Another Open Letter To Cathal Kelly
Before addressing the article that Toronto Star columnist/hack Cathal Kelly wrote about the Voyageurs Cup I want to first apologize for not posting my customary video blog post game after TFC’s win over Montreal.
Since 2007 I have missed three home games. One was for a trip to see an ill parent, another was for a vacation scheduled before MLS released their schedule and the other was this Wednesday.
Sometimes family is much more important than even my favourite club playing their most hated rival in a cup competition.
My friend and blogging colleague Scotty was there as always and he documented the night in photo and in written word form in his usual excellent way. Please check it all out here: http://viewfromthesouthstands.com/tfc-v-montreal-can-we-makeitfive/
The day after the match I came across the following article written of course by Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star, a scribe that many Toronto FC supporters have a significant dislike for based on previous history. The link below will bring you his article in its entirety.
I have highlighted his text below and I try and address point by point where I feel again he truly shows his lack of understanding of all things Toronto FC.
And so begins another great Toronto adventure into the most pointless sports competition on the continent. It’s worse than pointless, really. The Amway Canadian Championship (aka – The Voyageurs Cup) is a performance vampire, draining teams of their resources as they chase a pair of prizes. The first doesn’t matter. The second is unwinnable.
Tell that to the dozens of supporters in that stadium last night Cathal who actually previously pulled money out of their own pockets to purchase the Voyageurs Cup over a decade ago! The trophy in case you did not know was bought in advance of the birth of clubs like TFC and FC Edmonton and before ANY Canadian club was admitted into MLS. The trophy came before the tournament and to casually dismiss the tournament for the right to win a trophy that has deep meaning and significance for many long suffering and passionate Canadian soccer supporters is ignorant of the facts at best and demeaning at worst.
They were calling Wednesday night’s encounter between the local side and the Montreal Impact the “semifinals” of the championship. There are only four teams in the thing.
There IS such a thing as the CONCACAF Champions League. There is a slot in the tournament for one Canadian club as it is currently structured. And now there are four “professional” teams in the top two flights of North American soccer. Perhaps calling it the semi final of a four team tournament is a bit of hyperbole but there needs to be a Canadian representative in the Champions League. A six game tournament between the four “professional” Canadian soccer outfits looks like the simplest way to do it to me and I have not heard a better solution come out of that round head of yours.
This was the opening match of the tournament. A 98-pound weakling of a Montreal side once again lost to Toronto, 2-0. In losing, they won. “They wanted to win,” Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum shrugged afterward, supremely unconcerned. He made it clear he has no intention of playing his first squad in the second leg.
Neither TFC nor the Impact played near their first team squads here Cathal. Both coaches independent of one another made the pragmatic decision to rotate their teams and give some of their squad players a run out. Montreal did not even have the imperative to do this to the same degree as Toronto did considering they were coming off a ten day break between competitive fixtures. Schallibaum may indeed not play his top guys next week. For sure that is going to go over well with the Impact supporters who love nothing more than losing to Toronto, only winning twice in fifteen opportunities since 2008 to their rivals from down the 401.
“Every single player on Toronto, all they care about is winning,” said Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen, taking a rather different tack. “I don’t care what competition it is, even if we have to play for a bag of cobwebs.”That’s the problem, and it goes some way to explaining where Toronto has historically been, and the direction Montreal is currently headed. Last year, as MLS debutants, the Impact shed the burden of this sideshow after two games. They managed a respectable push for a post-season berth.
The implication here you are making Cathal is that the Impact did not try in 2012. To substitute some simple research instead of bloviating would show you that the Impact started just about their best XI in the first game vs TFC last year– Ricketts, Brovsky, Ferrari, Thomas, Wahl, Neagle, Warner, Martens, Arnaud, Corradi and Nyassi in the first game and Ubiparipovic and Bernier featured in the second match in place of Martens and Warner. This was just about the best eleven the Impact could muster at the time these games took place.
Toronto, by contrast, played a dozen matches in one iteration or the other of the Canadian championship and the booby prize given to the winner, the CONCACAF Champions League. While they were wasting their meagre resources on finger food, being sweated in inhospitable foreign climes, the main course was getting cold.
I will concede that at times the Champions League has been a burden and I will concede that you could make a case that the travel, the “hostile climes” and the burden on an already poor side did not do much for the Reds playoff/respectability aspirations in MLS. Seemingly the recent showings of Seattle, Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake, who all made it to either the semi finals or finals of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament over the last couple of seasons were not something you considered in your argument here. All three (with the exception of Seattle so far this year) have been top MLS sides over the past few seasons, LA of course the defending MLS Cup Champions who made it to the final four of the Champions League the past two years running. These three teams have shown that you can be a strong contender for the MLS Cup AND still be a competitive side in the Champions League at the same time. Success in both is not mutually exclusive! Perhaps its not the Champions League grind that has kept TFC out of the playoffs Cathal. Maybe its because the Reds have been a bad team who has found a way historically to win in the Cup and Champions League tournaments a few more games then their ability would on paper allow them to.
For reasons of talent, temperament and climate, the continental club championship ought to be ceded to a Mexican side every year. It’s a marathon over a cliff for any MLS side.
In the last couple of seasons MLS sides have won in Mexico, Mexican sides have been beaten in MLS stadia. In fact even lowly Toronto FC has defeated Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul and earned hard fought draws against Pumas, Santos Laguna and Monterey, all extremely powerful Mexican sides. I will concede there is a gap, but it is not a growing gap. I would submit the gap is shrinking and I would not be surprised if a MLS side in the near future finds a way to win the tournament. And not to be pedantic but MLS sides DC United and Los Angeles Galaxy have won the predecessor to the current tournament one time each.
The Canadian championship isn’t even close to being that. At best, it’s set at the lowest bar of achievement — bragging rights. TFC have been “champions” of this competition four times running. No one brags about it, and they’re quite right not to.
I brag about it. I have a T-Shirt I purchased at BMO Field I believe a week after the first Voyageurs Cup win that proudly declared MY club as Canadian Champions. I still proudly wear it. I still occasionally go back to the web to look at video of the Montreal Miracle. Defeating Cruz Azul probably still stands as the best ever night at BMO Field. On that night in a competitive fixture TFC defeated the (at the time) Mexican Champions. For a fleeting moment all in attendance could see a future where our club could take its place in world football and that there would be chances ahead to earn that place.
And I love that Montreal has never beaten Toronto in this tournament. I love that this tournament has added to the development of a rivalry between our two clubs that will hopefully still be kicking long after you find employment more suited to your sense of hyperbole (I seem to remember you writing about Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead a while back in the Star).
The counterproductiveness of that milestone is fuzzily clear to them. Wednesday night’s Toronto FC squad was even more threadbare than Montreal’s, featuring only two starters from the weekend’s (mostly) impressive outing against Houston. In the early going, they looked pleasingly ragged. They looked ragged all evening long, mind you, but it was pleasing in the sense that it didn’t look like going anywhere. Sadly, they emerged energized for the second half.
I can guarantee that you and your sense of arrogance to be perhaps above having to write about a tournament you do not understand or care about might make you sad. I can guarantee you that you were the only sad person in the stadium that night that was not wearing Impact colours.
Every year, the relevance of this national tournament diminishes. It does so in direct proportion to the inability of TFC to make a playoff run in Major League Soccer.
So if Vancouver or Montreal win the tournament and get into the playoffs this season the tournament gains in respectability then? Good MLS sides CAN and HAVE done well in both the League and the Champions League competition AT THE SAME TIME.
The post-season should be the first, second and last target of this club from now until they manage it.
Throwing games, essentially the assertion you are making here, is arguably the worst offense this team can make to the paying fans still in the building.
In those dozen cup-competition games last year, Toronto managed five wins — equal to their season total in the league. Add those points, subtract all that travel, wear and resultant injury and you’ve got, well, it’s still not a playoff team. But it’s beginning to look like a decent team. Based on expectations (non-existent), things have gone relatively well so far this year. They’re only now starting to get hard.
Facing away games in Vancouver and Montreal were easy then? Facing Dallas, Kansas City, and the MLS Champs at home already is a cakewalk I presume? And the Paul Mariner led Toronto FC would have been a better side in 2012 than they ended up due to two extra trips south of the Rio Grande and an extra trip to Vancouver? Me thinks not no matter how much you liked Paul and his back channel those few games sown south were not going to save his job. Perhaps you don’t know Cathal that unlike MLS, with its very restrictive travel and hotel rules for road teams, in the CCL or the Voyageurs Cup competitions there are no such restrictions. TFC has historically chartered private jets with all the trimmings for these flights. Flying to Mexico City or Vancouver for a CCL or V-Cup game in a 737 fitted out like a flying palace is a tad more relaxing compared to being shoehorned into the arse end of an Air Canada Jazz scheduled flight to Columbus probably is.
Toronto’s in the midst of six games over 18 days. Add two more in May for the Canadian “final” if they beat Montreal on aggregate. Then there’s the possibility of four more in the Champs League round robin. For once, can this club do the smart thing, as opposed to the right or (more often) wrong thing?
Losing is contagious. Intentionally losing is poison and it is beyond disrespectful to long suffering fans (and paying customers) to at the very least not try.
Of course, you can’t ask pros to lose. They aren’t wired that way. But it’s time to pull the brakes on good tactical decisions. Lower expectations. Treat this is as a scrimmage.
Thought the lineup Nelsen fielded Wednesday night already showed that he is taking the league a bit more serious than previous TFC coaches were.
The only team that should ever feel any onus to entertain is the home side. Undermanned or not, Montreal will be feeling some of that pressure next Wednesday. Take advantage of that.
Letting both sides off for the dreck on display in the first 45 minutes Wednesday night, did not Toronto FC do exactly what you asked for in the second half?
Throughout its history, Toronto FC has collectively called in sick on too many workdays to count. In the interests of long-term objectives, let’s call next Wednesday the team’s first planned absence.
For essentially asking for the team to throw a match I think the club should revoke your press box privileges. Its plainly obvious to me that you do not get it, and I think I am fair in saying that you never have. By all means feel free to blather on about Toronto FC Cathal. Please feel free to do what you have always done, slander fans on road trips supporting their side, enjoy the sound of your own warped opinions over the facts and allow yourself to be used from time to time as a back channel for disgruntled “insiders” to spread rumour and conjecture and have you pass it off as fact.
I think though that your days of comfortably doing all of this stuff from the confines of the BMO Field press box should end. Even better I think you should come and stand in the south end and listen to the people who were there for Canadian professional soccer in the dark days, like those that purchased the Voyageurs Cup, or those who organize road trips and paint the signs/banners/tifos, or even those that have been there through thick and thin since day one with this TFC team. Perhaps then and only then might you actually get a clue about what you think you already know.
Drop me a line. I will even get you a ticket on me.
And Daniel Girard for the record is ten times the soccer sports writer you will ever be.