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    Returning all dressed in Red

    By Guest, in 24th Minute,

    Daniel Lovitz has recovered from the concussion suffered on opening day in New York. Jonathan Osorio will likely be available for selection after picking up a knee strain prior to the defeat against Sporting Kansas City last time out. If so, Grey Vanney will have a full squad to pick from for the first this season.
    Colorado is also 1-1-1 after three games. In that time, Toronto have four goals to the Rapid’s two but Colorado has still registered more shots on target (40 to 34). Ts 0 to 34). This is largely due to the pragmatic approach TFC have taken on the road so expect them to line up sitting deep, looking to take advantage on the counter.
    Despite the satisfactory points tally from the first three of the eight road games the Reds will play before the home opener at BMO Field on May 7, it’s been a question of what might have been. If contentious refereeing decisions in each game had gone the other way, Greg Vanney’s side could be sitting pretty at the top of the Eastern Division.
    Particularly grating to TFC fans, Brad Davis’s winner for Kansas City came on the back of what many saw as a foul on Reds defender Justin Morrow, not called by referee Baldomero Toledo. Ismail Elfath will take change of the whistle this weekend.
    Colorado will be without their Designated Player Kevin Doyle. The Republic of Ireland striker suffered a gruesome leg injury on international duty against Switzerland that could keep him out for up to seven matches.
    Fellow DP Shkelzen Gashi is also a doubt for the Rapids with a minor calf injury picked up in training with the Albanian national team.
    Marco Pappa and Michael Bradley will face off in midfield for the third time in nine days after the United States and Guatemala split a two game World Cup qualifier series.
    In last year’s only meeting between the sides, Toronto came out on top, winning 3-1 at BMO Field in September.
    Projected Line-ups
    Toronto: C.Irwin, D.Moor, D.Perquis, S.Beitashour, J.Morrow, M.Delgado, M.Bradley, W.Johnson, T.Endoh, S.Giovinco, J.Altidore
    Colorado Rapids: Z.MacMath, M,Williams, J.Watts, A.Sjöberg, M.Burch; M.Azira, S.Cronin, D.Badji, D.Powers, M.Pappa L.Solignac
    Referee: Ismail Elfath
    Broadcast: TSN2

    Duane Rollins
    Daniel Lovitz has recovered from the concussion suffered on opening day in New York. Jonathan Osorio will likely be available for selection after picking up a knee strain prior to the defeat against Sporting Kansas City last time out. If so, Grey Vanney will have a full squad to pick from for the first this season.
    Colorado is also 1-1-1 after three games. In that time, Toronto have four goals to the Rapid’s two but Colorado has still registered more shots on target (40 to 34). This is largely due to the pragmatic approach TFC have taken on the road so expect them to line up sitting deep, look to take advantage on the counter.
    Despite the satisfactory points tally from the first three of the eight road games the Reds will play before the home opener at BMO Field on May 7, it’s been a question of what might have been. If contentious refereeing decisions in each game had gone the other way, Greg Vanney’s side could be sitting pretty at the top of the Eastern Division.
    Particularly grating to TFC fans, Brad Davis’s winner for Kansas City came on the back of what many saw as a foul on Reds defender Justin Morrow, not called by referee Baldomero Toledo. Ismail Elfath will take change of the whistle this weekend.
    Colorado will be without their Designated Player Kevin Doyle. The Republic of Ireland striker suffered a gruesome leg injury on international duty against Switzerland that could keep him out for up to seven matches.
    Fellow DP Shkelzen Gashi is also a doubt for the Rapids with a minor calf injury picked up in training with the Albanian national team.
    Marco Pappa and Michael Bradley will face off in midfield for the third time in nine days after the United States and Guatemala split a two game World Cup qualifier series.
    In last year’s only meeting between the sides, Toronto came out on top, winning 3-1 at BMO Field in September.
    Projected Line-ups
    Toronto: C.Irwin, D.Moor, D.Perquis, S.Beitashour, J.Morrow, M.Delgado, M.Bradley, W.Johnson, T.Endoh, S.Giovinco, J.Altidore
    Colorado Rapids: Z.MacMath, M,Williams, J.Watts, A.Sjöberg, M.Burch; M.Azira, S.Cronin, D.Badji, D.Powers, M.Pappa L.Solignac
    Referee: Ismail Elfath
    Broadcast: TSN2

    Duane Rollins
    There is no obvious reason for that. Maybe I’m a glory hunter (stay with me here)? I first started to really absorb sports through my own eyes in the mid-1980s. I can still recall being absolutely transfixed watching the Los Angeles Olympics as Canada won medal after medal. My childish mind didn’t realize that the reason Canada was doing so well was because a boycott had weakened the field considerably. No, it just loved watching Canada win. When the games ended I wanted to watch Canada win more so I would seek out TV coverage of sports that most kids my age had little to know interest in in. The only requirement was that the red and white were involved.
    That brings us to that faithful day in 1985 when I saw a Canadian soccer team on my television. This was perfect -- my English meeting my Canadian. Obviously I watched.
    Canada beat Honduras 1-0. You may be familiar with the game in question.
    Yes, I started at the top.
    And now I’m here. It’s been an interesting journey.
    As my friend Daniel Squizzato has written, emotionally attaching yourself to the plight of 11 men or women chasing a ball in short pants is completely and totally irrational. It has no real meaning. The result of a game cannot significantly make a difference in your day to day life.
    It has no tangible value.
    Except that it does. Caring about something – and that something doesn’t have to be sports for everyone that’s just the focus here – is what gives life value. Perspective is required, of course, but we should never question how much richer our lives are for being part of the community that has decided to emotionally invest in Canadian soccer.
    This point was driven home to me this week when I received news that a dear friend had passed away. That may seem strange to some that a death would make me appreciate something like soccer more – the accepted narrative is to say that death drives home the frivolity of all but the most basic things – but what it’s made me realize is that the value of life is living it.
    Jason wasn’t a soccer fan. He’d probably think it a bit odd of me to eulogize him on a soccer web site, actually. What Jay was, however, was someone who was passionate, who believed in the importance of community and family and who was always positive, even when things seemed bleak.
    Sounds a lot like the Voyageurs, eh?
    I’m a better person for having known him and I’m a better person for having found a community of likeminded people that have decided to care about something.
    By the time you read this there is every chance that the game will be over. There is also every chance that Canada will not have gotten the result that we wanted them to get. However, there is no chance that we will have lost.
    Lost the game, sure. But, truly lost?
    Nah, we won when we took the journey.
    Allez les Rouge

    Michael Mccoll
    There's a lot of chat to be had, so have a listen!
    Here's a breakdown of where to listen to each guest in the podcast this week:
    Benito Floro (04:16)
    Scott Arfield (13:46)
    Will Johnson (22:48)
    Cyle Larin (33:20)
    Christian Bolaños (42:01)
    Tim Parker (45:58)
    Cole Seiler (51:36)
    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!


    Grant
    One gets the sense, listening to the social media chatter or the more hardcore fan-tilted fan podcasts, that the possibility Canada fans will be outnumbered in their own stadium on Friday reflects a massive failure for the nation’s soccer culture. The worry flitting just below the surface of these tweets and posts seems to be that we’re not patriotic enough. That somehow we’re not doing something right as a country when Canadians flock to a stadium to cheer for the other team. Why does it always happen to us, and only to us? My friend and former podcast co-host Daniel Squizzato, appearing on the Two Solitudes podcast this week, referenced an oft-repeated line from Canadian soccer hero Jason de Vos lamenting how Canada is the only country that never gets a true home game.
    The thing is, in terms of Friday's game, legitimate concern about tepid Canadian fan support and attendance for the men’s team is being conflated with a different phenomenon: the massive support the Mexican national team enjoys across the U.S. Vice Sports called El Tri the ‘most popular team in America.’ Every major Canadian city is a few hours’ shot from the U.S. border, so when we play Mexico at home thousands of Mexican-Americans are going to buy tickets and show up -- there’s no getting around that.
    But beyond that, the fretting about away fans at Canada games fails to take into account the globalized world we live in. Contrary to what de Vos said, Canada is decidedly not the only country that sees divided support in its own stadia when playing at home. We already know what happens when the U.S. men’s team plays Mexico anywhere but rustbelt cities where ticket sales are strictly controlled.
    But how about the home of football. You don’t have to spend much time on Google to learn Wembley isn’t the impenetrable fortress of English support of popular imagination. How about Poland at home? Or maybe Ghana?
    Current World Cup champions Germany certainly can’t always count on 85,000 pro-German souls screaming on their home team in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, at least not when the play Turkey. And to peek at an even darker place, read a little bit about Algerian fans in Paris.
    And this phenomenon isn't exclusive to world soccer. Let's imagine a stereotypical setting for trumped up displays of Australian pride. Personally, I picture Paul Hogan on a kangaroo guzzling Fosters Lager and yelling ‘What’s the good word mate?’ while Land Down Under plays in the background. Less ridiculous people, however, might imagine Australia playing in a World Cup of Cricket semifinal in Sydney. No chance Australia fans would be outnumbered in that stadium, right? Well, when it happened last year and they were -- yup, more Indian blue in the stands than Australian yellow.Yet Australian cricket, and, wait for it, Australia itself, continue to thrive.
    Essentially, in 2016, if you’re hosting a big match in a globalized sport and you don’t have a significant number of fans present rooting for the away team, as a country, you’re probably doing something wrong. Canadian soccer fans should feel fortunate enough to live in a prosperous, (relatively) tolerant country that hundreds of thousands of people choose to move to on a permanent basis each year.
    Yes, some people might be annoyed at seeing Canadians go to a Canadian stadium and actively cheer against Canada in favour of their birth country, or the birth country of their parents. Upset even. That’s understandable and a fascinating discussion about the human condition, but only in the abstract. In the real world, this is something that happens in every single multicultural, modern Western nation. And it would happen in countries like Japan and South Korea too if the populations weren’t homogeneous. Just because we see strong away support at Canada home games, it doesn’t mean Canadian soccer fans have somehow failed in rallying support to their cause. And it certainly doesn’t mean Canada as a country has failed to ‘integrate’ people who move here, whatever that even means.
    However the crowd looks when the game kicks off on Friday, Canada fans should concentrate on being loud, on being organized and on making sure the Canadian players are acutely aware that thousands of fanatics are living and dying by their success. Short of all that, we can also be stereotypically helpful in directing as many Mexican fans as possible to the stadium, in Vancouver, Washington.

    Guest
    @KevLaramee
    @24thminute
    Sports Podcasting Network
    http://sportspodcastingnetwork.com
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    Grant
    1. So the Canada roster is now out. Any names on there that Mexico fans will recognize, nevermind actually be concerned about facing?
    If Mexico fans follow MLS, then they will know the name Cyle Larin. The Orlando City striker should be the one who gets the lion’s share of the publicity this week. Folks will also remember Julian de Guzman because he played with Andres Guardado at Deportivo la Coruña.
    Personally, I just saw Tesho Akindele provide a spark for FC Dallas against Les Québecois, so he should be on the radar as well, at least for the people that matter.
    2. I understand Benito Floro had a well-regarded spell with Monterrey in the late 90's. Does the fact he currently manages Canada mean there is additional interest or curiosity around this Canada team among Mexico fans or media?
    If he would have won a title at Monterrey, then people might hold him in higher regard (or, as a God in Monterrey) than they already do. [Lasting] four seasons with one club is a decent record for any coach who has worked in Mexico. Honestly, the fact he coached Real Madrid carries a lot more weight among the Mexican media snobs.
    3. In terms of the Mexico roster, what are the biggest surprises in terms of additions or players being left out?
    The focus this week was on the omissions of Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Guillermo Ochoa. Dos Santos was left out because he is injured, Real Sociedad asked the [Mexican federation] not to call up Vela, and Memo Ochoa saw his first league action in two years at Malaga just two weeks ago. The lesson here, do your homework when you are looking for a team as a free agent. Ochoa could have gone anywhere after his performance at the World Cup, then zeroed in at Malaga without realizing that the current keeper, Carlos Kameni, is coached by his Cameroonian countryman.
    But, none of these three are a bigger omission than Oribe Peralta – Olympic hero, consistent goal scorer for club and country, and the only Mexican striker of note who is on any kind of a hot streak. As far as unexpected additions, people tend to focus their wrath on the dudes that will never see the field. In this case, third-string keeper Pikolin Palacios and the defender Yasser Corona, who just came back from injury in January. The player who could force the issue and will likely come in as a substitute is Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, fresh off a hat trick over the weekend.
    4. Benito Floro will likely line Canada up in some variation of a 10-1-0 and 11-0-0 for these two matches, hoping to steal a draw. What can we expect from Mexico in terms of starting eleven, tactics and/or formation knowing that a large part of the job will involve waiting patiently to break down the bus and not getting busted on the counter or on set-pieces?
    Juan Carlos Osorio has different tactical philosophies for road and home games. He will be much more cautious and defensive on the road, so he will line up in a 4-4-2 with defensive minded wingbacks. As he did against Honduras, he will stress organization to avoid getting caught out on numbers on a Canadian counter. I suspect he will use his subs in the second half to bring in a fast, technical player who can tip the balance in Mexico’s favor. Jesus Corona and the aforementioned Chucky are the likely candidates.
    The Azteca will be a different story. Osorio will play a 4-4-2 that will turn into a 4-2-4 for most of the match. He understands that the Azteca has to once again become that intimidating fortress with an armada of trebuchets at the ready to devastate their opponents. Mexico lost that in 2013. They need to get it back.
    5. There's been a lot of talk among Canada fans about the crowd at BC Place. Almost 50K tickets have been sold, a huge crowd by Canadian soccer standards, but the worry is that the majority of those seats will be occupied by Mexico supporters. The Canadian Soccer Association has tried to mitigate this by limiting sales to people with a Canadian mailing address. We know El Tri is a big business in the U.S., do you think those fans will find a way to make it up to Canada and fill the stadium?
    Mexico has fans all over the U.S., and that includes the Northwest. I expect there will be those who make the drive, just as I will (I am flying to Seattle and driving across). Mexican fans also have the tendency to buy tickets day of, so any unsold seats may be filled by fans wearing green.
    6. Let's talk feelings. Mexico obviously has a huge rivalry with the U.S. men's team, and there's certainly no love lost when it comes to certain countries in Central America either, but what about Canada? Do Mexico fans have any special feelings or memories when it comes to playing Canada? Are we an afterthought?
    Not at all. You have to remember that the U.S. is a relative newcomer to the upper echelon of CONCACAF. It has only been 20 years that the U.S. has staked their claim. Before that, Mexico’s biggest rivals in the region were Canada and Costa Rica. I still remember the nerve racking qualifier in 1993 in Toronto where Mexico had to come from behind, and the 2008 game [in Edmonton] where Mexico struggled to draw 2-2, a point that they needed just to get out of the semi-final round.
    7. Alright, brass tacks time. Is there a chance Canada steals a point over the course of these two games? (And we're not talking a Dumb and Dumber 'So you're saying I have a chance?' type of chance.)
    Of course there is. The stench of Mexico’s 2013 hex still hangs in the air. The longer the game goes scoreless, especially at the Azteca, the stifling pressure that nearly drowned Mexico last cycle will begin to weigh heavily on the players again. This is not the 1990’s, where Mexico dominated their regional rivals. That was due to the fact that Mexico had better players, but also because Mexico was almost entirely a 'local league' national team who was used to playing at altitude. As talented as this side is – and make no mistake they are VERY talented - up to nine starters will be European based. That's nine players who do not play at altitude on a regular basis. Now, if Mexico scores an early one, then things change. And then it could get ugly for Les Rouges.
    8. I would probably pass out and then repeatedly douse myself with cold water for several hours afterward to make sure I wasn't dreaming, but I'd like you to describe how you'd react at the final whistle of a Canada victory at Azteca Stadium on Mar. 29?
    I would not be happy, of course. But I learned long ago to hedge my emotional investment in sports teams. That said, Mexico’s inevitable elimination at any World Cup still causes me to go into a major funk that lasts a few weeks.

    Guest
    The game at Sporting Park (7:00 p.m. ET), where Toronto have never won, may see the return of Jozy Altidore, who missed the opening two games with a hamstring injury.
    The Reds came back from a two-goal deficit last time out against New York City FC, thanks to a Damien Perquis header and another star turn from Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant’s late equalizer took him to two goals and two assists for the season.
    More concerning to Vanney though, will be signs that his off-season defensive renovations may yet reveal cracks reminiscent of seasons gone by. Toronto’s backline looked shaky for large parts of the first half at Yankee Stadium but is likely to remain unchanged for the game Sunday.
    If Altidore is fit to return to the starting line-up, the main call will be whether Tsubasa Endoh will drop to the bench despite his impressive start to the season or if he will continue in a rejigged formation.
    Vanney has used a variant of 4-2-3-1 so far but could switch back to the 4-3-3 from last season which often saw Giovinco play left with Altidore through the middle or in more of a diamond with both hitmen up top.
    The Toronto coach could be tempted to bring in Benoit Cheyrou, who steadied the ship off the bench against NYCFC, and play him alongside captain Michael Bradley with Will Johnson at the base of the diamond. Daniel Lovitz remains sidelined with injury picked up against the Red Bulls.
    Whatever the lineup, TFC’s unbeaten record will be under threat against a Kansas City team who have started well off the blocks.
    Dom Dwyer grabbed the headlines in a 2-1 win at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend with a beautiful top corner thunderbolt in a double-goal game for the Englishman.
    The result backed up Sporting’s impressive one-nil victory away at Seattle Sounders on opening day. The Western Conference outfit have a balanced attack and have yet to concede from open play this season so the Reds will have their work cut out.
    2015 MVP nominee Benny Feilhaber is back in training but is unlikely to recover from the abdomen strain that has kept him out thus far in time for Sunday’s matchup.
    Projected Line-ups
    Toronto: C.Irwin, D.Moor, D.Perquis, S.Beitashour, J.Morrow, B.Cheyrou, M.Bradley, W.Johnson, J.Osorio, S.Giovinco, J.Altidore
    Sporting Kansas City: T.Melia, M.Besler, N.Coelho, A.Dia, C.Myers, S.Mustivar, R.Espinoza, J.Quintilla, G. Zusi, Hallisey, D.Dwyer
    Referee: Baldomero Toledo
    Broadcast: FS1, TSN2

    Duane Rollins
    GK- Marco Carducci | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC*
    GK- James Pantemis | CAN / FC Montréal
    CB- Marko Aleksic | CAN / FC Edmonton*
    CB- Liam Fraser | CAN / Toronto FC II
    CB- Thomas Meilleur Giguère | CAN / FC Montréal
    CB- Fikayo Tomori | ENG / Chelsea FC
    FB- Gabriel Boakye | CAN / Unattached
    FB- Kadin Chung | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps 2
    FB- Marcus Godinho | CAN / Unattached
    M- Tristan Borges | NED / sc Heerenveen
    M- Marco Bustos | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC*
    M- Alphonso Davies | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps 2
    M- Marco-Leonel Dominguez | CAN / FC Montréal*
    M- Duwayne Ewart | USA / Pittsburgh Riverhounds
    M- Shamit Shome | CAN / FC Edmonton
    M- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | CAN / FC Montréal
    M- Luca Uccello | CAN / Toronto FC II
    F- Jordan Hamilton | CAN / Toronto FC*
    F- Dario Zanatta | SCO / Heart of Midlothian FC
    The most interesting player on the roster is likely 15-year old Alphonso Davies. With the Whitecaps 2, via Edmonton, he's eligible for the next two cycles having been born in 2000. Dario Zanatta has also been turning a lot of heads at Hearts in Scotland and might be in line for a look at the senior level soon.
    There's no word on whether there will be television or streaming options for the game.

    Duane Rollins
    (Chivas USA and the MetroBulls, if you are looking for the answer to the trivia question).
    It could be argued that Vanney still has his job only because of that dismal record. If the Reds had made sensible hiring/firing decisions all along the way then new president Bill Manning would have been justified in canning him. It's likely only the newly found commitment to "stability" that saved him. The season ended terribly, after all. He seemed paralyzed to make adjustments to his tactics and if Seba Giovinco wasn’t producing magic TFC wasn’t winning.
    That was compounded by poor buying decisions, highlighted by Ahmed Kantari, who was historically poor even by TFC’s disastrous standards.
    Compounding things even further was the bad taste left in fan’s mouths after being blown out by a rival in the playoffs. TFC fans are notorious for being resilient – this club has done things that few fan bases would have put up with yet TFC's support remains among the biggest in MLS. However, everyone has a breaking point. Fan cynicism creeps in more and more each year and losing to Montreal like they did was just about enough to convince many that TFC was not heading in the right direction despite the “historic” playoff berth.
    So, no one would have blinked if Vanney had been fired, especially if he had been replaced by Manning's former coach at Salt Lake, Jason Kreis. Manning admitted that the thought had crossed his mind. He called the playoff performance embarrassing and fired a warning shot across the bow of the S.S. ThatsSoTFC.
    Manning didn’t spell it out directly, but the implication was clear – if the team started poorly in 2016 he would be making changes. He even put a specific point total out there – eight points on the eight game road trip to open the season.
    It’s probably worth pointing out that Kreis is currently living off City Football Group’s money while doing busy work for MLSSoccer.com. It’s a short flight from Manhattan to Toronto.
    He still might end up making that flight, but Vanney is already half way to the eight point target. A 2-0 win in week one against the Red Bulls was followed up by a cagey 2-2 draw with NYCFC in the second. The Reds sit just two points off the top of the conference without having played a home game. You would think that they might fall a bit off that pace in the weeks ahead, but you’d also assume that it should be easy enough to find four more points against Sporting KC, Colorado, New England, D.C. United, Montreal and Portland. Hell, Giovinco will probably win one of those games on his own.
    What’s even more promising about the results so far, however, is the way that they’ve been had. Whether it was an off-season coaching epiphany, or if the addition of new players is allowing Vanney more tactical flexibility, the bottom line is that he is simply better in 2016 than he was in 2015.
    Vanney completely out coached Jesse Marsch in week one, forcing the Red Bulls away from the favoured tactics and keeping a lid on the freelance tendencies of Michael Bradley. It wasn’t pretty, but the three points were fully deserved, despite playing most of the game without the ball (by design, it should be stressed).
    The second trip to New York did start poorly, but what followed ended up being even more impressive for Vanney. He proved that he could change directions mid-game, something that many thought he was incapable of. After the second New York goal (the one that shouldn’t have counted, but never mind that) the game was controlled by TFC. The tying goal seemed inevitable all second half and if Will Johnson had finished either of his point blank chances (or if the ref wasn’t having a howler, but never mind that) TFC’s nice little road point would have been three.
    It hasn’t all been Vanney, of course. Johnson and Jonathon Osorio are working brilliantly together (*cough* Benito *cough*) and Giovinco is already the favourite to repeat as MVP with two goals and two assists in the books (spectacularly for Canada fans, Cyle Larin might be a contender as well). However, a lot of the credit does have to go to the coach.
    Very few people saw that coming. Fewer still will be upset if it continues.

    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!


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