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  1. Toronto FC conceded three goals inside the first 30 minutes against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium to lose their fourth straight 3-2 Saturday evening. It was a case of déjà vu for both teams as rain delayed the continuation of play in the 42nd minute when power went out and lightning struck. On August 24th 2011 TFC and FC Dallas faced off in a Concacaf Champions League match at BMO Field. TFC trailed 1-0 but had their half time deficit erased due to lightning. The game was replayed the following morning only to see TFC lose by the same score-line. However the damage had already been done in Saturday's contest as Fabian Castillo burned Toronto FC just 32 seconds in. Moises Hernandez sent a long ball from outside the attacking half on the left flank past Nick Hagglund which allowed Castillo to sneak in behind the defender. After a few quick touches Castillo hit a left footed shot to the top left corner of the net. Less than 10 minutes later FC Dallas struck again. Blas Perez saw an opening as Castillo was in behind Hagglund again who was playing off his mark. Perez fed a pass inside the top of the 18 yard box to the Colombian who fired a shot past Joe Bendik to the far post for his second of the match and third of the season. Immediately following the goal Toronto head coach Greg Vanney had Hagglund swap positions with Justin Morrow, from right back to centre back in order to minimize the damage. But the defensive woes continued for TFC in the 27th minute. A FC Dallas throw in made its way inside the box where defender Damien Perquis was able to initially fend off a pressing Ryan Hollingshead. However the Frenchman failed to clear the ball and lost it in the middle. Perez pounced on the loose ball and fired a shot to the bottom left corner of the box for his fourth tally of the season. In the 42nd minute parts of Toyota Stadium lost power. Lightning and sheeting rain forced the officials to delay the match for three hours and 23 minutes. Upon return TFC failed to muster much offense. However Sebastian Giovinco ignited a late game comeback attempt for the Reds in the 83rd minute when he received a long from Hagglund. Giovinco tip toed across the end line to keep the ball in play and chipped the it over keeper Chris Seitz on the near post. Minutes later Giovinco went on a run to draw a foul that earned TFC a free kick just outside of the area. The Italian delivered a set piece that sailed behind the Dallas wall and curled into the top left corner of the net in the 89th minute. Toronto falls to 1-4 on the season while Dallas improves to 4-2. TFC finish off their seven game road swing with matches against Orlando City FC on the 26th and Philadelphia Union May 2nd before returning to BMO field May 10th to take on the Houston Dynamo.
  2. The two big off season acquisitions of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore connected to help Toronto FC rally to defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 at BC Place on Saturday. The match highlighted what both squads’ new designated players were capable of. Whitecaps DP Octavio Rivero made his presence felt in his debut when he nearly scored in the ninth minute. But the Uruguayan missed the tap in from less than six yards from the net. Rivero bounced back ten minutes later by making the most of the space left by Toronto’s high back line. Defender Pa Modou Kah sent a long ball to the left flank for Rivero who needed just two touches before slotting it past keeper Joe Bendik. Vancouver controlled the pace for most of the first half and left Toronto looking slow in defense. TFC’s back line played high which gave the Whitecaps plenty of space in transition and a handful of solid scoring chances off the break. Offensively, the Reds had a difficult time of creating opportunities the final third and found themselves knocked off the ball. In the 32nd minute TFC were able to string together a sequence of clean touches in pursuit of an equalizer. Jonathan Osorio fended off fellow Canadian International Russel Teibert and slipped the ball to Giovinco. The Italian threaded a pass, which appeared to be intended for Robert Findlay, through three Whitecaps. However Findlay lost his footing which created space for Altidore to run in. The American stepped by keeper David Ousted, and knocked off a right footed shot to the bottom left of the goal. Despite the scoreline at the half, Toronto FC appeared badly out-paced. The pace of the match changed considerably in the second half in favour of the Reds as Vancouver wasn't able to break out in transition as easily as it had during the first 45. Toronto took advantage of the swing in momentum in the 59th minute. Bradley sent a ball from just inside the defending half to Benoit Cheyrou up the middle. Cheyrou found Brandon Morrow on the run on the left flank. He sent a low cross to Findlay who crept behind the Whitecaps defense to score from close range. The Whitecaps threatening presence from the first half seemed to have disappeared. In the 89th minute substitute Collen Warner fed a long range pass to the top of the box for Altidore who was hauled down in front of the net by Kah. The Gambian was shown yellow for his challenge and TFC were awarded a penalty shot. Altidore stepped up and converted a cheeky chip straight down the middle from the spot over Ousted for his second of the contest, matching his total during his time at Sunderland. This is Toronto FC’s first MLS regular season win at BC Place. Toronto continue its seven game road swing March 14th against the Columbus Crew.
  3. Last Monday Canadian Women’s National team head coach John Herdman announced the 24 player roster for the Cyprus Women’s Cup Tournament that begins on Wednesday. This tournament provides important exhibition preparation ahead of the Women’s World Cup in June. Like in past Cyprus Cups, the team will use this as an opportunity to develop cohesiveness among the group and unify their shared purpose. Herdman understands the importance of continuing the momentum the team has created this year after winning three matches en route to capturing Bao’an Cup in China. “We've been on a roll and hope to continue that” Herdman said. “It’s great for the confidence of our players.” Though it’s speculated that the roster for this tournament is a strong indication of who will represent Canada in the showpiece event this summer, Herdman hinted at it not being finalized. “We haven’t written anyone off […] there are still opportunities. The door is always open.” Herdman will use Cyprus as a way to as build upon team chemistry and gauge who is ready to accept leadership roles and emerge as a starters. When asked about potential formations for the tournament, the coach said that in order to be successful a team must have the ability to adapt tactics for different opponents. “What we tried in China will be different to what we try against Scotland or Italy.” Canada has won the Cyprus Cup three times in the tournament’s seven year history. Their last championship was in 2011 against the Netherlands. Canada placed second in 2009, 2012 and most recently in 2013 with a loss to England. Canada’s first match of the tournament takes place Wednesday March 4th versus Scotland. Injury Updates: Diana Matheson is ahead of schedule in her recovery from a torn left ACL, an injury she sustained in October against Japan at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. However, there isn't a timetable set for her return. “Her recovery is head of schedule at this stage. We’ll have our fingers crossed and I think everybody wants to see her back” Herdman said on Tuesday from Cyrpus. “Diana is one of the most resilient women I have ever met.” Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann’s recovery from knee injury is “getting there” according to Herdman. Sesselmann suffered the injury prior to last year's Cyprus Cup. He hopes to have her rejoin the team in April ahead of Canada’s match against France on the 9th in Bondoufle.
  4. Soccer coaches from across the country will be in Toronto this week to attend Canada’s largest coaching education conference at the University of Toronto. The National Soccer Coaching Conference (NSCC) kicks off its fourth annual weekend for coaches to congregate, network and benefit from a plethora of speakers and clinicians from January 30th through February 1st. CSN had the opportunity to speak with Manager of Soccer operations at UofT, Anthony Capotosto, about the goals and benefits of this event. As Toronto FC Junior Academy and UofT Varsity Blues men's head coach, Capotosto is familiar with the challenges that face coaches in Canada and understands why there is a strong need for an event like the NSCC. ‘‘There needs to be more opportunities for coaches to come together to share ideas and collect information. These opportunities are few and far between.” The goal is simple, as the conference’s slogan states: Progress through Education. “When you think of universities, they tend to churn out good doctors, lawyers and professionals. Why not coaches?” Capotosto said, “The ultimate goal here is to raise the standard of play for Canadian soccer, starting with the player, by focusing on player development." Tackling the issue of player development would not be possible without taking a look at the most influential people in the players' careers: the coaches. Those attending the NSCC can expect theoretical and practical sessions covering a variety of topics, taught by some of the best minds in the sport. Canadian Men’s National team head coach Benito Floro will present clinics on attacking and defending principles. Raymond Verheijen, founder of the World Football Academy, will host sessions on how coaches can avoid team injuries as well as tactical development during soccer conditioning. The Dutchman is one of the global leaders in soccer specific conditioning and has wealth of experience coaching at the highest levels of professional soccer globally. He has years of national coaching experience at three World Cups and three European Championships, with the Netherlands, South Korea and Russia. Verheijen has also worked with a number of European sides, including Barcelona, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Chelsea, and Manchester City. Former MLS head coach Shellas Hyndman will share his knowledge as one of the most successful college soccer coaches in American sports. Hyndman has a record of 368-96-38 over 24 seasons with Southern Methodist University. His clinics will involve speed and system of play as well as possession. Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney provides over 15 years of youth player development expertise to the conference. He’ll cover playing between the lines and switching the point of attack. Montreal Impact USL Pro Side’s Head Coach and Director of the Impact Academy Philippe Eullaffroy will present sessions on de-zoning and build up versus counter-attack. The conference will also address sports science and conditioning. Director of Sports Science for Toronto FC Jim Liston will be presenting two clinics on his approach to sports science innovation, injury prevention and assisting athletes in achieving their highest potential. These are just a few examples of the over 21 seminars available to coaches attending the NSCC. The Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) Coaches Association will also host its inaugural Sport Congress meeting as part of this conference. The idea is to generate ways to improve and innovate Canadian university athletics programs in order to keep Canadian talent in the country. The NSCC event has expanded over its four year existence. What started as a two day gathering, is now a four day conference. Last year saw eight provinces represented, and with time still left to register, that number could grow. Conferences have a significant impact on coaching philosophies. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) convention sees nearly 10,000 participants in attendance each year and coincides with the MLS combine. There isn't any doubt that growth of the sport stateside is staggering. Though Canada’s version is not expected to garner the same numbers, it still has the opportunity to influence the way players are coached. The NSCC’s goal is to reach upwards of 500 coaches in the country with the hopes that those in attendance will share what they have learned with their clubhouses and communities. Capotosto believes Canada has a long way to go to bridge the gap between its soccer program, and those of the rest of the world. However, according to Capotosto, Canadian soccer do not lack quality players. “I think that there is so much talent in this country that we should be developing more players than what we have to date,” he said “If we’re thinking long term […] trying to enhance our ranking in the world, we can’t do that without good coaches working with good players as young as U12 and U10. When those players become 19 and 20 years old they will become main stays in our national program […] we need to be better at harnessing talent in Canada.” Capotosto hopes that coaches across Canada get excited about an event like the NSCC and that it resonates with the Canadian soccer community. Canadian Soccer News will have more from the conference later this week.
  5. The Undermanned Houston Dynamo sparked their playoff hopes, while dimming those of Toronto when they slipped past TFC 1-0 at BMO Field Wednesday Night. It was a well-placed long ball from Kafi Sarkodie in the 35th that sprung Giles Barnes on the right flank. Barnes controlled the ball past Nick Hagglund and took a right footed shot from a difficult an angle. The game began with an onslaught of offensive pressure from both side. TFC nearly tallied in the 30th minute when Jermain Defoe was sent from a Michael Bradley feed. Defoe cut in but sent the shot sailing wide. Wednesday night marked his return to the starting lineup after playing 30 minutes off the bench against The LA Galaxy. He was the only designated player up front as head coach Greg Vanney opted to sit Gilberto for a second straight match to nurse a hamstring injury. Toronto FC entered the break having out shot Houston 11-6 and carried that momentum into the second half. It was in the 10th minute that TFC had a golden opportunity to draw level. Luke Moore was hauled down in the box by AJ Cochran. After signaling for a penalty referee Armando Villareal initially issued a red card to David Horst. But the official quickly corrected the mistake and sent Cochran off. Defoe stepped to the spot but his right footed shot was stuffed by goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Despite failing to capitalize on a goal scoring chance, TFC continued to attack the goal and capture 62 percent of ball possession. They finished with 26 shots, 17 more than their opponents. Houston ensured that Toronto never looked dangerous in the final third as they kept their back line tight, much to the chagrin of many a TFC supporter. The win was only the second for Houston at BMO in nine match ups. The visitors also lead the all time head to head battle 5-4-9. Both sides entered the match in desperate need of three points in a tight eastern conference post season race. Houston inched closer to the final playoff spot with 39 points, four back of fifth place Columbus Crew. The Reds have the edge on the men in orange in standings by one point. TFC need control their next three matches while also keeping an eye on what’s happening around table if they have any chance of making first post season appearance. The Philadelphia Union are also one point back of TFC and face the Crew two more times. Toronto visit fourth place DC United, host the woeful Montreal Impact then round off the regular season on the road to second place New England Revolution.
  6. Robbie Keane scored two goals only minutes apart and Landon Donovan captured the MLS all-time assists record to help the LA Galaxy make quick work of Toronto FC 3-0 at the Stub Hub Center in Carson California Saturday Night. It seems only fitting that, on what would be TFC's final dance with Donovan (unless by some twist of fate these two sides meet in the MLS Cup Final), that the poster boy for American soccer would set another MLS record before his retirement. It was on Robbie Keane's second tally of the night in the 25th that Donovan altered the record books. His 136th assist came when he sent a clean diagonal through ball up the right flank to AJ DeLaGarza who sailed a cross to an unmarked Keane. His highlight reel worthy half volley hit the side netting leaving goalkeeper Joe Bendik and the rest of TFC's defence flat footed. Keane’s first goal came three minutes prior. Marco Sarvas played a give and go with Baggio Husidic in the Toronto Box to part two defenders with a centering pass to Keane. He slipped passed Reds’ Captain Steven Caldwell and fired the ball in to the right side. Donovan's helper was his 19th of the season, which set a new career high for the American and tied a MLS single season record set by Guillermo Barros Schelotto for the Columbus Crew in 2008. Keane's two tallies give him 19 on the year, five back of New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips who leads the league. The Irishman’s goals marked his 13th multi-score game since becoming a member of the Galaxy and his fourth of the season. His performance continues to keep him in the conversation for league MVP honours. TFC entered Saturday’s contest with back to back wins. Coach Greg Vanney made some changes to the line-up that most recently topped the Portland Timbers 3-2 after trailing 2-0. Warren Creavalle stepped in at right back due to Mark Bloom’s knee injury. Gilberto also didn’t see action as he was nursing his hamstring which forced Dominic Oduro to play up front and Jonathan Osorio on the wing in midfield. Kyle Bekker was slotted in the middle alongside Michael Bradley Early in the first half LA lost Robbie Rogers to a hamstring injury. This allowed James Riley to see his first touches since tearing his meniscus late March. Toronto matched LA in shot totals but failed to get more than one on target in comparison to the Galaxy’s seven. The lone shot on target came in the sixth minute from a Luke Moore shot that Jaime Penedo was able to gather. Another great opportunity for the Reds came halfway through the first when Daniel Lovitz fed Luke Moore, but his attempt hit the post. The Reds welcomed back Jermain Defoe after he spent two months sidelined with a groin injury. Easing back into the lineup, Defoe entered the game in the 60th minute for Daniel Lovitz. He drew a foul and managed three shots. After the match Defoe said he felt good, and didn’t have any soreness from play. He was impressed with how his team responded in the final frame, “If we are to take any positives from the game it’s probably the way we moved the ball in the second half.” Defoe had an opportunity to connect with Osorio but his pass was cut off in the six yard box. Former TFC player Alan Gordon notched the final goal for LA deep into second half stoppage time off a feed from Sarvas. This his fourth goal off the bench since joining the Galaxy in August. Flashback to June 2011 when Gordon scored his second of the night in the 94th as a member of the Reds in a match against the Galaxy. Toronto fail to gain any ground in a hunt for their first playoff appearance in franchise history. They sit three points back of the Columbus Crew for fifth but have a game in hand on all those they contend for a playoff spot with. LA meanwhile has have scored three or more goals in eight of their last 14 matches, to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games. With the win The Galaxy pull three points ahead of the Seattle Sounders in the race for first in the west as well as the Supporter’s Shield. Seattle battle the Colorado Rapids Sunday afternoon. TFC host the Houston Dynamo Wednesday night at BMO field before rounding out the regular season with matches against New York on the road, Montreal at home, and away to New England.
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