This week's #TFClive - A Look Ahead required a couple of attempts.
We are days away from the Toronto FC home opener – dubbed ‘dome opener’ by some – under the retractable roof at the Rogers Centre.
Reds take on Sporting Kansas City at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 9 and we are giving away four tickets to the match via Twitter.
To enter, simply tweet at @torontofc the following:
I want to see #TFClive on March 9 at Rogers Centre! Please enter me to win 4 tickets to see @TorontoFC v Sporting KC this Saturday.
That’s all you need to do, copy, paste and tweet at us. However, to please our lawyers once more, the real rules of the contest are available here: http://ow.ly/ikFWB
Good luck everyone.
When Toronto kicks off the 2013 season in Vancouver at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Ryan Nelsen's debut as head coach won't be the only new item on the agenda.
On Twitter, where I host the #TFClive chat on @torontofc, a pair of tickets to the March 9 match at the Rogers Centre can be won for the Tweet of the Match.
The rules are simple, make me laugh while supporting Toronto using #TFClive and you could win. Then there are actual legal rules that make lawyers happy: http://ow.ly/icwhP
When Toronto FC open their MLS season Saturday in Vancouver, General Manager Kevin Payne will finally have some results from which to base his rebuild.
In just three months on the job Payne acquired striker Robert Earnshaw, traded Designated Player Eric Hassli, moved the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft, selected Canadian Kyle Bekker third overall, replaced manager Paul Mariner with Ryan Nelsen and negotiated the retirement of veteran DP Torsten Frings.
Senior writer Mike Ulmer asked Payne about future players, the direction of the club and who will provide leadership now that Frings is gone.
Mike Ulmer: It’s clear TFC will struggle to score.
Kevin Payne: We are in the process of signing a player (Earnshaw) we hope will be available on Saturday who is a very accomplished EPL and Champions League goalscorer. He will help us.
MU: What about players already on the roster?
KP: Justin Braun is probably not available for this game. We drafted Taylor Morgan in the supplemental draft. His value will be as a late game super-sub. He’s a big, explosive kid with a great nose for the goal. There’s another player named Ashton Bennett who we signed and who has great natural talents around the goal and who is fast and quick. He’s going to create issues for people when he gets on the pitch. We hope Hogan Ephraim and Kyle Bekker will help.
MU: How will you shore up the team’s ability to defend?
KP: That’s where how most of the work has been done up to this point. I have a theory you have to earn the right to play good soccer. Defending is a mentality. It’s mostly about discipline and courage and mentality. That’s what we need to instill first.
MU: Is Ryan Nelsen’s background as a defender central to that?
KP: Nellie is not necessarily obsessed with a system but he is very devoted to several principles. A key one is having our players understand how they can be in control of a situation even though the situation may not be to our advantage.
MU: Explain that.
KP: He’s trying to get our players to understand how to support one another, how to delay plays. He’s trying to control what’s happening on the field even though we don’t have the ball. That was something Ryan was very good at as a defender.
MU: What are your expectations?
KP: My expectations are we will be a far more competitive team, individually and collectively. We will be far more disciplined, individually and collectively. I think we’ll l be a harder team to play, that we will give up far fewer goals and we will become a team that’s particularly hard to play against at BMO Field.
MU: Are you confident of adding more firepower as the season progresses?
KP: We will add more talent. There are a couple of players we are looking at for the summer. They are very important players on their teams so we can’t get them until then. We’re willing to wait. There are some advantages to that since they will come at a lower cap rate.
MU: Will these players be big names?
KP: One player in particular is a player we want to build around for three or four years. We’re going to spend a lot of time on due diligence over the next couple of months.
MU: How do you replace the experience provided by Torsten Frings?
KP: You can’t really replace a guy like Torsten who played in two World Cups and countless professional games in Europe. I’m looking for Stefan Frei, who has always been a leader on this team, and Darren O’Dea to step forward. Darren has the personal qualities to be a good leader. He’s a good player, he’s played at a high level and he’s very well-liked. I’m looking for a lot from Darren.
Toronto FC players, coaches & staff arrived in Vancouver on Thursday night ahead of Saturday's 2013 MLS season opener against Whitecaps FC (TSN at 6:30 p.m. ET).
Reds will train at BC Place on Friday afternoon and that session will shed some light into which players Toronto will have available for First Kick on Saturday.
There was certainly a lot of excitement on Twitter Thursday when Wales international Robert Earnshaw announced he has signed with TFC. Club president and general manager Kevin Payne mentioned earlier in the week that Toronto was looking at the former Cardiff City striker. However, the final paperwork is yet to be complete and Earnshaw's availability remains uncertain as of Friday morning.
Below: Assistant coach & former TFC captain Jim Brennan greeted by a fan at the airport in Vancouver.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Torsten Frings that the German legend and Toronto FC captain would be classy to the end.
When he announced his retirement on Tuesday, he did it because he knew he couldn’t contribute to a full season and in the MLS structure he can help his team more by stepping aside. Such is the selfless sacrifice fans expect from leaders and Frings didn’t disappoint, though many are disappointed to see him hang up his boots.
My personal admiration for Frings has less to do with football.
Returning from Chicago on August 5, 2012, I was desperate not to miss the 100 meter final at the London Olympics. Reds lost 2-1 to the Fire the night before, finishing with nine players due to a red card and an injury. We had an early lead ruined by late goals, that old chestnut, though Frings was a warrior and according to the fans’ poll, our man of the match that night.
The mood was less than jovial when we landed at Pearson. I quickly stepped away from the team, found one of those kiosks disguised as a restaurant and had the TV channel changed to the big race. Unexpectedly, I was joined by Frings in the empty chair to my right. He was set to share a cab with then-TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic but didn’t like the idea of a staff member sitting alone at the airport. If a World Cup finalist wants to watch the Olympics with me, even out of pity, who am I to object? Surely the prospects of seeing the world’s fastest man – Usain Bolt, not me (to clarify) – also piqued his curiosity.
The three of us watched Bolt win the gold, naturally talked a bit about football and our lives and then Frings insisted on covering the ride downtown. An international superstar, one of the greatest midfielders of his generation and my ride home. There are some perks to being in this business.
Frings takes care of his teammates, even the ones he isn’t immediately responsible for after a lousy flight following a heartbreaking loss. We would later learn that he was playing with a hip injury that would lead to season-ending surgery and subsequent retirement.
Frings will be severely missed wherever he has made his mark. Certainly in Toronto.
In a second consecutive Toronto FC match featuring mostly trialists and players needing minutes, the Reds again played to a draw, though this time showing great resiliency in clawing back level from a two-goal deficit to finish 3-3 against Sporting Kansas City.
On Sunday, Toronto forfeited a two-goal lead against Rollins College in a shortened match at Winter Park, Florida with a similar lineup. On Wednesday in Orlando, it was the Reds playing catch-up and succeeding.
The stand-out player of the day was Supplemental Draft pick Ashton Bennett (video below). He worked with Andrew Wiedeman to set up Toronto's opening goal by Jonathan Osorio in the first half after Kansas City had taken an early lead.
The match seemed to get away from the Reds on either side of halftime, with successive goals giving KC a 3-1 jump, though Bennett answered back with a brace at the 71st and 73rd minutes.
Toronto has one more game to play in Orlando versus Kansas City. That will take place at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 23 in the closing match of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic for both clubs.
Following a rest day Toronto FC was back on the training pitch on Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The latest squad list remains the same with the Reds prepared to test some of the players in a scrimmage against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
In the event that TFC can't get enough of Peter Vermes' team (Toronto will open its slate of MLS regular season home matches against Kansas City at the Rogers Centre on March 9), the opponent in the finale of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic on Saturday, February 23 has been changed from D.C. to KC. That match will take place at 3 p.m. ET. MLSsoccer.com will not be streaming this contest on Saturday and currently there are no viewing options in Canada. In the U.S., it will be shown on ESPN3.
Lineups and important details from Wednesday's scrimmage will be posted on the Toronto FC Twitter account @torontofc shortly after 11 a.m. ET.