Canadians will see action in MLS all-star game: coach
With David Beckham set to make his Toronto debut in Thursday's MLS all-star game (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET), it's easy to forget that three Canadian players will also play in the league's marquee contest.
It hasn't slipped the mind of all-star team coach Steve Nicol, though.
Beckham and his fellow all-stars practised for the first time Tuesday at BMO Field, but noticeably absent were Toronto FC defender Jim Brennan (a Toronto native), and midfielder Dwayne De Rosario (from Scarborough, Ont.) and goalkeeper Pat Onstad (from Vancouver) of the Houston Dynamo.
Brennan was excused ahead of Toronto's Canadian Champions League contest against the Montreal Impact on Tuesday night, while De Rosario and Onstad were in Washington, where they will play D.C. United on Wednesday.
Nicol told reporters he wasn't sure how he would use the Canadian trio, but guaranteed they would all see action.
"I haven't finalized my lineup. Obviously, Dwayne and Pat are going to play Wednesday in Washington, which isn't the best way to prepare for Thursday's game," Nicol said. "Jim Brennan is playing [Tuesday night] and hopefully he'll come through that without any injuries.
"Certainly, the three of them are going to see action at some stage of the game, you can be sure of that."
Pride at stake
While Brennan will be making his all-star debut, De Rosario and Onstad have all-star experience.
Onstad recalls the 2004 all-star game was a laid-back affair because of the format in which the league's Eastern Conference stars clashed with the best from the Western Conference. He's expecting a much more intense encounter this time due to the presence of an international opponent, England's West Ham United.
"It'll be different because of West Ham. The guys will want to do well against a good English league team. They'll want to prove themselves," Onstad told CBCSports.ca.
"It's a big game for us because it's a chance for the league to showcase its talent to the rest of the world, to show just how far this league has come over the last few years," said De Rosario, who was named MVP of the 2006 all-star game after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over English side Chelsea.
The MLS all-star team has defeated Scottish side Celtic, Chelsea and Fulham of England and Mexico's Guadalajara in the past, and Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad hopes it can extend the winning streak.
"We're excited to showcase what the MLS is all about, and these last three years we've done it — Chelsea, Celtic, Fulham, those are all good clubs, and to be able to go out there and compete, we take it very seriously," said Conrad, a veteran of four all-star games.
Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan has received a rude reception in Toronto in the past. He's been ruthlessly heckled and pelted with streamers by Toronto fans whenever he's played at BMO Field, so he's interested in seeing what kind of reaction he will elicit this time around.
"I hope it's awesome. They're always loud when we're here. So I hope they bring that same passion, except for us," Donovan said.