The Coin Has Two Sides and Toronto FC Fans Are Not On Both!

April 6, 2009

by Derek Viveiros… Why is it that a mild scuffle between two supporters groups has all of a sudden given Toronto fans such a bad name?

American media tends to feed off negative press and scandals. The MLS is definitely not a source of such writing material. So as soon as something negative occurs, writers, bloggers, and critics are quick to point fingers and classify an enemy and a victim.

Whatever the case, the allegations that the Toronto FC fans single-handedly caused the events that transpired at Crew Stadium in Columbus after last Saturday’s game are unwarranted.

I have been to countless sporting events, witnessing altercations which make last Saturday’s debacle appear quite minuscule. A couple of fans fight and all of a sudden hooliganism is at the forefront of every conversation and TFC fans are the epitome.

Acts of violence occur right in the stands, leading to multiple arrests at sporting events across this continent. But you cannot draw up a North American comparison to hooliganism.  The raw hatred displayed by European or South American soccer firms have, on countless occasions, turned sporting grounds into mirror images of combat at the Gaza Strip.

TFC fans are being portrayed as idiots and animals. Advocates are calling for them to be controlled and punished for their actions, while pacifying the behaviour of their beloved home team.

Approximately 200 Columbus fans from the “Hudson Street Hooligans” and “KKKrew” intentionally integrated themselves into a sea of TFC supporters as they departed the stadium.  I do not believe that they did so with the intention to engage in violence. Perhaps they wanted to engage in an old-fashioned shouting and chanting match. But inevitably, the former did happen.

I’m not implying that Security is to blame for this as they did not expect this type of incident to occur. Security at sporting events in the state of Ohio has been historically adequate. An Ohio State college football type of affair draws over 100,000 fans on a regular basis without any major issues.

The mere fact that opposing supporter groups were in the same area, poses questions as to what could be done better in regards to crowd control the next time these two teams meet.

On the bright side it wasn’t all cursing and fisticuffs.

Many TFC supporters have gone as far as saying that the home supporters were quite welcoming and were interested in exchanging scarves and other memorabilia for their collection. They interacted civilly and look forward to returning once again.

For lack of a better cliche I say it takes two to tango and although we might have been wearing our dancing shoes, the Columbus fans brought the drums and guitars. So refrain from labelling the Toronto FC faithful as “Hooligans.” Such status is not one which they are striving to achieve.

The Resurgence of the MLS

March 26, 2009

by Derek Viveiros… In 1996, Major League Soccer became the foundation of top-tier soccer in North America.

MLS currently consists of 15 franchises, with Philadelphia joining the ranks in 2010. The league will once again expand in 2011 with the additions of the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

So why is it that a league, which was so uncertain of its future not long ago, has such a bright future in place.

Some say the resurgence of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer program in 2002 brought much needed attention back into the sport.

Others say the designated player rule, which allows each team to field an imported player without the restrictions of the MLS salary cap, brings our game to a higher level.

Aside from a specific root cause I believe it all boils down to impressive marketing by the MLS organization as a whole.

The construction of “soccer-specific” stadiums allows the fans to experience the game in an atmosphere which compliments the beautiful game. The proven results have been a rise in attendance and profits which are visible across the league.

Television coverage is at an all-time high as games are broadcast across the continent on ESPN. In turn the media coverage has triggered an increase in sponsorship. MLS franchises began selling ad space on the front of their jerseys in 2007, following in the footsteps of clubs around the world.

Another viable source of exposure has been the inclusion of four MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League. If crowned champions, an MLS club would then compete in the Club World Cup against the world’s top squads.

The top four MLS squads who do not qualify for CONCACAF CL are placed in the SuperLiga. A competition organized by the MLS and Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación.

These competitions enhanceexposure for MLS teams, which in turn, enables them to be seen on a broader scale.

In 2004 it was reported by an accredited financial magazine that the MLS had lost more than $350 million since its inception. But these loses are deemed to be a thing of the past.

In 2003, the Los Angeles Galaxy became the first franchise to turn a profit, soon followed by FC Dallas in 2005. By 2008 Toronto FC, perhaps the most passionately followed franchise in the league, joined the aforementioned squads posting positive figures at seasons end.

The MLS brass have been quoted stating that they project all clubs to be profitable by 2010.

If MLS commissioner Don Garber and his brass continue to attract such international stars such as David Beckham, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and most recently Freddie Ljunberg. The leagues level of play and overall profile will most definitely be documented amongst soccer leagues abroad.

Toronto FC Off to Winning Start

March 25, 2009

by Derek Viveiros… A formidable away win in Kansas City last week has John Carver’s Toronto squad with three points going into the second week of their Major League Soccer schedule.

Their first ever opening day away victory isn’t much to brag about. But it does place much needed confidence into the hearts of the Toronto Football Club faithful.

Aside from allowing two remarkable strikes by Davy Arnaud, a solid defensive effort was complemented by a consistent three goal offensive display. Aside from missing a late penalty, Dwayne DeRosario’s performance proved why he is the prize acquisition of Mo Johnston’s impressive tenure as the mastermind of this franchise.

The combination of “De-Ro” and Amado Guevara kept the Wizards defense on their heels. They controlled possession for most of the game as they spread the ball around the pitch to the starting 11. Guevara’s two goals were just a glimpse of what this duo will provide us with this season.

Toronto will now head to Crew Stadium for a Saturday date to take on the defending league champions, Colombus Crew. Colombus began its season by scraping out a point through a Guillermo Barros Schelotto 82nd minute equaliser to draw 1-1 at Houston.

Colombus will be looking to open Crew Stadium on a winning note as they host Toronto in the first leg of the home and home series dubbed the Trillium Cup.

Look for these two attacking sides to provide an up-tempo, appealing brand of soccer. Should be interesting to see if Toronto can pull off another huge road win before heading back home to BMO field, where the best fans in the league anxiously await.

Bills Pay Owens in Hopes of Owens Paying Bills

March 11, 2009

by Derek Viveiros… “No matter what uniform I put on, I perform.”

Those were the words spoken by Terrell Owens, the most well-documented free agent signing in Buffalo Bills history.

Fans in Orchard Park and “north of the border” can very well expect that at best, a performance.

One question Bills fans must ask themselves is which Owens will arrive at “The Ralph” on opening day. Will it be the Best Lead Actor (see 49ers and Eagles Owens tenure) or Best Supporting Actor?

On Saturday, the Buffalo Bills signed the six-time Pro Bowl wide out to a reported one-year, $6.5 million contract. This acquisition makes for quite the debate amongst Buffalo faithful. This signing appears to solidify an offense, which managed only nine touchdown receptions last year.

Owens had 10. Enough said.

Many wonder what impact Owens will have on quarterback Trent Edwards. If he openly criticizes Edwards as he did past teammates, it could potentially sabotage Edwards career. On the other hand, this could give Edwards the opportunity to flourish. Owens will attract much attention from opposing defenses freeing up space for Lee Evans and the other receivers.

As long as Bills management fill the voids in the offensive line giving Edwards solid protection, Buffalo’s 25th ranked offense should significantly improve.

The AFC East, arguably the best division in the American Football Conference, is at an all time competitive high. The Bills needed to make an acquisition of this magnitude to at the very least compete in this division. This will help them because in New England, Tom Brady is returning, which turns the Patriots into the favorite to take the division title.

What impact T.O. will have on this organization on the field is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain, the Bills will profit from this on a financial standpoint. Season ticket sales should dramatically improve, even after a season where they broke records in sales. You can also bank on Buffalo getting at least one Sunday night game this season along with a ”Monday Night” prime time broadcast.

Lets hope for the Bills that the future Hall of Famer can end the franchise’s longest playoff drought and bring some much needed pride back to Buffalo.