Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Canada: Toronto make it three on the spin

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 3, 2011
Toronto FC

Toronto FC won their third consecutive Canadian title on Saturday

Toronto FC secured their third consecutive Nutrilite Canadian Championship title on Saturday. With the first leg tied at 1-1, the champions had to come from behind in their second leg 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps in order to win the Voyageur’s Cup yet again.

The second leg was initially scheduled on May 25th but the game was abandoned due to treacherous weather conditions. With these two teams having met in a Major League Soccer fixture just three days earlier (Toronto emerged victorious with a slender 1-0 win) this game took on more importance as the national title and a place in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League were at stake. The visiting Whitecaps team took the lead after 21 minutes thanks to a Camilo Sanvezzo free-kick and that goal was all that separated the two teams at the half-time break.

Toronto came back early in the second half with Joao Plata restoring parity from the penalty spot after he’d been tripped in the box. Plata needed two attempts to level the scores after his first effort was saved by Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon who had come off his line too early, thus requiring a re-take. The crucial winning goal of the game came in the 61st minute when Mikael Yourassowsky was set up by Plata to score his first goal for the club during a spell in which Toronto looked the more likely of the two teams to score.

Toronto’s reward for winning their third Nutrilite Canadian Championship title is another tilt at the CONCACAF Champions League in which they will feature in the preliminary round stage against Real Estelí of Nicaragua.

Canada: Toronto favourites to win Voyageurs Cup title

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on April 26, 2011
Voyageurs Cup

Toronto FC currently hold the Voyageurs Cup

The Nutrilite Canadian Championship kicks off on Wednesday with defending champions Toronto FC favourites to hold on to their title. The format of the tournament has changed from a round-robin involving three teams to a straight knockout format involving four thanks to the inclusion of FC Edmonton alongside traditional entrants Toronto, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.

Major League Soccer (MLS) club Toronto FC, currently led by former Dutch international Aron Winter, are the defending Canadian champions having won back-to-back Voyageurs Cups in 2009 and 2010. They will face tournament new boys FC Edmonton in the semi-final and will be overwhelming favourites to reach the final given their considerable experience. FC Edmonton, who were formed only last year, have started life in America’s second-tier football competition, the North American Soccer League (NASL), rather well in 2011 having won two of their first three games and will have no pressure going into their maiden domestic championship campaign.

In the other semi-final Montreal Impact, inaugural winners of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in 2008, are another NASL team facing off against a more-fancied MLS outfit, namely Vancouver Whitecaps. However this will not be the case beyond this year as Montreal have been given clearance to become the newest member of MLS in 2012. Nonetheless this tie will still interest many due to the current standards of both set-ups. Montreal are winless after three games in the 2011 NASL season whilst Vancouver may only have won just one match out of their first seven in their maiden MLS campaign but that came against fellow Canadians Toronto FC.

Should the two MLS sides qualify for the final, as many pundits expect, then it would be fascinating to see whether Vancouver would hold the Indian sign over Toronto. Would Toronto’s 2011 MLS season opening match blip at the hands of their compatriots be the prime motivation for a spot of revenge? Or can any of the NASL teams upset the big boys and reach the final?

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS (seedings in brackets)

27/04/11 Montreal Impact (3) v Vancouver Whitecaps (2)

27/04/11 FC Edmonton (4) v Toronto FC (1)

04/05/11 Vancouver Whitecaps v Montreal Impact

04/05/11 Toronto FC v FC Edmonton

2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL (Highest seed away in first leg)

18/05/11 – First Leg

25/05/11 – Second Leg

Canada: Toronto FC wins back-to-back titles

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on June 3, 2010
Toronto FC

Toronto FC are Canadian club champions for a second straight season

Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Toronto FC are the Nutrilite Canadian Championship winners for a second consecutive season and will represent Canada in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto FC had already secured top spot before their final game of the campaign against Vancouver Whitecaps yesterday and, thus, decided to play a number of youth players from the club’s academy.

Currently lying in 2nd place in the MLS Eastern Conference the season has started well for the Canadian champions, who won the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship by virtue of a better goal difference of one over nearest challengers Vancouver. The 2010 campaign started at home to Montreal Impact in front of a 21,000 crowd and the home fans weren’t to be disappointed as the Reds started their title defence off in fine style with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Ty Harden and Chad Barrett. Toronto FC were firmly in the driving seat from the start and this was cemented after Vancouver and Montreal drew the second match of the tournament 1-1. Game number three of the championship saw a potentially tricky tie for Toronto as they hit the road to Montreal and the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw before Dwayne De Rosario, the highest scorer in the competition’s short history with four goals, scored the only goal of the game to give the Reds a crucial 1-0 victory in front of 10,000 at the Stade Saputo. Watch the goal HERE:

Toronto FC could’ve sealed the title by game number four but a goalless draw at home to Vancouver Whitecaps meant that the champagne had to be put on ice for at least seven days. The tournament’s fifth game saw Toronto’s rivals face off against each other in Montreal and it was the Vancouver who struck first in the 50th minute with Ansu Toure giving the Whitecaps hope of resurrecting the club’s title challenge. However the lead was to prove short-lived as Montreal equalized twelve minutes later with parity restored thanks to Phillipe Billy and that was the way the game finished, meaning that Toronto had won their second Voyageurs Cup in a row without kicking a ball. The final game was played as a mere formality and the meaningless nature of it was confirmed with the home team fielding a side containing a mixture of first team and youth academy players but the game still finished goalless meaning that a competitive edge had been brought about to the game especially when Vancouver’s Haber was sent off in the first half.

Toronto FC won their second title with eight points from four games, four more than Vancouver – who drew every one of their matches – and six points ahead of Montreal.

MLS: 2010 Season Preview – part 2

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 23, 2010
Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew, seen here winning the 2008 MLS Cup final, will be amongst the favourites in 2010

The new Major League Soccer (MLS) season is upon us. Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders, the league’s two newest franchises, face-off against each other on Thursday, March 25th to get things underway. In the second part of the “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” preview to the 2010 season we focus here on the eight teams that comprise the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew have been one of the most consistent teams in the league in the last couple of years. In 2008 the Crew topped the Eastern Conference and the overall standings for the league as a whole, thus securing the MLS Supporters’ Shield, and then went on to win their first MLS Cup defeating New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the final. In 2009 they repeated the feat of having the best record in the Eastern Conference and the league generally but were ultimately knocked-out of the MLS Cup by the team who would go on to usurp them as champions Real Salt Lake. American legend and club captain Freddie Hejduk will again be a pivotal figure with his many years of experience at the back as well as the goals from Argentinian Guillermo Barros Schelotto up front. With the club suffering disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals recently the club will want to get back to winning ways once the MLS season begins.

D.C. United, the most successful club in Major League Soccer history with four MLS Cup wins (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), haven’t enjoyed the best time of it in the last two years. The club finished 6th in the Eastern Conference in 2008 and only marginally improved to finish fourth last year but on neither occasion has qualified for the play-offs. United are still dependent on the goals of Bolivian striker Jaime Moreno who, at 36 years of age, doesn’t have many more years at the top remaining. The club has also done plenty of trade both in and out so it is difficult to predict how they might perform with so many comings-and-goings. Chicago Fire have improved in the last three years with one fourth-place and two second-place finishes since 2007 but they’ve been unable to get past the semi-finals of the MLS Cup in that time. In fact the “Fire” has found it hard to live up to expectations since their inaugural season in 1998 when they won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup double. The club will depend on another one of the many veterans who are still making a living in the MLS, namely Brian McBride for whom it could be the last chance he has to bring the cup back to his hometown club before the end of his career.

In the rest of the east all eyes will be on newcomers Philadelphia Union who have appointed experienced coach Piotr Nowak hoping that his previous success with Chicago Fire and D.C. United will stand them in good stead. Naturally for a new team the Union have had to draft in a roster of players who have come from other MLS outfits and will hope to get a perfect blend of youth and experience. Their opening day fixture against Seattle Sounders will prove to be an exciting test for the league’s newest franchise who will hope to emulate their opponents’ achievements from 2008. New England Revolution, under the leadership of former Liverpool FC player Steve Nicol for the eighth consecutive year, have been the “nearly men” of Major League Soccer in the last decade having reached four MLS Cup finals (in 2002 and from 2005-07) and lost them all. The last two MLS campaigns have seen the Revs finish third in the conference standings with the club going on to lose in the play-offs at the first hurdle.

The New York Red Bulls have never won the MLS Cup despite being one of the league’s founder members but did come close in 2008 when they lost out to fellow easterners Columbus Crew. Their Colombian star Juan Pablo Ángel has never quite hit the heights his talents have deserved since leaving Argentinian giants River Plate but he has been the Red Bulls’ top scorer for the last three seasons. However New York’s aspirations in 2009 were to win the MLS Cup but they ultimately finished as the worst side in the league at the end of the regular season and will believe that things can only improve on last season’s dismal showing. Kansas City Wizards, MLS Cup champions in 2000, are another one of the big boys who didn’t qualify for last year’s play-offs having finished in a disappointing 6th in the Eastern Conference finishing eight points ahead of the Red Bulls. Finally Canadian side Toronto FC are another recent expansion team whose inclusion has been justified by their high crowds with the second highest average in the MLS last season behind Seattle Sounders. However in the three years that they’ve participated in the league Toronto’s form has been less successful with finishes of 7th, 7th and 5th in the Eastern Conference since 2007. Can they qualify for the MLS play-offs this time round?

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2010 OPENING FIXTURES

Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders

Colorado Rapids v Chivas USA

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

Houston Dynamo v FC Dallas

Chicago Fire v NY Red Bulls

D.C. United v Kansas City Wizards

Real Salt Lake v San Jose Earthquakes

New England Revolution v LA Galaxy