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Carolina One Year On
March 13, 2009, 7:28 AM
Filed under: Carolina Challenge Cup, Toronto FC

This time last year Toronto FC had traveled to the Carolina Challenge Cup with a squad that consisted of names such as Martin Brittain, Victor Pacheco and Kevin Gall. All were trialists who didn’t see the light of day in a TFC shirt at BMO Field – or any other Major League Soccer stadium for that matter. Also on that club were traditional supporters’ scapegoats such as Collin Samuel and Jeff Cunningham.

Going into the 2008 season the front office was also fielding calls about the lack of player acquisitions in the off season, the general direction of the squad and all other matters that lends to the anxiety of arguably North America’s most passionate sports fans (although I see it more as a fact than an argument, but my bias forces me to digress).

A year later many of the uncertainties have subsided. Director of Soccer Operations, Mo Johnston, could have quit while he was ahead when he added Scarborough native Dwayne De Rosario to the TFC squad in time to make Christmas a more joyous occasion to even the most Godless of our followers. But he pressed on and also signed Argentine forward Pablo Vitti and De Rosario’s good friend and fellow Scarbarian Adrian Serioux to strengthen the backline.

At this stage of the annual preseason tournament last year in Charleston, Toronto had already dropped a 1-0 decision to then new MLS expansion side San Jose followed by a 1-1 draw against rivals New York Red Bulls (of New Jersey). Then in a most humiliating turn, losing to the host, United Soccer Leagues’ Charleston Battery 2-0 in the tournament finale to finish last before the season opener in Columbus.

This year in two matches Toronto has already avenged their loss to the hosts with a 2-1 win and last night beat conference rivals DC United by an identical margin to set up a finale against Salt Lake on Saturday where only a win will give Toronto its first trophy in club history. The major improvement over last season has given some a confident but conservative optimism.

One club source close to the coaching staff said that “there is an air of expectancy that is very business like.” He also believes that competition for places and the depth in cover that Toronto has this year will also make a huge difference. These are two important factors that were also missing last year due to various circumstances out of the club’s control in a league where restrictions such as salary caps, player quotas and scheduling can sometimes derail the best of intentions.

While unfounded optimism often leaves a bad aftertaste (see the state of Wall Street before and after 2008 for reference) Toronto supporters certainly can be forgiven this season for acquiring guarded confidence that the emotional stock of their club may experience fewer sharp drops this season. While some improvements are still required and possibly forthcoming, the exploits in Charleston allows for some light at the dawn of our third season.

Toronto FC v. Salt Lake will be streamed live on www.torontofc.ca on Saturday (5:00 p.m.). Fans can also simultaneously participate on the site’s live blog during the match.

Source: Click Here

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