If you love sports and quite frankly, if you found your way here, you do, then you have to be overly excited about the upcoming weekend. The NFL continues on to week 2, the race for the AL East supremacy nears its end with the Jays in the thick of things (or dropping out of them it seems) and finally, the World Cup of Hockey gets underway. If those pre-tournament games are any indication, this is going to be a fabulous display of hockey skill and intensity. Thankfully in this city we have two 24hr all sports radio stations and several print/online publications to keep you completely covered.
Or so I thought until I noticed that there was little to no mention of this city’s most successful team at the moment, Toronto FC. I am used to TFC being second, third or even fourth fiddle in the Toronto sports media landscape and for most of its existence, TFC deserved it. In fact, the best part of its first decade was the in-stadium fan experience more than anything that occurred on the pitch itself. Today however, that is no longer true. Actually, that hasn’t been true for the past 18 months. It is a shame that the most important regular season game in their history will be occurring this Sunday and hardly anyone is talking about it. Of course, you have soccer stalwarts like TSN’s Gareth Wheeler & Fan590’s Dan Riccio who discuss TFC, but even this week their talking points were more about the lack of attention rather than the game itself. The Toronto Sun had a 23 page sports section on Thursday and the only mention of this city’s soccer team was literally… LIT-ER-AL-LY, the very last corner of the very last page which showed the MLS standings and schedules. Really? This is not a knock on the little paper that grew alone as all media has been lackadaisical to pick it up. Yes, you have your standard soccer pundits who cover it, but I am talking about influencing mainstream sports to have more coverage. We continue to hear how the Jays have dropped the ball this month and have hit rock bottom and are injured and desperate; we hear about what Austin Matthews had for breakfast and what he might have for breakfast tomorrow.
There is a solid foundation of fans in this city for both international and local soccer. It has been years since soccer surpassed hockey as the number 1 organized sport for children where 20% play soccer compared to 11% hockey. With TFC averaging over 27,000 passionate fans to each home game, it is still astonishing how little coverage there is. We don’t hear how TFC gutted out a 2-1 win against the Fire last week in Chicago, a place they have never won before. We don’t hear how they did it without the best player in the league Sebastian Giovinco who is head and shoulders (despite his size) above anyone else. With that victory the Reds are back again in top spot in the East and this Sunday they have a classic matchup with the New York Red Bulls who are in 2nd place only 2 pts behind. With a half dozen games left in the season, this could very well determine first place in the east, if not first place overall and the Supporters Shield. This could be the first major trophy for this team… so yeah, I certainly do expect there to be more coverage leading up to an event of this magnitude.
It will be a tough battle though as Seba is still injured and most likely to miss another game or two. The offence has been a little disjointed in his absence except for Jozy Altidore. The US native has finally come into form with a successful string of games for club and country, including a goal and assist in TFC’s 2-1 victory in Chicago. The defence will have to step up their performance as they have been caught flat-footed a number of times and opposing forwards have found space behind them. They have been fortunate however that some stellar saves and lucky bounces helped keep their winning ways. This may not hold up against Bradley Wright-Phillips who leads Red Bulls and the league with 18 goals this season.
We even are in the midst of a goalie controversy and that isn’t being talked about either. It will be interesting to see which goalie Coach Gregg Vanney starts on Sunday. Veteran Clint Irwin is back from injury and is in game shape, but rookie Alex Bono (who has already exceeded expectations) has proven he deserves to start too. I suspect Vanney goes back to Irwin, but this will be an interesting story to follow for the next few weeks and into the off-season. So do yourself a favour this weekend, take a break from the Jays losing and American “football” and catch the TFC game at 5PM on Sunday. More importantly, talk about it before and afterwards as these players are conquering new territory and really deserve our attention.
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