Sports

The Beautiful Game: records with 71,000 plus.

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

The last game for Toronto FC saw the club visit Atlanta for an opportunity to reach a season-high in terms of number of points and to set a league record for the number of points in the regular season. The game against Atlanta set one record in the fact that there were over 71,000 in the stands thereby setting a Major League Soccer (MLS) record for a regular season game. Actually, on that particular weekend that attendance would've been among one of the top five attendances in the whole world for a soccer match, matched only possibly by Manchester United and Barcelona and possibly some German club teams. The atmosphere in Atlanta in the Mercedes Benz stadium was electric.

Here there were two teams who were probably the best offensive teams in the league. Indeed it was a match that did not disappoint. Regrettably American players Altidore and Bradley, two of Toronto’s designated players, were constantly booed because of the United States’ world cup qualifying games which resulted in the American team not making it to the World Cup in Russia. Nevertheless, it was an exciting match.

Atlanta was awarded a penalty after the video assisted referee (VAR) advised the ref on the field (by wrist watch) that a handball had occurred in the penalty area. The ref, upon reviewing the video, awarded a penalty to Atlanta resulting in Atlanta going ahead 1-0. Although I have been hesitant to embrace the whole concept of VAR I have to admit that it is working well in that we do not get those agonizing long waits as we do in hockey where they go “upstairs” and in doing so suck out the whole life of the game. Altidore for TFC scored with a brilliant goal to level the score and interestingly enough, when he scored he cupped his ear to the crowd which was then rather silent. Somebody

threw a cup of beer onto the field which Giovinco pretended to sip from and all in all it was great entertainment.

Atlanta then scored and drew ahead. But then there was a free kick awarded to Toronto FC outside the penalty box. Giovinco stepped up to take the shot and it was absolutely amazing…as good as anything that you will see in the top English, German, Italian, or Spanish leagues. It was a screamer of a shot right into the top left corner and into the net. Poetry, power and precision, all in one - an absolute joy to watch!

So Toronto got the one point to give them the record for most points in a regular season.

Much hand wringing and sharpening of knives.

The failure of the United States to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 has resulted in a lot of handwringing as well as pointing fingers and suggestions that various people in senior positions within United States soccer be removed from those positions and that a general overhaul of the system is required. Initially there was the extreme disappointment at America’s failure to qualify for Russia but in reality, after thinking about it, soccer is still strong and will continue to grow in the United States despite this temporary setback. Club soccer in North America is in very good shape at the moment. We are witnessing record attendance in MLS and a single record of over 71,000 for a regular league game.

Division 2 Soccer is witnessing crowds of over 20,000 in some cases. The women's game at the professional level is showing stability and growth with teams like the Portland Thorns averaging over 14,000 per game. Here in Canada we have a situation where the MLS clubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are outdrawing the CFL clubs in those cities (although your lousy sports media won’t tell you that!) Yes, there are some weak areas, and some major concerns that need to be addressed. Our Canadian national team needs a lot of work,

however the new coach seems to be bringing in some interesting, fresh talent and producing some relatively satisfactory results – but there is still a long way still to go for sure.

Toronto FC

The Supporters’ Shield is given to the team that wins the league at the end of the season. Toronto FC was presented with the Supporters’ Shield by members of the various supporters’ clubs at its last home game. Toronto FC beat Montreal 1-0 in a scrappy affair which wasn’t particularly entertaining. In fact it was a weird game with horrible wind, strange bounces, errors in defence and a ref who was card happy and who missed a blatant foul. Giovenco had returned after a period of injury and looked rusty. He missed a penalty shot which had to be retaken again because the goalie moved out from his line and then amazingly Giovinco missed the second time. Montreal, in some respects, was rather unlucky. There was a bizarre sequence of events where a shot hit one upright and then bounced across and hit the other upright before Bono, the Toronto goalkeeper, managed to smother the ball before it made it to the back of the net.

Decision day

MLS did it right. They had one day, which was the last day of the regular season, in which the results of the games would determine who would advance to the playoffs. All teams played at the same time, synchronized across all the North American time zones. Vancouver unfortunately lost to the Portland Timbers with the result that Vancouver will now have to go into a playoff match. Toronto tied its game but TFC was on top of the heap anyway. Montreal, who had no chance of reaching the playoffs, lost at home.

Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa Fury FC closed out its season with yet another tie, this one in Pittsburgh, a 1-1 draw against the River Hounds. This season has been a frustrating one for the Fury in the fact that it tied too many games, some which the Fury really should have won. In several matches the team somehow got scored against late in the game.

It remains to be seen if there will be coaching changes resulting in, yet again, a bunch of roster changes. This is hard on the Fury faithful, but I wonder if the club really considers this in detail.

Toronto Sick Kids Hospital

As Toronto FC prepares for the 2017 MLS playoffs, the entire first team paid its 11th annual visit to the Hospital for Sick Children. Toronto FC players met patients, handed out gifts and signed autographs on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Goodbye coach

The Montreal Impact have fired head coach Mauro Biello. The predictable move came a day after Montreal ended its MLS season with a loss at home to New England.

With an 11-17-6 record, the club finished ninth in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. Biello's assistants Jason Di Tullio and Wilfred Nancy were also let go. Biello was promoted to head coach on Aug. 30, 2015. The Montreal native took the team to the conference semifinal in 2015 and reached the conference final last season. The club still averaged over 20,000 per game.

Team president Joey Saputo said the search for a new coach has begun.

Vancouver does it right

The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, has proclaimed Whitecaps Day ahead of the playoffs and Robson Street has been

renamed Whitecaps Way for the duration of the club’s post season playoffs.

From soccer to boxing

Former England star Rio Ferdinand has announced that he is going to try and become a professional boxer just two months away from his 39th birthday. Ferdinand, who won 81 caps and made over 300 appearances for Manchester United, is an avid boxing fan and said his spending time boxing in the gym helped clear his head a bit after losing his wife and the mother of his three children, Rebecca Ellison, to breast cancer in 2015.

Eating peanuts till midnight?

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri fears the use of VAR is turning football into a long, drawn out American sports extravaganza after the Serie A (Italian division 1) champions tied 2-2 at Atalanta. That recent match in Bergamo was dominated by the use of VAR. It was used once to cancel a goal for Juventus and the second time awarding the Turin side a contentious penalty after a handball. “We’ll end up like baseball in the United States, where there are constant stoppages and we sit there eating nuts until the match ends at midnight,” complained Allegri.

(Great) quote

"He's still a young buck, man. He's three in October. Everybody is the greatest person in the world to him. To be honest, that's how I want to keep it. Everybody is equal. I don't want him to see colour or to see race, or anything like that. Everybody is equal. That's how I'm going to raise my child." - Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC was asked how he talks to his son about the issue of racism currently taking place in the United States.

Remember, whatever your sport, to win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is the greatest of all. And the greatest game is played by more than 250 million players in 200 countries. So be part of the soccer fan base world wide of 3.5 billion and counting! Also, remember to support local soccer! If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at cottrell@nrtco.net or call 613-587-4856.