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Good Summary of Canadian Soccer 2009


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That's a wrap

Ryan Johnston | December 28, 2009

Maybe at this point next year, some people will be eating crow over Chad Barrett's performances.A new Canada coach, a visit to Toronto from Los Blancos and the Reds winning their first crown were some of the highlights of 2010.

It is almost a year to the day that I settled on Jeff Cunningham's miss in front of the south end supporters as the story of the year for Toronto FC in 2008. The miss, of course, deprived the Reds of its first Nutralife Canadian Soccer Championship and set off a series of events that led to Cunningham's departure to Dallas -- where he scored a MLS-best 17 goals in 2009.

(Perhaps this time around I should sort through the multitude of Chad Barrett misses in 2009 and attach year-end importance to one of those?)

Anyhow, the Cunningham example showcases how often we all are wrong, and through the marvel of Google allows the whole world to seek out with ease and use with brevity the online reminder of our faults.

But alas; year-enders are fun. And following this team for three seasons has opened me up to the world of admitting that (on occasion) I can be wrong.

So here's 2009 in Canadian soccer. Print, save or bookmark for future reference.

Los Galacticos at BMO Field

Despite the hullabaloo it caused off the field over necessity and ticket allocation, very few clubs outside of Spain can boast that it hosted the world's best player in the all-whites of Madrid.

It began with an open practice - watched by a paying crowd that will keep the owners of more than one MLS club up at night - and ended with Gabe Gala justifying his career choice by scoring the home team's only goal.

It was also played on a temporary natural surface. The sight and success of the grass at BMO immediately opened the eyes and wallets of the Reds' parent company, and when the Reds march out on that silky surface in 2010, a quiet thank-you should be whispered to Real Madrid. In a way, the fuss made over ticket prices, was worth it.

Hart of gold

Very few would have blamed Canadian men's national team coach Stephen Hart if he walked away in 2009. An expert in oscillating between interim and official, the caretaker tag was finally removed by the Canadian Soccer Association in December. Why it took so long is anyone's guess, but the good news is the national team has a coach in a year when plans will be forged for 2011, when qualification for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil begins.

On top of the to-do list for Hart is to keep and cultivate Canadian talent. The defection of Asmir Begovic to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jacob Lensky to the Czech Republic can be directly tied to unrest at the national level in Canada. Hart has made it clear that he only wants players who are ready to commit to Canada, but the onus is on the new coach to give the young players a reason to overlook the allure of playing elsewhere.

An interesting sidebar to Hart's first match in charge (against Jamaica in January) is the status of Toronto FC striker O'Brian White - who showed flashes of brilliance in his first pro season, but has yet to commit to a national team. The MLS rookie was born in Jamaica, but has been actively recruited by Dwayne De Rosario to play for Canada.

Montreal / Vancouver

While soccer in the big city steals most of the headlines in this country, it is the two teams that provide geographical bookends to Toronto that are undoubtedly the class of our game.

The Montreal Impact played in front of 50,000-plus fans at the Big O in February before bowing out a leg later in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarter-finals. The hangover of that lengthy tournament run lasted in to the new domestic season as the club began winless in four before firing coach John Limniatis. Under interim Marc Dos Santos, the Impact would go on to win its second USL-1 title over Vancouver - solidifying, IMO, Canadian team of the year honours for 2009.

On the west coast, Vancouver was the 'Miracle in Montreal' short of succeeding the Impact as Canadian representative in the CCL. The Whitecaps recovered from the disappointment to play in the USL final, losing 6-3 on aggregate to Montreal.

The team now prepares for its first and possibly final season the newly-formed North American Soccer League (NASL) before joining the big boys in MLS. The future (and past for that matter) of soccer in Vancouver is bright. The sooner the tri-club rivalry that exists in Canada is transplanted in to MLS, the better. Here's hoping the 2010 Canadian soccer recap is able to include just that.

See you then.


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