Toronto FC is Eastern Conference Champions

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Toronto FC is the Eastern Conference Champions

It took a 60th-minute goal by a limping Jozy Altidore to turn the tide as Toronto FC returned to the Major League Soccer’s MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final.

After a scoreless tie in Ohio, fifth-seeded Columbus needed a win or draw with goals to advance. Toronto had to win.

Altidore could hardly walk after a collision with Columbus defender Harrison Afful early in the second half. He got treatment on the field and then had his ankle taped up off the field before returning to play.

"I couldn't really move, I was hobbling around," said Altidore. "It's tough too in these conditions too when you get a knock like that, it's so cold, it's a little bit worse. I wanted to give a little bit of time for whoever was up next, and if a chance came down to it, I wanted it to fall to me. And it did."

Altidore was substituted eight minutes after scoring.

"That's heart," said goalkeeper Alex Bono. "That's all that is. That's heart."

Toronto FC will now host the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 9 in the MLS Cup final in Toronto. The Sounders, which took the title from Toronto in a penalty shootout last year won handily over Houston in their two-leg series.

Great coverage in Toronto media, but they didn't mention that the at the attendance at the game out drew the attendance at the CFL Eastern final by more than 5,000.

One interesting statistic was that TV viewership among adults 18 to 34 was up 65 per cent compared to the MLS playoff last year.

World Cup draw

Vladimir Putin welcomed soccer luminaries to the Kremlin for the World Cup draw that provided a global audience for the Russian president to attempt to burnish the image of a country scandalized by sports corruption, especially now in the light of the Russian ban for the Winter Olympics. No news yet of the worldwide TV audience but it was probably in the gazillions.

The draw show, which was an hour long was hosted by local TV celebrity Ivan Urgant and attempted to pitch Russia as a modern society and to celebrate its beauty. Gary Lineker, the former Tottenham player and now TV presenter in England, co-hosted the event with Russian football journalist Maria Komandnaya, Lineker was joined by eight famous footballers as draw assistants: Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona, Carles Puyol and the 91-year-old former USSR international player Nikita Simonyan. By the time the World Cup kicks off here next summer, Russia will have spent more than seven years fretting, building and spending like crazy to welcome soccer’s biggest showcase. It will have outfitted 12 stadiums in 11 cities across four time zones and recruited thousands of volunteers, all to put on a five-week spectacle for a planetary TV audience.

Russians will find far more visitors in their midst six months from now. For the next couple of days, FIFA and the local organizing committee are intent on appealing to the widest possible range of people.

World Cup groups

Here are the groups as they have been drawn. There does not appear a real “group of death” as it is called where one particular group contains some of the tournaments really strong teams. In my next column I will give my forecast as to who will advance as group winners.

Group A Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

Group B

Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

Group C

France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

Group D Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

Group E

Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

Group F

Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Korea Republic

Group G Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

Group H

Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

Sorry if you don’t like how much I am making

Bayern Munich's fans have risked the wrath of UEFA once again by printing counterfeit Euro 500 notes featuring Neymar's face and hurling them at the Brazilian star during the Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.

A wad of the fake bills were thrown at Neymar as he walked over to take a corner kick in the 34th minute of Bayern's 3-1 win.

Neymar, the world's most expensive footballer following his $265 million US move from Barcelona to PSG in France last summer, definitely noticed the stunt, but simply cleared them away with his boot.

Russian Rule #1…..don’t hold hands

LGBT fans will be warned about holding hands in public and other outward displays of affection when in Russia for the World Cup next summer. A cautionary guide will be produced by Fare – formerly Football Against Racism in Europe and now a pressure group that campaigns for equality in football – and dispersed to fans travelling to the tournament.

Being gay is not illegal in Russia but the country has a law banning teaching about homosexuality in schools and there are numerous cases where gay people from foreign countries have been attacked because of their sexuality.

Russian rule #2…and don’t drink too much

England fans at the World Cup final in Russia next summer have been told to restrict their alcohol intake to one pint of beer before or after the game in order to ensure their safety.

A tourism executive said he believed there would be no repeat of the violent clashes that marred Euro 2016, providing England fans do not get too drunk. A Russian mob marched on England supporters and picked them out in Marseille during Euro 2016, heightening fears that similar orchestrated attacks could occur.

Igor Karzov of Visit Russia said travelling England fans should take certain precautions.

“British fans love to drink a lot, we know that and I can’t guarantee safety if fans are really drunk and offensive,” he said. “We can’t guarantee everything’s going to be OK in that case. I would recommend to make sure that you don’t drink a lot when you’re in Russia. It’s OK to have a pint before or after the game.”

Well, thank goodness for that…Although I’m not quite sure what might happen if you were drinking too much and also holding hands as well?!

Coach of the year

Major League Soccer announced that Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney has been named the 2017 MLS Coach of the Year.

Vanney, 43, helped lead Toronto FC to the highest regular season point total in league history with 69 points and a record of 20-5-9 earning the 2017 MLS Supporters Shield. The record topped the 1998 LA Galaxy which had 68 points. In addition, Toronto FC set several club records during the 2017 regular season: wins (20), home points (42), road wins (seven) and road points (27).

Saudi Arabia and Manchester United.

Manchester United have agreed to a deal with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia to help develop football in the country. United will lend business and sporting expertise to clubs and sporting organizations in Saudi Arabia to boost the game’s growth. The partnership forms part of Saudi Vision 2030 — the plan to diversify the Saudi economy and to develop its public sectors, announced last year by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. United’s group managing director Richard Arnold told the club’s website: “The club has a long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia and has over five million passionate fans!”

Books and movies

There is a great movie on Netflix called simply Pele. It is the story of a young Pele who grows up in the favelas of Brazil to become one of the most famous sports figures ever. Even if you are not a soccer fan you might well enjoy

this movie.

I have just finished reading Declan Hill’s The Fix. This man is a brilliant investigative journalist and has written on several subjects including many excellent articles dealing primarily with corruption in FIFA and within certain professional leagues in the world. Definitely worth reading.

One of the books that I have currently on the go is How soccer rules the world by Franklin Foer. An American with a life-long passion for soccer, he also writes for the New York Times and the Washington Post. The book deals with the absolute fanatical fans and followers of soccer clubs from Brazil to Bosnia and Italy to Iran. He somehow makes sense of it all in our current troubled times.

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, local soccer! If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at or call 613-587-4856. 

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