Rocket Robin’s 2016 Soccer In Toronto Year-End Editorial

I know the soccer season is not quite over for me but while I’ve got some time I thought I’d sum up the season of the games I went to and say my thank you’s.

I attended a lot of soccer games again this year—I count 83 so far. That included a National Team game, MLS, USL, PDL, and League 1 Ontario games in the Greater Toronto area. Here’s my feeling about each league or team:

League 1 Ontario

I have been to 39 games this year. 35 regular season games, 1 Cup Final, 1 League Final, 1 Women’s League Final, and 1 Women’s All Stars game vs a Quebec All Star game. It took me until the last weekend of the regular season but I can say once again this year I saw every men’s team at least three times (16 teams). This is the third year of operation and the league looks more stable. League officials have realized that attendance isn’t going to pay for the players so the league has stayed mostly amateur. Only paid players are those who double at the team’s soccer camps or coaching. There’s a lot of mid 20s players who could take roster spots in the new Canadian Premier League if that gets started soon and will pay players a living wage.

Big winner this year was Vaughan Azzurri who won the League Cup and the League Championship and have a chance to win the Inter-provincial Cup in the middle of this month when they play a two game series with the best team in Quebec.

I didn’t get to see the TFC Academy and Vaughan Azzurri teams as often as I would have liked as their home games started too soon on Sunday afternoons with my commitments.

Toronto FC Academy PDL team:

I attended seven PDL games watching TFC Academy games all played at the KIA Training Centre in Downsview during weekdays at 4:00pm. The visiting teams were stocked with NCAA players keeping in shape over the summer then returning to school. The season lasted from mid-May to the end of July. TFC fielded a team in this league for the second year in succession. Before that Toronto Lynx operated from 2008 to 2014. Neither team over the years did well. TFCA finished their 14 game schedule with a record of 2 wins, 8 losses, 4 ties and were in a tie for fifth place out of seven teams in the Great Lakes Division of the Central Conference.

It may be their last year (that was said last year too) as there’s been pressure by the CSA for the Ontario teams to join League 1 Ontario. This season FC London made the jump and that was very successful. K-W United who finished second are the other Southern Ontario team in this league. TFCA already fields a team in League 1 Ontario using their under 18s or they’d likely steamroll through the L1O league like they did in their undefeated 2014 season. The PDL team this year included a few NCAA players but often was made up of TFC II players moving down and L1O TFC Academy players stepping up to play against older players. I’d often see TFCA players later in the week back with their regular teams. The visiting teams often came to Canada with a bare minimum of subs as they problems getting players over the border. Were there a lot of felons? No it was some of the European players on scholarships could only play in the USA.

USL Toronto FC II (United Soccer League)

They played 15 regular season games at home. They did not make the playoffs. Their full season record in 30 games was 7 wins, 18 losses , 5 ties for 26 points. They finished in twelfth place out of 14 teams in the Eastern Conference. Their 58 goals against was the worst in the East. Last year’s inaugural season record in 28 games was 6 wins, 17 losses, 5 ties with them having the worst goals against (52) in the East in 2015. They finished eleventh out of twelve teams with the playoffs allowing the first six to qualify.

I understand their mandate is to prepare players for MLS team and they play against fellow MLS teams’ ‘B’ or ‘II’ squads plus the stand alone teams. While it was mostly the case that the stand alone teams placing better in the standings the exception was New York Red Bulls II who steamed through the league with 21 wins, 3 losses, 6 ties finishing nine points higher than any other team and then ran the playoffs to win the championship in their second year of existence.

I got a great deal on tickets for the season—only $75…offered to me as a TFC MLS season ticket holder. The atmosphere shifted to more family friendly after the first few games after trying to be Southend Stands Lite for the first few games.

I was asked by a message board fan to rate the players (which I won’t have time to do) but I’ll just give my best and worst player.

Worst player—goalie Clint Irwin. While recovering from injury Irwin played a few games for TFC II and just didn’t fit in. He was caught out of position often and didn’t seem to communicate with the defenders just standing around. He only played in two games but they were forgettable with a 4.65 goals against and a .273 save percentage. There were six goalies moving up and down between their MLS and PDL teams ruining any consistency in my opinion. (I have no complaints against Irwin’s play with the MLS team).

Best player—Shaan Hundal. He tied with Raheem Edwards leading the team with six goals. He was age 15 then 16 as the season wore on. He made the most appearances of any player this season with 27 out of the 30 games. I was only disappointed when he got pushed aside near the end of the season to get Trinidad player Ricardo John time. Hundal skipped right over L1O play as I’d never seen him play before this season.

Major League Soccer Toronto FC (MLS)

Their season isn’t over at the time of writing. So far for home games they’ve played 17 regular season games, 2 Canadian Championship games, and 2 playoff games. I do write about them in my notebook but didn’t have time to post with going to so many other games during the week. Now that the other leagues have wrapped up I can catch up although I’ve just finished May. It’s all sealed up so I won’t use 20/20 hindsight and predict their future. Since these games are all on television and people are live tweeting every detail about the game, I figures I’d be more effective spending my time writing about other leagues.

My complaints aren’t about how the team plays but outside things like how many times the subway was closed for track maintenance during the season or the fact that the entire season the streetcar was short looped eight blocks away because of track rebuilding for the streetcar. Because of the renovations to the stadium the team played their first eight games on the road so when they finally got to play at home they played three games in one week a total of four times this season which was exhausting for me. Always over two hours to get home (oh I’ve already said because of the distance to the streetcars and non existence shuttle buses to get there. I walked a few times all the way to Union Station just so I wouldn’t be standing still. The actual renovations did nothing for me as the new roof did not protect our area from the rain in the seventh row. Lucky me that it only rained once while a game was being played this season. A strong rain is killer for me taking notes the way I do in the old pen to notebook style.

Game times were rescheduled to try to maximize television ratings. This playoff run is the worst with times not announced until three days before they take place.

Canadian National Teams games in Toronto.

There was only one game by a Canadian National team played in Toronto. The national women’s team played a friendly against Brazil on June 4. They lost 2-0 but learned a lot as they would beat the Olympic hosts for the Bronze medal game in August. I had a press pass for that game and enjoyed the post game conference and interviews. I sometimes use that as motivation to get me out to lower league games in the rain.

I regret not having more time to watch women’s games in L1O. There were a few years where Toronto Lady Lynx (of the W-League) were my favourite of all the Toronto area teams and about half the Canadian National team had spent some time playing for them.

Once again this year I’m grateful to the game officials and team officials and players of the Canadian National team, USL, PDL, and League One Ontario for helping me fill in assists and recapping scoring plays to make my reports more detailed.

This season the USL and L1O web broadcast all their games so I did ‘cheat’ and watch the goals over again to fill in the blanks on assists if I miss asking the players after the game or they’re unsure.

Also I’d like to thank my father who passed away just over one week ago at the age of 94. He lived in the Veteran’s wing of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto for almost his last six years and although he suffered from dementia he would still chat with me until his last week. He was a Blue Patch Boy who did the whole England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany tour with the Canadian army in WWII. Soon after he entered the facility I had some bad news about my own health and found an out from my high pressure job by going on an extended leave and working for him as a caregiver. This also left me with more time to attend and write up more games than in previous years. R.I.P. Daddy.

I now write for Northern Starting XI and NUKE Soccer and still post to three message board sites although seeing only between 10 and 100 readers can be frustrating. On the other hand chatting with Jens Kraemer (of the original CSL North York Rockets of the 80s and 90s) after all these years and him knowing about me was a highlight of the year. I found I have 195 links to my pages on Wikipedia thanks to the work of ‘Shotgun pete’.

I’m not sure how I’ll cover soccer next season. Maybe it’s time to invest in some better equipment. I think I’ll still go with the pen and paper method of taking notes. Maybe a camera that can take better pictures looking into the sun or night games with low lighting and not looking like blurs if anyone is moving. A new pair of binoculars where I’m not always worried that the eye pieces are going to fall off? My car still works but is older than all the players on the Toronto FC Academy team! I’ve got a cracked cell phone but don’t have a data plan so I only tweet from my laptop at home. I’m sure I’ll find something by the Spring. We’ll see what happens in 2017. Happy New Year everyone!

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Robin Glover

Robin Glover

Robin has been writing about soccer in the Toronto area for message boards and his own website since the early 1990s in the days of 2400 baud modems to USENET sites. In the 2014 season he attended 76 games in various leagues that played in the GTA area. Follow Robin on Twitter and on his website

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