Canadian pride sees Reds rise again | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerCanadian pride sees Reds rise again

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 | 08:14 AM

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Toronto FC hoists the Voyageurs Cup following a 1-0 second-leg victory over the Whitecaps at BMO Field on Wednesday. (Abelimages/Getty Images) Toronto FC hoists the Voyageurs Cup following a 1-0 second-leg victory over the Whitecaps at BMO Field on Wednesday. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

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Toronto FC is Canadian champion for the fourth straight year but the best team in Canada? Hardly. Yet the Voyageurs Cup will get a regular polish at BMO Field until at least 2013.

It means something, it really does. Otherwise, someone explain to me how Toronto FC is Canadian champion for the fourth straight year.

The best team in Canada? Hardly. Yet the Voyageurs Cup will get a regular polish at BMO Field until at least 2013.
 
You're right, of course. It makes no sense. A team which has embarrassed itself in Major League Soccer has the cheek to steal away into the night with the silverware. This is the dysfunctional, defensively weak, offensively challenged club which will represent Canada in the next edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
 
Dwell on that for a moment. This is no longer about a failing MLS franchise which leaks goals like a sieve, which couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and whose playoff dream is dead for another year less than a third of the way through the regular season.
 
This is about Canada's delegate on the international stage. It could have been a team from Vancouver, Montreal or, improbably, Edmonton. Yet one by one, they fell by the wayside, unable to match their skills against the worst team in North America.
 
This is the team we must rally behind for the betterment of Canadian soccer. Like it or loathe it, Toronto FC has once again earned the right to mix it with the Mexicans, the Hondurans, the Americans et al in an effort to send out a continent-wide message regarding the health and strength of soccer in this country.
 
What's the secret to success? Simple: The players care more. They are prepared to scrap and fight in this competition. They are ready to put bodies on the line and battle for every inch of territory, something they are manifestly unable or unwilling to do in the bread and butter of league play.
 
Finally this team has shown some passion. Even though it is flatlining in MLS, it has proved there is a pulse. Let's not get ahead of ourselves -- the patient remains in critical condition, but now is not the time to turn off the life support system provided by the club's ever loyal fans.
 
Maybe it's a Canadian thing eh? Toronto FC coach Aron Winter has stuck by his Canadian contingent despite the disastrous start to his second campaign in charge. Frequent errors have cost the team on a weekly basis, but one quality has come shining through -- Toronto FC is not prepared to play second fiddle to another Canadian team.
 
The levels of commitment, discipline and determination are cranked up a notch when it comes to defending the Voyageurs Cup. As the franchise lurches from one disappointing MLS season to the next, it has found sanctuary and purpose in the Canadian Championship and, subsequently, the Champions League. It will not give that up without one heck of a skirmish.
 
The most senior Canadian should be ashamed of himself. In the heat of the moment, Julian de Guzman lost his head and was rightly sent off. He is well aware of the rules regarding raising a hand to an opponent, whatever the provocation. Instead of using his experience and acting as a peacemaker, he let himself down and taught his young compatriots a lesson they don't need to learn.
 
They focused doggedly on the task at hand. Over the course of four games, they allowed just a single goal and no goalkeeper in the world would have prevented Eric Hassli's first-leg thunderbolt. That lesson was learned and the talented Frenchman couldn't repeat the trick in the decider as the Whitecaps' offence was stifled time and again.
 
For every Cup winner, there's a Cup loser. Vancouver has come close yet again, only to trip at the final hurdle. Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie must now rally his troops and move on. Vancouver has less than three days to recover for another high intensity challenge at Portland. It is crucial this setback does not derail what has been a promising start to the club's second season in MLS.
 
So, arguably, one of the world's smallest cup competitions was won by arguably one of the world's worst teams. Not that Toronto FC or its fans care one jot.

There are three other Canadian teams who would swap with them in a heartbeat.

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