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Found 25 results

  1. The battle lines have been clearly drawn. It's going to be a feisty affair. Get in the mood and 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! ** Don't forget to check out the new AFTN website at aftn.ca **
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. Toronto tied things up through Jay Chapman in the 57th minute, somewhat against the run of play and with the help of a referee that blocked Tyler Rosenlund and inadvertently set up the chance. That goal sparked TFC2 into life and they looked like the only team that was going to win this thing, missing a couple of great opportunities to do so. Their cause was helped further when Victor Blasco picked up two yellow cards in the space of five minutes and was sent off in the 68th minute. The couldn't make their man advantage tell and the Whitecaps were then thrown a lifeline in the 77th minute when Mark Anthony Kaye picked up his second yellow of the game, after sending Ben McKendry flying, and the teams were level in personnel once again. Both teams had chances to win it. The 'Caps got in the better positions and will be disappointed to come away with only a draw, remaining with just one win now from their first five games. AFTN photographer Tom Ewasiuk was there to capture all the action before, during and after the game and here's his "Story In Pictures", with a full Flickr slideshow at the end. [Also check out his website www.residualimagephotography.com for more of his photos and work]. A packed Thunderbird Stadium ready for WFC2's home openerThe teams come outMarie Hui belts out the Canadian national anthemBen McKendry has a chance at making history with WFC2's first home goalOh! So close, but Quillan Roberts comes up with the saveCaleb Clarke is next to try his luck but Roberts thwarts him as wellBut the goal finally comes in the 33rd minute as Caleb Clarke coolly slots home past RobertsAnd the team celebrate the occasionBubble football - It's the futureAnd the band plays onTFC II come storming back into the game with Jay Chapman's 57th minute equaliserBooooooooooooooooThe Whitecaps' cause receives a further set back when Victor Blasco is sent off in the 68th minuteAnd the Spaniard is off for an early bathBut numbers are levelled up nine minutes later when Mark Anthony Kaye hacks down Ben McKendryAnd Kaye picks up his second yellow and is sent offBut neither team can break the deadlock and the game ends as a 1-1 draw'Caps goalscorer Caleb Clarke scrums after the gameAs does WFC2 head coach Alan Koch You can see a Flickr slideshow of all of Tom's photos from the game below:
  5. Toronto FC are hosting the 2015-16 Fall Qualifying event for the East Regional group of U-17 MLS academy this weekend at Downsview Park. Nine matches will be played, spread over three days; all will be streamed live and are open to the public. The full schedule can be viewed here. They will be joined by five other MLS clubs – DC United, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Orlando City, and New York Red Bulls – for a round robin of matches that will begin to determine which division the teams will participate in at the final stage of the tournament next spring. Danny Dichio, who will be managing the Toronto side, spoke with the media on Thursday ahead of the competition, covering a variety of subjects, including dealing with the condensed schedule and the squad at his disposal. With each team playing three matches in a four-day span, a hectic schedule, Dichio was asked if his plan was to rotate his side, or run out the same starters in each. “We have a good selection of players that we'll use. Obviously some of the players will get more minutes, but we'll try and rotate. That's why we've chosen a squad of 20 that we feel will add to the already strong squad.” “We have a couple of young boys that have moved up from the U-15s and a large proportion of this team are going to national camp seven days after the tournament. 10 guys going away from this team that are playing at the weekend, so they'll want to give a good account of themselves in front of the National Team (staff) that are going to be here, the first team staff.” Though reluctant, Dichio did highlight three names of which fans should be aware. “I don't like to single out players, but we have a striker, a very good striker, who I think if he keeps his head level, grounded, he'll be one for the future: Shaan Hundal. He's scored a lot of goals for us this year. We have a defender Klaidi Cela, who's played up a year with the senior team, the U-18 team. He's come back down for this tournament. And then we have a very young goalkeeper, Gigi (Gianluca) Catalano, who's a 15-year old, who has come into this group and performed very well. “(It's) a real mix of players. We have a very eclectic background here in Toronto, so we have players with backgrounds from South America, Japan... we have a Japanese kid in midfield, we have an African kid on the left wing, we have a Portuguese kid on the right wing. It's like a mini-World Cup in our squad, it's a delight to work with.” So with Thanksgiving weekend and international action putting the big club out of action and most leagues on hold, why not, before or after enjoying some turkey, get out in the crisp Fall weather to enjoy a little youth soccer. “It's going to be really interesting for the fans that come out and watch the games because I know that the MLS teams that are coming from Philly, DC, have the same (situation)” said Dichio. “It's a goal for MLS teams to bring local talent in that have that cultural background. Even the local boys that love playing the game are really thriving on that as well” And as Danny encourages, be part of the action,“A lot of fans are, hopefully, coming out, because it's a free MLS weekend.” The other half of this interview can be seen here
  6. Reason enough for some mixed emotions heading into Wednesday night's Canadian Championship decider as the two clubs meet in the second leg of the final to determine Canadian representation in the CONCACAF Champions League with the tie delicately poised – TFC leads 1-0 heading into BC Place. The Welshman joined the club prior to the inaugural season after a long career in England, spent mostly between the Premier and Football Leagues, as they prepared to embark on their debut campaign. “I knew it was a growing league, a development league, and I knew also they were trying to attract bigger players,” said Robinson from the KIA Training Ground last Thursday. “For me, it was a decision made to get on the coaching ladder. I saw opportunities for young managers and I was still at the right age of 29. It was a lifestyle decision for me, it wasn't financial. And I took the opportunity to join Toronto because they were a new franchise and Mo Johnson invited me in.” Robinson made some 84 appearances in all competitions for TFC, including eight Voyageurs Cup matches and two in the Champions League – he scored three goals over that period and was twice named Player of the Year (jointly with Brennan in 2007 and solo in 2008). His 74 MLS appearances account for 82.2% (repeating, of course) of the club's first 90 matches, encompassing those first three seasons. He was one of the brightest parts of an often dark origin. But with the start of the 2010 season, came a trade to New York, where he finished his career before taking up a coaching position in Vancouver; first as an assistant in 2012 and taking the full reigns ahead of the 2014 season. Since then, he has seen MLS grow immeasurably, little-by-little. “[The progression] has been phenomenal. It really has,” said Robinson. “It makes me laugh sometimes because it's growing every year, getting better every year. Players are getting better, the cap is rising, the coaches are getting better, the support is increasing... but,” he continued, “everyone wants to run before they can walk.” “Major League Soccer are doing a good job in letting it grow slowly, continuing the process rather than going all in. [Risking that] then there would be a massive drop off, or failure in some departments, and you'll have to reset again. All credit to MLS in the way they're growing, individual clubs, but also the league, at a steady pace.” Speaking from the glorious training grounds at Downsview Park, still in Toronto after Tuesday night's first leg ahead of a match in Philadelphia on the weekend – in his days, TFC wandered the city in search of parks or trained on the previous, artificial surface at BMO Field – Robinson shared his view on the progress he has seen in his teammates-turned-opponents. “In the two-and a half, three years I was here, there was a turnover of about 80-odd players – you get to know someone and you're saying goodbye to them the very next day,” recalled Robinson. “And I was one of them included when I left to go to the New York Red Bulls.” “The club is a very good club, they've got great ownership in MLSE. It's good people and they've got a little bit of stability now, and any club needs a bit of stability. Everyone wants to be successful in the short term, and happen overnight, but, unfortunately, that isn't football; it doesn't happen overnight.” “I'm glad for them they've managed to stabilize themselves and you see the growth in Toronto, they're bringing in the likes of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. That's all credit to them,” he concluded. Whilst it may have been an unsatisfactory end to his time in Toronto, Wednesday, a chance to hoist a trophy over his former club, will still be awkward. “It is [weird going up against a former club],” said Robinson, adding, “but I've done it enough in England. I was fortunate enough to play for seven, eight different teams, and every week I seemed to be going up against my old team.” “I've got a lot of respect for the club, I've got a lot of friends still here. I'll always have that special feeling with supporters. Unfortunately, some of them won't like me now, because I'm manager of Vancouver – it is what it is. But nothing will change my thoughts on the club.” Robinson famously did not celebrate, appearing almost sheepish when he scored the coup-de-grace, a stunning header, in a 4-1 dismantling of TFC when he returned with the Red Bulls in 2010, but will he be so kind should Vancouver overturn the deficit on Wednesday? “Toronto are 1-0 ahead in the tie, so it's going to be difficult for us. I didn't celebrate, if you look at players who go back to their old clubs, 99% of them celebrate because they feel the way they left wasn't how they wanted – the way I left wasn't how I wanted – but the admiration for the club that I had was a mark of respect for them because I was here for two-and-a-half years, and it was good times.” “Life's too short to be bitter, so I wasn't and I didn't celebrate, and I'm glad I didn't.” Regardless of who wins on Wednesday, Vancouver or Toronto, with Robinson and his split history involved, it will be yet another moment to add to the growing folklore of Canadian soccer.
  7. Until next time, have a great soccer!! @KevLaramee @24thminute @Offthewoodworkx @twosolitudespod @SportsPodNet @OfftheWoodworkx @KevLaramee http://canadiansoccernews.com http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/off-the-woodwork/id898309206?mt=2 http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/off-the-woodworkx Sports Podcasting Network http://sportspodcastingnetwork.com http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/otw-studios/id1018126433 http://feeds.feedburner.com/otwstudios Support Kevin and SPN http://patreon.com/sportspodcastingnetwork
  8. Now the backend of the CSN site isn't really best suited to hosting the galleries like the old site used to. We felt they looked kind of crappy last season, so for a pure pictorial guide, check out AFTN's new standalone site HERE. We're trying something different and additional for this season, so we're putting together all of Tom's photos from the match as a video slideshow, paired with crowd noise from the game. We're still fining tuning it, but here's the first one:
  9. THE GOOD: Octavio Rivero's overall skill level Ok, let's get this out of the way first. The miss was bad. It was really bad. Mattocks could bury that. I think Jarju could have scored on that chance. Other than that Rivero played a great game. His first and second touch on the great pass from Pa-Modou Kah was world class and he showed that he can be that player who is tall, fast and strong enough to play those over the top balls and have the skill to bury the chances. He was able to use his height and pace to separate himself from defenders and create the best chances of the game. Once he gets his touches and his pace correct, and gets used to turf pitches, he looks like he will be a player that will be hard for defenders to deal with. Before any comments on this story......YES THE MISS WAS BAD...... THE AVERAGE: The play of Pedro Morales He had some amazing passes all over the pitch. Great 60 yard cross pitch bombs on a dime to Kekuta Manneh. Great played through balls to Rivero in the first half. The second half was a completely different story. He looked like he took a niggle on one of the hard tackles from Micheal Bradley in the first half. His shots were all over the place except for on the goal. He missed easy passes and his pace was brutal at best. Thank god its only game one and he has plenty of games to redeem himself and show the home town supporters his great play from last season. THE BAD: Lack of defence on second TFC goal It was a comedy of errors on the Findley goal. First, Steven Beitashour gets beat by two steps on the wing to give TFC the easy cross. This was a problem last season and this preseason for Beitashour. He looks like he is just a little too slow on his first step backwards to get to the winger. Secondly, Kendall Waston and Pa-Modou Kah didn't run fast enough to get into the defensive six yard box. They could have easily knocked that ball into the stands and get rid of the danger. And last, but not least, Jordan Harvey was so busy looking at the assistant referee calling an offside that Findley easily walked around him and made his way to the front of the net. Harvey has to realize by now that him calling for the offside not convince the official to change his mind if he says different. He has to make sure offside call or not, don't let the opposing team ever get ahead of you and get to the front of the goal that easily. All four defenders can be blamed on that goal. It's time to move on to the next game and make sure they don't give those easy goals up moving forward.
  10. REPORT (by Steve Pandher): It was a fast start to the match, especially for the home side who had a glorious chance in the 8th minute when Russell Teibert crossed the ball from the edge of the box and despite the ball being on a platter for Octavio Rivero, the Uruguayan was unable to corral the ball into the net from just four yards out in front of a gaping goal. Five minutes later, Kekuta Manneh had a chance when Morales sent him on a break but a poor touch allowed TFC defenders to gather themselves. He was able to get a shot on target but Joe Bendik stood his ground and denied the goal. TFC had their own chance when Sebastian Giovinco had the ball come to him in the box but he sent his attempt inches wide of the far post. A minute later the Caps scored the opener as Octavio Rivero redeemed his previous miss and picked up his first of the season. The goal was setup from Pa-Modou Kah who sent the ball over the backline into the path of Rivero and the young striker waited out Bendik to give Vancouver the lead. Despite Vancouver dominating the first half TFC was able to strike back as Jozy Altidore scored his first with Toronto. It was Sebastian Giovinco who was able to get away from Matias Laba and slip the ball to Altidore and the striker rounded David Ousted and slotted the ball inside the post. The Whitecaps continued their strong play in the first despite the setback, with Rivero, Manneh and Morales each having their chances to get back the lead. However, none of them were able to connect and both teams went into the half drawn at one. It was a completely different story after the break as the Caps came close in the first five minutes but conceded the rest of the half to the visitors. Just before the hour mark Robbie Findley scored his first of the season to give Toronto the lead. Benoit Cheyrou found Justin Morrow down the left side and after beating Steven Beitashour sent a ball into the box which Findley was able to get a touch on to put it past Ousted. The remainder of the second half saw the Caps attempt to create chances but there weren’t many in the making for the home team. TFC clinched the win in the 89th minute when Altidore was brought down in the box by Kah and awarded the penalty. The former Sunderland striker stepped and chipped the ball down the middle of the net to secure the three points for Toronto. Vancouver will head out east to face Chicago Fire while TFC continues their massive seven game road trip as they take on Columbus. FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 - 3 Toronto ATT: 21000 (sell out) VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steve Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa-Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Russell Teibert (Gershon Koffie 64), Matías Laba (Erik Hurtado 83), Mauro Rosales (Darren Mattocks 65), Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Diego Rodriguez, Sam Adekugbe, Nicolas Mezquida] TORONTO: Joe Bendik; Warren Creavalle, Steven Caldwell, Damien Perquis, Justin Morrow; Benoit Cheyrou, Michael Bradley, Robbie Findley (Collen Warner 77), Sebastian Giovinco (Luke Moore 80), Jonathan Osorio; Jozy Altidore [subs Not Used: Chris Konopka, Ashtone Morgan, Nick Hagglund, Jay Chapman, Eriq Zavaleta] REACTION: VANCOUVER WHITECAPS CARL ROBINSON Thoughts on the second half being different from the first half: "You’re right. It certainly changed didn’t it. It was a very interesting game as I said it would be. First half I think it was really only one team in it – could have scored a couple of goals but we didn’t, scored one goal. Second half, I think they used their experience to keep the ball. They’ve got good players and we just didn’t react right in the second half." Thoughts on the team’s defence: "I thought the backline played very well. I think if you look at the number of chances, we had more chances then them. They take their chances and we don’t take out chances and that’s what the game is all about. The game is not about what you do in the middle thirds, it’s about what you do in the boxes. Good thing is you get to go back to work on Monday and we go again next week." Thoughts on the equalizer changing the game: "I don’t think so. I think even after they equalized in the first half, you know it was a good game. It was a very good game of football. It had a little bit of everything – it had goals, it had two teams taking the mode via possessions, it had a penalty, it had some good and some indifferent decisions. When they score their goal, suddenly obviously they get a spring in their steps and they play well for five or six minutes, but we had three or four chances after they scored to get the second goal but we didn’t take it. They hung in there in the first half and that’s credit to them. In the second half they then obviously took control when they got their second goal. It was a good goal. When they are 2-1 up you can see the experience they have in their team comes out." Thoughts on concerns he may have after the loss: "Nothing gives me cause for concern. We lost the first game on the season, we were outstanding in the first half and I think we were okay in the second half. Probably the way we’ve come out in the second half if anything [is a concern]. I didn’t think we passed the ball well enough, not like we’re used to passing the ball. Players are trying things too hard maybe. We’re trying to hit a killer ball when we didn’t need to do that. We got through them in the first half but in the second half they sat with two banks of four and they’ve done very well, defended very well. In the second half coming out we had no spring in our step." Thoughts on disappointing sellout crowd on opening night: "I actually enjoyed watching it the first 45 minutes. I’m probably like you in the second 45 minutes. I was pulling my little bit of hair that I’ve got out. Two halves are never the same in football. If we would have played that well in the second half we would probably be talking here with a big smile on my face and positivity and things like that but we take a defeat on the chin and we move on." Thoughts on having the players to breakdown other teams: "Yeah I think so. We’ve worked on it, and we do work on it. We know it comes down to personnel as well. We know we’ve got a fantastic personnel, young players with great transitional strengths. Obviously older players have got more guile, more experience and things like that. Credit to Toronto. They came in and sat in and when they got ahead they managed the game very well. Sometimes it’s not about what you do, it’s about what the other team do and when they went ahead they managed to see out the game." Thoughts on Pedro having an off day: "I think first half all the boys played very well. Second half, not just Pedro, but a number of players did not perform to their levels. You don’t perform to your levels and the other team does perform to their levels then you don’t get the points and the performance you want. I don’t single players out as you know. Can he do better – yes he can. Everyone can do better, including myself." OCTAVIO RIVIERO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR) On scoring in his first game: "I’m content I scored my first goal but very sad for the team for the result we got. We played very well in the first half and maybe I should’ve gotten another goal." On missing on a chance on the eighth minute: "I tried to get the ball but it just got underneath my feet. I’m still getting used to the pitch. It was disappointing we didn’t score there." On the difference between the two halfs: "The first half we played very well. It’s hard to tell what the issues are. In the first half, we got after them, in the second half, we just found it more difficult." RUSSELL TEIBERT On the tough loss: "It’s a game of taking opportunities and missing opportunities. The game is won over the course of 90 minutes. Toronto was clinical with their opportunities. We did create some chances which is a positive thing. We’ll have to continue doing that. Eventually things will go our way and it will become a different match." On what the team can take away from the match: ,br>"We can break down teams, we showed that in the first half. We can do it at will, I think we dominated the first half of the game. Those are all positive things, I think if we can do that over the course of 90 minutes, we can give ourselves a good chance." On the difference in the second half: "It’s hard to say what happened. We went away a little bit from what we’re good at, which is passing the ball, creating chances and being clinical. It is the first game and there are a lot of positives that we can take away from that match." PA-MODOU KAH On the tough loss: "In the first half, we played very well. We were moving the ball but in the second half, we forgot how to play. We didn’t do it well enough and we allowed them to play. When you allow teams to play, they will start to dominate. We let ourselves down because we didn’t finish our chances. If we did that, it would have been a different game. We let them back in the game and they finished their chances, and that’s the difference in the game." On the penalty kick call late in the match: "Nine times out of 10, maybe they will not call it, but they called it, there’s nothing you can do about it. He was leaning so much into me, I think everybody saw that but they called it. That’s the way the game is so we have to move on." On Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore: "Jozy is a good player. Besides the two goals he scored, I don’t think he put me and Kendall (Waston) in too much pressure. That’s what he’s paid for, that’s the striker’s job. He finished the two chances he had. He’s a good player and he played international for the US, I think Toronto will have a lot of fun with him." TORONTO FC GREG VANNEY Thoughts on Jozy Altidore: "He played like a monster, he showed you what he could do. He proved something today that he’s going to be a handful. And the ball he took down for the penalty kick was ridiculous. And being able to protect the ball like that was just a world class play. So I thought he was outstanding." Defining moments of the first half: "With Warren there, Warren is picking up one of his first few games. And he was looking to get advanced in some attacking positions. We needed to get organized a little bit, maybe not be so aggressive on the outside. We had to drop and give ourselves a little space, and make them play in front of us and we did." On the substitutions: "I thought Colin and Luke were both outstanding. Two guys fully capable of starting in this league. They came on the field and got into their positions. Great passing from Colin. Luke gave us a chance to get forward and get out of our defensive shape a bit, created some fouls and I thought he was excellent. It’s the depth we have and the guys we can grab off the bench to add to the game is excellent. I’m very pleased with that as well." MICHAEL BRADLEY Thoughts on last year’s opening win in Seattle compared to this year: "I thought the performance was different in a lot of regards. I thought early on here, they caused us trouble with their speed and their athleticism and their mobility. I thought, once we got a grip on that, we handled the game professionally, and pretty well. I especially thought in the second half in terms of understanding what the game was about at that point, being able to play, find little pockets, move for each other, and then defensively control situations, I thought that part was all very good. In the end for me, great way to start the season, a great road performance." Happy for Jozy Altidore scoring?: "Absolutely, nobody knows what he’s all about more than me, nobody believes in him more. He is a guy who on hard days is always going to be there, and so happy for him, but again today was more than just about him. It was 11 guys, few substitutions that stepped on the field and really understood what a difficult game was going to be like and found a way to start the season off really in a positive way. We’re mindful that that it is just one game, certainly a great way to start, but have to continue to improve, and continue to push ourselves along. In this group, we’ll do that." Did it feel good silencing the home crowd? "Yeah, for sure. Atmosphere here was great. Obviously, playing in Vancouver is always special for us and so I think in the end to come away with three points like we did, it’s a great way to start." JOZY ALTIDORE Odds stacked against you: "It’s difficult to travel, it’s not easy, but it’s the things you have to deal with when you play here we’ll get used to that but I thought we battled well and showed a lot of character and we started the season off how we wanted to with 3 points." On his overall TFC debut: "It was good it’s a new formation its new teammates for all of us so I think that transition will be difficult for everybody but I thought today we showed especially in the second half we have the quality when we set things and slow down to unlock the game." On the penalty kick: "It was my first (chip) but it’s a little bit easier when you’re up 2-1 and there is a little bit less risk, it’s good to get the win and start the season off on the right foot." [*** You can hear more quotes in the AFTN postgame podcast. Listen HERE ***]
  11. LA have splashed out on Steven Gerrard, New York City on Frank Lampard (they think), Orlando on Kaka and Toronto like to be linked to every player under the sun as the perennial losers try and find someone that can lift them out of their eight year slump. All big names, all coming to MLS on big money. They're probably not big risks in bringing success, but you never know and as Robinson addressed last week. "Money doesn't guarantee you success, as you've seen with a number of clubs," Robinson told reporters, whose minds obviously started to think of TFC. It's a Pavlov's dog scenario I think. "I want to try and guarantee success but in the right way and I feel the right way is developing our own Canadian players through our Residency program." Robinson has said that he still expects to add three or four players to the Whitecaps for the season to come, just don't expect them to be of the big flashy kind that others are courting. Banks will not be broken in Whitecapsland, but instead, the club will continue to look at picking up quality talent, at more affordable values, that can still get the job done, and as such, Robinson puts more faith in his scouting network than playing fantasy football to build his squad. "If you don't get the recruitment right, it doesn't matter how good a manager you are, the guy with the best players will always win," Robinson said on a conference call on Sunday afternoon, following the announcement of his new multi-year contract extension. "We're recruiting from a certain pool of players. We've made our model as a club. We've decided what way we want to go. "It's safe to say we're not going to be spending six, seven million dollars on a player. That's what I don't want and that's what other clubs are doing. It's important we get it right. That's what we did last year and it's important that we continue to build that recruitment this year and in years to come to make us successful." Talking of bringing in multi-million dollar players, Toronto's latest reckless spending spree is looking likely to free up their Brazilian striker Gilberto. The additions of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco have provided a familiar scenario in Toronto. They now have four DPs and three slots. Last year it was Matias Laba who was deemed surplus to requirements, this year another South American looks to be that guy. And you know who loves South Americans! "Each club has their ideas and philosophies about the way that they want to try and be successful and Toronto has their model in place of bringing in big name players on high numbers," Robinson told us. "Whether that's works or not will remain to be seen, but I'll be very surprised if Gilberto does not move." The Brazilian had a slow start in MLS and seemed to struggled to find his feet as he adjusted to his new surroundings. Not ideal for a player commanding a DP slot and a $1.2 million salary. He showed enough flashes to show that he has talent and what it takes to be a good striker in the league. It was fun joking about his missed opportunities in front of goal, but you always got the feeling that when that duck was broken the goals would come. And they did. It took Gilberto ten games to grab his first MLS goal. He finished the season with seven goals and five assists. To put that into some context, those numbers would have seen him placed second in both categories on the Whitecaps. Bearing those numbers in mind, the plethora of South American talent already in Vancouver and the Laba deal from last year, does a player like Gilberto interest Robinson and would there be scope to get a deal done even if he did? "He's certainly an interesting player and one we've talked about as a staff," Robinson admitted. "He's got fantastic ability. I don't think he's settled as much as he probably should have. We've got three Designated Players just now, so depending on whether that changes or not, we might not be able to do anything there. I've managed to bring in Octavio, which is a great bit of business from us. "There'll be some that will take advantage of that situation if things don't change, because there will be teams looking at it that they could be the ones that changes Gilberto's goal spree from okay last year to hopefully good this year for someone. Again, it might be a scenario like Matias Laba, which we were able to take advantage of last year." Laba's contract is the one that stands out. He is still going to be classed as a young DP, but there is scope for the Whitecaps to use allocation money to buy the Argentine's contract down and allow them to have the talented defensive midfielder on a high, no Designated Player contract, ala Nigel Reo-Coker last year. There are also the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be thrashed out, with many rumours suggesting an additional DP slot of some kind will be added. That could of course allow TFC to keep a player like Gilberto if they chose to do so, but it would also allow Robinson to bring in another DP himself, whether that be the Brazilian striker or someone else, and it's certainly an option that is in his plans, whether through the new CBA or jiggling around current contracts. "Yeah, there are options," he admitted. "We talk about that all the time. Learning the way the system works is very important. Because of the CBA coming up now, I think there will be changes within the CBA which might affect that or probably will affect that, so there are options to do that and something that we maybe will look in to. "You look around the league at the moment and at Orlando, players like Brek Shea have been added as non Designated Players but their salaries are higher than probably the DP slots allow. So it is an option we'll look into, depending on if we have enough money to do that within the cap constraints. It does give us a little bit of flexibility if we have enough money. If we do, then it's certainly something that we might well explore."
  12. (10) I Still Know What You Did Last Season (9) Desperado (8) The Order Of The Phoenix (That Just Can't Quite Rise From The Ashes) (7) Catching Dire (6) A New Nightmare (5) Fail Hard With A Vengeance (4) Tim & Greg's Bogus Journey (3) Attack Of The Clowns (2) 2 Fat 2 Spurious (1) The Desolation Of Smug Or they could just go with - "Mission Impossible 9: The Quest For The Playoffs".
  13. Scrooge gazed upon the spectre. He was dressed differently to the Ghost of Football Past, who wore a flat cap, had scarves tied around both wrists, had a giant rosette pinned on him and carried a wooden rattle. This spectre was better dressed and kept checking his smartphone for twitter updates. The Ghost of Football Present rose, waved his smartphone in the air and transported Scrooge to an office in Toronto on Christmas Day. It was at BMO Field and a man sat alone at his desk wearing a red scarf and a frown. "Where are we spirit?" asked Scrooge. "You are at the office dwelling of Tiny Tim Bezbatchenko," replied the Ghost. "He looks sad," said Scrooge. "I thought people were meant to be happy on Christmas Day." "Alas," said the Spirit. "These are hard times and this is a bleak house." "Wait a minute, they're different stories altogether" said a well read Scrooge before the Spirit moved on. "Tiny Tim is crippled," the Spirit continued. "His hopes and ambitions have been crippled by coming to a team that simply cannot win. He is crippled by failure. His goose has been well and truly cooked this Christmas." "Should he not be at home with his family eating Christmas dinner?" enquired Scrooge. "He cannot stomach a traditional Christmas feast this year Ebenezer. He feels he's seen enough turkeys these past nine months to last him a lifetime. Look closely Ebenezer. Do you see Tiny Tim's crutch?" Scrooge peered at the crestfallen figure below him. "Yes, I saw it months ago," replied Scrooge. "His crutch sees him spend vast sums of money on top name players, only to still fail to deliver a playoff place." "And when your crutch fails you, the only way is down," boomed the Ghost. "Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before in a football executive, "Tell me if Tiny Tim will live to see Toronto make the playoffs." "I see a vacant seat in the boardroom," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the hopes and dreams of TFC will die." "No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! Say that he and they will be spared." "If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find them here. You gave up on the team Ebenezer. Your team. That is not a true supporter. A supporter supports through thick and thin." "It was more like thin and thinner," retorted Scrooge. "Thousands of others have given up and lost hope and faith as well, and thousands more will follow. The team will die when there is no surplus population looking to attend and buy tickets." Scrooge hung his head to hear those words and was overcome with penitence and grief. "Football without fans is nothing Ebenezer," boomed the spirit. "You're just quoting Jock Stein now," replied Scrooge. And then, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they stood gazing down on an affluent living room full of festive revellers. Whitecaps fans once and all, buoyed by the news of a Christmas Day young DP signing. Everywhere you looked there was turkey, and crackers, and decorations, and presents, and much fun and joyous laughter everywhere to be seen and heard. It took him a few moments to focus but to his great surprise, Scrooge recognised his own nephew Fred. "Ha, ha!" laughed Scrooge’s nephew. "Ha, ha, ha!" There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily. "Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!" "Oh read it out loud again, please" asked one of the revellers, wiping a way a tear from laughing so much. "Mark it down, write it down, film it … We're going to turn TFC around and we're going to make the playoffs next year. We know where we're headed, we know how to get there. We've been given the resources of this ownership group and we will get to the right place." The whole room erupted in laughter once again. "Oh my," bellowed Fred, "That Tim Leiweke was a one. I'll miss his ridiculousness at TFC." "I don't know what was more ridiculous," one of the other guests exclaimed. "Leiweke saying that or the Toronto fans believing it." The room was filled with yet more laughter. "And remember when Duane Rollins tweeted out "#TFC will win the 2014 #MLS Cup. Save this tweet." in February?" said Fred to even more guffaws. "WHAT A FUD!" went up the cry around the room. "My Uncle Scrooge often brought Leiweke's quote up to me early in the year," said Fred. "Always said the Whitecaps would go nowhere if they didn't bring in the big names, the team was too young and full of unknowns." "And then they gave us Laba for a bag of balls!" piped up one guest, before more laughter followed. "What did your Uncle say to you Fred when Vancouver made the playoffs, clinched a Champions League spot, won their fifth Cascadia Cup and finished the season with a record number of points for a Canadian club in MLS?" asked another. "He just looked me in the eye, and said HUMBUG!". Cue more laughs. "He’s a comical old fellow," said Scrooge’s nephew, "That’s the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. I think being a TFC fan for 8 years is bound to do that to anyone and those offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him." "I have no patience with him," observed Scrooge’s niece. "He's a grump and a halfwit and clearly knows nothing about football". Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion. "Oh, I have!" said Scrooge’s nephew. "I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims of going to every home game at BMO?! Himself, always. Here, he takes it into his head to dislike us Whitecaps fans, and he won’t come and dine with us. What’s the consequence? He don’t lose much of a dinner." "Just some great football banter and incisive chat," replied Fred's wife and everyone nodded in agreement. "And don't forget all the fun games. Now, who wants to play pin the tail on Doneil Henry?" The Spirit turned to Scrooge. "See the fun you could have been having if you had gone along to their dinners." "Why would I want to go along and be mocked," asked an indignant Scrooge. "That is football Ebenezer," replied the Spirit. "Banter and ribbing and rivalries is what makes football. But what do you care? You walked away from your team and said that Toronto FC were dead to you." "And is this the lesson that you are trying to tell me Spirit?" asked Scrooge. "That I should renew my season tickets and be a TFC fan for ever more, no matter how poor they play and how unsuccessful they are?" "You still have a lot to learn Ebenezer, but my time on earth is short and will soon be over," replied the Ghost. "My brother will be with you shortly. Maybe then all will become clearer." Then with that Scrooge found himself back in his bedroom. He listened intently as the bell struck twelve. Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him. STAVE FOURTHE LAST OF THE SPIRITS The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. But as a TFC fan, he was used to watching such things. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. A faceless being like many football club owners in the UK. Tucked into several pockets were share certificates and financial reports. "I am in the presence of the Ghost of Football Yet To Come?" asked Scrooge. The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand. "You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Scrooge pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?" The Spirit nodded. "Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?" It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them. "Lead on!" said Scrooge. "Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!" And the Phantom did. The pair were transported to a group of gentlemen talking animatedly. "So that's it then. Finally dead?" said one. "I don't think too many will shed a tear?" said another. "Wouldn't expect so," replied the first man again. "Been as good as dead for years anyway. I think everyone was just past caring and waiting for the inevitable end." Scrooge was puzzled as to who the men were talking about. It can't have been his old partner Jacob, for that would have been in the past, but before he had too much time to think, he was watching a new encounter play out. There were two women in a small room with a seated man. The women were carrying a lot of red items and seemed to be trying to sell them to the man. "Oh come on mister," said the first woman. "You know they're worth more than that." "Not to me they're not," replied the seated man. "Not to anyone any more. I'll give you ten bucks for the lot." "But this is a vintage 2007 TFC strip. Inaugural season. And five other strips, ten scarves, lots of caps and so much other memorabilia." said the second woman. "Can't you do a better price?" "Ten is my final offer. Take it or leave it. I'll just be using them as cleaning rags anyway. No skin off my nose if I have to use something else. You don't like it, you blame the Two Timmies who promised so much but delivered so little." Grudgingly the women took the money and left cursing two Tiny Tims. Scrooge thought of all the Toronto merchandise he had bought over the years and the vast amount of money he had spent on it all. But before he could think too much, a new scene was unfolding in front of him. He recognised his nephew Fred once more and yet again, he was in fine spirits, toasting with friends. "Fans, one and all, and from near and far. Thank you for coming to another Vancouver Whitecaps end of season party," said Scrooge's nephew. "Once again, it has been a tremendous season and one that has seen the Whitecaps lift a record breaking 6th straight MLS Cup. "When I look back over the past few years and the success Sir Carl Robinson has brought to the team, it is amazing to look back at so many firsts. Becoming the first MLS side not only to win the CONCACAF Champions League but also the FIFA Club World Cup, was a tremendous achievement. But to lift that trophy three years running was something beyond our wildest dreams...." Fred was still talking but before he could hear any more of it, Scrooge was soon transported once again and he recognised the surroundings of course, for it was BMO Field. And there was his old seat in Section 113. The stadium was full. He was pleased to see that. But upon closer inspection it wasn't soccer that was being played and it was TFC fans that packed the stadium, rather it was CFL match, with the Toronto Argonauts losing to the BC Lions. "Spirit!", cried Scrooge. "What is this that unfold before me. What is going on in my home, my team's home? Why is there no soccer, only football? Did my team have to enter a groundsharing agreement to help split costs and free up funds for better players?" The Spirit did not answer and pointed to a wall. The signage read "Welcome to BMO Field. Home to the Toronto Argonauts". "Why is there no mention of Toronto Football Club Spirit?" asked Scrooge. "Did they move to a new stadium?" Again the Spirit spoke not but pointed to a small walled section in the car park which Scrooge now found himself in front of and staring at. There was a stone plaque, overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life. The Spirit stood beside Scrooge and pointed towards it. "Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "Answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" Still the Ghost pointed at the stone by which it stood. "Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!" The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave the words - "The now defunct Toronto Football Club played at this stadium from 2007 to 2017." The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again. "No, Spirit! Oh no, no!" The finger still was there. "Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "Hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if it is past all hope!" For the first time the hand appeared to shake. "Good Spirit," Scrooge continued. "The message is clear. If other fans do as I have done and give up on going to watch Toronto FC, then they will die a slow death. Is that correct?" The Phantom gave an affirmation. "And Spirit, I need to know. Will I and others get to see TFC in the MLS playoffs?" The Phantom shook his head and Scrooge accepted the answer in a resigned fashion. "For now, I know what I must do. I will honour the correct football path in my heart. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. And that lesson has been loud and clear and understood by me." And with that, the Spirit shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost. STAVE FIVETHE END OF IT Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in! "I'm back and alive and in one piece. And now I know what I must do. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. "The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees! Thank you for helping me see the proper way." "I don’t know what day of the month it is!" said Scrooge. "I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!" Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious! "What’s today!" cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy. "Today!" replied the boy. "Why, Christmas Day." "It’s Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. They could help Canada qualify for the World Cup if they so chose. Or maybe that's stretching things too far." Scrooge shouted back to the boy below. "Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?" Scrooge inquired. "I should hope I did," replied the lad. "An intelligent boy!" said Scrooge. "A remarkable boy! He must be from the West Coast. Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?" "What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy. "What a delightful boy!" said Scrooge. "It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!" "It’s hanging there now," replied the boy. "Is it?" said Scrooge. "Go and buy it and tell ’em to take it to BMO Field. Tell 'em to look for a sad sap called Tiny Tim who is sitting all alone trying to find his latest crutch." Scrooge took out a black marker pen and hurriedly wrote a note for the boy below to attach to the turkey. It read - "Dear Tiny Tim. Add this turkey to all your others from the past year. I've overpaid for this and won't get my money's worth. I'm sure you know the feeling. At least you and the turkey can have the same thing in common. You can both go and get stuffed." Scrooge threw down the note and the money and the boy hurried off to complete the deed so as to earn the half a bottle of Crown Royal whisky he was promised for doing the task in a timely manner. With a spring in his step, Scrooge got dressed in his best outfit and rushed out of his house on his way to the home of his nephew Fred. On his way he passed the two season ticket reps that had come to his door merely a few hours earlier. "My dear sirs," Scrooge exclaimed as he brushed past. "Did you get the numbers you were looking for yesterday?". "Unfortunately not sir," replied the fatter of the two gentlemen. "It is a hard sell, even at Christmastime for you cannot polish a turd." "Do you still have my season ticket billing invoice with you?" Scrooge enquired. "Why yes," said the other tubby with a smile. "Good!" said Scrooge with much frivolity. "Then on this day of giant birds you can have a lot in common with a pelican." "A pelican?" both men said together with a puzzlement. "Yes," laughed Scrooge. "For you can both stick your bills up your asses." And with that Scrooge continued on his way to Fred's house. His nephew was surprised to see him. "Fred!" said Scrooge. "Why bless my soul!" cried Fred, “Who’s that?" "It is I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?" Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness! "Fred, I have been a silly old fool and wasted these past eight years. Can you ever forgive me for being a TFC fan" asked Scrooge of his nephew. "Forgive you Uncle? For there is nothing to forgive. I feel you have been punished more than any man should in his lifetime for the inglorious failures your eyes have had to endure. It is a suffering no man deserves." "Thank you Fred," said a relieved Scrooge as he fervently shook Fred's hand. "I have seen the light. Three of them you could say. I have seen the errors of my ways and was shown the path to true happiness involves not shunning football, but shunning Toronto Football Club and following Canada's chosen team. Your team Fred. The Whitecaps. I want to watch a successful team and they are clearly the only option. Always have been, always will be - past, present and future. I see that now. My eyes have been opened." "Oh Uncle!" replied a delighted Fred. "We're glad to have you aboard the good ship Vancouver." "I will be putting my house on the market in the New Year, moving West to Vancouver and buying a season ticket for the Whitecaps. And I can't wait!" said Scrooge with an unusual adornment on his face, that of a smile. Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. And the successful times he enjoyed were like no other times of his life. As for Tiny Tim, he did not die, apart from a little bit inside every day he stayed within the TFC organisation. He soon saw he was on to a losing cause and jumped ship to another sports team in another city. But his golden boy image was tarnished forever and he was never the same again. Toronto FC were not to be so lucky and in their 20th straight season of failing to make the playoffs, and with the fans clearing out faster than snow off a dike, the MLS bigwigs, or should that be Fezziwigs, had enough and put the franchise out of it's misery. Scrooge had no further intercourse with Spirits, but did enjoy some on his Cascadian travels in Portland. Well you know what those Timbers girls are like. But after his ghostly visitations, Scrooge knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge, and was truly grateful to that time of year for putting him onto his part of correctness. And Christmas time brought Scrooge special reasons to celebrate every December, with the MLS season wrapping up and Vancouver Whitecaps becoming dominant in North American football. Every Christmas Scrooge would gather his friends and fellow Whitecaps supporters for a big ball and toast the 'Caps successes for the year gone by. Glasses were raised and the assembled cheer filled the air - "Whitecaps fans the world over. May the football gods continue to bless us, every one!"
  14. "A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew Fred. "Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!" "Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge’s nephew. "You don’t mean that, I am sure?" "I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry?" "Well I am a Vancouver Whitecaps supporter uncle. We have a lot to be thankful and merry about this fine year, with the hope of much more to come." Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!” again; and followed it up with "Humbug." "Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow. We can talk football." "Good afternoon!" said Scrooge. "And A Happy New Year!" replied the blue and white clad Fred with a spring in his step. "Good afternoon!" said Scrooge again as he ushered his nephew out of the door. Fred left whistling "White is the colour", adding "of Christmas" to the end of each appropriate line, but Scrooge followed him outside to make sure the pipsqueak was indeed on his way. But as Fred left two other gentleman came up Scrooge's garden path. They were portly gentlemen, answering the eternal question once and for all as to just who had eaten all the pies. They now stood, with their TFC branded hats off, on Scrooge’s doorstep. They had books and papers in their hands, and bid Scrooge a good afternoon. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?", asked one of the gentlemen. "Mr. Marley has been dead these seven weeks," Scrooge replied. "He died seven weeks, this very night." "We are sorry for your loss," spoke one of the fatties, presenting his credentials which identified him as a Toronto ticket account manager. "At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor who have suffered greatly in recent times. We notice you have not renewed your TFC season ticket and can only assume that this is simply an oversight on your part. We are pleased to offer you the chance to renew right now at a special price. "We'll even throw in a special commemorative personalised brick in part of the stadium redevelopments. How many and what names shall I put you down for?". "Nothing!" Scrooge replied. "You wish your brick to be anonymous?" "I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. Good afternoon, gentlemen!" Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge was left with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him. "Renew to see that useless bunch" he mumbled to himself. As he turned around he noticed the knocker on his door. It was undergoing a process of change and was now not a knocker, but the face of his old friend Marley. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar, for TFC fans are not the prettiest. As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again. To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue. Scrooge decided to go to bed for a nap. He was obviously tired from all these annoying visitors. As he sat on the edge undressing he heard some horrible prolonged moaning noises. Flashbacks of being in the stands for Toronto's 2-0 loss to the Union workhorses in September came flooding back. The moans were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain like a ghost in haunted houses in movies. He shook his head. "Poppycock and humbug" he muttered. All of a sudden his bedroom door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder from below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door. "It’s humbug still!" said Scrooge. "I won’t believe it." His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. "I know him; Marley’s Ghost!" The same face: the very same. Marley, with his TFC strip on from the 2007 season, his season ticket holder scarf and red toque. But he was wrapped in chains. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his strip. "How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?" "Much!" - Marley’s voice, no doubt about it. "Who are you?" "Ask me who I was." "Who were you then?" said Scrooge, raising his voice. "In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley." "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?" "I have been forced to wander the afterlife for my sins, but I am here to let you know that the same fate awaits unless you can change. You can avoid my penance." "Tell me Jacob what I need to do." "I cannot. I am only here for dramatic effect and to tell you that you will be haunted by three spirits," said the ghost. "Without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One." And with that the ghost disappeared. Scrooge had a confused look on his face, akin to that of Doneil Henry for most of the time that he played in Toronto. He went to bed, but not without changing his pyjama bottoms first and his sheets, for Scrooge had shat the bed like TFC in New York in their last game of the 2009 season. And like Toronto's defence in far too many games these past eight years, he fell asleep in an instant. STAVE TWOTHE FIRST OF THREE SPIRITS The day's events had tired out Scrooge and he slept right through, only to be awoken from his slumber when his old grandfather's clock, that he kept on the shelf, struck one. He's always meant to sell it to open up a stall selling Joy Division oven gloves, but he'd never quite got around to that. Scrooge sat up startled. He knew this was to be the hour of reckoning and sure enough, right there in front of him was another spectre. "Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?" asked Scrooge. "I am! I am the Ghost of Football Past." "Long Past?" inquired Scrooge. "No. Your past." Scrooge made bold to inquire what business brought him here. "Your welfare!" said the Ghost. "Your reclamation", and with that it put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm. "Rise! and walk with me!" After some discussions around the practicalities of it all, and the rather chilly Ontario weather outside, Scrooge ended up flying through the air like Kendall Waston rising to meet a Mauro Rosales corner. Scrooge and the ghost went through the walls of his and were soon transported to Seattle in August of 1976. "Good Heaven!" said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. "It's the Kingdome. I was here as a boy! Why have you brought me here?" "You have lost faith in Toronto football teams Ebenezer," replied the spirit. "I want to show you what success looks like. Look down there on the pitch. The Toronto Metros-Croatia are lifting the 1976 Soccer Bowl after a 3-0 win over Minnesota Kicks. And look, there you are Ebenezer. Jumping up an down in the crowd with your sister. You look so happy." "I was happy. We had a team that made the playoffs and made our city proud. Not the embarrassment the current team is. Why are you torturing me with what is in the past? What is gone is gone. These days will not return." "Perhaps. But we must now move forward three years." With a gust and a flash, the pair were transported to a new venue. "Where are we now Spirit?" asked Scrooge. "I do not recognize this as one of my memories." "We are in Vancouver. September 1979. The Whitecaps have just won the Soccer Bowl by beating Tampa Bay Rowdies in Giants Stadium in New Jersey." "Why are there so many people here in the streets," enquired Scrooge. "You're watching the team's return home and the victory parade in front of a couple of hundred thousand rabid supporters. This is a true soccer city Ebenezer. And this is what success feels like." "Spirit!" said Scrooge, "show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?" "One shadow more!" exclaimed the Ghost. "No more!" cried Scrooge. "No more. I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!" But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next as a screen appeared to show a video compilation of all of the Vancouver football teams' national championships. First there was the 86ers four straight Canadian Soccer League triumphs from 1988 to 1991 and then the Whitecaps' USL championship wins in 2006 and 2008. "Spirit, why are you showing me these images. I am not from Vancouver. Show me Toronto success and championship wins," begged Scrooge. "I cannot. For there is nothing to show," boomed the Ghost. "Spirit!" said Scrooge in a broken voice, "remove me from this place." "I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!" "Remove me!" Scrooge exclaimed, "I cannot bear it!" He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it. "Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!" And so the Spirit did and returned Scrooge to the bedroom of his Toronto townhouse. Scrooge was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep. But not for long.... [To be continued]
  15. That first week of training saw a very young and inexperienced Caps squad running drills and scrimmages up at UBC. Having lost their Golden Boot winning Camilo and with a first time head coach in charge, it was looking like it could be a long season ahead. But slowly, Carl Robinson put together a squad devoid of flashy signings, but players who work well as a team (maybe Omar Salgado aside). The results have been excellent, and yes, it could still all go very badly tits up, but the foundations he has set for future seasons have been laid and if they can get both the playoffs and a Champions League place, then that likely far exceeds most people's expectations before the season began and can only be viewed as major season of success for the Whitecaps, and Robinson personally. Even getting one of them looked unlikely just three weeks ago after the 3-0 thumping down in Portland. The signing strategy between the Caps and TFC this season has been diverse. Maybe not all through personal choice. Toronto spent heavily on the salaries of three big name Designated Players, $13,855,000 guaranteed compensation to be exact, and one of them clearly wants away and nearly got his wish. You can add in any transfer fee money paid on top of that. There is no way that talent should have been assembled and that amount of money spent and they fail to make the playoffs, or at the very, very least, win the Voyageurs Cup. That's not for us to debate too much just now, and they could still pull off a great escape of massive proportions, whilst the Whitecaps implode. For me, it's just reeks of Bob Bradley now coming in to "save" them in the offseason and keep his son (willingly) there. Not that he's exactly set the heather alight with Stabæk (midtable Norwegian mediocrity) and is yesterday's man in MLS as far as I'm concerned. It's a young coaches league now. Anyhoo... The Caps on the other hand benefitted from one of Toronto's biggest mistakes when they picked up Matias Laba (for only $300,000), along with the wonderful addition of Pedro Morales ($1.41 million). Both will hopefully be around for some time. They also freed up a lot of money with the departure of Kenny Miller, not to mention Jay DeMerit's salary, and they've still got most of Camilo's allocation money to spend, as they didn't receive that until July. Kendall Waston has come in (at $201,242) and been dominant. He was a beast against Seattle, mopping up every ball that came his way in the air, and has formed a strong partnership alongside O'Brien. Of the 28 players on the Caps' current MLS roster (including Marco Bustos who will be eligible to play from January), half of them are returning players and 18 players are aged 24 or under, including 8 homegrown players. That's a settled squad that will be together for a long time (hopefully and in theory). That seems to be a key factor in MLS for the most successful teams like Real Salt Lake. None of the constant changing of personnel that Toronto have and are likely to go through again the in offseason. Sure would have loved for the Caps to have splashed the cash and brought in a big name striker (he will be coming in January) and yes, that might ultimately cost us a deep run in the playoffs, but what business model is looking best right now between Vancouver and Toronto? The Whitecaps got a bargain in Mati Laba, and for all the flak we direct at the Caps front office, whoever did the negotiating to ensure that it was a permanent transfer and not a loan deal deserves plaudits. The Caps will use allocation money to keep him here for a few years and ironically that could be coming from the extra money they get for reaching the Champions League, a lot of which is thanks to Laba and at Toronto's expense. Laba has been fantastic this season and might just nick my 'Player of the Year' vote away from Morales due to being consistently solid in his play. The Argentine was immense on Friday in Seattle and the play of him and Russell Teibert completely shut down Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in the middle of the park and snuffed out the Sounders. So it's all positive at the Whitecaps right now. But we're also very aware, as are the players and management, that it could all come off the rails very quickly. If Portland win on Friday night, they're back above the red line. The Caps then have to go and face a struggling San Jose side who will be out to finish their home season with a bang and say farewell to Buck Shaw Stadium with a win. Players are playing for contracts too. It's not going to be an easy ride. I can't see Portland getting two wins, so it's all very much in the Caps hands and there is still the big possibility that RSL will go into to Portland on Friday and come away with the three points they need to keep them in third place in the West and avoid a first round playoff game against the Caps (as much as I'd rather we face them than Dallas). It's a cracking end to the regular season all round. For us though, what's the most positive aspect of all, and what we give most thanks for, is the work that Carl Robinson has done this season to lay the foundations for years to come at the Caps. Players will move on at the end of the season. Some may be less surprising than others. New players will come in to add to the already blooded core of young talent. Making the playoffs this season is the cherry on the top of it all right now, and with the way the Whitecaps have played against the top sides in MLS this season, the rest of the cake is very much there for the eating. Or maybe we should make that pumpkin pie to tie it all in nicely.
  16. Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past year, here's a quick refresher. The CSA have deemed that the Voyageurs Cup will be competed for later in the season from next year, so whichever Canadian club finishes highest in the MLS standings this season will represent Canada in next year's Champions League. Which does feel like the only way the Whitecaps will claim that honour sometimes! Vancouver and Toronto are currently level on points in the standing, but not only do TFC have a game in hand, they also have the most wins tiebreaker right now. If both teams were to win out (I know, I amuse myself sometimes), then that would see Toronto claim the spot. So a TFC win tomorrow makes achieving that goal slightly more difficult with the games running out. Now if you were to ask me to pick between just one of the options, the Whitecaps in the playoffs or the Whitecaps in next year's Champions League, what would I pick? What would you pick? What would Carl Robinson pick? In reality it's likely that if they make the playoffs, the points they've massed will also mean they clinch the Champions League spot too. I think that's what it's going to take. But if I was only allowed one, well, when I first thought about writing this article I thought my answer would be the playoffs every day of the week. But then I got thinking. If the Whitecaps make the playoffs, they face an away game in Dallas or Real Salt Lake and realistically are going to go one and out. So you're qualifying for just one game and possibly a quick disappointment. Qualifying for the Champions League gets you six more games at least, a Cup competition to go for and some valuable experience and minutes for Vancouver's younger and fringe players. It's a tough one. Of course, you then also have to look at what the likelihood of both scenarios happening will be? Will the Whitecaps even make the playoffs this year, not even looking at any other factor? Right back Steven Beitashour is certainly full of confidence. "It's two points," Beitashour answered incredulously when he was asked at training on Thursday if the Whitecaps still had a chance at making the playoffs. It was a bizarre question. "Five games, 15 points out there," he continued. "Two points. There's no way they're going five for five, so there's going to be a lot of points out there to grab and it starts on Saturday." "What they do doesn't affect us if we don't just win. We just try and control our own thing. At the end of the day we have five games to go, we know that, but we can't look past Salt Lake." The Toronto-Portland game kicks off at 10am PT. An ungodly hour for football and likely right in the middle of the Ryder Cup winding up for the day. Typically selfish east coast bastards. On the plus side though, it does mean that the game will finish four hours before Vancouver kicks off their crucial game with Real Salt Lake. The Whitecaps will know what the Timbers will have done and whether they're looking at closing a five point gap or facing the chance to get above the red line again. Will they be watching? Russell Teibert won't be until later, but he knows which scenario he's rooting for in the game. "I'll watch the Portland-Toronto game after the fact," Teibert said. "I won't pay no mind to it before. We know we can only control what we can control and that's our game, our match, that's our individual performances, that's how we play as a team. We can't control what Portland does but I'll give my boys from Portland a little shout and hopefully they'll do us a favour. "We know that even if [Portland] lose, if we don't win it doesn't mean anything. We need to go out, we need to perform, we need to win the game." So the players at least know that watching and relying on other teams slipping up or other teams do us favours doesn't count for much if they don't get the job done themselves over the next five "cup finals" The Ontario lad is cheering on TFC to do the Caps a favour and coach Carl Robinson is also hoping for the same from his old team. "Maybe Defoe's back and he can bang in four more goals," Robinson joked yesterday before continuing the same message as his players. "Listen, we need to concentrate on our own business. We didn't take care of our own business last week because we weren't at our levels that we need to be barring the first 20 minutes, so we've got to get back to that." The Whitecaps are looking for a Toronto win. Me? Well I'm cheering for an asteroid strike, the stretcher-bearers and failing that either a draw with injuries to key personnel or an absolute thumping of the Timbers by TFC. Even after all this, it could still come down to goal difference, and as we all sadly know, goals are exactly Vancouver's strong suit right now.
  17. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Jermain Defoe completed the brace, giving Toronto the 2 goal advantage. View from inside the net

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  18. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Jermain Defoe completed the brace, giving Toronto the 2 goal advantage.

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  19. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Doniel Henry wears the Captain's Armband for Toronto FC

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  20. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    In a game that saw a great deal of contact, Toronto's Jackson is tackled in clear view of match offical Baldomero Toledo.

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  21. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Toronto's Jemain Defoe and Hoston's Boniek Garcia compete for a ball.

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  22. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Following Toronto's 2nd goal (scored by Dominic Oduro) at the end of the first half, the Houston defenders watch Jermain Defoe.

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com

  23. From the album Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo - July 12, 2014

    Jonathan Osorio watches as he scores the first of Toronto's 4 goals in their win over visitors, Houston Dynamo.

    © Chris Hazard - Photohazard.com - chris@photohazard.com