans just got disenchanted. Meanwhile, the club was spinning more than a bathing suit model with two pounds to lose. What was supposed to be a new hope ended up with fans throwing up their hands and assuming that TFC was forever doomed. The whole thing was epitomized when Defore missed a penalty in his first game back.
7 - Alan Gordon trying to kill the training staff, 2011
This one wasn't widely reported, but if you've ever wondered why Gordon was traded so soon after he arrived...well. He was upset with how his injury was being treated and ended up trying to strangle the training staff. He wasn't a TFC player a week later. Beyond the brawl (which happens on all teams from time to time) the story perfectly illustrates one of TFC;s biggest problems back then -- they had a terrible reputation with players. No one wanted to play here and not just because the team was struggling. They treated players like pawns and it bit them in the ass time after time after time after...
6 - Canadians vs Preki, 2010
People forget that 2010 started pretty well. Preki had the team in a playoff spot and the 2009 final game choke job was forgotten. Then, the players decided they didn't like their curfew. I'll never forget getting a phone call from a source when I was leaving a media even at BMO Field. His message was simple -- the players won't play for Preki. The source told me that the players had drawn a line in the sand to upper management. It was suggested to me that the senior Canadian players on the roster were the ones leading the charge. The players won (and Mo Johnston went with him) and TFC got blown up once again.
5 - Joao Plata escapes in the middle of the night, 2012
This one wasn't entirely the club's fault. Plata deserves far more criticism for his role then he gets -- he quite literally packed up his stuff and flew home without telling anyone at TFC. The reason behind his escape was that Paul Mariner refused to play him and was not particularly gentle about his reasoning (which in hindsight was flawed). Fans weren't in the mood to give TFC any break back then, and the club has an odd tendency to never be upfront with anything, so many fans still don't realize that, for once, they probably weren't the bad guys. But, perception is reality...so...
4 - The Gambians, 2009
Let's just say there has always been something not quite right about the signing of The Gambians. They did get a good photo out of it though.
3 - DeRo's Scottish vacation, 2011
What a damn mess. DeRo, unhappy with his contract, decides to go to Celtic to train. Photos emerge of DeRo training with Celtic. TFC denies that DeRo is training with Celtic, while simultaneously saying that if he was training with Celtic he shouldn't be because he doesn't have an ITC. Fans throw arms in air and assume TFC screwed something up somewhere. Club looks dumb. DeRo looks petulant. The relationship between the hometown hero and club soured even further.
2 - SHOW ME THE MONEY, 2010
Oh, you know. Arguably the best player to ever come out of Toronto (most creative and exciting, anyway) who was brought back home to great fanfare a year earlier scores a goal and then decides to make everything about his contract situation by pretending to sign a cheque while staring at the directors box. Seconds after San Jose scores the goal that officially eliminates TFC from the playoffs. See above for the rest of the story.
1 - Mo Johnston's management style
On recommendation of the CSN lawyers this content has been deleted.
Bill Manning sat down for a long form interview with the Vocal Minority Podcast this week. There's lots to unpack from that interview. You should listen to it in full. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.
However, the part most will be interested in is Manning clarifying his position on the CanPL. Below is the transcribed portion of that conversation. You can listen to it starting at 16:55 of part 2 of the interview.
BM = Bill Manning, KZK = Kristin Knowles, MH = Mark Hinkley, DF = Duncan Fletcher, TW = Tony Walsh
KZK - CPL time!
BM - Yes!
KZK - Most requested topic by our listeners and readers and...of course that's how...
BM - This has become such a hot topic
KZK - (laughing) I wonder why!
BM - So tell me what you guys know about the CPL, 'cause I don't know a lot, so.
KZK - (laughing) So this is always your argument. So this all started, this whole reason you're here and everything, started from a conversation you and I had after the President's Breakfast
BM - Yeah, Yeah.
KZK - ..when I asked you some questions about the CPL in terms of the comments you made about it.
BM - Yeah.
KZK - So, very quickly, you are for the formation of a professional league in Canada, yes?
BM - Yes, absolutely!
KZK - Just wanted to get that out there, just so I don't have to throw anything at you (clearly joking)
BM - No, no, no, absolutely
(joking not relevant to topic omitted)
KZK - The main sticking point with all of this -- and I know it sort of feels like re-visiting -- but, we just want...your views regarding the potential of a Toronto based team
BM - Yes.
KZK - And you said you really want TFC, more specifically TFC2, to be part of the CPL when it happens -- cause it is going to happen. Yes, we know it's all shrouded in mystery, but it is going to happen sometime in the next year, we hope.
BM - Yep
KZK - And you are very specific about why you think it's good for TFC to have a club, but not someone else.
BM - Right, so here (it) is...in a nutshell. So, the CPL, the reason they are starting this league, if you talk to Victor Montagliani, is that they want to provide more opportunity for Canadian players so that they can have more of a pool of players for the Canadian national teams, right? It invariability is going to be a younger league because the better Canadian players will play in MLS and they'll play in some of the top leagues in Europe. So, what is TFC2? It is our younger players, who are just kinda knocking on the doorstep of playing in MLS. And, so the league is going to provide, I think, great opportunities for Canadian players, but it's still not going to get the best Canadian players. And, so I say with MLSE I believe that we can provide such local talent...p;layers that come up through our academy system -- and I see what's coming up in out 98 age group and up -- that we can field what I think would be a competitive team, based mostly of Canadian players, that would play good soccer. And, so that's why I don't understand why we'd want another group to come into Toronto and compete with us.
KZK - But, why not because they aren't going to be playing against you so your...competing for players.
BM - But...we're already offering what they would get...for lack of better words, I think will happen is -- and look, I love the USL and the minor leagues and all that , I started my career in that and I think it's a really important part of soccer in Canada and the US. I believe we could do it well. What I want to do, when this league starts, I don't want to see this league fold three years later.
KZK - No one wants to see that.
BM -- I think it's really important. I think if another owner comes into Toronto I think they're going to struggle. I think it's going to be very difficult in this market - this is a...Toronto (is a) alpha city, it doesn't compare itself to Vancouver and Montreal it compares itself to Chicago and New York and L.A. -- In this city they had a number of USL teams and...the Blizzards (sic) and the Lynx and everybody else -- I used to play against the Lynx -- those teams couldn't make it. And, my biggest fear is that they're going put a team in this market and they're going to try and compete with us and it's not going to work for them.
KZK - But, how are they competing with you? They're not playing against you.
BM - They compete with ticket sales, they compete with sponsorships, there are different ways. And, so I guess where I struggle is I think we can deliver all of that, you know. I do. I think we can deliver all of that.
DF - I think the main think you have with it potentially being TFC2 is that - and presumably what you do with TFC2 is that there are players coming back and forth and it's not going to be the team that...
BM - We would pay attention to regulations and all that and Victor didn't want...part of the thing is they don't want a second team cause they don't want the league to appear minor league. But, in my opinion, fans are going to know Major League Soccer (is higher). And they've said they don't want to compete with Major League Soccer, but then they don't want to be second tier, right? One thing I've learned in all my years doing this is that fans aren't dumb and they know what the highest level is. We're not the English Premier League is. So, they know what the highest level is and then they kind of know the next tier. I think the next tier is still very good soccer and I think the Canadian Premier League can actually have good soccer teams and I see what we've put together and what we have coming up, I think we can have really good soccer. And, frankly, local because what we're doing with our academy is we're developing a lot of local players. And, eventually we want to put those players on TFC, right, first team. But, the experience that you get in the Canadian Premier League would be great.
DF - I think that's a bit of the problem, really. I grew up supporting a very small team and part of the reality of that is that, hmm, you got a player that's doing really well and he's going to be sold on to some other bigger team. That's one thing, but, hmm, well this guys doing well and the big team called him up and you just lost him for nothing. That's a different dynamic.
BM - But, your club got money.
DF - Yes, but would TFC be giving money to TFC2?
BM - No, because we've already invested in all those players. That's the thing. So, we're spending over $2-million a year on our youth development system. It's a big investment. Now, our board has made it. My original thought was to have a Canadian division of the USL, which I think would have been really intriguing because then you could have the champions of the Canadian division playing in the play-offs with the teams of the US and so on. But, look I think there's a debate about...in terms of Toronto on who would want a team. I just think from a standpoint of -- look, someone can put a team in. There not going to get 20,000 fans a game.
KZK - I don't think they expect to get 20,000 fans a game.
BM - (laughing) you'd be surprised on who you talk to. No, but I think...I wonder because we're still going to have TFC2, right? So, then, all of a sudden, we're going to be competing for players, we're going to be competing for sales and I think there's going to be confusion in the marketplace. So, that's why I feel very strongly that we have the perfect team to play in that league.
TW - Do you think mostly your feelings of it being a challenge is from a business standpoint more than anything?
BM - I'd say no. More from a players standpoint cause we've invested a lot of money in our academy and developing players and, look, our eventual goal is to try and graduate as many players as we can to TFC. And, if along the way we could play in a Canadian league...and. look, if we don't have a team in Toronto, I'll affiliate with a team. Like, I'll take a team in one of the other cities and I'll affiliate with them somehow because it then would benefit them if I bought one of their players. That's how in England, right? The lower level clubs survive by the bigger level clubs buying their players. So, we're still going to mine the CPL, whether we're in it or not, for talent. What we want to do is we do want to protect the investment we've made in our academy players that are coming up through the system. And, a fear I would have is, you know, we have a guy and he wants to move up to another team in another league and he gets out of our funnel. And, so I kind of look at our funnel as CPL (level) and my discussions with Victor he's like, look, we're going to develop players and eventually they can play in MLS. So, I don't think from that standpoint there's competition, but it does get into competition when I look at my second team. And, the thing that was very interesting to me is that it's being run by the CFL owners. So, these aren't like soccer guys that have come out of nowhere...
KZK - Well Paul Beirne is not a CFL guy...
BM - No, no, but he was hired by...
KZK - Sure, but they at least hired someone with soccer knowledge
BM - Absolutely and Paul is good, but they have sen that soccer is a sport that can grow and I think they have venues, they have space. But, you have the CSA, who I very much believe it's about the development of soccer in this country and then you have the CFL owners who see it as a business opportunity and they're going to want to make it work financially. And I just think...look, if there's a team here in Toronto I think it will struggle in a market like this where...it's a big town. It's a big market. Look, there might be a team that gets a couple thousand fans a game or whatever and if people like that that's fine, but I think we can put a Toronto team, our second team,and compete aganist the other cities -- Regina, Saskatchewan, wherever it is -- and we're representing Toronto.
TW - If that were to be the case would you re-think the way that TFC2 is, like where they play, how thy're...
BM - Yeah, ideally we would renovate Lamport (Stadium). Ideally. That's the best location, I think. We have established a very good relationship with the city of Vaughan and Ontario Soccer. We do have to do more with that little stadium up there. Last year e had a great little following, we tripled our ticket sales. It's still not where we want it to be, but we want to get it better. I would love to see us re-do Lamport, but to re-do Lamport is going to be a lot of money. Unfortunately. We manage Lamport, but it's going to be a lot of money. That is ideally the best place. BMO is too big, you know for my goal to get 4-5,000 fans a game and if we're playing in the Canadian Premier League maybe it will be more because I think there will be more attraction to the Canadian talent. But, the one thing we've found with TFC is all the surveys we've done -- (fans) don't want to see Canadian talent at the cost of winning. They want to win. Our fans want to win, right? Look if this player and this player and this player are directly even the Canadian guy we want to see, but if this guy is here and this guy is (lower) we want to see (the better player). And, I think the CPL. it's a different mission. It's about providing more opportunity for Canadian players. But, the level of play right now...it will be interesting to see if it's at a USL level or a NASL level and up because some of the guys playing in Europe if they're making good money won't come back unless they're paid good money and if they're paying really good money they're going to need big crowds, not 4-5,000 a game. They're going to need to average 10-15,000 a game. So, economics always come in. You know, it always comes in.
MH - Is there...a possible...I'm going to assume that the conversation is never fully dead as far as a TFC contribution to the CPL...
BM - Yeah
MH - ...is there a way that you can envision where TFC2, or branded as something similar, or something else completely different, I should say...
BM - The Young Reds. I like that. The Young Reds.
MH - ...TFC under 23...
BM - No, I wouldn't want to call them that.
MH - ...What I mean is they're not the 'B' team, they're the youth team. You know, if there is a way that you can still have TFC in the CPL...
BM - Look at Monaco right now. They have 18 of their players starting are under the age of 23. and they're going to sell them all. They are....
MH - That's been their...
BM - Why can't we have a team that's made up of players under the age of 23, which is essentially what TFC2 is right now, that can compete very, you know, competitively in a league like that and the best of those players eventually move to MLS? Like to me that's essentially what the CPL will become. We will wind up -- if we see players develop, whether were involved or not, we're going to eventually -- as will Vancouver and Montreal will too -- we're going to want those players and we're going to pay some kind of transfer fee, just like we've done with the USL teams and the NASL teams, to get those players. So...for me, I think with our ownership with MLSE, I think we could do a lot to have a Toronto team that would work. As opposed to a stand alone team that I think would come in I think in this market would struggle. That's in my own opinion.
DF - So when you're talking a couple times there about TFC's priority is clearly what's best for TFC...
BM - Yeah, of course.
DF - ...As opposed to potentially what's best for Canadian soccer, or Canadian players, or supporters of Canadian soccer in Toronto..
BM - Yeah, yeah, yeah, right.
DF - ...As far as the players go I look at Jay Chapman. Last year he kind of started out a little tentative, got a run of a few games and he was looking really good. Then all of a sudden you sign Armando Cooper. Now you've signed Victor Vasquez. What exactly are Jay Chapman's prospects right now? And I understand why that should be your priority for TFC, but how is this really helping Canadian players and I think you having other options is a good thing.
BM - Well I mean if you look Jay played the full 90 against Arizona (in USL). We won 1-0, but the best will always rise to the surface. In my opinion and Jay will get his day in the sun because he's a good young talent. We have a problem in Canada if our national team players are all coming from the Canadian Premier League. That's inherently going to be a problem because the level of play won't be good enough...
KZK - Certainly not to begin with, but the idea is that it gets there, or at least approaches it.
BM - But, what will happen is when Jay Chapman is playing there he's just going to end up somewhere else anyway. If he's that good. I say this sincerely...I believe that what is good for TFC is good for Canadian soccer and I believe what's good for Canadian soccer is good for Toronto FC. And, that's why I support the development of a league. I just feel that we have so much more to offer if we're part of the league and if we're not part of the league...I've already been approached by a couple of people who are looking at it who want to affiliate. And, we'll wind up affiliating and we'll do some kind of direct tie that way. But, we're still going to have to have a second team to get our players good, quality games. You look (at) Nick Hagglund last year. Nick Hagglund was not...he was the fifth option on defense and he wound up playing in the USL a few games, Josh Williams gets injured, Nick is thrown into a game, does well and now we can't take him out of the line-up he's doing so well every game. He's really cemented his spot. But, that's what those second team games are for -- Alex Bono, last year, played in the USL, was actually doing really well - Quillan Roberts was ahead of him actually...
KZK - What happened to Q. Talking of Canadian players that are no longer with TFC
BM - But, at the end of the day we have to look at who is better, right. Q coming out of training camp 2016 went up on our depth chart ahead of Alex. And then they both were playing USL games and Alex was playing better and Alex got the call when it was time to play...when Clint got injured and then Alex clearly just rose above...
KZK - But, Q didn't even get to play in Voyageurs Cup games
BM - Well, because Alex was playing so much better in the USL. I say this all the time: Would you rather us have a team where I took the local player, but we're not winning and we're bad. Or, the team that's going to win. And, everyone always says I want the team that's going to win. ...
KZK - And I'm not going to say that I disagree with that cause sure I like winning, but -- and I admit...that I am a big proponent of Quillan Roberts. I always have been. I like him a lot...
BM - And he's a good kid. We wanted him on the USL team this year...
KZK - And I just feel that he's sort of one of those ones who has just been mishandled and he's no longer with the club and...
BM - I don't know if it's mishandled. We offered him the opportunity to stay.
KZK - To play for TFC2?
BM - Yeah. To be the guy.
KZK - And he chose to leave?
BM - Yeah.
KZK - Oh, Ok.
BM - Look, he's a great kid. He's a great kid. And I think he's got a good future. Alex just...
KZK - Alex is a good player. I have nothing against him.
BM - And that was what great about TFC2 last year is that we rotated as many games as we could and Alex wound up playing better at the end of the day and that's why that came about.
KZK - Ok.
BM - But, he's a good kid. He just felt...look, Clint (Irwin) is only 27, turning 28. Alex is 22. and all of a sudden he was third in the depth chart and he figured hey I need to move somewhere else if I want to get up to MLS.
DF - The other thing with the CPL...as far as supporters go...again, I fully understand you work for MLSE and kind of by extension MLS in a way. It's your job to protect your monopoly...
BM - Thank you for understanding that (laughing)
DF - ...similar to whenever there is talk of the NHL maybe putting a second team in the GTA...
BM - I think I gave you the pizza shop analogy...
DF - ... what's wrong with more pizza options? Why can't the people of Toronto have more pizza options?
BM - I could build a chain. So you know if you have a Pizza Nova here I can build another Pizza Nova down the block.
DF - But, what if you don't like Pizza Nova?
BM - But, you know what, MLS is the best pizza (laughing)
KZK - Bill, I will give you a local example. I live near two pizza places. Two different places. Two different chains. I visit both of them. Fairly equally. I give my support to both!
BM - I would love people to come to TFC2...
KZK - Then move them closer! (laughing) It's almost two hours by transit.
BM - But, I think for me...look, for the Canadian soccer fan the more soccer the better, right? They're going to go to all kinds of soccer. I think I can provide that second level of soccer. And, who knows, let's say a CPL team came in and, who knows where they play, right?
KZK - Monarch Park?
BM - Why would you go there instead of going to TFC2?
KZK - 'Cause TFC2 is in Vaughan!
BM - But, let's say they're in Scarborough?
KZK - Scarborough is still closer than Vaughan.
BM - I guess my point is it's going to be difficult to find a place to play for them as well. I think for me there's enough cities, I think, in Canada that actually would be perfect for the CPL. Where it would be the only game in down - maybe them and a CFL team, obviously. I think we're already providing that second level of soccer. That we can provide here in Canada.
KZK - But no one goes to see them
BM - No, last year we sold out six games
KZK - What's a sell out?
BM - 1,300. But, we did. We sold out six games. It's a low price point
KZK - Sure, but wouldn't you rather 5,000 come see those games?
BM - No, I would. Of course, but that's one of the things we're debating. That's why we're playing at BMO Field twice this year
KZK - The reserve team used to play at BMO Field more
BM - No, I know...but, it became economically not viable because it's very expensive to open up BMO Field.This year we're going to experiment a little bit...but, look, on the CPL thing it's not an easy one because I do understand people want to see more soccer. The think that I struggle with -- I was talking to a couple of people who like, like the Galaxy. So Chivas fans were not Galaxy fans, right? Galaxy fans were not Chivas fans. In New York NYC fans are not Red Bulls fans and Red Bulls fans are not NYC fans. And New York Cosmos, which is probably a more relative example here...New York Cosmos fans are New York Cosmos fans. They're not NYC fans, NYC fans are not New York Cosmos fans. So I find it interesting that there is a different dialogue here that 'hey, we're going to be TFC fans and we're going to be CPL fans', but other markets are different. So, I found that the Orange County Blues, which is a team that plays in the USL, you know, they kind of have their own small little fan base -- maybe there's some cross over because I don't think the Galaxy pay attention to them, but I don't think the Galaxy supporters groups are supporters groups for the Orange County Blues, if I gave an example there. So, I'm just wondering is it...I think it's a good view that there's going to be more soccer. But, I'd be surprised if Inebriatti would go be a supporters group for another franchise too. I'd be surprised. But, you never know. But, I find that it's very interesting that some of these other markets there's no cross over. Or, very, very little, but yet people say 'oh, there's going to be all this cross over in this market, which I actually don't think would happen at the end of the day.
TW - It might be a maturity of a market thing that you're referring to. I don't know if we're at that point yet. You refer to Toronto as bing kind of a big time market...
BM - It is. It's a big, big city.
TW - ...it's kind of turned its nose up at small things in the past...
BM - I mean this is a big city and I think it's why some of the USL, the USL has thrived in some of the smaller markets. It's rarely thrived in the big markets.
TW - On the other hand I think Toronto has matured greatly as a football town in the last couple of decades even leading into before TFC. You know you look at a big market in, I know this is a bit apples and oranges, but like a London where I support Tottenham Hotspur, but my local side is Leyton Orient, two divisions down, which would be a very, I think, fair comparison of what maybe a CPL team coming in would be to TFC. I would go to both, maybe not as fervently support Leyton, but I'd...yeah, I would go to both because the price point...
BM - Could you speak to my friend Ivan Gazidis at Arsenal, he's saying none of his fans are going to anybody else's games...
TW - Yeah, but those are Arsenal fans (laughing). They're a special breed...But, I think that...Now London is a very, very big city and as I said it's apples and oranges and I don't know if Toronto is quite ready for that, but I guess it would depend on what level the CPL would consider success as far as gate goes.
BM - Right and that's a kind of a difficult thing now as you don't know...I think Victor, success for him is developing young Canadian players that can get competitive games to prepare them for future national team games. I think the CFL owners are looking at as we have stadiums that we need to fill and we can get a good business model out of soccer. I think they're coming together and they've become, you know, partners. And look again I say I think it's going to be a successful league in Canada if done properly and under the right budget, but I think there's a lot of cities that it can do really well in. Like, I think Hamilton will do great. I do. I think it will do great there.
MH - And I'm going to be one of those people that will have season tickets to both
(talk of Hamilton supporter scarves omitted)
BM - (responding to a comment about an Ottawa Fury scarf) Ottawa Fury is an interesting one because they just joined the USL and they have a good owner in John Pugh and they're part of that group that owns the (junior) hockey team and the CFL team, but he's still, you know, he's not sure (about the CSL), he's not sure. It will be interesting.
KZK - Well this is a topic in which there's never going to be a resolution in terms how you look at it and how a good swath of TFC/Canadian supporters look at it. I think, you know, you think there's room for two teams under the TFC umbrella; we think there's room for two teams regardless of who runs them. Like...we think there's room for a CPL team even if it's not run by Toronto, but we all want good things to happen for Canadian soccer.
BM - That's fair. If they had a team in Scarborough, if they had a team in Brampton I wouldn't care. If they had a team five minutes away? Eeh.
KZK - Scarborough is part of Toronto, Bill (laughing)
BM - No, I know it is but...
KZK - Are you talking proximity?
MH - It's a community
BM - it's not Toronto. Like we're talking downtown Toronto
MH - Like if you had a team in Brampton and a team in Mississauga those aren't, here not competing with one another
BM - That's where I kind of look.
KZK - Literally if you put a team east of Yonge Street it's Ok. No one will notice. It's all right. This is how this works here. You'll be fine. (laughing)
BM - So we'll see. If a team does come into this market I think it's going to be extremely difficult for them to get...I mean we're still here. We're the 800 lbs gorilla and it's going to be tough. It's going to be tough.
KZK - Well hopefully we're still here! We're a Toronto FC podcast. What the hell are we going to do?
There tends to be a bias in sports management that favours the player you picked over the player you inherited.
It makes sense. After all, you fell in love with your player. The other player is an arranged marriage sort of thing. You might eventually love them, but it's going to take work from both sides. Sometimes one or neither side is willing to put in that work though and the relationship dissolves without ever having had a chance.
This brings us to the case of Quillan Roberts and Alex Bono vs Greg Vanney and Tim Bezbatchenko. The latter fell in love with the man who's last name will forever evoke bad U2 puns. That left the player they call Q, a player carefully brought up through the TFC youth system for years, sleeping on the couch.
It's easy to understand why they fell for Bono. He's a tall, strapping American that came from the cult of 'Cuse. He even played in the US youth system! And man does he practice well. Talk to anyone. They will go on and on about how good Bono is in training.
How could Q stand up? He's just some pint-sized kid (for a keeper) from Brampton. Didn't even play college soccer. And, don't try to compare a full Canadian senior cap and having played at every level of the Canadian youth set up to the US system. Pfft.
Tim and Greg had made up their minds the second they bizarrely used a first round pick on a keeper three years ago. The Fly was their man. Everything that happened after was designed to bring Bono forward over Q. Even though the academy product was by far the better keeper in USL in season 1 of TFC2 it was Bono that was given the longer look in the second pre-season. Even though Q was performing at an equal level to Bono in USL last year when Clint Irwin went down with the injury it was Bono that got the call. The management claimed that it was random fate and that he earned the next start through his MLS performance, but the googly eyes towards their boy from Syracuse betrayed them.
It was also hard to argue that Bono earned the next start since he was directly at fault for the winning goal in his MLS debut appearance. It's old news now, but why Q didn't get at least one start during the stretch that Irwin was out isn't defend-able to me. The two players were not distinguishable in their development at that point and to not give your academy product at least one look never made sense to me.
If they had given him a look last year he might have been willing to sign a USL contract this year. Instead, Q is out of contract and looking to find a team that will give him another shot. Meanwhile, TFC finds itself in a bit of a goalkeeping pickle, with Irwin's second injury in as many years. Regardless of whether you're a Bono Believer (and, I'm not fully there yet. To me he directly cost TFC five points last season and, as much as I recognize he's a decent shot stopper, I don't fully trust his mental game yet), you have to recognize that the Reds are screwed if he gets hurt. Unless you think Angelo Cavalluzzo is ready to be a MLS starting keeper (or, more likely, you're OK using a MLS pool keeper).
Look, Bono may turn out to be what Vanney and Bez think he is. All I know is that there are as many people out there that share the same doubts as me as there are those that fully trust the kid. And, I'm not going to give Q a full pass either. He didn't get a fair shot in my mind, but there was also suggestions that he didn't fight hard enough after it became clear that Bono was favoured.
My issue isn't really with Bono, but rather the blinders that appeared to be on TFC management when they made the decision that he was the better long-term bet than Q was. It speaks to a bias that many in the local soccer community see with TFC and, so long as the perception is out there, it could hurt TFC on the local recruitment front.
Is that bias -- that they trust kids drafted from the NCAA over kids developed here and are more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt -- real? In fairness, Raheem Edwards is proving that they aren't going to ignore players from the system if they make them stand up and take note. However, perception is reality and it's going to be hard for some in the local scene to forget what they feel was unfair treatment of one of TFCA's longest serving players.
Every Friday, I will give my keys to victory for the Montreal Impact, in 3 points!
No Piatti, No Party?
The Montreal Impact will be without the service of their star Designated Player Nacho Piatti on Saturday versus Chicago. Ignacio could be out several weeks due to a groin injury. Can the Impact create quality goal scoring chances without the Argentinian in the lineup? Can the Impact capitalize on their looks on goal with a depleted lineup? If so, Montreal could come out of Toyota Park with a favorable result. In this case, I would consider a draw on the road a favorable result. If not, a tough afternoon at the office it will be.
Shoot to Score
The Impact are 17th in MLS for shot attempts. The ratio of attempts vs on target is respectable (26/10). To compensate for the clinical finishing skills of Piatti during his absence, the Impact needs to put the odds in their favor literally and raise the amount of shot attempts, hopefully on target. It will not be easy and with the injury to Patrice Bernier, the service coming from the midfield could struggle, but raising the amount of shot attempts could raise the probability of goal scored.
Forget Bastian, Cover Dax!
It will be a big day for the Fire, to say the least. Bastian could play, but will doubtfully start. Dax and Juninho are the two key Fire players you need to cover at all times. The revamped midfield for Chicago has already paid dividends this year and with all the new eyes on their product on Saturday, they will want to put on a show! If Montreal can stifle the Combustible Duo like they successfully stifled David Villa two weeks ago, Montreal could pull off the result on the road for a second straight game.