Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Toronto

Given Toronto FC's reputation for having the best atmosphere in North American soccer, it seemed only appropriate that BMO Field should provide my first ever live MLS experience.

After all, they say you don't forget your first time.

On reflection, there was plenty to forget about the game itself, especially from a Toronto perspective, with Seattle handling the windy conditions far better and running out comfortable 2-0 winners.

But in terms of the whole soccer experience, there was not much wrong with it. Except for the Scotch egg incident.....

First up, and most importantly, the stadium was full. Despite the reported crowd trouble at the previous week's trip to Columbus Crew, the majority were in good spirits, and behaved impeccably. An alleged beer-throwing at Seattle's celebrity fan and co-owner Drew Carey was an isolated incident...

Speaking of beer, further brownie points were scored by Toronto for offering the beverage in various measures up to and including 24oz (approx two pints).


And again at the snack bar, which tempts you with a Scotch egg to accompany the giant beer. For those that don't know, a Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg, coated in sausage meat and covered in breadcrumbs.

Thankfully there was someone front of me in the queue for the snacks to help me avoid falling in to such a trap...

When he stepped up to order his 'freshly cooked' Scotch egg, he looked as excited as I felt, both for the egg but also for kick-off, which by now was fast approaching.

His excitement soon turned to disappointment, however, at what was laid in front of him. The breadcrumbed object appeared to have been dipped in oil for a second or two, then plopped on to a paper plate.

The man's disappointment looked in danger of turning to fury when he pulled the Scotch egg open to find that the meat coating of the egg was still raw. It didn't help that the snack bar assistant told him 'I think it is supposed to be like that'.

So he told her otherwise, and waited for his replacement.....only for another, uncooked abomination to be handed to him.

Now, given North America's reputation for its lawsuit culture, this seemed like an accident waiting to happen. But the man decided that he had had enough, got a slice of pizza instead, and it was time for kick-off.

Freddie Ljungberg, the Sounders' 'designated player', was booed throughout – and he no doubt thrived on this, scoring one goal and setting up the other one for Seattle.

And if Toronto FC struggled to cope with Ljungberg, they downright failed to deal with the weather conditions.

As wind swirled around BMO Field, Seattle looked to find passes on the ground. But Toronto FC opted for the high ball, and I couldn't help wondering whether it was something to do with their strong British influence.

Mo Johnston, Toronto FC's (Scottish) Director of Soccer, has never been noted for his free-flowing football. And with two Englishmen (midfielder Rohan Ricketts and striker Danny Dichio) and a Welshman (midfielder CarlRobinson) in the ranks, the British contingent in Toronto is fairly strong.

And these Brits are certainly capable of producing better. In fact, the team is pretty strong throughout, and with local star Dwayne De Rosario on board, they have a player capable of producing something special. So there is plenty of time for improvement this season.

In terms of the MLS experience (Scotch egg incdent aside) Toronto FC have a very good thing going on. And with the inclusion of Vancouver's MLS franchise from 2011, a Canadian rivalry will add further spice to Toronto's already thriving soccer culture.

3 comments:

  1. Hello Mike!

    I'd like to start simply by saying thank you! This blog is an absolute pleasure to read and I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it. We've gotten so used to being criticized by footy pundits from all over the UK that we've had to simply ignore their MLS commentary altogether. You do us a great service.

    Some personal background? I come from an Irish/Italian background so I've followed the beautiful game ever since my father introduced me to the Azzurri way back in 1982 (I'm 34 now). 300,000 Italian Canadians hit the streets to celebrate a World Cup victory that day. After that, it just became a part of who I was.

    Since then I've grown up watching every possible league you can imagine. Italian, English, German, Spanish, Scottish, Argentinean, Mexican ...the list goes on and on. I've established allegiances with a few teams through bloodlines and have tried my best to follow them religiously. My father introduced me to Roma some time ago and that just stuck immediately. On my mother's side of the family, I became tied to Everton in England. It's a long story but the short version has my aunt marrying an amazing Englishman, whose daughter, my cousin, married a lifelong Everton supporter. I started reading about Toffee legend Duncan Ferguson and from there on in I was hooked. But it wasn't until 2005, when it was announced that Toronto was getting an MLS expansion team that I'd finally be able to support a professional soccer club in my own backyard. I'm now into my third year of what I hope will be a lifelong commitment to the club with the intent of passing my seats along to the next generation.

    You wanted to know what it's like supporting TFC, so here's something I wrote a couple of years ago on just that topic (2007 - BIgSoccer.com as Lerxst):

    "Look, personally, I think it's very simple. I'm loving every minute...no...every second of this and taking it all in. Jerseys, scarves, ringtones, wallpapers, underwear, diapers, bottled water etc. If it has TFC on it I want it and I want to be around other people who feel the same way. I have to be at BMO field 2-3 hours before every game because Saturday only exists now for the sole purpose of losing my voice in support. Period. Everything else on that day is secondary. Apparently Sunday will eventually have to take on those same characteristics in a few weeks as well. Post game is reserved for celebration, regardless of outcome. A loss will obviously involve a somewhat different mindset. But I also understand that we're the new kids on the block. I can only hope that we maintain this kind of support for as long as a team such as DC United has. They've been here since the league's inception and have gained my admiration and respect in the process. Their support is unwaivering and the true measure by which all teams should be compared. My hat's off to you! I cheered for you in the CCC btw.

    For all of that and much more all I can say is thank you MLS for granting us the right to field a team in your league. So far the experience has been nothing short of spectacular. I mean, think about it. Up until now we've had to support clubs internationally through television and internet broadcasts. For the lucky few, a couple of thousand dollars and you were off to wherever to watch your favourite EPL, Serie A, or La Liga club play along with 50,000 other screaming supporters. That's all changed now. Not only can we support our international clubs, but now we have our very own professional football club right at our doorsteps; SSS included! Season tickets? Absolutely, and just like that a tradition is built. Mornings are now reserved to prep for afternoon games; opposing team' stats have to be reviewed for further insight and potential targets for abuse ; hours need to be spent on rebuttals in forums; coolers have to be filled; songs have to be sung and so much more! So much so that I could fill these pages for days.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that this league has some immensely competitive teams producing some fantastic football right in our very own backyards. It's something that every supporter should embrace. I know I have as have 20,000 or so others in this town and tens of thousands of others in this league. We all want the same thing; the chance to cheer on our very own football club. MLS and TFC for life!"

    I apologize for the length of this post but I hope it helped to answer your question.
    Anyway; once again thank you and I look forward to reading more of your commentary.

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