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    Duane Rollins
    Rookie Tsubasa Endoh was the standout performer for the Reds, winning the penalty for Sebastian Giovinco’s go ahead goal and putting in an impressively energetic shift on the right hand side of Toronto’s attack.
    He will almost certainly start against new coach Patrick Vieira’s troops, with Jozy Altidore unlikely to recover from the hamstring injury picked up in pre-season.
    The opening day win wasn’t pretty but all of Toronto’s off-season signings, including Will Johnson, Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Clint Irwin were solid in the defensive display.
    TFC coach Grey Vanney is unlikely to make changes, with Marky Delgado for Daniel Lovitz the only potential switch, the latter having a low-key game before being replaced by Delgado, who sealed maximum points with a last minute goal in Harrison.
    The victory over the Red Bulls, last season’s Supporters Shield winners, will send TFC into Sunday’s game at Yankee stadium with confidence they can repeat the trick against a team that hasn’t addressed its defensive weaknesses from last season.
    While dangerous going forward against the Chicago Fire on MLS opening day, New York City FC conceded sloppy goals but came out on the right side of a 4-3 thriller.
    Andrea Pirlo continues to suffer from a similar issue as Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy - playing in a deep lying creative midfield role but lacking the legs to provide adequate defensive cover.
    Sunday’s game will be the first at home for Vieira, the former Arsenal midfield general, who must juggle his desire to play attractive football in the way he was schooled under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger and the physical and high paced demands of MLS.
    Captain David Villa will continue to lead the line for the New Yorkers in front of the long-haired pairing of Thomas McNamara and Mix Diskerud, both of whom had strong showings in the curtain raiser in Chicago.
    DP Frank Lampard remains sidelined with a calf injury.
    Projected Line-ups
    Toronto: C.Irwin, D.Moor, D.Perquis, S.Beitashour, J.Morrow, W.Johnson, M.Bradley, D.Lovitz, J.Osorio, S.Giovinco, T.Endoh
    New York City FC: J.Saunders, E.White, F.Brilliant, J.Hernandez, R.Matarrita, T.McNamara, M.Diskerud, A.Pirlo, T.Taylor, K.Shelton, D.Villa
    Referee: Alan Kelly

    Michael Mccoll
    There's a lot of chat to be had, so have a listen!
    You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE.
    Or download it for your later listening delight HERE.
    We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app.
    And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE.
    Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!


    Duane Rollins
    However, the Reds’ arsenal has been boosted with off-season trades for four MLS stand-outs in goalkeeper Clint Irwin, midfielder Will Johnson and defenders Steven Beitashour and Drew Moor. All are expected to start against New York’s team in red.
    A revamped defence will be complemented once again by 2015 MVP and Golden Boot winner, Sebastian Giovinco. The diminutive Italian scored four goals in a preseason schedule that saw TFC post a 1-1-1 record in matchups with full MLS sides.
    The game at Red Bull Arena will be the first of eight consecutive road games for TFC, as renovations are completed at BMO Field in Toronto, ready for a curtain raising on May 7 against FC Dallas.
    When asked Wednesday about the chances of U.S. National Team striker Altidore being ready for Sunday’s opener, Toronto FC Coach Greg Vanney said “We’re not going to risk him in a situation where we don’t feel he’s 100 percent ready. We want to be cautious at this point,”
    Lead by top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, Red Bulls are among the favourites to win the east. They were 2015 Supporters Shield winners and Eastern Conference Finalists, where they lost out to the Columbus Crew. Despite losing star centre-half Matt Miazga to Chelsea, Luis Robles, Lloyd Sam and Dax McCarty all signed new contracts in the off-season and Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch will hope that stability will make up for any lack of headline grabbing signings.
    "We’ve made a concerted effort to keep this team together," Marsch said preseason. "Everybody feels that the group that we have is a good one and that is the main emphasis of where we are as a team and as a club.
    Projected Line-ups
    Toronto: C.Irwin, D.Moor, D.Perquis, S.Beitashour, J.Morrow, B.Cheyrou, W.Johnson, M.Bradley, J.Osorio, S.Giovinco, T.Endoh
    New York Red Bulls: L.Robles, S.Zizzo, G.Baah, R.Zubar, K.Lawrence, M.Grella, D.McCarty, F.Martins, S.Kljestan, L.Sam, B.Wright Phillips
    Broadcast: TSN4

    Duane Rollins
    So what followed was a bit depressing for the Impact. Rather than winning a championship, Montreal limped to one of the worst finishes in its history. It was a forgettable season with only two wins in the first 17 games. Although things ended much better, with Montreal among the best teams in the league over the last 10 weeks (7 wins), the Impact failed to make the playoffs.
    This is what’s been going through my head as this season of expectations starts. Of late, the Impact have disappointed when they were supposed to excite and excited when they were supposed to disappoint. Not much was expected in the second MLS season and they made the playoffs. Much was expected in the third and they were the worst team in the league. Then they made the CCL final…
    It’s a trend. And a worrisome one for the Impact fan because this is the “bad” year of the trend and a year that started with the whole "will he or won’t he" situation with Didier Drogba.
    Ah, Drogba. One doesn’t want to entirely focus on Drogba when talking about the Impact in 2016 but it’s hard not to. Like it or not, he is what makes an average MLS team potentially great. If he plays with passion like he did in 2015 then maybe the Impact break the pattern of good-bad-good…but if he has one leg back in London then maybe the season ends in disappointment.
    Like it or not, 2016 is the Season of Drogba in Montreal.
    Maybe it’s the optimist in me that thinks that Drogba will be a force again. He’s an athlete that has always played with pride and it’s hard to imagine that he will want to end his career on a sour note. With teams like Chicago and Philadelphia in the East the Impact should be able to make the playoffs without much effort even without Drogba (you’d hope, anyway) so what’s important will be how they end the year, not start – so, he can rest when needed and not play on turf until August.
    Then another sprint to the finish line.
    Since coming into MLS the Impact have failed to reach the heights they had in the second division. It’s time to change that. It’s time to break the pattern and believe in the possibilities.
    And it all starts Sunday in Vancouver!
    William Tremblay-Gagnon will write on the Impact in 2016 in his column Making an Impact

    Michael Mccoll
    To get started, head over to the MLS Fantasy Football site, pick your squad, you team name and join the overall fun.
    Once that's done, or if you have already set your team up, you can join one or both of AFTN's private leagues. Click LEAGUES on the menu then CREATE AND JOIN NEW LEAGUE then JOIN AN EXISTING LEAGUE / JOIN A LEAGUE then JOIN PRIVATE LEAGUE then enter our appropriate league code below.
    To enter our Classic League, the code you need is 10200-2431
    (Autojoin Link - http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com/?autojoin-code=10200-2431).
    And to enter our Head to Head League, the code you need is 10200-2433
    (Autojoin Link - http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com/?autojoin-code=10200-2433).
    So join today, spread the word and share it with your friends, and let the battle begin.
    We'll give you some regular updates over the course of the season.
    Good luck everyone! And in the meantime, here's some resources to help you on your way to hopefully a successful fantasy season:
    Fantasy Soccer 101
    Fantasy MLS on Reddit
    MLS Fantasy Boss
    MLS Fantasy Insider podcast
    MLS Fantasy Viz

    Michael Mccoll
    You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE.
    Or download it for your later listening delight HERE.
    We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app.
    And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE.
    Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!


    Duane Rollins
    CSA president Victor Montagliani appeared on Toronto’s Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports yesterday, where he said that there would be a meeting with MLS commissioner Don Garber within the “next month” that would address the contentious issue of Canadians as domestics league-wide. Currently Canadian players are considered international players in the United States, while American players count towards the domestic quota while playing in Canada.
    MLS has maintained that there are legal reasons for the inconsistency. Montagliani said that the CSA’s legal position is that the laws MLS points to are not as black and white as they are made out to be. In short, the CSA believes that it is legally possible for Canadians to be counted as domestics in the United States.
    Regardless, Montagliani stressed that he believed that a “diplomatic” solution to the dispute was the best course of action and said that the CSA had been working on just that with US stakeholders for the last three years. He also stressed that he felt that “we are at a watershed moment where action is needed now.”
    Montagliani was also asked about the Canadian Premier League project. He again confirmed that the CSA was talking to investors about creating an “inclusive solution” with current professional teams to create more professional opportunities in Canada. On note, he made reference to the possibility of those opportunities coming in “cross border leagues that we control.”
    Outside of the earliest reporting on the CanPL where the possibility of a partnership with the NASL to create a “Canadian conference” was suggested, that was the first suggestion that anything other than a Canadian only option was being considered.

    Michael Mccoll
    Now our knowledge of the women's game has some gaps, so we turn to an expert to look ahead to the tournament and how Canada might fare, as we chat with journalist, and AFTN regular, Harjeet Johal.
    Have a listen!
    You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE.
    Or download it for your later listening delight HERE.
    We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app.
    And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE.
    Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!


    Duane Rollins
    Even in the Canadian soccer community the instinct today was to treat the news as something not terribly serious. On Twitter, a hashtag called #MakeCONCACAFCanadian was started where people suggested that in future “bribes will now be accepted in Canadian Tire Money,” fans would be required to yell "POUTINE!" on goal kicks and that the act of receiving two yellows in a game would be now referred to as a “Double-Double,” among many other suggestions.
    Funny stuff, but it betrays just how serious Montagliani’s bid is and how important it could be to the future of Canadian soccer.
    To the former point, while Montagliani may not be well known in Canada, he is a well-respected figure in the region. He is CONCACAF’s representative on FIFA’s 2016 Reform Committee and the push for him to run was coming almost equally from outside Canada’s borders as it was from within.
    As a Canadian, he has the ability to relate to both the confederation’s biggest nations, but also understands how imposing Mexico and the USA’s presence in CONCACAF can be. To borrow an old political term, he has the “middle power” advantage that Lester B Pearson used to win himself a Nobel Prize (and, you know, negotiate peace in the Suez Canal in 1956).
    CONCACAF members realize that they need to elect a President that can start to repair the damage its reputation has suffered over the last year. Electing a Canadian would be seen as safe. Beyond that, as stated, Montagliani has also shown to be effective in the confederation in helping to bring opposing sides together on policy.
    He’s a pragmatic leader that understands that change can sometimes come in intermittent steps. That’s how he’s approached governance reform in Canada (which hasn’t been as fast to change as many would like) and it’s likely what would be needed to reform CONCACAF -- a slow, steady hand that can prioritize the most important needs and keep people moving in the right direction.
    All of this is why he was encouraged to run by a great deal of people in Canada and beyond. It was a decision that, CSN was told, he didn’t take lightly. Montagliani’s reluctance was mostly rooted in a belief that he still has a lot of work here in Canada and wanting to be sure that he could do both jobs (he will remain CSA President if he wins).
    Obviously, you can never quite tell what will happen in an election like this. However, make no mistake, this is a serious candidacy. Montagliani has a good chance of winning. Some have even told CSN that he’s the front runner.
    But, how important would Montagliani winning be to Canadian soccer?
    It’s difficult to pinpoint specific reasons it would be (outside of the reasons that the previous men were arrested for and that Montagliani has pledged to flush out of the game), but political influence at the highest levels of the game is something that Canada has never really had. Beyond the direct day to day voice the country would finally have at the adult's table, Montagliani would also gain political capital that may one day influence other countries in the region to support Canada in initiatives that benefit Canadian soccer.
    The most obvious “initiative” of interest to Canada is the 2026 World Cup bid. In his platform released today, Montagliani identified “(d)evising a strategy to ensure the 2026 World Cup is hosted in the CONCACAF region” as a main objective. To be clear, Montagliani will need to remove himself from directly being involved in the decision of what CONCACAF country will be supported in that bid. However, it seems unlikely that the possibility that he might be able to gain support for Canada’s bid by doing an effective job leading the confederation in a difficult time didn't cross his mind.
    At the very least, he can be front and centre in promoting the region as the best choice to host 2026. If CONCACAF is the accepted host, then Canada’s chances are vastly improved over what they would be in a worldwide bid. Without significant reform in CONCACAF, it’s entirely possible that the FIFA voters will shy away from the region in 2026, despite the fact it will be the region that’s gone the longest without hosting.
    So, he has lots of reasons to think that doing a good job as President will have all kinds of spill on effects.
    Beyond the biggest prize, many of Montagliani’s priorities speak to narrowing the gap between the haves and have nots in CONCACAF. Part of that will be designed to gain support among the smallest nations, but many of the initiatives are needed in Canada too. A change in the political climate to allow for those types of progressive changes will benefit everyone, including Canada.
    That's great, some might think, but why should the average Canadian fan care?
    What might be most refreshing about a Canadian seeking this position is that it demonstrates an ambition that has long been lacking in this sport in Canada. In the past, many here were satisfied in being the biggest fish in this country’s tiny pond of a soccer community. Of course, not everyone responds positively to ambition. In fact, ambition often rubs people the wrong way – by its nature it’s not completely selfless. A big part of ambition is to better your own position and we tend to chop the head off of those who stick it too far above the crowd – but the utter lack of it has been the most defining aspect of the CSA for generations and arguably one of the biggest reasons the country has slipped so far in the sport.
    Under Montagliani, the CSA has turned that lack of ambition on its head by hosting a Women’s World Cup, preparing to launch a professional league and, now, seeking the highest office in the confederation. The ambition may also end up landing, in 2026, what would have been a truly unthinkable prize only a few years ago.
    The instinct to assume the worst about the CSA is strong in Canada. Sack the CSA is still the default position of many, with an assumption that the leadership doesn’t care about the country’s global position. That idea doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. You can question the approach the CSA is taking – maybe you think there are bigger priorities than landing a men’s World Cup – but it’s awfully difficult to suggest the CSA isn’t outward looking at the current time, based on the evidence at hand.
    To be clear, no one is suggesting the CSA has been fixed of all the issues that caused the black hole of despair we are only now beginning to emerge from. That would be naive and more than a little unfair to those who remain skeptical. However, it’s equally unfair to suggest that nothing has changed. As stated, the biggest change of all is likely the ambition behind things like Montagliani seeking the CONCACAF Presidency.
    It says here that it’s OK to celebrate that ambition, while maintaining a critical eye overall.
    Montagliani’s key platform goals are as follows:
    1. How the region will continue to grow participation in football, and to deepen our organizational capacity;
    2. How the region can promote and grow the development of women’s football;
    3. How the region can create more opportunities to play in professional environments, when 75% of CONCACAF members don’t have professional leagues;
    4. Devising a strategy to ensure the 2026 World Cup is hosted in the CONCACAF region;
    5. How we can create consistent development, both commercially and on the field, ensuring development doesn’t happen unevenly which left unchecked has the potential to become immutable, turning the region into a guild of football elites and perennial also rans;
    6. How we aggregate and leverage our collective commercial assets;
    7. How we establish centers of coaching and refereeing excellence for CONCACAF; and
    8. How we can guarantee the sustainability of our competitions both commercially and on the field.

    Duane Rollins
    It would take a team of sociologists working around the clock with an army of psychologists to get to the root of this neuroses, but no one has the time nor inclination to do that. So, we mostly just roll with it.
    To bring this around to sports, it’s our pathological need to measure and compare ourselves to Americans that prevents us from establishing our own leagues. Instead, we settle for playing bit parts in American leagues.
    No one seems to question this. Oddly, the idea that Doug from Red Deer, who hates those hipster bastards in Toronto with their stupid glasses and DAMN IT WHY DO THE LEAFS HAVE TO BE ON HOCKEY NIGHT ALL THE DAMN TIME, adopts the Blue Jays as his favourite team is normal. No one thinks Doug should have a local baseball team to cheer for because, well, that’s just never going to happen, now is it?
    When you’re talking about MLB, the NBA and the NHL (which is an American league, don’t kid yourselves) part of the acceptance comes from the understanding that those leagues are undisputedly the best in the world. Although, outside of hockey (And, even with hockey, a strong argument can be made that the country is still underserved based on the interest), the vast majority of the country is not served by the leagues. But, at least the product on TV is good.
    However, this isn’t a space that’s concerned about those sports. Here, we are focused on soccer. As most understand, soccer is a sport that is much more nationalistic in how it operates around the world. It’s a sport that demands that nations have their own leagues. No one is going to prioritize the needs of another nation’s players in this sport.
    Which is why it’s absurd that Canada doesn’t have its own league. Mindboggling. Unheard of. And, no longer justifiable.
    Yet, there will be resistance by fans, largely based on the reasons above. Since we’re so damn weird, most of us don’t view the lack of a pro league with the same level of alarm that the (tiny) minority of nationalist fans do.
    Bluntly, there is little that cranks like me can do to convince the average fan that the creation of a league is the most important thing the CSA can do.
    It is. This project is the single most vital thing the CSA has ever tried to get done. It’s bigger than the 2015 World Cup, it’s bigger than the 2026 World Cup bid. This is the difference between a future with hope and essentially giving up.
    No hyperbole.
    However, as stated, few will see it that way. The vast majority of fans will wonder why they are starting a league when MLS is already here. They will view it as substandard to MLS (and it will be at start, for sure) and wonder why anyone would pay money to watch it.
    This is what it’s up against. I was asked on Twitter what I thought the biggest obstacle to the league’s success was. My answer was flippant, but accurate: Canadians.
    There’s a reason smart people have twice told the CSA this was impossible after doing substantial research. On a purely theoretical level it is. I cannot give you a logical, reason-based argument that the league will succeed. A five second Google search will find you several examples of similar efforts that failed, including the Canadian Soccer League in 1992.
    Crossing my fingers is the best strategy I can come up with to ensure success.
    That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to try. In fact, it’s kind of inspiring to see Canadian soccer trying something so brazen. For years the soccer community has excelled at telling us what can’t be done. It’s wonderful to see some positive thinking for once.
    Some will argue that it’s reckless to try this – that if it fails again there will never be a league. This ignores the fact that there isn’t a league now and that there is never going to be a time where trying to start one isn’t crazy.
    Actually, I lied when I said I can’t think of a plan to make this successful. There is one, albeit not one that will ease doubts anytime soon.
    It’s simple: you prove you can do it by doing it. You start the league and you let fans find it. You make sure you can withstand the early struggles and prove to people that you’re in for long haul.
    You don’t put unrealistic expectations on what it will be out of the gate and you acknowledge that you will make mistakes that you will fix and learn from.
    If you do that then you’ve accomplished impossible.

    Duane Rollins
    Nothing truly new was revealed in the Spectator story, save, perhaps, that the league would be headquartered in Hamilton. Bob Young has long been known to be involved, but outside of CSN that was first time it was reported outright. For the record, I’ve also been told that the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Group (owners of the Calgary Flames, Stampeders and junior hockey's Hitmen) and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (Ottawa Fury, RedBlacks and junior hockey's 67s) are also involved. I’m less certain of True North Sports and Entertainment Limited’s (Winnipeg Jets and AHL’s Manitoba Moose) involvement, but that has been suggested to me on more than a few occasions.
    Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver’s ownership is up in the air. It’s universally speculated that the Saskatchewan Roughriders will somehow be involved with a team in Regina, but as a community owned team that situation is a bit murky.
    Regardless, it’s important to understand that yesterday wasn’t planned. It was simply a local story about a municipal government motion where a reporter was able to connect the dots to something bigger. The CSA has purposely avoided oversharing on this topic until it had concrete details to share. They know there is cynicism and that any perception that this is a fly-by-night operation will doom the project out of the gate.
    I’ve long speculated that even the fact that I’ve been able to get as much information as I have about this league is calculated – as a niche journalist my reports are reaching an audience that is the most desperate for movement on this and is the most willing to give a new league the benefit of the doubt. The average Canadian sports fan doesn’t have CSN bookmarked and isn’t listening to the Two Solitudes podcast. I’m not speaking to those that are most likely to be the most negative.
    In short, I’m a safe place to indirectly leak information to. The Hamilton Spectator is not and the reaction yesterday demonstrates that. Now, the CSA is officially on the clock and the pressure has increased significantly. For the first time, the CSA now has people not only asking ‘Can this work?’ but also people wondering ‘Why are you even trying?’.
    Let’s look at those questions, starting with the latter one.

    is why they are trying.Although a league cannot survive if its sole purpose is to develop players – it has to also exist as a viable sports entertainment option for fans on its own merits as a professional league -- it’s clear that without a significant increase in professional clubs in Canada things are never going to get much better than that horrible day in Honduras. There might be blips – hell, maybe even enough luck in a cycle to get back to a World Cup – but to become a consistently successful program there needs to be legitimate professional infrastructure in Canada that is not beholden to the United States system.
    Will it work?
    We don’t know, but what we do know is that the current situation isn’t working. So either we moan about it, or we try and do something about it. The CSA and its partners are trying to do something about it.
    Bottom line: If you truly care about the state of Canadian soccer (beyond the wins and losses of your local MLS or NASL team) then there is no debate to be had about this – you support the initiative and cheer like hell for it to succeed.
    However, it won’t be that simple. Outside of hockey, Canadians have long rejected the value of our own sport culture. The CFL is the only example of a Canadian league that’s had any long-term success and even it struggles to be taken seriously in the major urban centres. The issue the CFL faces there is the same one that the Can-PL will face – perception that there is a better American equivalent for fans of the game. In soccer’s case that issue will be confounded by the fact that A) that American alternative will be directly operating in the market with an already established fan base and b ) the English Premier League is already more popular than the American alternative (not to mention Serie A, Bundesliga, etc).
    So, this is not going to be easy. But, as the old adage says, nothing worth doing is.

    Michael Mccoll
    Have a listen!
    You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE.
    Or download it for your later listening delight HERE.
    We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app.
    And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE.
    Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!


    Duane Rollins
    Named to the Olympic qualifying roster today were 10 players younger than 24. The youngest of which was just three years old when that 2002 u19 tournament was helping to jumpstart Canadian soccer into the mainstream.
    There are still a couple of the old guard hanging around – Erin McLeod (although sadly no longer sporting a Mohawk) and, of course, Sinclair were both on the 2002 team. They are joined by a few other contemporaries in Melissa Tancredi, Stephanie Labbé, Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson with Allysha Chapman, Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott representing an in between generation.
    But, the rest are kids. Six won’t be able to legally enjoy a celebratory post game drink in Houston if Canada qualifies to Rio.
    Missing are players that were slam dunk picks in the past. Lauren Sesselmann and Kaylyn Kyle will probably raise the most eyebrows.
    Now, Herdman did say that the door was open for some of the former players to return to the team – and it will be interesting to see if experience is given a greater emphasis if they do get to Rio – but it seems like a page was turned today.
    Is it a risk? Sure, a bit. Canada will need the kids to perform in Texas. That said, the draw has been kind in that Canada will have an easy touch in group stage. They should still have the talent to beat (likely) Mexico or Costa Rica but that semi-final will be a nervous affair.
    Bottom line is the time to build for 2019/2020 is now. Herdman has likely concluded that a repeat of London’s bronze performance in Rio is unlikely and has instead turned his attention to building a team that can truly contend in the next cycle.
    The Class of 2002 has done Canada proud. They drove the sport (for both genders) forward with their performance in 2002 and inspired a country with their bronze medal run in 2012. Hosting the 2015 World Cup probably doesn’t happen without them. They accomplished what they did with far less sophisticated coaching and tactical awareness than this new generation has had. They also fought for more equal treatment for the women’s team and, although I’m sure there could still be improvements, they have come a long way on that front – certainly in the public’s eye they are every bit the equal of the men’s team, if not actually more relevant.
    Yes, they had a generational talent in Sinclair, but she alone doesn’t take the team to the heights it found. They will be missed.
    Perhaps the Class of 2002’s greatest legacy is that they helped create an environment at the national team level where the young players that are replacing them are being provided with the resources they didn’t have when they first came up. Whereas the 2002s were often plucky underdogs performing above their level through hard work and athleticism, the hope is that the next group will have a much greater technical base to draw from. In turn, that could allow Canada to truly aspire to accomplish even more.
    Let's be honest: The Class of 2002 was highly unlikely to ever win a World Cup. The goal with this group is to make such a goal realistic.
    Look, there are still issues in the Canadian development system. That’s especially the case on the women's side. We focus on the negatives a lot though. It would be a mistake to ignore the top level talent that is there now and that, at least at the national team level, it's getting world class coaching.
    Basically we're saying that it’s OK to be excited about the Class of 2016 while saying goodbye to the 2002s and working to create a healthier system at all levels.
    Canada’s roster is below:
    GK – Erin McLeod, February 26, 1983 (age 32). From: St. Albert, AB
    GK – Stephanie Labbé, October 10, 1986 (age 29). From: Edmonton, AB
    GK – Sabrina D'Angelo, August 24, 1992 (age 23). From: Welland, ON
    D – Kadeisha Buchanan, November 5, 1995 (age 20). From: Brampton, ON
    D – Rebecca Quinn, August 11, 1995 (age 20). From: Toronto, ON
    D – Shelina Zadorsky, October 24, 1992 (age 23). From: London, ON
    D – Josée Bélanger, May 14, 1986 (age 29). From: Coaticook, QC
    D – Allysha Chapman, January 25, 1989 (age 27). From: Courtice, ON
    D – Rhian Wilkinson, May 12, 1982 (age 33). From: Baie-d'Urfé, QC
    M – Jessie Fleming, March 11, 1998 (age 17). From: London, ON
    M – Ashley Lawrence, June 11, 1995 (age 20). From: Caledon, ON
    M – Diana Matheson, April 6, 1984 (age 31). From: Oakville, ON
    M – Deanne Rose, March 3, 1999 (age 16). From Alliston, ON
    M – Sophie Schmidt, June 28, 1988 (age 27). From: Abbotsford, BC
    M – Desiree Scott, July 31, 1987 (age 28). From: Winnipeg, MB
    F – Janine Beckie, August 20, 1994 (age 21). From: Highlands Ranch, CO
    F – Gabrielle Carle, October 12, 1998 (17). From: Lévis, QC
    F – Nichelle Prince, February 19, 1995 (age 20). From: Ajax, ON
    F – Christine Sinclair, June 12, 1983 (age 32). From: Burnaby, BC
    F – Melissa Tancredi, December 27, 1981 (age 34). From: Ancaster, ON

    Duane Rollins
    It goes without saying that there are very few players that could have gotten away with what Drogba did over the last 6-weeks. It’s only because of his performance last year and the marketing pull he has that Montreal was as patient as it was in waiting for a decision that shouldn’t have even been in question. Some will say the club deserves credit for standing up and demanding Drogba fulfill his commitment to them, while others will say they are foolish for bringing back a clearly reluctant player.
    Neither opinion is 100 per cent wrong either. It is refreshing to see a MLS team – one in French Canada even – stand up for itself in dealing with a star of Drogba’s size. In comparison, Toronto appeared to let Jermain Defoe walk all over them in a similar situation just two seasons ago.
    Then again, it’s conventional wisdom in the sporting world that you want players that “want to be there,” on the team. This still has the potential of turning out very poorly for Montreal if Drogba comes back and puts a half-assed effort in.
    The player’s history doesn’t suggest that will happen, but it is always a risk.
    However, there is the potential that it could work out brilliantly for both sides too. One may recall Carlos Tevez’ spat with Manchester City a few years ago that saw the Argentine leave the club without permission to spend a few months golfing in South America. Eventually, he made peace with the club and returned for the second part of the year. The club was widely criticized for allowing him back, but he ultimately ended up playing a key role in City’s first title winning season in 44 years.
    That might be the high end return scenario, but it illustrates that fences can be mended.
    That’s the positive spin. The negative one is that at Drogba’s age he may have had trouble gearing back up for the season in a perfect scenario. Trying to play catch up now may make it impossible for him to get back to his 2015 form at any point in 2016. Montreal fans will be wise to consider Jermaine Jones’ 2015 season struggles after having a similar impact as a mid-season DP signing for New England in 2014 as Drogba did in 2015.
    There are no guarantees with big DP signings. Even when the initial returns are positive.
    Unlimitedly the biggest take away the Impact should have from l'affaire Drogba is how important it is to start to prepare for life after him. It’s clear this is the last season and that the club will need to replace him.
    No team can afford to be in a position where the loss of a single player – even a player as famous and talented as Drogba – can have as much potential of crippling the team on and off the pitch as the loss of Drogba would have had to Montreal this year. In many ways the off the pitch side of the equation is the biggest part of this. If Drogba struggles, the club can pass that off as one of those things that happens to older players and focus on the magic of 2015. If he just didn't come back that's a much more difficult thing to overcome from an optics standpoint.
    So, while fans can sit back and hopefully enjoy the last nine months of Drogba’s career, the front office needs to start the process of moving on now.

    Duane Rollins
    On the surface, it’s easy and understandable to be frustrated or angry at Floro for not calling Osorio in. Some might even argue the manager’s position is untenable.
    After the roster came out today CSN reached out to a few people close to Floro to try and get an understanding of why he continues to shut Osorio out. Surprisingly, the closer people are to the team the less frustrated they are by his omission. That’s not to say that Osorio’s talent isn’t appreciated, but rather to say that there is a belief by many that this is an issue of fit as much as it is about a personality conflict.
    That said, there is a personality conflict. It started at the Gold Cup when Osorio was perhaps a little too petulant in reacting to being subbed off. However, it’s been suggested that if the issue was just that incident it would have been resolved by now. Although no one will or can say with certainty, the suggestion is that there is more at play than what the fans have seen. Since Floro won’t speak directly about it (he’s been asked and he simply says he has players in front of him and he remains in the pool) we really are only getting the player’s side (expressed by his TFC teammates, as often as by Osorio himself).
    However, it’s been suggested to me that the bigger issue is that Floro does not see Osorio as a fit in the system he believes Canada needs to play to have a chance at success. What Osorio does well would be wasted in a set-up designed to play tight and controlled. He’s a player that wants to attack and play creatively. He excels at such a role in Toronto.
    Unfortunately, Osorio’s weaknesses fall on the defensive side of the ball. Floro’s system exposes those weaknesses. He simply isn’t a starter in such a system (it’s debatable whether he starts in any system in what’s a fairly stacked midfield, actually).
    Some fans have argued that Floro should recognize what Osorio’s potential is and work him into a system. It goes without saying that such a system would be more attack minded than the way Canada has been playing under Floro to date.
    Fans are free to hold the opinion that Canada should be playing more open, but frankly it’s irrelevant to the conversation at hand. Floro disagrees and he’s not going anywhere. Time will tell if it's successful.
    So, once you acknowledge that Osorio isn’t going to start in the current set-up you can start to understand Floro’s thinking on omitting him completely, even if you disagree.
    He doesn’t see him as a starter and he likely sees his attitude as a problem if he’s not starting. Here is where fans need to put a little blame on the player himself. It was Osorio that made it an issue when he reacted poorly to being subbed out. That shouldn’t be a death sentence to his national team career, but it also shouldn’t be passed over as irrelevant.
    National teams aren’t all-star teams. There is a certain amount of team building that goes into selections. That might mean that some intangible factors go into selecting the non-starters. It’s not that farfetched to think that Floro believes that Osorio isn’t suited to be on the roster unless he’s starting. Again, Osorio didn’t due himself any favours with his reaction to being taken off.
    As it relates to this camp and an omission from a B side that he clearly would have been one of the most talented players in, one individual put it like this: If you aren’t going to use him against Mexico why waste a spot that can be used to look at a player you might?
    A strong argument can be made that Osorio should be available as an attacking option off bench, even if you don’t start him. I agree, but only if he’s a positive influence in that role. We’d all like to think he would be, but none of us really know for sure (and the only piece of evidence we have suggests he might not be). Remember, Osorio has never played a reserve role in his career. He’s been a regular starter since his rookie season.
    Osorio is too talented to ignore forever. Everyone hopes he can be reintegrated into team sooner rather than later. However, upon close examination the reasons for his exclusion aren’t as absurd as they are being made out to be. And, not to belabour the point, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Osorio might need to take some initiative to repair his relationship with Floro as well.
    NOTES:
    -- Kyle Bekker’s inclusion continues to confuse fans. It was explained to me like this: “Bekker is super talented. Only guy Canada has who can ping a ball 40-50 yards with either foot.” It was further explained to me that he’s not looked at as starter, but rather as a late sub with an eye to get him a dead ball situation. He is Canada’s best free kick taker.
    Not all of the scouting report was rosy. Bekker was said to be weak on the ball and lacking in “hunger.”
    -- The debate over Osorio’s exclusion has taken attention away from Iain Hume’s return. It will be interesting to see how his Indian SuperLeague success translates to international play.
    Full line-up:
    1- GK- Maxime Crépeau | CAN / Impact Montréal
    2- FB- Nik Ledgerwood | CAN / FC Edmonton
    3- FB- Samuel Adekugbe | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
    4- CB- Doneil Henry | ENG / West Ham United
    5- CB / M- Adam Straith | NOR / Fredrikstad FK
    6- M- Julian de Guzman | CAN / Ottawa Fury FC
    7- M- Iain Hume | Unattached
    8- M- Will Johnson | CAN / Toronto FC
    9- F- Cyle Larin | USA / Orlando City SC
    10- M- Kyle Bekker | CAN / Impact Montréal
    11- M- Issey Nakajima-Farran | MAS / Terengganu FA
    12- CB- Wandrille Lefèvre | CAN / Impact Montréal
    13- M- Jamar Dixon | FIN / FF Jaro
    14- M- Marco Bustos | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
    15- CB / FB- Steven Vitória | POR / Benfica
    16- M- Kianz Froese | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
    17- M- Marcel De Jong | USA / Sporting Kansas City
    18- GK- Tyson Farago | CAN / FC Edmonton
    19- F- Caleb Clarke | Unattached
    20- FB / CB- Karl W. Ouimette | USA / New York Red Bulls
    21- CB- Mallan Roberts | CAN / FC Edmonton
    22- GK- Callum Irving | USA / University of Kentucky
    23- F- Tesho Akindele | USA / FC Dallas

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