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Found 328 results

  1. It almost seems blasphemes to openly worry about CanPL popularity at this point. Suggesting that the league will struggle to find relevance in a crowded sports market is something grumpy old sportswriters, clueless hockey fans and (some) Ottawa Fury fans do. The rest of us are all in. True believers in this wonderful project. Planning has been ongoing for five years now. Everything has been put in place to make this thing work. But… It’s failed before. Twice. First when the NASL blew up in 1984 (although that was more top do with American teams – OK, the New York Cosmos – overspending and ultimately misreading the market. Once the stars left so did the fans. The second time was all on us though. The CSL died on the vine in the 1990s and with it the hopes of nearly two decades of Canadian soccer. Those failures are not viewed with nuance by most. Rather, it’s just proof that trying again is foolish and that it’s only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down again. If you’re reading this you probably feel that things are different this time. You understand that two of the three NASL teams that didn’t fold (Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard) were in Canada and both would have continued on if the league had not pulled the plug. It’s appreciated that the CSL was littered with owners who had far more good intentions than actual capital and that the CanPL owners are running in a completely different tax bracket. You get all that, but that doesn’t mean that the feeling will be held by the majority of sports fans in this country. Those grumpy sportswriters and broadcasters still hold a lot of influence. The most listened to sports radio show in the country has featured two segments on the latest attempt to start a spring football league in the USA, but not a single word on CanPL. We in the soccer community can dismiss the importance of this, but the reality is it’s an obstacle that is going to need to be overcome for the league to thrive. Note, I said thrive, not survive. It will survive just fine. The demographics have shifted. The soccer-hating generation is literally dying off. Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the three MLS teams would have become as important to their market as they have. Now, it’s silly to even suggest that’s going to change. Flash-forward 20 more years and it stands to reason that many of the current CanPL markets, and some we have yet to even conceive, will feel the same way about their soccer team as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal feel about theirs now. But, there will be struggles initially. Struggles to get attention and to get butts in the seats. And, make no mistake, those that want the sport to fail – and their remains a few who do – will glory at any struggle the clubs face. Hell, even MLS still faces this in certain places. To the point that they had the research firm Boston Consulting research the market in 2015 so that they could grow their fan base. This is useful to CanPL fans in that they also included Canada in the research. Although they did not separate the data, you can draw conclusions of what CanPL will be facing when it comes to getting people to care. What they found was that 66% of MLS fans fell into one of two broad categories. The “Soccer enthusiasts”-- highly engaged, soccer-first fans – and the “Hardcore Sports Fan – basically the crazy guy at the end of the bar that can talk in detail about the 1996 Western Regional final in NCAA basketball while filling out his fantasy NFL line-up and watching the Sens play the Hurricanes on a Tuesday night in November That guy also likes soccer now. That’s a change over last couple decades. The thing is those two groups only account for 32% of all soccer fans. So, MLS is missing out on 68% of its potential market. Therein lies the biggest problem for CanPL. How do you avoid the same resistance to MLS that more than 2/3 of American soccer fans have? It starts by understanding why that 68% aren’t watching their local team. There the numbers are a little less obvious. The inclination of many would be to assume that those fans are so-called “Eurosnobs,” – fans only interested in watching the highest levels of play. However, the MLS research suggests that only 2% of fans fit that description. Related, that 2% account for 98% of the posts on BigSoccer’s US abroad forums. Where, then, do the rest fit in? We can only speculate, but it stands to reason that a good chuck are “MexiSnobs” and a good number don’t have a local team to relate to. You can’t do much about the ____Snobs fans. They have made up their mind for the most part. But, on the latter point you can absolutely address it. You need to be doing all in your power to make sure that the clubs are extensions of the community they represent. MLS does a lot of things right, but they often default to the business side of life. If you talk to a lot of MLS fans they will tell you that their loyalty is to the stand that sit in and the friends that have made at the game over the years more than it is to the franchise that they watch. Even as MLS teams do things to become true “clubs” they can’t ever totally shake that “franchise” label. The CanPL has the great advantage of being able to look at everything MLS has done right and everything that it has done wrong. And that might allow them to tap into the missing 68% more effectively.
  2. It almost seems blasphemes to openly worry about CanPL popularity at this point. Suggesting that the league will struggle to find relevance in a crowded sports market is something grumpy old sportswriters, clueless hockey fans and (some) Ottawa Fury fans do. The rest of us are all in. True believers in this wonderful project. Planning has been ongoing for five years now. Everything has been put in place to make this thing work. But… It’s failed before. Twice. First when the NASL blew up in 1984 (although that was more top do with American teams – OK, the New York Cosmos – overspending and ultimately misreading the market. Once the stars left so did the fans. The second time was all on us though. The CSL died on the vine in the 1990s and with it the hopes of nearly two decades of Canadian soccer. Those failures are not viewed with nuance by most. Rather, it’s just proof that trying again is foolish and that it’s only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down again. If you’re reading this you probably feel that things are different this time. You understand that two of the three NASL teams that didn’t fold (Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard) were in Canada and both would have continued on if the league had not pulled the plug. It’s appreciated that the CSL was littered with owners who had far more good intentions than actual capital and that the CanPL owners are running in a completely different tax bracket. You get all that, but that doesn’t mean that the feeling will be held by the majority of sports fans in this country. Those grumpy sportswriters and broadcasters still hold a lot of influence. The most listened to sports radio show in the country has featured two segments on the latest attempt to start a spring football league in the USA, but not a single word on CanPL. We in the soccer community can dismiss the importance of this, but the reality is it’s an obstacle that is going to need to be overcome for the league to thrive. Note, I said thrive, not survive. It will survive just fine. The demographics have shifted. The soccer-hating generation is literally dying off. Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the three MLS teams would have become as important to their market as they have. Now, it’s silly to even suggest that’s going to change. Flash-forward 20 more years and it stands to reason that many of the current CanPL markets, and some we have yet to even conceive, will feel the same way about their soccer team as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal feel about theirs now. But, there will be struggles initially. Struggles to get attention and to get butts in the seats. And, make no mistake, those that want the sport to fail – and their remains a few who do – will glory at any struggle the clubs face. Hell, even MLS still faces this in certain places. To the point that they had the research firm Boston Consulting research the market in 2015 so that they could grow their fan base. This is useful to CanPL fans in that they also included Canada in the research. Although they did not separate the data, you can draw conclusions of what CanPL will be facing when it comes to getting people to care. What they found was that 66% of MLS fans fell into one of two broad categories. The “Soccer enthusiasts”-- highly engaged, soccer-first fans – and the “Hardcore Sports Fan – basically the crazy guy at the end of the bar that can talk in detail about the 1996 Western Regional final in NCAA basketball while filling out his fantasy NFL line-up and watching the Sens play the Hurricanes on a Tuesday night in November That guy also likes soccer now. That’s a change over last couple decades. The thing is those two groups only account for 32% of all soccer fans. So, MLS is missing out on 68% of its potential market. Therein lies the biggest problem for CanPL. How do you avoid the same resistance to MLS that more than 2/3 of American soccer fans have? It starts by understanding why that 68% aren’t watching their local team. There the numbers are a little less obvious. The inclination of many would be to assume that those fans are so-called “Eurosnobs,” – fans only interested in watching the highest levels of play. However, the MLS research suggests that only 2% of fans fit that description. Related, that 2% account for 98% of the posts on BigSoccer’s US abroad forums. Where, then, do the rest fit in? We can only speculate, but it stands to reason that a good chuck are “MexiSnobs” and a good number don’t have a local team to relate to. You can’t do much about the ____Snobs fans. They have made up their mind for the most part. But, on the latter point you can absolutely address it. You need to be doing all in your power to make sure that the clubs are extensions of the community they represent. MLS does a lot of things right, but they often default to the business side of life. If you talk to a lot of MLS fans they will tell you that their loyalty is to the stand that sit in and the friends that have made at the game over the years more than it is to the franchise that they watch. Even as MLS teams do things to become true “clubs” they can’t ever totally shake that “franchise” label. The CanPL has the great advantage of being able to look at everything MLS has done right and everything that it has done wrong. And that might allow them to tap into the missing 68% more effectively. View full record
  3. Let's start with the obvious. Sebastian Giovinco will be missed. Mostly by Toronto fans, but also by MLS fans in general. The little Italian thrilled fans for four seasons, scoring 73 league goals, many of them of the jaw dropping variety. He also won. Three Voyageurs Cups and a Supporters Shield were the appetizer to the ultimate prize. The 2017 MLS Cup championship. Dream stuff for long-time TFC fans who lived through a lot of bad football to get to that day. He was a Bloody Big Deal. And, now he's gone. Not with a bang, but rather a pout. Walking out the door in the middle of the night with an Instagram post that thanked the fans and accused the ownership of cheaping out, no longer caring about the results on the pitch. It's a time honoured strategy of players. A Blame the suits move. They're the bad guys that don't care about you little guys in the stands. Make sure to come out for my autograph signing in 2023. Only $50 for a photo! Let's be clear. Giovinco has every right to chase the paycheque. I wouldn't turn down $30m and neither would you. But, that's what's happening. Had TFC offered Giovinco the same number he'd be perfectly OK with ownership's commitment to winning. It was their evaluation of his worth that informed his opinion. This was always going to happen. This was a player that left Juventus to join TFC, effectively ending his chance at playing internationally again. If he was driven by glory he signs a cheaper deal with a Sassuolo, Chievo or Genoa, rips it up, and has 20 more caps for Italy by now. No one dreams of leaving Juve for Toronto. You only leave Juve for two reasons: for money or opportunity to advance your career further. Unless Giovinco thought his agent had misspelled Torino when he sent the offer to him he was coming to Toronto for the money. And, he's leaving Toronto for the same reason. It was always going to end this way. In terms of the football, it's going to be difficult for Toronto fans to critically evaluate whether it was right for Toronto to let him walk. Should they have matched the Saudi offer and let Giovinco retire as a TFC player? Well, he's 32. It's pretty much universally understood that attacking player's peak years are between 23 and 31. The decline after that can be sharp. So, Giovinco is, statistically speaking, past his prime years. There are outliers though. Is Giovinco trending upwards? His stats over last four years: 2015 -- age 28, 34 app, 22 goals, 13 assists 2016 -- age 29, 34 app, 21 goals, 16 assists 2017 -- age 30, 29 app, 17 goals, 7 assists 2018 -- age 31, 28 app, 13 goals, 7 assists His appearances, goals and assists figure has dropped each of the last two seasons. Doesn't seem to be out of line with statistical norms. If his production drops the same percentage this year as it did between 2017 and 2018 he would end up with between 9 and 10 goals in 2019. That's a quality MLS forward, but not a DP and certainly not a $10m a year DP. Of course it's also 10 goals TFC is going to need to replace. That's the other side of this move and one that can't be evaluated until it happens. But, by making the move today they have the DP space and money to start that process in the summer, which is generally when MLS teams make their big moves.
  4. Let's start with the obvious. Sebastian Giovinco will be missed. Mostly by Toronto fans, but also by MLS fans in general. The little Italian thrilled fans for four seasons, scoring 73 league goals, many of them of the jaw dropping variety. He also won. Three Voyageurs Cups and a Supporters Shield were the appetizer to the ultimate prize. The 2017 MLS Cup championship. Dream stuff for long-time TFC fans who lived through a lot of bad football to get to that day. He was a Bloody Big Deal. And, now he's gone. Not with a bang, but rather a pout. Walking out the door in the middle of the night with an Instagram post that thanked the fans and accused the ownership of cheaping out, no longer caring about the results on the pitch. It's a time honoured strategy of players. A Blame the suits move. They're the bad guys that don't care about you little guys in the stands. Make sure to come out for my autograph signing in 2023. Only $50 for a photo! Let's be clear. Giovinco has every right to chase the paycheque. I wouldn't turn down $30m and neither would you. But, that's what's happening. Had TFC offered Giovinco the same number he'd be perfectly OK with ownership's commitment to winning. It was their evaluation of his worth that informed his opinion. This was always going to happen. This was a player that left Juventus to join TFC, effectively ending his chance at playing internationally again. If he was driven by glory he signs a cheaper deal with a Sassuolo, Chievo or Genoa, rips it up, and has 20 more caps for Italy by now. No one dreams of leaving Juve for Toronto. You only leave Juve for two reasons: for money or opportunity to advance your career further. Unless Giovinco thought his agent had misspelled Torino when he sent the offer to him he was coming to Toronto for the money. And, he's leaving Toronto for the same reason. It was always going to end this way. In terms of the football, it's going to be difficult for Toronto fans to critically evaluate whether it was right for Toronto to let him walk. Should they have matched the Saudi offer and let Giovinco retire as a TFC player? Well, he's 32. It's pretty much universally understood that attacking player's peak years are between 23 and 31. The decline after that can be sharp. So, Giovinco is, statistically speaking, past his prime years. There are outliers though. Is Giovinco trending upwards? His stats over last four years: 2015 -- age 28, 34 app, 22 goals, 13 assists 2016 -- age 29, 34 app, 21 goals, 16 assists 2017 -- age 30, 29 app, 17 goals, 7 assists 2018 -- age 31, 28 app, 13 goals, 7 assists His appearances, goals and assists figure has dropped each of the last two seasons. Doesn't seem to be out of line with statistical norms. If his production drops the same percentage this year as it did between 2017 and 2018 he would end up with between 9 and 10 goals in 2019. That's a quality MLS forward, but not a DP and certainly not a $10m a year DP. Of course it's also 10 goals TFC is going to need to replace. That's the other side of this move and one that can't be evaluated until it happens. But, by making the move today they have the DP space and money to start that process in the summer, which is generally when MLS teams make their big moves. View full record
  5. One of the first things they team you in Journalism School is that you should never put a date in your lead. The first paragraph of any story needs to grab the attention of the reader and no one gets excited by a date. That might explain why the Canadian Premier League didn’t lead off its press conference yesterday with the date of its first ever game. Instead, they started by explaining how Volkswagen Canada was the league’s first major corporate partner. More on that in a minute, but to most fans they buried the lead. April 27, 2019 at 1pm in Hamilton, Ontario. The 905 Derby (ugh, really. You have a team of marketers and that’s what you came up with. What is it with this region and its obsession with area codes?). The only problem with this – if you view it as a problem – is that the game is at a time that will make it impossible for fans to go to both that game and Toronto FC’s match with Portland at 3pm. A few celebrate this “shot across the bow” of the CanPL against the established team. It shows intent and a failure to be fearful of Big Bad TFC. Far more people were puzzled. Why would you cut out thousands of potential fans be making it impossible to do both games that weekend? In time, Hamilton and York will have a solid core of fans that live and die with the team. A tiny, tiny, tiny amount do now. Until that changes it is absolutely vital that CanPL teams seek out fans that are also fans of MLS teams in Canada. This move eliminates the possibility of the curious taking a flyer on the CanPL game as well as the MLS game. It was preventable and it was a mistake to schedule the game in such a way. I argued this strongly on Twitter yesterday. Roughly 95% of the people who interacted with the Tweet agreed. Twitter is hardly a scientific tool, but it also isn’t without influence. It wasn’t long until the insiders were slipping into my messages to tell me that another announcement was coming soon that would make it all make sense. The implication was that this was a TV decision and that it was done to maximize the viewership there. After hammering back and forth with a few people today what I’ve pieced together is this: The CanPL is very close to working out a pay-to-broadcast deal with TSN. Basically, the CanPL would pay for all production and talent costs and share in advertising revenue generated during the broadcast. In exchange TSN would promote the airing of the games. No guarantees on editorial content beyond that, but SportsCentre sure does talk about the CFL a lot. Sportsnet, not so much. TSN has 100% of the CFL rights. It was even suggested that the Volkswagen deal was largely tied into the deal. Basically, the auto giant would be the title sponsor of the broadcasts. It’s not an uncommon relationship for a start up league and, on the surface, not the worst idea. They aren’t getting on TSN in a standard rights deal and streaming only will make it hard for them to get much traction beyond the hardcore audience that is only so big. But, it’s still a bad idea to schedule games so that fans in MLS markets are forced to choose between. At best, it’s just disrespectful of fans. Ignoring that there are conflicting loyalties at play is silly and if you force a long-time TFC fan from Hamilton to pick a side he’s likely staying at BMO Field. That’s doubly the case with the York market, which already mostly identifies with being from Toronto anyway. So, why? Just why? Finally, how many fans do they hope to gain by being on TV? The industry trend is moving away from cable TV to streaming only. You’re not hitting Gen Zers with this. You’re barely hitting Gen Xers at this point. And even the ones you’re hitting are probably already aware of the product. TFC struggles to draw 100,000 viewers. The CanPL will be lucky to hit 20,000 regularly. And all of them would probably watch on YouTube too. Sometimes you need to be realistic. If what is being suggested in true then CanPL would have been better ignoring conventional TV this year, putting the product on YouTube for the hardcore (and getting some local TV deals), focusing on the in-stadium experience and then revisiting the major national media when the negotiations are on more equal terms.
  6. One of the first things they team you in Journalism School is that you should never put a date in your lead. The first paragraph of any story needs to grab the attention of the reader and no one gets excited by a date. That might explain why the Canadian Premier League didn’t lead off its press conference yesterday with the date of its first ever game. Instead, they started by explaining how Volkswagen Canada was the league’s first major corporate partner. More on that in a minute, but to most fans they buried the lead. April 27, 2019 at 1pm in Hamilton, Ontario. The 905 Derby (ugh, really. You have a team of marketers and that’s what you came up with. What is it with this region and its obsession with area codes?). The only problem with this – if you view it as a problem – is that the game is at a time that will make it impossible for fans to go to both that game and Toronto FC’s match with Portland at 3pm. A few celebrate this “shot across the bow” of the CanPL against the established team. It shows intent and a failure to be fearful of Big Bad TFC. Far more people were puzzled. Why would you cut out thousands of potential fans be making it impossible to do both games that weekend? In time, Hamilton and York will have a solid core of fans that live and die with the team. A tiny, tiny, tiny amount do now. Until that changes it is absolutely vital that CanPL teams seek out fans that are also fans of MLS teams in Canada. This move eliminates the possibility of the curious taking a flyer on the CanPL game as well as the MLS game. It was preventable and it was a mistake to schedule the game in such a way. I argued this strongly on Twitter yesterday. Roughly 95% of the people who interacted with the Tweet agreed. Twitter is hardly a scientific tool, but it also isn’t without influence. It wasn’t long until the insiders were slipping into my messages to tell me that another announcement was coming soon that would make it all make sense. The implication was that this was a TV decision and that it was done to maximize the viewership there. After hammering back and forth with a few people today what I’ve pieced together is this: The CanPL is very close to working out a pay-to-broadcast deal with TSN. Basically, the CanPL would pay for all production and talent costs and share in advertising revenue generated during the broadcast. In exchange TSN would promote the airing of the games. No guarantees on editorial content beyond that, but SportsCentre sure does talk about the CFL a lot. Sportsnet, not so much. TSN has 100% of the CFL rights. It was even suggested that the Volkswagen deal was largely tied into the deal. Basically, the auto giant would be the title sponsor of the broadcasts. It’s not an uncommon relationship for a start up league and, on the surface, not the worst idea. They aren’t getting on TSN in a standard rights deal and streaming only will make it hard for them to get much traction beyond the hardcore audience that is only so big. But, it’s still a bad idea to schedule games so that fans in MLS markets are forced to choose between. At best, it’s just disrespectful of fans. Ignoring that there are conflicting loyalties at play is silly and if you force a long-time TFC fan from Hamilton to pick a side he’s likely staying at BMO Field. That’s doubly the case with the York market, which already mostly identifies with being from Toronto anyway. So, why? Just why? Finally, how many fans do they hope to gain by being on TV? The industry trend is moving away from cable TV to streaming only. You’re not hitting Gen Zers with this. You’re barely hitting Gen Xers at this point. And even the ones you’re hitting are probably already aware of the product. TFC struggles to draw 100,000 viewers. The CanPL will be lucky to hit 20,000 regularly. And all of them would probably watch on YouTube too. Sometimes you need to be realistic. If what is being suggested in true then CanPL would have been better ignoring conventional TV this year, putting the product on YouTube for the hardcore (and getting some local TV deals), focusing on the in-stadium experience and then revisiting the major national media when the negotiations are on more equal terms. View full record
  7. The Ottawa Fury appear to have lost the game of chicken that they were playing against CONCACAF and the CSA. Yesterday, the club announced that they would not be allowed to play in the US-based USL for 2019. This is despite receiving a tepid approval from the CSA in September, when they refused to become founding members of the CanPL. This leaves the Fury in a difficult position just four months out from the start of the season. However, according to multiple people working inside the game, they shouldn’t be surprised. “They knew this was possible,” one source said. “Yet, they went ahead anyway and now they are crying about being discriminated.” Another person went even further, suggesting that the Fury might have “half wanted (to be denied sanctioning).” The suggestion being that OSEG doesn’t really want to be involved in soccer anymore, but didn’t want to be the bad guy in fans’ eyes, least it hurt them with RedBlacks’ ticket sales. What happened yesterday was predicted by many. In a Sept 6 article on CSN I quoted a source suggesting that this was a distinct possibility. “Who is going to sanction them,” they said at the time “They may get a ‘pity’ sanction for 2019, but beyond that?” Another person speculated that the CSA would be reluctant to directly challenge the Fury, but would work behind closed doors to challenge the legitimacy of the club playing in a US-based league. “They won’t say anything publicly, but they are hoping CONCACAF steps in,” they said at the time. We don’t know if CONCACAF is acting on behalf of the CSA, but CONCACAF did in fact step in. The question now is what happens next. Most still believe a temporary sanctioning for 2019 will come through, but only with the understanding that this will be the final year it is permitted. Will the Fury continue with that understanding? For the sake of the fans, let’s hope so. But, relations between the CanPL and the Fury weren’t great already and, although there is no direct link between the CanPL and CONCACAF denying sanctioning, yesterday didn’t help the relationship improve. Beyond the Fury, yesterday’s decision could have a trickle down impact on Canadian soccer. If CONCACAF is to enforce the policy evenly, you would have to think that USL-2 teams (formerly PDL) will be the next to be targeted. The rule being referenced in the Fury’s case states that no team is allowed to play in a league outside its country if a league of the same standard is available in their country. Clearly, CONCACAF has concluded that CanPL is equal to USL. But, is League1 Ontario and the PLSQ the same as USL2? It’s long been the desire of the CSA to stop teams at the D3 level from playing out of country in the hope that the provinces would step up and start D3 leagues. So far only two have, which has allowed several D3 teams to ignore that desire and play in the US. With the CanPL buying L1O, there is speculation that the plan is to bring that model to all parts of the country. When that happens, you would expect that the existing D3 teams be asked to return to Canada. Anyone operating a D3 team now would be wise to plan ahead with this in mind. Which brings us to the MLS teams. Many fans will not accept the rational that they should be exempt from this. In the interest of “fairness” it will be argued that they too should be forced to join CanPL. It won’t happen, but it will create some bad optics for the CSA. The reason it won’t happen now is because it’s clear that forcing TFC, IMFC and VWFC out of MLS would be negative for player development and soccer culture in the country. That would be counter to the entire purpose of creating the CanPL. Although many USL fans strongly disagree, that league is not viewed as having a net benefit to the country and thus is fair game here. Will this eventually change? Is there a scenario where the three MLS teams are required to enter the CanPL. Yes. And possibly sooner than most believe. (That is if one or more of the Canadian MLS teams isn’t part of a bigger league by then – a league that is launched as part of the United 2026 bid and is designed to disrupt the established order of world football. But, that’s a topic for another day).
  8. The Ottawa Fury appear to have lost the game of chicken that they were playing against CONCACAF and the CSA. Yesterday, the club announced that they would not be allowed to play in the US-based USL for 2019. This is despite receiving a tepid approval from the CSA in September, when they refused to become founding members of the CanPL. This leaves the Fury in a difficult position just four months out from the start of the season. However, according to multiple people working inside the game, they shouldn’t be surprised. “They knew this was possible,” one source said. “Yet, they went ahead anyway and now they are crying about being discriminated.” Another person went even further, suggesting that the Fury might have “half wanted (to be denied sanctioning).” The suggestion being that OSEG doesn’t really want to be involved in soccer anymore, but didn’t want to be the bad guy in fans’ eyes, least it hurt them with RedBlacks’ ticket sales. What happened yesterday was predicted by many. In a Sept 6 article on CSN I quoted a source suggesting that this was a distinct possibility. “Who is going to sanction them,” they said at the time “They may get a ‘pity’ sanction for 2019, but beyond that?” Another person speculated that the CSA would be reluctant to directly challenge the Fury, but would work behind closed doors to challenge the legitimacy of the club playing in a US-based league. “They won’t say anything publicly, but they are hoping CONCACAF steps in,” they said at the time. We don’t know if CONCACAF is acting on behalf of the CSA, but CONCACAF did in fact step in. The question now is what happens next. Most still believe a temporary sanctioning for 2019 will come through, but only with the understanding that this will be the final year it is permitted. Will the Fury continue with that understanding? For the sake of the fans, let’s hope so. But, relations between the CanPL and the Fury weren’t great already and, although there is no direct link between the CanPL and CONCACAF denying sanctioning, yesterday didn’t help the relationship improve. Beyond the Fury, yesterday’s decision could have a trickle down impact on Canadian soccer. If CONCACAF is to enforce the policy evenly, you would have to think that USL-2 teams (formerly PDL) will be the next to be targeted. The rule being referenced in the Fury’s case states that no team is allowed to play in a league outside its country if a league of the same standard is available in their country. Clearly, CONCACAF has concluded that CanPL is equal to USL. But, is League1 Ontario and the PLSQ the same as USL2? It’s long been the desire of the CSA to stop teams at the D3 level from playing out of country in the hope that the provinces would step up and start D3 leagues. So far only two have, which has allowed several D3 teams to ignore that desire and play in the US. With the CanPL buying L1O, there is speculation that the plan is to bring that model to all parts of the country. When that happens, you would expect that the existing D3 teams be asked to return to Canada. Anyone operating a D3 team now would be wise to plan ahead with this in mind. Which brings us to the MLS teams. Many fans will not accept the rational that they should be exempt from this. In the interest of “fairness” it will be argued that they too should be forced to join CanPL. It won’t happen, but it will create some bad optics for the CSA. The reason it won’t happen now is because it’s clear that forcing TFC, IMFC and VWFC out of MLS would be negative for player development and soccer culture in the country. That would be counter to the entire purpose of creating the CanPL. Although many USL fans strongly disagree, that league is not viewed as having a net benefit to the country and thus is fair game here. Will this eventually change? Is there a scenario where the three MLS teams are required to enter the CanPL. Yes. And possibly sooner than most believe. (That is if one or more of the Canadian MLS teams isn’t part of a bigger league by then – a league that is launched as part of the United 2026 bid and is designed to disrupt the established order of world football. But, that’s a topic for another day). View full record
  9. Toronto FC lost the game, but won the battle last night in Monterrey. Despite losing 3-2 on the night, the Reds advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals for the second time in its history, drawing 4-4 and advancing on the away goals rule. For a more analytic/tactical breakdown of the game, you can listen to the Sober Second Thoughts podcast, which was recorded minutes after the final whistle, or to Kevin Laramee and my thoughts on today's SoccerToday. But, this article is going to attempt to put the game and tie in perspective. Where does it rank in terms of TFC's greatest nights? In this week's The Big List we rank to top 17* TFC results: (*The Big List doesn't restrict itself to 10...) No 17 - July 27, 2013 -- Weids in the rain -- Toronto 2, Columbus 1 The game didn't mean anything. At all. Unless you were there and stuck it out in the rain. When Andrew Wiedeman, the greatest finisher of the modern era, slid that goal in to end the misery of a 12 game winless streak in MLS and an oh-for-life streak against the Crew...man, it was the medicine many of us needed in that otherwise terrible 2013 season. No 16 -- March 28, 2012 -- The Rumble at BMO -- Toronto FC 1, Santos Laguna 1 It was only the first leg and they didn't even win, but this was a game that had everything -- JDG's best game as a Red, a villain in Herc Gomez, false hope and, of course, a brawl at the final whistle. Maybe the funnest game ever played at BMO Field. No 15 -- Oct. 20, 2007 - PITCH INVASION! - Toronto 2, New England 2 2007 was special. For many of us it's remembered as fondly as a first summer love -- it wasn't perfect and there were as many lows as highs, but the highs were so amazing. And it ended on a magical fall day when a club hero scored a stoppage time goal to cap off a two goal come back draw and a love affair that remains to this day. And a pitch invasion for a draw! No 14 -- March 14, 2012 -- The worst champions in the world -- Toronto 2, Galaxy 1 Everyone remembers the Dome game -- and understandably so, it was the game that probably kept TFC relevant in the market through a lot of bad years -- but they didn't win the tie with the 2-2 home draw. They did that -- unexpectedly -- in LA a week later. No 13 -- July 11, 2012 - Tassels Revenge -- Toronto 3, Vancouver 2 Another game that meant nothing much in he grad scheme of things, but man was it fun. A virtual Greek tragedy, it looked like TFC had blown it again when Darren Mattocks jumped over the CN Tower to score a stoppage goal equalizer. But then Terry Dunfield -- known lovingly as Tassels by many TFC fans -- ensured he'd never have to buy a drink in Toronto a gain with one of the most fondly remembered game winners of all time. No 12 -- March 13, 2018 -- Wait, we won? -- Toronto 2, Tigres 3 Yesterday's game was an epic, no doubt, that featured an all world free kick, bizarre own goal and one very CONCACAF penalty call. Ultimately the collective 4-4 aggregate series would probably rank in the top 5 all-time, but in isolation this game falls outside top 10 because they did ultimately lose it. No 11 -- June 29, 2016 -- Poor, poor Vancouver -- Toronto 1, Whitecaps 2 Will Johnson broke his leg while scoring a goal that won the Voyageurs Cup (on away goals) over snakebitten Vancouver on the last kick of the game. It was the start of a magically 18 month run of winning for TFC. No 10 -- Oct 14, 2015 -- PLAYOFFS! YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS?! -- Toronto 2, Red Bulls 1 After nine frustrating, infuriating, bizarre and impossibly bad seasons TFC clinched its first playoff appearance. Good thing nothing else was happening in Toronto sports that night. No 9 -- October 18, 2011 -- Where did that come from??? -- Toronto 3, Dallas 0 Completely out of nowhere a truly terrible TFC team that was having an awful season went to Dallas -- a stadium they never win in -- and smoked FC Dallas 3-0 to advance the CCL quarterfinals. Those CCL runs were what kept interest in the team alive through the dark years. This win is underappreciated in TFC history. No 8 -- Nov 22, 2016 -- Gagner la Bataille; Perdre la Guerre -- Toronto 2, Montreal 3 The Montreal Impact had scored six straight playoff goals against Toronto. 50,000 Montreal fans were having a laugh at the clowns. Then Michael Bradley decided that enough was enough and the dark clouds faded away. The Impact have feared clowns ever since. No 7 -- May 12, 2007 -- The 24th Minute -- Toronto 3, Chicago 1 The team's first goal, first win and first cult hero born all on the same day. No 6 -- June 27, 2017 -- The forgotten trophy -- Toronto 2, Montreal 1 Lost in the excitement of TFC winning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield last year was the V-Cup win, which arguably was the most exciting game of the season. The stadium was as loud when Giovinco scored the late winner than at any time in the playoffs. No 5. -- Nov 29, 2017 -- When Toronto Needed a Hero -- Toronto 1, Columbus 0 Maybe Luke Wilman's greatest call of his career -- "When Toronto FC needed a hero, Jozy Altidore delivers." Also, you can't win the MLS Cup if you don't make it there. No 4 -- June 18, 2009 -- The Miracle in Montreal -- Toronto 6, Montreal 1 The undisputed No 1 on the list for most of TFC's history, the day TFC needed to score five goals to win and did (while adding another for good measure) will forever remain part of the club's lore. Also, TFC's first trophy was won that night. No 3 -- March 6, 2018 -- To be the best you've gotta beat the best -- Toronto 2, Tigres 1 The first leg win -- and especially the way it happened, coming from behind and with a local player scoring the winner -- is going to be high on this list forever. It was the best team TFC has ever beaten and one of the best night's in BMO Field's history. No 2 -- Nov 30, 2017 -- &^$&#&$!!11!1!! -- Toronto 5, Montreal 2 Without a doubt the most exciting, emotionally draining, insane night that any of us will likely ever experience at BMO Field. The memories of that night will last a lifetime. But, it can't be No 1 because... No 1 -- Dec 9, 2017 -- Campioni! -- Toronto 2, Seattle 0 Let's not be cute. It's going to be hard to ever displace this one from top spot.
  10. Toronto FC lost the game, but won the battle last night in Monterrey. Despite losing 3-2 on the night, the Reds advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals for the second time in its history, drawing 4-4 and advancing on the away goals rule. For a more analytic/tactical breakdown of the game, you can listen to the Sober Second Thoughts podcast, which was recorded minutes after the final whistle, or to Kevin Laramee and my thoughts on today's SoccerToday. But, this article is going to attempt to put the game and tie in perspective. Where does it rank in terms of TFC's greatest nights? In this week's The Big List we rank to top 17* TFC results: (*The Big List doesn't restrict itself to 10...) No 17 - July 27, 2013 -- Weids in the rain -- Toronto 2, Columbus 1 The game didn't mean anything. At all. Unless you were there and stuck it out in the rain. When Andrew Wiedeman, the greatest finisher of the modern era, slid that goal in to end the misery of a 12 game winless streak in MLS and an oh-for-life streak against the Crew...man, it was the medicine many of us needed in that otherwise terrible 2013 season. No 16 -- March 28, 2012 -- The Rumble at BMO -- Toronto FC 1, Santos Laguna 1 It was only the first leg and they didn't even win, but this was a game that had everything -- JDG's best game as a Red, a villain in Herc Gomez, false hope and, of course, a brawl at the final whistle. Maybe the funnest game ever played at BMO Field. No 15 -- Oct. 20, 2007 - PITCH INVASION! - Toronto 2, New England 2 2007 was special. For many of us it's remembered as fondly as a first summer love -- it wasn't perfect and there were as many lows as highs, but the highs were so amazing. And it ended on a magical fall day when a club hero scored a stoppage time goal to cap off a two goal come back draw and a love affair that remains to this day. And a pitch invasion for a draw! No 14 -- March 14, 2012 -- The worst champions in the world -- Toronto 2, Galaxy 1 Everyone remembers the Dome game -- and understandably so, it was the game that probably kept TFC relevant in the market through a lot of bad years -- but they didn't win the tie with the 2-2 home draw. They did that -- unexpectedly -- in LA a week later. No 13 -- July 11, 2012 - Tassels Revenge -- Toronto 3, Vancouver 2 Another game that meant nothing much in he grad scheme of things, but man was it fun. A virtual Greek tragedy, it looked like TFC had blown it again when Darren Mattocks jumped over the CN Tower to score a stoppage goal equalizer. But then Terry Dunfield -- known lovingly as Tassels by many TFC fans -- ensured he'd never have to buy a drink in Toronto a gain with one of the most fondly remembered game winners of all time. No 12 -- March 13, 2018 -- Wait, we won? -- Toronto 2, Tigres 3 Yesterday's game was an epic, no doubt, that featured an all world free kick, bizarre own goal and one very CONCACAF penalty call. Ultimately the collective 4-4 aggregate series would probably rank in the top 5 all-time, but in isolation this game falls outside top 10 because they did ultimately lose it. No 11 -- June 29, 2016 -- Poor, poor Vancouver -- Toronto 1, Whitecaps 2 Will Johnson broke his leg while scoring a goal that won the Voyageurs Cup (on away goals) over snakebitten Vancouver on the last kick of the game. It was the start of a magically 18 month run of winning for TFC. No 10 -- Oct 14, 2015 -- PLAYOFFS! YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS?! -- Toronto 2, Red Bulls 1 After nine frustrating, infuriating, bizarre and impossibly bad seasons TFC clinched its first playoff appearance. Good thing nothing else was happening in Toronto sports that night. No 9 -- October 18, 2011 -- Where did that come from??? -- Toronto 3, Dallas 0 Completely out of nowhere a truly terrible TFC team that was having an awful season went to Dallas -- a stadium they never win in -- and smoked FC Dallas 3-0 to advance the CCL quarterfinals. Those CCL runs were what kept interest in the team alive through the dark years. This win is underappreciated in TFC history. No 8 -- Nov 22, 2016 -- Gagner la Bataille; Perdre la Guerre -- Toronto 2, Montreal 3 The Montreal Impact had scored six straight playoff goals against Toronto. 50,000 Montreal fans were having a laugh at the clowns. Then Michael Bradley decided that enough was enough and the dark clouds faded away. The Impact have feared clowns ever since. No 7 -- May 12, 2007 -- The 24th Minute -- Toronto 3, Chicago 1 The team's first goal, first win and first cult hero born all on the same day. No 6 -- June 27, 2017 -- The forgotten trophy -- Toronto 2, Montreal 1 Lost in the excitement of TFC winning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield last year was the V-Cup win, which arguably was the most exciting game of the season. The stadium was as loud when Giovinco scored the late winner than at any time in the playoffs. No 5. -- Nov 29, 2017 -- When Toronto Needed a Hero -- Toronto 1, Columbus 0 Maybe Luke Wilman's greatest call of his career -- "When Toronto FC needed a hero, Jozy Altidore delivers." Also, you can't win the MLS Cup if you don't make it there. No 4 -- June 18, 2009 -- The Miracle in Montreal -- Toronto 6, Montreal 1 The undisputed No 1 on the list for most of TFC's history, the day TFC needed to score five goals to win and did (while adding another for good measure) will forever remain part of the club's lore. Also, TFC's first trophy was won that night. No 3 -- March 6, 2018 -- To be the best you've gotta beat the best -- Toronto 2, Tigres 1 The first leg win -- and especially the way it happened, coming from behind and with a local player scoring the winner -- is going to be high on this list forever. It was the best team TFC has ever beaten and one of the best night's in BMO Field's history. No 2 -- Nov 30, 2017 -- &^$&#&$!!11!1!! -- Toronto 5, Montreal 2 Without a doubt the most exciting, emotionally draining, insane night that any of us will likely ever experience at BMO Field. The memories of that night will last a lifetime. But, it can't be No 1 because... No 1 -- Dec 9, 2017 -- Campioni! -- Toronto 2, Seattle 0 Let's not be cute. It's going to be hard to ever displace this one from top spot. View full record
  11. It's funny that both sides of this derby can't even agree on what to name it. I feel the 401 derby is a terrible name, especially considering there's no 401 highway here. What should it be called? My vote is on The Canadian Classic or Le Classique Canadien, since it translates well to both languages. Though, I have seen some Whitecaps fans get pretty butt-hurt about the name. (I'm not sure if there's a thread debating this yet or not, I couldn't find one.)
  12. We are living in the time of selfishness. It’s been moving that way since about 1980, so this isn’t a new thing, but in 2017 the I-don’t-give-a-****-about-what-you-think/want/feel attitude has gained widespread acceptance and power. Selfishness is so prevalent that simply labeling it as such is going to get you accused of being political and shouted down by those who view empathy as a weakness. This could easily be the opening paragraph about any number of politically charged debates that are currently raging the world over, but instead we’re going to take the advice of the sports-loving snowflakes of the world and actually Stick To Sports here. Specifically, the story of the Columbus Crew potentially moving to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season. There are many ways to take this story – we could talk about the business struggles in Columbus, or the history of the club, the potential of Austin as a market, or, even, about the ramifications of this potential move on the current MLS expansion process. All would be potentially interesting conversations, and conversations that will probably happen if this move does go ahead. But, they would miss the core factor that underlines everything here. Selfishness. This is about a selfish owner in a selfish league trying to move a team to a selfish city with selfish fans only too happy to hurt others (in this case Crew fans) so long as it fulfils their needs. It’s telling that so many people just blindly accept this as being OK. Even if an individual has rejected the culture of selfishness on an individual level, most still accept that that’s just how the world works. No sense fighting it, right? In the past, I have talked about the idea of a Social Contract and how it relates to professional sports. Very simply put, fans enter into a Social Contract with the teams they support to place value on something (the results of said team) that logically has no intrinsic value. I’ll never forget the feeling of confusion and understanding that came over me as a young person back in 1992 when my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. As I was putting my jacket on to go join the celebration outside it occurred to me that I shouldn’t stay out too late as I had an exam the next day that I had yet to study for. “Damn,” I thought, “the Jays won and it really didn’t change my life. I still have to get up in the morning and slug my way through it.” Despite that realization, I still hit the streets (and my ceiling, literally) the next season when Joltin’ Joe touched ‘em all. I was right back there caring because I chose to care – I chose to make myself part of a larger community of like-minded people united behind a case that had no real impact on their lives beyond the emotional release they chose to give it. This is where sports differs from other businesses and what those who subscribe to the culture of selfishness fail to understand about sports. When they strip a sports team down to its most basic business element they expose it to public for what it is – a frivolous, meaningless exercise that no logical person should care about. Eventually everyone – even sports fans – has a limit on how far they suspend reality. Eventually, we’ll stop caring as it becomes clearer that the teams/owners/players don’t. Eventually, we’ll get selfish too and pull our support.
  13. We are living in the time of selfishness. It’s been moving that way since about 1980, so this isn’t a new thing, but in 2017 the I-don’t-give-a-****-about-what-you-think/want/feel attitude has gained widespread acceptance and power. Selfishness is so prevalent that simply labeling it as such is going to get you accused of being political and shouted down by those who view empathy as a weakness. This could easily be the opening paragraph about any number of politically charged debates that are currently raging the world over, but instead we’re going to take the advice of the sports-loving snowflakes of the world and actually Stick To Sports here. Specifically, the story of the Columbus Crew potentially moving to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season. There are many ways to take this story – we could talk about the business struggles in Columbus, or the history of the club, the potential of Austin as a market, or, even, about the ramifications of this potential move on the current MLS expansion process. All would be potentially interesting conversations, and conversations that will probably happen if this move does go ahead. But, they would miss the core factor that underlines everything here. Selfishness. This is about a selfish owner in a selfish league trying to move a team to a selfish city with selfish fans only too happy to hurt others (in this case Crew fans) so long as it fulfils their needs. It’s telling that so many people just blindly accept this as being OK. Even if an individual has rejected the culture of selfishness on an individual level, most still accept that that’s just how the world works. No sense fighting it, right? In the past, I have talked about the idea of a Social Contract and how it relates to professional sports. Very simply put, fans enter into a Social Contract with the teams they support to place value on something (the results of said team) that logically has no intrinsic value. I’ll never forget the feeling of confusion and understanding that came over me as a young person back in 1992 when my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. As I was putting my jacket on to go join the celebration outside it occurred to me that I shouldn’t stay out too late as I had an exam the next day that I had yet to study for. “Damn,” I thought, “the Jays won and it really didn’t change my life. I still have to get up in the morning and slug my way through it.” Despite that realization, I still hit the streets (and my ceiling, literally) the next season when Joltin’ Joe touched ‘em all. I was right back there caring because I chose to care – I chose to make myself part of a larger community of like-minded people united behind a case that had no real impact on their lives beyond the emotional release they chose to give it. This is where sports differs from other businesses and what those who subscribe to the culture of selfishness fail to understand about sports. When they strip a sports team down to its most basic business element they expose it to public for what it is – a frivolous, meaningless exercise that no logical person should care about. Eventually everyone – even sports fans – has a limit on how far they suspend reality. Eventually, we’ll stop caring as it becomes clearer that the teams/owners/players don’t. Eventually, we’ll get selfish too and pull our support. View full record
  14. It didn’t take long for the anti-MLS forces on Social Media to sharpen their knives following the United States failure to qualify for Russia 2018. In fairness, it doesn’t take much for those knives to get sharpened by that bunch, as MLS is seen as an enemy to the game by those with short memories. This is not to suggest that MLS is perfect, but the idea that the league – a league that is commanding massive expansion fees across the USA and exposing the joys of following club soccer week in and week out to hundreds of thousands of new Americans every day—is the reason the US failed to qualify is, to be diplomatic, simplistic. To be less diplomatic, it’s absurd. A few key points: First, and this is key, IT’S NOT THE JOB OF A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE TO BUILD A NATIONAL TEAM. It’s the job of a professional team to grow professional soccer culture in its markets (the clubs) and to entertain its customers (its fans). By doing that it can help national teams, but it cannot be its primary focus. Second, if MLS is the problem how do you wrap your head around idea that MLS players played significant roles for countries that did qualify. Hell, Roman Torres and Alberth Elis scored the goals that sent their country’s to the World Cup. If you’re willing to look beyond the moment, you’ll also see that MLS has helped drive an increase in the American talent pool, which, in turn, has allowed the US to go to seven straight World Cups. Third, there is no evidence that the structure of the league – i.e. the lack of promotion and relegation – has anything to do with anything. The argument that not having the threat of relegation somehow makes players soft ignores how few players on relegation teams play significant roles on more successful national teams. In fact, what would likely happen is that players would become less likely to commit to international football if they were consistently needing to fight to keep their team up. Fans romanticise the idea that players are going to prioritize playing for the flag, but the reality is fans aren’t paying the player’s mortgages. The clubs they play for are and those clubs are – and should be – the player’s No 1 concern. This is an idea that Canadian readers will be familiar with as it’s something players here have long battled with. As said above, this is not to say that MLS can’t make some changes – changes that could benefit the league, as well as, indirectly, the national teams. The one area that the MLS-bashers may have a point on is the lack of competition that currently exists for playing time among the national team players. There is also an argument to be made about MLS coaches not giving young domestic players an opportunity to break through into the first team. The solution to these issues might be counterintuitive and, on the surface, contradicting. There is no doubt that older, American players are a premium in MLS. Because of international roster restrictions, an American (or Canadian in Canada) that can do a job is incredibly value. That leads to them likely being overvalued in salary and, in turn, more likely to get playing time. So, get rid of international restrictions altogether. By removing the artificial restraints you will force domestic players to step up their game and earn their spot. That would address the complacency complaint that anti-MLS voices have. As an aside, it would also address Canadians complaints about the domestic status of Canadian players on American teams. The law MLS cites when it refuses to acknowledge Canadians as domestics league-wide only requires that all internationals be treated equally. Eliminating international restrictions accomplishes that. Such a measure would likely cost a few domestic players their jobs, but the majority of roster spots would remain American (and maybe a more reasonable amount would become Canadian). It’s just easier and a better fit for domestic players to play domestically the world over. Now, it’s more likely MLS goes the other way and becomes more protectionist, but that would be a mistake. The issue of getting more chances for younger players is difficult without getting into quotas again. As outlined above, quotas could have a detrimental impact on development, so MLS would need to think long and hard before taking that step. The solution here could be cap relief. Since the salary cap isn’t going anywhere, why not make any academy produced player cap exempt for the duration of his contract? Yes, that would potentially give an advantage to clubs with big academies, but there comes a point where protecting parity becomes, well, parody. If Salt Lake City can have one of the best academies in MLS, which it does, there is no excuse for any club that doesn’t follow suit. Incentivy them to make it so. Make no mistake, MLS is largely a strawman in this discussion. But, there are a few small things that could be done that would benefit both the league and the national teams attached to the league.
  15. It didn’t take long for the anti-MLS forces on Social Media to sharpen their knives following the United States failure to qualify for Russia 2018. In fairness, it doesn’t take much for those knives to get sharpened by that bunch, as MLS is seen as an enemy to the game by those with short memories. This is not to suggest that MLS is perfect, but the idea that the league – a league that is commanding massive expansion fees across the USA and exposing the joys of following club soccer week in and week out to hundreds of thousands of new Americans every day—is the reason the US failed to qualify is, to be diplomatic, simplistic. To be less diplomatic, it’s absurd. A few key points: First, and this is key, IT’S NOT THE JOB OF A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE TO BUILD A NATIONAL TEAM. It’s the job of a professional team to grow professional soccer culture in its markets (the clubs) and to entertain its customers (its fans). By doing that it can help national teams, but it cannot be its primary focus. Second, if MLS is the problem how do you wrap your head around idea that MLS players played significant roles for countries that did qualify. Hell, Roman Torres and Alberth Elis scored the goals that sent their country’s to the World Cup. If you’re willing to look beyond the moment, you’ll also see that MLS has helped drive an increase in the American talent pool, which, in turn, has allowed the US to go to seven straight World Cups. Third, there is no evidence that the structure of the league – i.e. the lack of promotion and relegation – has anything to do with anything. The argument that not having the threat of relegation somehow makes players soft ignores how few players on relegation teams play significant roles on more successful national teams. In fact, what would likely happen is that players would become less likely to commit to international football if they were consistently needing to fight to keep their team up. Fans romanticise the idea that players are going to prioritize playing for the flag, but the reality is fans aren’t paying the player’s mortgages. The clubs they play for are and those clubs are – and should be – the player’s No 1 concern. This is an idea that Canadian readers will be familiar with as it’s something players here have long battled with. As said above, this is not to say that MLS can’t make some changes – changes that could benefit the league, as well as, indirectly, the national teams. The one area that the MLS-bashers may have a point on is the lack of competition that currently exists for playing time among the national team players. There is also an argument to be made about MLS coaches not giving young domestic players an opportunity to break through into the first team. The solution to these issues might be counterintuitive and, on the surface, contradicting. There is no doubt that older, American players are a premium in MLS. Because of international roster restrictions, an American (or Canadian in Canada) that can do a job is incredibly value. That leads to them likely being overvalued in salary and, in turn, more likely to get playing time. So, get rid of international restrictions altogether. By removing the artificial restraints you will force domestic players to step up their game and earn their spot. That would address the complacency complaint that anti-MLS voices have. As an aside, it would also address Canadians complaints about the domestic status of Canadian players on American teams. The law MLS cites when it refuses to acknowledge Canadians as domestics league-wide only requires that all internationals be treated equally. Eliminating international restrictions accomplishes that. Such a measure would likely cost a few domestic players their jobs, but the majority of roster spots would remain American (and maybe a more reasonable amount would become Canadian). It’s just easier and a better fit for domestic players to play domestically the world over. Now, it’s more likely MLS goes the other way and becomes more protectionist, but that would be a mistake. The issue of getting more chances for younger players is difficult without getting into quotas again. As outlined above, quotas could have a detrimental impact on development, so MLS would need to think long and hard before taking that step. The solution here could be cap relief. Since the salary cap isn’t going anywhere, why not make any academy produced player cap exempt for the duration of his contract? Yes, that would potentially give an advantage to clubs with big academies, but there comes a point where protecting parity becomes, well, parody. If Salt Lake City can have one of the best academies in MLS, which it does, there is no excuse for any club that doesn’t follow suit. Incentivy them to make it so. Make no mistake, MLS is largely a strawman in this discussion. But, there are a few small things that could be done that would benefit both the league and the national teams attached to the league. View full record
  16. Look at the photo above. That’s Estadio Merkatondoa, home of Club Deportivo Izarra of the Segunda División B. That’s the third tier of Spanish football. Located in the Basque region of Spain you can never accuse it of not being beautiful. It’s incredibly charming, actually. I’d love to play in that stadium. It would be appropriate for me to play in that stadium, as there are only 3,500 seats. It’s in every way a small, community-like stadium, like you find everywhere. In this particular case it also plays host to a third tier professional team. The third tier professional team that Samuel Piette most recently played for. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course. The third tier of Spanish professional soccer is about 60 times better than the level than likely everyone reading this played at. Well, unless someone from the Montreal Impact is reading. The Impact, of course, represent Piette’s new team, having inked him to a deal earlier this week. It was the worst kept secret in MLS for a couple days as Piette’s 6,000 relatives in the Montreal area were telling anyone that wanted to listen. Montreal fans badly wanted this signing to happen. The link started just after Piette played for the national team in Montreal in early June and intensified as the summer grew as long as the Impact playoff hopes. Let’s take a step back for a moment. What I’m about to write in no way should be interpreted as me wishing Piette failure. Nor, is it meant to suggest that I don’t think Piette has talent. I, like many, am impressed with the player’s improvement over the last year or so and think a move to MLS is very good for his career. However, I do have concerns. As suggested off the top, Piette was not playing at MLS level before the move. The third tier of Spanish soccer is, despite the screaming of MLS haters, not at the same level of the Montreal Impact. Thus, why I’m happy for Piette. He’s making a move up. Awesome for him and awesome for the Canadian national team. But…this is not a normal signing in that if Piette wasn’t a Montreal native it would have either flown under the radar or actually been criticised. If I was being cynical, I’d suggest that the Impact are caving to fan pressure to sign the local kid to distract from what is turning out to be a terrible season. Kind of like when TFC signed Julian de Guzman all those years ago. Now, JDG was playing at a higher level than MLS at the time, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but the element of local kid comes home to play for struggling team is the same. As is the fact that Piette isn’t a goal scorer. Many, many Impact fans are sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtleness of a destroyer’s game – comparing him to Donadel, as the Impact have, will help that. But, fans will always fan and some are going to want offensive production from a signing that got as much attention as Piette did. It’s worth a reminder that Piette is just 22. He’s improved, but he’s still going to need to earn his time at MLS. Hopefully, the Impact made this signing with his best interests in mind and they have a plan to bring him up to speed. Even more hopefully, he is already ready to make an immediate (sorry) impact for the Impact.
  17. Look at the photo above. That’s Estadio Merkatondoa, home of Club Deportivo Izarra of the Segunda División B. That’s the third tier of Spanish football. Located in the Basque region of Spain you can never accuse it of not being beautiful. It’s incredibly charming, actually. I’d love to play in that stadium. It would be appropriate for me to play in that stadium, as there are only 3,500 seats. It’s in every way a small, community-like stadium, like you find everywhere. In this particular case it also plays host to a third tier professional team. The third tier professional team that Samuel Piette most recently played for. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course. The third tier of Spanish professional soccer is about 60 times better than the level than likely everyone reading this played at. Well, unless someone from the Montreal Impact is reading. The Impact, of course, represent Piette’s new team, having inked him to a deal earlier this week. It was the worst kept secret in MLS for a couple days as Piette’s 6,000 relatives in the Montreal area were telling anyone that wanted to listen. Montreal fans badly wanted this signing to happen. The link started just after Piette played for the national team in Montreal in early June and intensified as the summer grew as long as the Impact playoff hopes. Let’s take a step back for a moment. What I’m about to write in no way should be interpreted as me wishing Piette failure. Nor, is it meant to suggest that I don’t think Piette has talent. I, like many, am impressed with the player’s improvement over the last year or so and think a move to MLS is very good for his career. However, I do have concerns. As suggested off the top, Piette was not playing at MLS level before the move. The third tier of Spanish soccer is, despite the screaming of MLS haters, not at the same level of the Montreal Impact. Thus, why I’m happy for Piette. He’s making a move up. Awesome for him and awesome for the Canadian national team. But…this is not a normal signing in that if Piette wasn’t a Montreal native it would have either flown under the radar or actually been criticised. If I was being cynical, I’d suggest that the Impact are caving to fan pressure to sign the local kid to distract from what is turning out to be a terrible season. Kind of like when TFC signed Julian de Guzman all those years ago. Now, JDG was playing at a higher level than MLS at the time, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but the element of local kid comes home to play for struggling team is the same. As is the fact that Piette isn’t a goal scorer. Many, many Impact fans are sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtleness of a destroyer’s game – comparing him to Donadel, as the Impact have, will help that. But, fans will always fan and some are going to want offensive production from a signing that got as much attention as Piette did. It’s worth a reminder that Piette is just 22. He’s improved, but he’s still going to need to earn his time at MLS. Hopefully, the Impact made this signing with his best interests in mind and they have a plan to bring him up to speed. Even more hopefully, he is already ready to make an immediate (sorry) impact for the Impact. View full record
  18. Stephen Appiah was 14 years and 322 days old when he made his senior debut for Ghana. He is the 8th youngest player to play a full international and the youngest to have played for a country that has qualified for a senior World Cup. Although Appiah was never really a global superstar, his was a career that nearly any player would have been proud of. He had 67 senior caps for Ghana, scoring 14 goals. He won a FIFA u17 World Cup, was an Olympian and played in several AFCON tournaments. On the club side, he managed to find the field for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Juventus, where he made 10 Champions League appearances. I can’t say that I remember what kind of hype Appiah had back on Nov 11, 1995 when he made his debut, but I suspect there was a lot of excitement about him. You don’t play a kid who isn’t even 15 yet unless you think he has immense talent and potential. However, I know this: If that debut had taken place even 10 years later we all would remember the hype. In November ’95 only geeks and the truly obsessive were using the Internet beyond checking their email and patiently waiting three hours for the pixels to reveal what that photo was going to show. In 2005, everyone was on the Internet and we had started to move into the hype first, substance last world that we currently live in. I do remember talking about the soccer poster boy for lost potential, Freddy Adu, in 2005. Let’s not pile on Freddy’s soccer grave here, but we can all agree that the hype of the mid 2000s never really panned out for him. In fact, Adu’s biggest contribution to modern North American soccer has been to become a lesson to point to when hyping up young players. “Pump the breaks, we don’t want to see ____ become another Freddy Adu,” is something you consistently hear whenever a young player breaks through. It’s something we’ve heard in relation to the 2017 Gold Cup Golden Boot and Young Player of the tournament winner, Alphonso Davies. At just 16, he continues to be protected at every turn by both the Whitecaps and the CSA. The shadow of Adu looms large, despite the fact that Adu wasn’t a product of this country, nor of the MLS academy era. There’s some good in that. You do want to manage a young player to a certain extent. At the Gold Cup, Davies’ play did fade as the tournament wore on. The quarterfinal was probably his least effective game. But, here’s the thing. For every Adu there’s an Appiah. There is no direct correlation between debuting young and failing. There’s not even a direct connection between hype and failing. So, we need to treat Davies like his own man (boy?) and let his story tell itself. As fans, we can also allow ourselves to be excited by not just Davies but by all the young players that are stepping up for Canada on both the men’s and women’s teams. Jordyn Huitema, Raheem Edwards, Deanna Rose and Davies are the future and the future, for once, looks pretty good. Be excited. Celebrate their accomplishments thus far and dream of a future with even more glory. Davies story isn’t just one that’s being noticed in Canada. You don’t win a Golden Boot at a Confederation Championship event without ears perking up around the football world. When he becomes eligible to be transferred the names that are going to be attached to him are going to make long-term Canadian fans dizzy. That’s in the near future. But, in the meantime Vancouver and Canadian fans should enjoy the remaining time we have with this kid and stop worrying about whether we’re putting too much pressure on him. Talent finds its way. In short, pump the breaks less and spread the wings more.
  19. Stephen Appiah was 14 years and 322 days old when he made his senior debut for Ghana. He is the 8th youngest player to play a full international and the youngest to have played for a country that has qualified for a senior World Cup. Although Appiah was never really a global superstar, his was a career that nearly any player would have been proud of. He had 67 senior caps for Ghana, scoring 14 goals. He won a FIFA u17 World Cup, was an Olympian and played in several AFCON tournaments. On the club side, he managed to find the field for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Juventus, where he made 10 Champions League appearances. I can’t say that I remember what kind of hype Appiah had back on Nov 11, 1995 when he made his debut, but I suspect there was a lot of excitement about him. You don’t play a kid who isn’t even 15 yet unless you think he has immense talent and potential. However, I know this: If that debut had taken place even 10 years later we all would remember the hype. In November ’95 only geeks and the truly obsessive were using the Internet beyond checking their email and patiently waiting three hours for the pixels to reveal what that photo was going to show. In 2005, everyone was on the Internet and we had started to move into the hype first, substance last world that we currently live in. I do remember talking about the soccer poster boy for lost potential, Freddy Adu, in 2005. Let’s not pile on Freddy’s soccer grave here, but we can all agree that the hype of the mid 2000s never really panned out for him. In fact, Adu’s biggest contribution to modern North American soccer has been to become a lesson to point to when hyping up young players. “Pump the breaks, we don’t want to see ____ become another Freddy Adu,” is something you consistently hear whenever a young player breaks through. It’s something we’ve heard in relation to the 2017 Gold Cup Golden Boot and Young Player of the tournament winner, Alphonso Davies. At just 16, he continues to be protected at every turn by both the Whitecaps and the CSA. The shadow of Adu looms large, despite the fact that Adu wasn’t a product of this country, nor of the MLS academy era. There’s some good in that. You do want to manage a young player to a certain extent. At the Gold Cup, Davies’ play did fade as the tournament wore on. The quarterfinal was probably his least effective game. But, here’s the thing. For every Adu there’s an Appiah. There is no direct correlation between debuting young and failing. There’s not even a direct connection between hype and failing. So, we need to treat Davies like his own man (boy?) and let his story tell itself. As fans, we can also allow ourselves to be excited by not just Davies but by all the young players that are stepping up for Canada on both the men’s and women’s teams. Jordyn Huitema, Raheem Edwards, Deanna Rose and Davies are the future and the future, for once, looks pretty good. Be excited. Celebrate their accomplishments thus far and dream of a future with even more glory. Davies story isn’t just one that’s being noticed in Canada. You don’t win a Golden Boot at a Confederation Championship event without ears perking up around the football world. When he becomes eligible to be transferred the names that are going to be attached to him are going to make long-term Canadian fans dizzy. That’s in the near future. But, in the meantime Vancouver and Canadian fans should enjoy the remaining time we have with this kid and stop worrying about whether we’re putting too much pressure on him. Talent finds its way. In short, pump the breaks less and spread the wings more. View full record
  20. Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road. Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them. After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September. As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda. At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017. I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR. For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS). Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely. There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that… But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run. Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points. This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points. Here are the results: East 1. Toronto FC 66 2. Chicago 62 3. NYCFC 59 4. Atlanta 59 5. NYRB 54 6. Columbus 49 7. Orlando 45 8. Montreal 44 9. Philly 39 10. New England 39 11. DCU 30 West 1. Dallas 61 2. SKC 54 3. Houston 53 4. Seattle 50 5. Vancouver 48 6. Portland 46 7. San Jose 43 8. RSL 38 9. Galaxy 37 10. Colorado 31 11. Minnesota 27 Plan. The. Parade. Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West. Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end. In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided. As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all.
  21. Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road. Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them. After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September. As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda. At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017. I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR. For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS). Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely. There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that… But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run. Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points. This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points. Here are the results: East 1. Toronto FC 66 2. Chicago 62 3. NYCFC 59 4. Atlanta 59 5. NYRB 54 6. Columbus 49 7. Orlando 45 8. Montreal 44 9. Philly 39 10. New England 39 11. DCU 30 West 1. Dallas 61 2. SKC 54 3. Houston 53 4. Seattle 50 5. Vancouver 48 6. Portland 46 7. San Jose 43 8. RSL 38 9. Galaxy 37 10. Colorado 31 11. Minnesota 27 Plan. The. Parade. Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West. Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end. In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided. As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all. View full record
  22. Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night. He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him. In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing. By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess. Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best. But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally. Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home. The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing. One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished. Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment.
  23. Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night. He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him. In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing. By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess. Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best. But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally. Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home. The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing. One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished. Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment. View full record
  24. So a couple of episodes back(not the last one but the one before that I believe) on footysoldiers they were talking about naming the teams and more than that sort of the club "mission statement"/"Identity" that would be the basis for each club. They mentioned "farmer johns" in regina and the regina regiment as well as privateers in halifax and how that can influence a team from the top-down so that there is always a clear purpose for how the team is going to play. Another example was the 86ers and how when they came in they said they were going to play BC guys and they were going to go for it in terms of scoring goals. I'll start off - I was thinking about Sigma Sauga - how the city is commonly understood as sort of a techhub/fortune 500 company hub and how sigma is a math symbol - this combined with seeing a tweet from the club recently where they were showing their youth players a slide show on tactics got me thinking. They could be known as precise and calculated tactically - it would go along with the Sigma thing as well as the general feel for the city. their mission statement could be something along the lines of "Our goal is to create intelligent, tactically aware players, who are capable of adapting on the fly different formations both from the opposition and from their own club, to give them a tactical advantage over the opponent - with the ultimate goal of winning, whether by defence or offence - by outsmarting the opposition". Thoughts?
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