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MLS Cup Runneth Colder

The MLS Cup fittingly came to an end on Sunday night with an own goal in the 107th minute. Most of the announced crowd of 21,700 had smartly exited the building as the game went into extra time. The first 15 minutes of that extra time were probably the worst soccer played at BMO Field; hence the mass exodus. But Colorado Rapids coach Gary Smith was happy with the win… even if wasn’t, as he put it, “the best game for viewing”.

Standing on the sideline on a cold and windy night, watching two teams most fans would never have cared to see if they weren’t forced to buy tickets, I thought of MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s pre-game press conference. One of the points he made was that the league is looking into altering its schedule to align itself with the international calendar. That means playing through the winter. Even with a break through the coldest months, it’s still not good news for sideline reporting.

Toronto FC might get another break as the league looks to expanding playoff teams from 8 to 10, with the inception of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers next season.

I’ll give credit to the Toronto faithful who more or less filled the stadium, and withstood the cold breeze late on a Sunday night, the game ended just after 11 p.m. Singing in the 23rd minute to honour TFC’s first-ever goal by Danny Dichio was a nice touch. The loudest ovation was reserved for former Toronto midfielder Marvel Wynne; the loudest jeer was fittingly reserved for another former player, Jeff Cunningham.

Those who did stay until the bitter end saw a fantastic finish. Dallas pressed for the equalizer but were thwarted by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens when he dove to his right on a reflex save, essentially winning the game for the Rapids.

Well, it IS coloured grey...

All in all, Toronto did well as hosts for the finals. From the Mounties bringing in the Phillip F. Anschutz Cup to a boisterous rendition of the Canadian national anthem by the fans… I’d call it a success… and it didn’t rain.

TFC Notes
With two expansion teams coming into the league next seasons, teams had to protect 11 players on their rosters. Here are the players TFC has left unprotected for the expansion draft:

Chad Barrett, Julian de Guzman, Gabe Gala, Nick Garcia, Raivis Hscanovics, Fuad Ibrahim, Milos Kocic, Mista, Joseph Nane, Amadou Sanyang, Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, O’Brian White

Len Grammenopoulos

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MLS ponders schedule switch

I’m at the MLS Cup in Toronto, covering the game for the Associated Press. We got some news from The Don of MLS, aka Commissioner Don Garber, before the match. Here’s what he had to say:

Major League Soccer will add two playoff teams next season, expanding its postseason field to 10, and will investigate switching its schedule to align with the international calendar.

Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement at Sunday’s 15th MLS Cup game in Toronto between the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas.

Next year’s playoff format has yet to be determined, Garber said, but the goal is to avoid a repeat of this season, when two Western Conference teams (Colorado and San Jose) met in the Eastern Conference championship. Six of the eight playoff qualifiers this year came from the West.

The league will grow to 18 teams next season when expansion franchises in Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Canada, begin play. The season will increase from 30 to 34 games and teams will play a balanced schedule with the same number of games against each opponent.

The addition of two western teams will require moving one existing team from the Western Conference into the East. Garber said no final decision has been reached on who that will be.

A 19th team, Montreal, is set to join the league in 2012.

Aligning with the international calendar would help avoid MLS teams losing players to national team duty during breaks for World Cup qualifiers and other exhibition matches. The league suspended play for two weeks during the group stage of last summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

Garber offered few details about how MLS, whose season currently runs from March to November, could better match the global schedule, which typically runs from August to April.

“It’s way too premature for us to go into any details of what it could look like,” Garber said. “What we’re basically saying is we’re going to do the research. We’re going to do a study, we’re going to take the time to get it right. There’s no rushing.

“The bottom line is we’re telling the world we’re going to begin taking a very serious look at this whole issue and what kinds of things we need to do to determine if it makes sense for us.”

With so many teams in northern climates, Garber conceded a winter break would be necessary to avoid playing games in frigid, snowy conditions. He said Sunday’s final, one degree warmer than the coldest final in league history, was “a pretty good test” for playing later into the fall.

Ian Harrison

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Toronto’s Cup runneth over


Our Ian actually has some real jobs… including writing for Toro Magazine.  Here’s what he says about this weekend’s MLS Cup final in Toronto, and how North American soccer is coming into it’s own: MLS Cup Heads North

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