I’d like to think my suspicion is misplaced, but I fear it isn’t. And that’s a shame.
On Sunday, a day after last-place Toronto once again conceded late to lose a match, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers walked out into a sold-out CenturyLink Field to contest the latest in a series of wildly entertaining Cascadia Derbies. More than 66,000 fans were in attendance (including 1,500 travelling supporters), many participating in the songs, chants and general atmospheric flourishes that made the match a feast of colour and sound.
It wasn’t long ago that Toronto’s BMO Field was widely thought to have among the best, loudest and most organised supporters in MLS, but that was long before half of them opted to not even show up at the ground for Saturday’s match against DC United. It seems when both the result and quality of performance are known beforehand, people tend to stay away.
It’s gotten so bad that Toronto are now seen as a template of how not to build a football club. At three different times during the Seattle-Portland match the commentators cited the Canadian side as an example of what struggling Portland could become if they don’t right the ship, and fast.
“God forbid they become another Toronto FC,” remarked Alexei Lalas following a diatribe on Portland’s muddled coaching and management situation.
“Look what’s happened to Toronto FC,” said play-by-play announcer Adrian Healey sometime after that, his sidekick Taylor Twellman later accusing Toronto of having “toyed with the club’s fans.”
Just five years after Toronto began their MLS journey and were hailed as a model start-up they’ve become what other teams in the division view as a worst-case scenario. And given the enthusiasm the club enjoyed in its expansion season, and even the two after that, it has taken organisational ineptitude of monumental proportions to squander the momentum.
What not to do, indeed.
Seattle, of course, have been another story entirely. With their fourth season almost in the books they sit third in the Western Conference, having already qualified for the playoffs—something they’ve done in each year of their existence. Even Vancouver Whitecaps, who joined MLS two years after Toronto, are on the cusp of a playoff berth.
There’s no shortage of similar success stories in MLS, just as there’s no shortage of quality players and quality play on the field. Chris Wondolowski, for example, has already bagged 25 goals this campaign and is poised to break the single-season scoring record. Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry have combined for 29 goals at New York Red Bulls. Graham Zusi has established himself as a top playmaker at Sporting Kansas City.
These players and teams are worth watching; the standard of the league is good and will only continue to improve.
Unless, of course, your MLS experience in tied up in Toronto FC. Although I somehow doubt there’s many of you left.
Emotional ‘Dinho hat-trick: A day after his stepfather died of a heart attack Ronaldinho scored a hat-trick as Atletico Mineiro thumped relegation-bound Figueirense in Minas Gerais. Following his first goal—a high, swerving effort from the edge of the box that nestled inside the far post, up near where the owl sleeps—the 32-year-old fell to the ground in a heap of emotion as his teammates flocked around.
After the match Atletico manager Cuca hailed the former World Footballer of the Year, saying, “Ronaldinho is a different player. He has a different technical quality.”
Ronaldinho also assisted two goals in the win, and the three points takes Atletico to within six of Brasileiro leaders Fluminense with 10 rounds left to play.
Bernard: With the hat-trick Ronaldinho boosted his goal total to seven on the season, good for second on his team behind one of Brazil’s latest wunderkids: Bernard.
Barely 20 years-old, Bernard scored the sixth goal of Atletico’s romp against Figueirense and now has eight tallies on the campaign. He also leads the side with seven assists. A slight, albeit gifted, attacking midfielder, he has been making highlight reels in Brazil all season and was last month called up to the national squad for the Superclasico de las Americas.
As a 19-year-old Bernard was linked to a handful of clubs in Russia and Qatar and is currently thought to be on Liverpool’s radar. In a recent interview with Globo Esporte he revealed that several European clubs—the names of which he would not reveal—had made enquiries as to his signature and admitted that he might be tempted to make a move in the January transfer window.
“If there is any interest at the end of the [Brazilian] season and it is in the interests of both parties, let’s talk,” he said.
Neymar: Speaking of 20-year-old Brazilian starlets, Santos forward Neymar was last week quoted as saying he’d consider moving to Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expires.
“It would be a great honour [to play at PSG],” he told Telefoot, adding, “Ibrahimovic is one of the best players in the world today and I dream to play with major players.”
Neymar also remarked that Chelsea playmaker Oscar had been texting him about a move to the London side. Barcelona right-back Dani Alves has also been trying to do a sales job.
“There are maybe five clubs in the world you know you must at least listen to,” said Neymar. PSG, Chelsea and Barcelona are obviously two of the five.
Maxi puts Newell’s top: Remember Maxi Rodriguez—the former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool player who scored a golazo for Argentina against Mexico at the 2006 World Cup? Well, he now represents Argentine side Newell’s Old Boys and on Sunday put his side top of the Torneo Inicial with a first-minute half-volley against Velez Sarsfield.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer