‘Tis an annual tradition! My yearly list of Christmas wishes for the truly deserving in the wide and wonderful world of the beautiful game.
Without further ado: (And without further adieu, because I’m not going anywhere.)
Toronto FC: If we must have a designated player, let it be one with spring in his step and lots of gas in the tank. Don’t settle for a washed-up name, Mo. Astonish us with someone a bit off the radar, with huge talent and a genuine desire to start a new life in an amazing city, cheered on by the most proud, pulsing and passionate fans for two thousand miles in any direction.
Dwayne DeRosario: A contract he can live with, and several happy years as the midfield maestro for Toronto FC. A healthy shot of midfield creativity is exactly what TFC needs right now, and the fans are pumped up to lunacy about DeRo’s long-awaited arrival. I’m sure contract talks are a major reason for the extended silence that has enveloped the DeRo story ever since the trade was made. Let’s get that contract done, and get this new season under way!
Vancouver Whitecaps: An MLS expansion franchise. If anyone out there actually has that $40-million (U.S.) the league is demanding, it’s these guys. The stadium problem will be solved eventually, and a step up to the big league would be a huge help to getting that blessed deal done. Keep the Canadian dream alive, guys!
Montreal Impact: Just enough of an economic downturn to buckle one and only one MLS franchise. Impact owner Joey Saputo took a huge risk deciding that an expansion team simply isn’t worth the price the league is demanding. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t provide a wonderful new home to a struggling franchise going down in its present domain. Sure, it’s a long shot. But I’m a person who’s just about never done anything the conventional way, and I want to see Montreal pull this off. Soon.
Major League Soccer: Peaceful, productive negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. With all this expansion money coming in, that salary cap has to be raised. The darn thing pulled so low over everyone’s eyes right now it’s almost impossible to tell one MLS team from another. We also need that split salary cap thing, where each team can inject a few extra millions of its own money. That will give us bad-guy teams, and we urgently need them. Right now, the only teams Toronto fans are actively anticipating – Montreal and Vancouver – aren’t even in the freaking league!
Canada: Hope. Of any sort. From anywhere.
Canada’s youth soccer clubs: Leadership from within. It’s not coming from Ottawa, people. If we’re all figuring out at once that we desperately need strong amateur soccer leagues to grow the game in Canada, let’s take a few days to celebrate the season, and then get on the phones. Call the clubs around you. Hire one top-level coach per club, and form a local league. If we do that all over Canada, the CSA will have to accept the changes, alter their structure and hire the right person to run and oversee it all. It really is all up to you guys now.
The Canadian Soccer Association: The courage to gather together at Metcalfe Street, raise a toast, honestly admit it isn’t working, and just walk away. We’ll all work together to fill the gap, guys. For all your efforts at reform, you remain in the way – and too many good people are wasting too much time and money tripping over you. Wouldn’t all of us – your own good selves included – be a whole lot happier if all of this were over?
The English Premier League: A new team in the top four. Villa? Everton? City? It doesn’t matter who. Just knock one of the Big Four out of the UEFA Champions League, and let them all know there’s no more free passage to the UCL vault. The game needs this, and maybe we can actually find a practical use for this global economic downturn – if it stops Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal from just buying any player they suddenly need. Hey, the big clubs are a blast to watch. But honest effort from the outside has to count, too.
David Beckham: An unconditional release from the Los Angeles Galaxy. I don’t know if the Milan thing is going to work out, but the L.A. novelty is gone, and there’s nothing at all left of the team. Becks-Donovan should have worked, but until MLS cranks its salary cap and the rest of the roster doesn’t have to share hot plates in college dorm rooms, there just isn’t any blessed point continuing. Edson Buddle will always thank you for setting up his 15-goal season, Becks, but it’s time you moved back into your proper rent district.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter: Criminal charges. Hey, I long ago gave up believing I’ll ever see soccer’s biggest bureaucrat in jail. But how about just enough heat to get him out of office? I promise not to write more than about one gloating blog item a week – and I’ll even agree to a “Bye Bye Blatter” cap of 50,000 words. I just can’t give anymore than that. Come on, Interpol! It’s not like the guy’s hiding.
TFC fans: A personal gift of my thanks for all your passion, friendship and support. I was scared sideways when the Globe ended my blog. But not two hours went by before one fan stepped up to design my new site, another offered to oversee my advertising strategy, and others started actually introducing me to name sponsors. I still don’t know how all this is going to play out, but you guys have been utterly incredible, and I feel a great joy and welcome responsibility to know so many of you are coming to Onward! daily for a quick shot of my own distinctive brand of soccer fun. You guys are the best – and a very Merry Christmas to you all!
I’m taking a few days off, and then let’s all rev it up for the New Year.