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.
People love lists. Journalism schools likely teach list making now. Instead of going on a rant about the death of journalism - I'll save that for Facebook -- CSN is going to embrace it with the debut of this new feature.
The Big List will rank things. Sometimes 10, sometimes 8, sometimes 15. Whatever I feel like when I write it, basically. Today, it's 10.
The reason it's 10 is because there's literally only 10 of them to rank. The subject is the best 10 TFC home openers.
Presented from worst to first:
10 -- April 4, 2009 vs Seattle, 0-2
Let's start with the cold. Oh my God was it cold. Some will argue that the 2011 opener versus Portland was colder, but they'd be wrong. This game was literally the worst. There was a wind blowing every direction that was lifting supporters of the ground as they tried to hold up the pre-match tifo. Awful. Just awful. And, that's without talking about the game itself. Toronto gave the expansion Sounders their first ever road win (what's it with TFC and it giving Seattle the first of things?) in a absolute garbage performance. Three years in this was probably the game that ended the keg party buzz that had lasted through the first two seasons of TFC. It was the buzzkill game.
9 -- March 24, 2012 vs San Jose, 0-3
The Danny Koevermans "The Worst Team in the World" comment was still weeks away but the writing was on the wall. The scoreline says it all, although it was going to get far, far worse (hell, the Columbus game a week later was more depressing). The year 2012 was just bad.
8 -- May 10, 2015 vs Houston, 1-2
After 600 weeks on the road and coming off a two game winning streak that had fans giddy the debut of Giovinco was a bust. They were flat and uninspiring and the fans left thinking that maybe this wasn't all fixed yet.
7 -- April 19, 2008 vs Salt Lake, 1-0
They won. So, that was nice. But a 12:30pm start and an uninspiring opponent (no offense to RSL, but there is literally no rivalry there) lead to a pretty forgettable game. Seriously, try to remember the game.
6 -- April 15, 2010 vs Philadelphia, 2-1
Falling in the middle of a three year stretch where TFC opened against an expansion team (which was probably by design to help poor Toronto out) there wasn't much to get behind in this one. Preki ball was also terrible to watch at the best of times.
5 -- May 7, 2016 vs Dallas, 1-0
It went better than the last game at BMO Field in 2016 for sure. After the disappointment of the 2015 opener this game was a relief to fans. Pretty nice win over a very good team though.
4 -- March 22, 2014 vs DC United, 1-0
The earliest game in BMO Field history and it turned out to not be that cold. Also, Jermain Defoe scored the winner and fans thought this was finally the year. Nothing possibly could have gone wrong from there!
3 -- March 26, 2011 vs Portland, 2-0
By far the best performance of all the openers. And Javier Martina! Man, what a goal. Then a brace!! Aron Winter's first game in charge at BMO Field was very likely his best. But, it was cold. Not Seattle 2009 cold, but damn cold.
2 -- March 9, 2013 vs Kansas City, 2-1
When this game was announced many supporters hated it. BMO Field is our home, they said. SkyDome is where the Argos play (And always will, right?) But it turned out to be a lot of fun. A good sized crowd and actually getting to see the team that early in the year almost makes me want to go back to The Dome again. Almost.
1 -- April 28, 2007 vs Kansas City, 0-1
You never forget your first. Yeah, they lost, but the memories of that day are truly magical. The shaking of the stands, the beer throwing woman, singing "all we are saying is give us a goal," and the realization that it was all very real. I get emotional just thinking of it.
Agree? Disagree? Give me your rankings in the comments of on Twitter @24thminute
The Vancouver Whitecaps pulled the trigger on a significant trade today, sending Kekuka Manneh to Columbus for Tony Tchani, $225,000 in TAM and $75,000 in GAM.
The move is a difficult one to fully handicap until we know what the Caps plan to do with the allocation. We can assume that they are looking to address the attack with a TAM player, but the Caps have surprised us before. The GAM is also likely tied into bringing someone in, with the TAM largely covering the transfer.
In moving Manneh, Vancouver have parted ways with one of the league's biggest enigmas. There have been days where he has looked like a potential Best XI player in the league and there are days when he was mostly invisible. However, his speed down the wings was a big part of what the Caps did on attack and there isn't an obvious way to replace that without assuming that a 16-year-old is ready to play 34 games in MLS without a mental or physical break-down. That's a lot to ask of Alphonso Davies.
Tchani isn't the same player. You can likely assume he'll line up beside Matias Laba and give the Caps a fairly tidy looking cover in front of the back-line. Tchani is also a decent passer and, if Davies or someone else steps up to create similar width as Manneh did, then he could turn out to be a nice piece.
Still, it's hard to ignore the Golden Rule of evaluating a trade -- who got the best player? That would be Columbus. The only caveat to that is whether said player is going to stay for the long run and there is indication that Manneh is looking longingly at Europe. His stay in Ohio may not be long. There are reports that the Caps negotiated a sell on clause in the trade and will receive some of the allocation money provided if the Crew do sell him.
Bottom line: The Whitecaps haven't looked right since about July of last year. Manneh was a huge part of their identity as a club and it might just have been time to shift gears. The Crew, meanwhile, think of themselves as a contending team in 2017 so a short term rental makes sense for them. Until we see what the Caps do with the money, let's call this one a draw.
John Herdman has named his roster for two upcoming friendlies in Europe. In continuing a recent trend, the team is quite young, with 14 players younger than 23 and six teenagers. That includes a 15 year old.
Only three women on the roster have clear memories of the 1990s.
Here is the roster:
GK Stephanie Labbé, age 30, from Edmonton, AB/ Washington Spirit (NWSL) GK Sabrina D'Angelo, age 23, from Welland, ON/ North Carolina Courage (NWSL) GK Kailen Sheridan, age 21, from Whitby, ON/ Sky Blue FC (NWSL) FB Lindsay Agnew, age 21, from Kingston, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL) FB Allysha Chapman, age 28, from Courtice, ON/ Boston Breakers (NWSL) FB Ashley Lawrence, age 21, from Caledon, ON/ Paris St-Germain FC FB Marie Levasseur, age 19, from Stoneham, QC/ University of Memphis (NCAA) CB Hannah Taylor, age 17, from Edmonds, WA/ Eastside FC CB Kadeisha Buchanan, age 21, from Brampton, ON/ FCF Olympique Lyonnais CB Shelina Zadorsky, age 24, from London, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL) M Jessie Fleming, age 19, from London, ON/ UCLA (NCAA) M Rebecca Quinn, age 21, from Toronto, ON/ Duke University (NCAA) M Sophie Schmidt, age 28, from Abbotsford, BC/ FFC Frankfurt (Bundesliga) M Desiree Scott, age 29, from Winnipeg, MB/ FC Kansas City (NWSL) M Gabrielle Carle, age 18, from Lévis, QC/ CS Lévis-Est & Québec Soccer REX M Sarah Stratigakis, age 18, from Woodbridge, ON/ Aurora United FC (League1 Ontario) F Jordyn Huitema, age 15, from Chilliwack, BC/ Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite BC Soccer REX F Nichelle Prince, age 22, from Ajax, ON/ Houston Dash (NWSL) F Deanne Rose, age 18, from Alliston, ON/ Scarborough GS United F Adriana Leon, age 24, from King City, ON/ Boston Breakers (NWSL) F Janine Beckie, age 22, from Highlands Ranch, CO/ Houston Dash (NWSL) F Christine Sinclair, age 33, from Burnaby, BC/ Portland Thorns FC (NWSL)
Canada will play Sweden April 6 and Germany April 9.
When the news was finally confirmed it was no longer news. More than two years after CSN first reported that Canada was working towards its own league, current CSA president Victor Montagliani out right confirmed it on Red Card Radio last week.
"The league is a go," was how he simply put it.
Two days ago, the Halifax regional council released a document that detailed plans for the creation of said new Canadian league.
August 2018 was listed as the start date, with a May 2017 announcement suggested.
As someone who was accused of making all this up two years ago allow me this single indulgence:
I TOLD YOU SO
Alright, now that that's out of the way let's instead focus on just how important this confirmation is. Simply put, it is the single most important accomplishment of the CSA in 31 years -- bigger than bringing WWC 2015 here, bigger than the 2007 U20 World Cup and much bigger than helping get MLS established in the nation. Make no mistake, all of those things mattered. There is no CanPL without them. They laid the groundwork that created an environment that allowed the CSA to even dare to dream of something so outlandish as starting our own league.
When Canada landed the 2007 U20s -- around the time Christine Sinclair was introducing herself to the nation at the also important 2002 women's U19 event -- the idea of a national league was dead in the water. The CSL had failed and with it any chance of ever having top flight soccer in this country was seemingly buried with it. Even the idea of having a single MLS team seemed far-fetched (partly because no one was betting on MLS lasting long-term either).
But, a new generation of Canadians was starting to enter their peak spending years and the older generation -- the generation that thinks soccer is a commie sport, mostly -- was starting to lose its grip on power. Suddenly, the Gen Xers and the generation that we now call millennials were to be paid attention to and that generation didn't have the same hang ups about soccer that their parents and grandparents did. They grew up playing the sport in the boom years of the 1980s and '90s and then later in their living rooms in video game form (make no mistake. EA Sports has played a vital role in popularizing soccer in North America).
Those young(er) fans packed bars, pubs and cafes every two years to watch the World Cup and Euros. Still, the older generation said that they would never watch the game outside of those big tournaments. It's just a party, something to do while waiting for the NHL season to start again, the grumpy boomers said.
Except those same fans were starting to buy Juve, Manchester United and Real Madrid strips and show up at all hours of the day to watch European games.
Yeah, but they won't support teams from here, grunted the talk radio shock jock.
Then BMO Field opened and fans made Toronto FC the hottest ticket in town. Vancouver then Montreal followed and years later nearly 100,000 watched the Impact and TFC play for the Eastern Conference championship over a wild two legged tie that will probably be referenced by an 18 year old rookie in 2022 as being the reason he or she decided to become a professional soccer player.
Yet, the old voices remain and are now telling us that the CanPL can never succeed. This is despite soccer proving the doubters wrong at every step of the way over the past 25 years.
It's time to shout them down. The burden of proof no longer lies on the side of the soccer-lover. No, it's the soccer-doubter that needs to show their work. I suspect their work would include references to the NASL, New York Cosmos and Pele before it drifted off into a 40 minute rant about how music was better when Meat Loaf was on top of the charts.
The sport has fans -- huge fans -- in every corner of the country. Sure, many of those fans support one of the three MLS teams (or another level team), but more than enough either don't live near a MLS/NASL/USL team or are open to supporting both their current team and a CanPL side.
This isn't 1992 and it sure as hell isn't 1984. There are people in Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax and more than have seen the Southsiders, UM02, Red Patch Boys or (insert your supporters group here) and want the same thing for themselves. The new CanPL teams will find their fans and the teams have enough money behind them to allow the initial fan base to grow to a point that no one will ever fear for the long-term health of the league again.
One of the underappreciated goals of the CanPL is to bring the game to more fan's back-yards. We focus on player, coach and referee development -- and clearly that is very important -- but the reality is that spreading the sport to every part of the country is probably the single most important thing the CanPL will do. Putting pro soccer in smaller markets is a goal in of itself, but it's not like having those pockets of passion isn't without a player development angle too. Just look at the amount of young American players that currently talk about how important going to MLS games was to developing their love of the game. That will hapen with the CanPL too (and already is happening with the three MLS teams).
The CanPL is going to happen.
And, It's going to succeed. It's time to embrace what is possible and stop looking for what might go wrong.
Most of all it's time to embrace the undeniable -- soccer in Canada doesn't need the approval of the mainstream to be relevant. It is the mainstream now and has been for at least a decade.
Happy with the Point on the Road
Against one of the best offense in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Impact defense was able to keep their discipline and shutout David Villa for the first time at home this season. Even though his play was instrumental to Wallace's goal, David Villa was kept off the score sheet for NYCFC. It could have been better, of course, but a 1-1 draw at Yankees Stadium versus an offense who had put 4 goals past DC United's goalkeeper last week is an accomplishment unto itself. It wasn't pretty, but Montreal was able to keep the score close. Montreal was dominated in the first half but with a mix of blocked attempts on goal and bad accuracy by the trio of Villa-Moralez-Wallace, the Impact kept the result in striking distance. Even though they conceded a late goal in the first half, the Montreal defense was more disciplined and focused than in the previous two games. No early yellows (no yellow card period for IMFC's backline), no dangerous or questionable tackles in the box, so basically, a very well rounded performance by the defense. Their best of the season.
What really caught my attention once again was the performance of the defensive midfield and Patrice Bernier. The assist of Bernier on Montreal's equalizer scored by Dom Oduro at the 68' is a sight to be seen! A great read of the play, followed by a pinpoint accurate lob pass to Oduro, bypassing the entire midfield of NYCFC (Pirlo included) to create the scoring chance that would become Montreal's first away goal in 2017. Montreal's control of the midfield late in the game Saturday gave them a few chances to score the game winner, but a post by Piatti and a few great saves by Sean Johnson kept it at 1-1. Going back to the captain, Patrice Bernier's play has been outstanding in the last 2 games; from ball possession control to controlling the pace of the game, to creating time, space and looks on goal for his teammates, Patrice has been the spark of the offense in 2017. Since the snafus of the first game, the ball movement in the midfield has been excellent. High 80s and 90s of passing accuracy, controlling the tempo of the game, finding the open men on the flanks and using them to move the block forward, all adjustments and directives by Mauro Biello that have been well executed by the Montreal Impact midfield. Even with the late switch on the starting 11 of Marco Donadel for Callum Mallace, Marco "felt something" during the warm up, the midfield accomplished its mission of giving opportunities to the offense to be, no pun intended, impactful.
All in all, 1 point at Yankees Stadium, 1 goal conceded and good game adjustments and substitutions by the manager made for an appreciated trip to the Big Apple by the players. A win was possible, even probable with the pressure Montreal was putting in late, but a draw is manageable and hopeful for the next few difficult games ahead.
Every Friday, I will give my keys to victory for the Montreal Impact, in 3 points!
Point 1 Backline Discipline
The Montreal Impact defense have already racked up 4 yellow cards in the first 2 games, particularly early in the first halves ( Camara, Duvall and Ciman). On top of exposing your team to the risk of having a player sent off, those early yellows affect the way the player on notice approaches his tackle opportunities. On a very small pitch like the one at Yankees Stadium, the fraction of a second loss to hesitation from the defender on notice can prove quite costly and before you know it, you find yourself defending David Villa in the box . You add the Laurent Ciman 76' foul in the box against Seattle and you have a situation where after 2 games, 3 precious points were lost due to the lack of discipline by the Montreal Impact defense. For a positive result this Saturday in the Big Apple, patience and discipline are the directives for Montreal's backline.
Point 2 Possession and Transition in the Midfield
Last week, the midfield executed very well the game plan of having the ball and transitioning it successfully higher up the pitch, creating breakthroughs in Seattle's defense. The passing accuracy of the three defensive midfielders (Bernier 84.6% Donadel 91.1% Bernardello 93.6%) was quite impressive and quite an improvement from week 1. This is even more important in an environment like Yankees Stadium, where the edge of the box and the midfield line are not that far apart. If the defensive midfield trio of Montreal is able to replicate the passing accuracy performances of last week you will see a Montreal ball possession transition more efficiently from midfield to the last third of the field, thus creating more theoretical goal scoring chances for Piatti, Mancosu and Co.
Point 3 Beware of Villa-Moralez-Wallace
If it's not one of them, it's all three. The prolific trio that led to four goals versus DC United last week, is the main goal scoring threat for NYCFC. If you can eliminate the threat on New York's left side of the attack by suffocating the service to it, you give yourself a better path to victory. Which brings us again to the battle in the midfield. If Montreal is able to stop NYCFC's transition at the Mattarita and Pirlo level, they might have a shot at suffocating the service to their favored offensive threat. Easier said then done.
You can follow Kevin Laramee on Twitter @KevLaramee
Off the Woodworkx, a podcast about the Montreal Impact available on ITunes
Former LA Galaxy and MetroStars manager Octavio Zambrano will be named Canadian men's national team head coach on Friday.
The news was first reported in the Italian source, GazzoMercato. Anthony Totera reported this morning that the new hire would be Ecuadorian.
It's thought that Javier Livia will be Zambrano's chief assistant.
Zambrano has a .587 career MLS winning percentage as a manager, second to Bruce Arena all-time. He most recently managed El Nacional in Ecuador.