Toronto FC gears up for Carolina Challenge Cup
With the 2008 Major League Soccer regular season set to kick off in just over two weeks, Toronto FC is looking to shake off the rust and get into game shape.
The Canadian club will get a chance to do just that when it competes in the fifth annual Carolina Challenge Cup, a pre-season tournament hosted by the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League First Division.
Toronto plays its opening game of the round-robin, pre-season tournament against the MLS expansion San Jose Earthquakes on March 15 (6 p.m. ET). Toronto then takes on the New York Red Bulls on March 19, and the Battery on March 22.
All three games — which take place at Blackbaud Stadium in Daniel Island, S.C. — will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca
Toronto will try to improve on its showing in last year's Carolina Challenge Cup, when it finished second behind the Houston Dynamo.
New coach John Carver will also use the tournament as a final dress rehearsal and use it as a tool to help him decide on his starting roster for the upcoming regular season.
Toronto has been unusually quiet in the trade market since the end of the 2007 MLS season, as it has only made two moves — trading veteran midfielder Ronnie O'Brien to San Jose and acquiring Canadian Kevin Harmse in a deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
General manager Mo Johnston has brought in several players on a trial basis the past two months, but none of them have signed with the club, which means a strong showing at the Carolina Cup is a must for a Toronto team that has struggled to gel during the pre-season.
Even though Charleston plays in the USL-1, a semi-pro league that is one division below MLS, the MLS clubs should not take the Battery lightly.
Charleston will have the advantage of playing before the hometown crowd and recently bolstered its roster by signing former Toronto FC defender Marco Reda.
Toronto begins the MLS regular season on March 29 on the road against the Columbus Crew. The team's first home game is April 19 against Real Salt Lake.