Toronto advances in CONCACAF

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Colorado Rapids Kortne Ford (left) wrestles Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco to the ground during second half CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Colorado Rapids Kortne Ford (left) wrestles Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco to the ground during second half CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

The CONCACAF Champions league

FIFA divides the world and the 211 Countries that belong to FIFA into six separate confederations. They are Asia, Africa, North America – Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, South America and Oceania. Each of these confederations has it own competition for club champions, as well as for national champions. In our confederation or conference as it sometime referred to, Toronto FC could achieve something that even David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy could not, i.e. win the CONCACAF Champions League. This is our own annual competition in our confederation that features the top club teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Toronto qualified as Major League Soccer (MLS) champions last year.

TFC opened it’s Champions League match on Feb. 20 with a home-and-away series against the Colorado Rapids of the MLS.

The first leg was played in Colorado in what can only be described as absolutely brutal conditions with a field temperature of -14 C or -19 C with the wind chill factor! Fortunately there was some in ground heating for the pitch so the ball behaved itself but the challenge was extremely significant and no more so than for goalkeepers. I also felt sorry for the ref who was from one of the Caribbean Islands! Essentially, Toronto controlled the game with two beautiful goals one by Jonathan Osorio and the other by Sebastian Giovinco.

The second leg was played at BMO field in Toronto this week, and it was a rather lacklustre affair. TFC did not appear as sharp as it could have been and Colorado played a better game, resulting in a scoreless draw. Now I have seen some great 0-0 ties but this was not one of them. However TFC got the job done and advance on total goals.

So now Toronto is heading for a semifinal showdown with Tigres, one of the top Mexican teams with several Mexican national players on the team. Toronto FC is going to have to step it up big time and raise its game several notches. The first leg will be played at BMO field on March the 7. I really hope there is a nasty cold snap. Our teams have to go down to Mexico and play in the oppressive heat and the elevation in front of 50,000-plus rabid fans, with an unbelievable cacophony of noise, including those infernal mariachi bands which never seem to shut up.


The Germans…soccer yes, but hockey?

After watching, partly in disbelief, as Canada lost to Germany in Olympic hockey, I was reminded of the famous quote from one of the British papers on the eve of the 1966 World Cup final between England and then West Germany. It said that “If the Germans beat us at our national game today, we can console ourselves that we have beaten them twice at theirs.”


North Korean diplomacy

Watching the North Korean attempts at diplomacy recently at the Winter Olympic Games including the group of odd robotic cheerleaders that it sent, reminded me again of the 1966 World Cup in England. North Korea had qualified,and the Brits being great supporters of the underdog gave them an amazing reception, in fact the head coach on the North Korean team said that it was like playing in the home country. Even the UK government turned a blind eye to the flying of the North Korean flag.

North Korea had a terrific run in the tournament including a huge, shock 1-0 win over Italy. That set up a quarter-final against Portugal. The game was played in Liverpool, which in 1966, you have to understand, was the centre of the known world – best music, best sport, best pubs, best poetry. Playing at a breathtaking speed, North Korea took a 3-0 lead. However as the Koreans continued madly attacking – defence didn't seem to be in the plan — Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, Portugal's star forward, took charge. Pantera Negra (The black panther) as he was known, scored four unanswered goals in a 5-3 win for Portugal. Portugal went on to the semifinals, in which it would lose to England, which of course went on to win the 1966 World Cup with the famous 4-2 win over Germany at old Wembley Stadium.

The North Korean players returned to their country as heroes.

It looks like the end

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced that it has cancelled the 2018 season after failing to receive a preliminary injunction preventing the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) from revoking the NASL's Division II status. It well could mean the end of that league. Sad, especially considering those early glory days of the '70s with massive crowds, but, then all in all, not unexpected.


Canada’s women national team

Soccer Canada’s women’s national team is playing for the third time in the Algarve Cup, the prestigious annual international tournament in Portugal which is running from Feb. 28 to March 7. The tournament will mark newly-appointed women’s national team head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s first competitive matches at the helm.

Drawn into Group B, Canada faced Sweden in it's opening match this week. We lost 3-1. The next games will be against Russia and then the Korean Republic.


OK…back to the drawing board

“I genuinely feel excited about the passion of our Leeds fans. It’s slightly unfortunate it’s been demonstrated in this way” – Angus Kinnear, managing director of Leeds United of the English Premier League, applies a positive spin to the fact that a protest against a proposed new club crest signed by more than 70,000 people has sent the designers back to the drawing board. Excellent! Fan power!


Toronto FC’s huge success

Approximately 98 per cent of season ticket holders for Toronto FC will be returning for 2018.

“It's staggering,” said club president Bill Manning with a smile. “We're at almost 25,000 season tickets. Every game will be sold out. Business is booming; it's where we envisaged it going.”

Also 2 million Canadian viewers were tuned in to their TVs when Victor Vazquez scored the late second goal in Toronto FC's 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the 2017 MLS final at BMO Field.

Toronto have added some excellent new international signings for this season which should bolster the club and further increase the fans enjoyment.

With interest in the ever-growing game, Manning was asked if Toronto was considering adding a women's program in the future, perhaps in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

“Yes, we would like to at some point,” he responded. “It's not going to be immediate, but three or four years down the road, it's not out of the realm of possibility.” Now wouldn’t that be something for all the many thousands of young women playing the sport in Canada?

TFC opens its regular season today at BMO field against Columbus. A sell out is expected. Many other matches are scheduled for this weekend which is the opening of the MLS season.


Tour of the actual World Cup trophy

Thousands of Palestinian football fans took photographs of the World Cup trophy recently as the actual World Cup itself tours the globe ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia. More than 10,000 people lined up to see the actual trophy during three days when it was displayed near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The cup left afterwards for Jordan before it goes on to Dubai.

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 worldwide, 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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