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DeRo becomes Captain Canada
January 30, 2010, 3:02 PM
Filed under: Canada, Dwayne DeRosario

Dwayne De Rosario, who had a falling out with former Canadian coach Dale Mitchell, has been handed the captain’s armband by new coach Stephen Hart for Sunday’s exhibition soccer game in Jamaica.

De Rosario gets the nod to lead a young squad that is missing many of its European-based pros including normal skipper Paul Stalteri.

The Toronto FC midfielder has not played for Canada since a World Cup qualifying loss in Mexico in September 2008. The next month De Rosario, then playing for Houston, was quoted in The Globe and Mail saying of Mitchell: “I don’t know how someone who coached the under-20s to not score a goal in the World Cup was put in charge of the national team.”

He has not played in Canada’s 12 games since. Mitchell left the team in March 2009.

DeRosario has served as national team captain before on at least two occasions: July 9, 2005, at the Gold Cup in a 2-0 loss to the U.S. and Jan. 22, 2006 in a 0-0 draw with the U.S. in a friendly.

Hart, in his first game since taking over the team on a permanent basis, has issues in goal going into Sunday’s game. Veteran Paul Onstad, a late call-up to the camp, has had to go home because of back spasms. That leaves Hart with just one goalie in David Monsalve, an uncapped 21-year old who plays for FC Inter Turku in Finland.

“We’re in a bad situation with the goalkeepers,” Hart said Friday as the team bus made its way to the airport from camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the flight to Jamaica.

Kenny Stamatopoulos was initially summoned by Hart but was recalled by his club. Under-23 ‘keeper Michal Misiewicz was kept on from the Olympic team camp but he also had to return to his club. Hart is looking to bring in another goalie, but it looks like Monsalve will get the start.

“At some point you’ve got to dive in the deep end,” said Hart, who coached Monsalve on the national under-17 team.

Hart’s record is 9-7-2 in two stints as interim coach. Given the job for good in December, he is now building a squad for 2012 and the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

“Now I’m look at the team from a different way,” he explained. “I’m going to take 2010 and use it more to evaluate players and see how well they do at the international level with the thought of building a team for the future.

“In the interim (coaching) position, I just tried to keep things more or less status quo until whoever was given the job could come in and make the big decisions.”

In keep with that attitude, Hart says all five of his uncapped players will probably see action against Jamaica, which is also missing part of its European-based arsenal.

“Now is the time to take some risks,” Hart said.

Other uncapped players are forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu of the Vancouver Whitecaps, defender Nana Attakora of Toronto FC, midfielder Massih Wassey of FC Schalke 04 and midfielder Carlos Rivas, who is unattached.

De Rosario, with 52 national team appearances, and midfielder Julian de Guzman (42) are the veterans of the team.

Canada is ranked 56th in the world, compared to No. 81 for Jamaica.

The Reggae Boyz brought in seven newcomers to their 28-man camp: four schoolboys, two recruits from the local Digicel Premier League and midfielder-forward Ryan Johnson who plays for the MLS San Jose Earthquakes.

Other MLS players include former Toronto FC defender Tyrone Marshall (Seattle Sounders) and forward Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids).

Source: Click Here

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5 TFCers Called for Jamaica Friendly
January 15, 2010, 9:08 AM
Filed under: Canada, Dwayne DeRosario, Julian De Guzman, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Toronto FC

Canadian soccer coach Stephen Hart has opted for youth in selecting his squad for a friendly in Jamaica on Jan. 31.

The roster, drawn primarily from players who are out of season or whose clubs are currently on a winter break, includes a recall for Toronto FC star Dwayne De Rosario, who had been on the outs with the national team.

“It’s sort of unique opportunity for us to take a look at quite a few players that we have not seen for quite a while or have never seen at the international senior level,” Hart told a media conference call Thursday. “And to blend that in with some of our senior players in an international game.”

New to the senior squad are goalkeeper David Monsalve of FC Inter Turku (Finland), defender Nana Attakora of Toronto FC, midfielder Carlo Rivas of Club Deportivo Universidad de Concepcion (Chile), and midfielder Massih Wassey of FC Schalke 04 (Germany).

“As I said when I was hired, I would like to use 2010 to do a fair amount of experimenting,” said Hart. “My first priority is to try and create as much depth as possible in the squad.”

Six players come from Canadian clubs: five from Toronto FC and one from the Montreal Impact.

Rosario, who has been out of the picture since speaking out against former coach Dale Mitchell, returns to the national team fold.

“He was selected and Dwayne accepted, ” Hart said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

De Rosario has not played for Canada since September 2008.

Hart, named permanent coach in December after a run as interim coach, said he had talked to Toronto FC veteran defender Jim Brennan last year, but elected not to call him in if he could not give him “a good go.” But the coach said he will continue to keep in touch with Brennan.

The players will come together at a camp that opens Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and runs through Jan. 29. The team will then move to Kingston, Jamaica.

Canada is ranked 56th in the world, compared to No. 81 for Jamaica.

A goalie will be added to the roster.

Hart said discussions continue with Toronto striker O’Brian White about his international future. White was born in Jamaica.

Teal Bunbury, son of former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, was invited to the Canadian under-23 camp in Florida but declined “due to commitments,” Hart said.

Teal Bunbury was selected fourth overall by the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS SuperDraft Thursday.

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TFC players weigh in on needs of national squad
March 31, 2009, 7:19 AM
Filed under: Canada, Toronto FC

The last time Canada was looking for a new men’s soccer coach, Dwayne De Rosario pushed for the hiring of Brazilian Rene Simoes.

But in the end, the board of the Canadian Soccer Association didn’t hire the man who led Jamaica to an unlikely appearance in the 1998 World Cup, apparently because he wanted to bring in his own support staff and that was too expensive.

So, Canadian Dale Mitchell got the job in May 2007. He led the team to a 0-4-2 record in the semifinals of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying last fall and was fired on Friday.

Now, the debate is renewed over the passport of his replacement.

If the CSA hires a big-name coach with international experience, “I think people would take us a little more serious,” De Rosario, a national team member and midfielder with Toronto FC, said yesterday.

Such a coach would demand more and bigger friendly matches in Canada and a higher profile for the team, said De Rosario, who has 15 goals in 52 games for the national side. There would also be more support for top-flight trainers, psychologists and “all these things that we need to go over that hump,” he said.

“Of course, bringing in a person like that demands a lot,” De Rosario added. “And I think that puts a threat into a lot of people’s pockets … and that’s where we have a problem.”

TFC goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who has played 11 games for Canada, said no matter who is named, the new coach will face “a tough time” because of the CSA’s finances.

“It’s not getting the necessary funds that they need to be a successful program,” said Sutton, who is critical of the provincial soccer associations for not doing enough to help the national program develop players across Canada.

Canada is ranked 94th in the world in men’s soccer.

CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli said yesterday the organization hopes to generate more revenue and exposure for the national team in Canada by playing more home games, something the new women’s head coach, Italian Carolina Morace, also wants for her side.

Montopoli said he also thinks “a new head coach could possibly bring everybody together” – provincial associations, sponsors, fans – with a new philosophy aimed at improving the performance of Canada’s men’s teams, as is happening under Morace with the women.

“The provinces, I believe, are gathering momentum and becoming more and more supportive of the national teams program,” he said.

Montopoli said the CSA is determined to “come up with the best candidate” in its coaching search, just as it did with Morace, who was hired in February to win medals internationally with the world’s 11th-ranked women’s team.

“I don’t think we’ve said we’ll be limiting it within Canada or just looking only externally,” Montopoli said. “It’s more wide open.”

With Canada out of the running for next year’s World Cup in South Africa, there’s no rush to find a permanent replacement for Mitchell. An interim coach could handle the team in its next games, a friendly in Cyprus in May and the Gold Cup in the United States in July.

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Five Academy players get Canada call
March 30, 2009, 11:07 PM
Filed under: Canada, TFC Academy, Toronto FC

Five members of TFC Senior Academy team are taking part in a training camp with Canada Under 17s. Goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus, defender Feras Samain, forward Allando Matheson and midfielders Jonathan Lao and Brennan McNicoll are all at the camp in San Jose, Costa Rica.

It is Canada’s last training camp before next month’s CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Mexico and will include daily training sessions, one exhibition match and two international matches.

“This camp provides a great opportunity for our team to be tested against quality competition before our qualification tournament,” said Canada U-17 head coach Sean Fleming. “We look forward to all the challenges that will be put forth during the camp.”

Canada play an exhibition match against Costa Rica’s U-18 team on Tuesday and two international matches against Costa Rica U-17s on April 2nd and 4th.

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Gala cut from Canada U-20’s
March 6, 2009, 1:47 PM
Filed under: Canada, Gabe Gala, Toronto FC

Canadian soccer fans were taken aback this week by news that TFC development player Gabe Gala did not make the final cut for Canada’s u-20 team. It was especially stunning news in that Gala was one of the better players during a u-20 friendly with Argentina last year.

However, Gala’s omission isn’t looked at as surprising by those close to the team. There it is viewed as refreshing that Gala was cut and a sign that head coach Tony Fonseca is running a tight ship. It’s being widely suggested that Gala showed up to camp badly out of shape and was unable to keep up fitness wise.

Unfortunately for Gala it’s now being suggested that his future with TFC is being “re-evaluated” next week. Hopefully, there is still room for the young player who at one time was seen as the best prospect in the GTA (a position now held by relative late bloomer Nana Attakora).

Gala or no, the u-20 team’s confidence is high heading into the event. They feel that they have the talent to qualify to the Finals for a fifth straight tournament. The one equalizer, however, is the humidity in T&T. Those with the team say that it is nearly unbearable.

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Canadian pride versus MLS success
March 4, 2009, 8:20 AM
Filed under: Canada, MLS, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, USL, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

It’s not the biggest or the newest soccer stadium in Canada. Far from it. But its setting must be among the most picturesque in the country.

Occupying the North West corner of Central Park, surrounded on three sides by imposing fir trees and offering striking views of the mountains of North Vancouver, the outlook from the broadcast booth at Swangard Stadium remains one of my abiding memories of the 2008 season.

It was a quick turn round on a warm summer’s evening in Burnaby, B.C., just long enough to cover the latest game in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship – the three-cornered contest between the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps to determine the national champions.

The carrot for the winners of the Voyageurs Cup was a place in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, not to mention considerable and year-long Canadian bragging rights. That honour is currently the property of the Impact, who proved their domestic triumph was no fluke by comfortably booking a passage into the knockout stages and suffering only a single defeat along the way.

Happily, the Canadian Soccer Association has confirmed the competition will be repeated in 2009 and, hopefully, in my opinion, for many years to come. Despite the vast distances which separate the cities, true and lasting rivalries are being established between these clubs and the fans they represent.

For their part, Toronto FC have been forced to watch and grudgingly admire Montreal’s impact in an event featuring the region’s best teams. And while the TFC fans will demand the record be put straight this year, there is a risk it could work against the common good.

TFC cannot afford to fail

To my mind, 2009 must be all about success in Major League Soccer – if necessary, to the exclusion of all else. Toronto FC simply cannot afford to fail again this year.

I’m sensing a mood change among fans and players alike – an impatience to move the product to the next level, where the MLS play-offs are the first, last and only priority. The playing staff has been improved again and soon it will be incumbent on those in red jerseys to deliver the performances and results their loyal supporters crave.

The philosophy of head coach John Carver is straightforward. For competitive games he will always select his strongest possible team and when fringe players are given an opportunity the jersey becomes theirs to lose. If, in Carver’s opinion, they grab the chance they keep the shirt, if not it’s back to the bench.

This year’s Canadian championship has been moved forward for all involved. It will be played over a six week period in May and June and, for Toronto FC, it will mean two games a week for three of their four matches. It will be a hectic schedule and there may be a price to pay.

No doubt Carver wants to win the competition and why wouldn’t he after the embarrassment of losing it to a USL team in 2008? To achieve that goal, he’ll have to use his best team. We now know both Montreal and Vancouver are more than capable of holding their own in the company of supposedly superior players from MLS.

Rich rewards from Champions League

As the Impact have so spectacularly demonstrated, there are rich rewards to be earned from a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. Could Toronto FC have filled the Rogers Centre the way Montreal packed Olympic Stadium on a cold night in February? Perhaps we’ll see in twelve months time.

Despite that tempting distraction, Carver’s overriding priority must be to lead his team to the MLS post-season and that will require a fast start to the campaign and a fully fit roster. The opening games against Vancouver and Montreal coincide with a crucial segment of the season – Toronto have five out of six home games – somewhat similar to 2008, when Carver’s team was on a roll, winning matches and climbing the Eastern Conference standings.

That early season form needs to be repeated this year before the Gold Cup rolls around in July – a competition which will rob Carver of several key players, assuming it goes ahead as per FIFA’s calendar.

More games mean more risk of injury and fatigue and while it is inevitably par for the course, the reduction in size of MLS rosters for 2009 and the abandonment of the reserve division this year gives Carver less room for manoeuvre in terms of team selection. One way or another, he is going to face some tough decisions in the coming months.

So Canadian smugness or league advancement, where do you draw the line? Perhaps you don’t draw a line at all. Maybe you rely on one of the oldest clichés in the book and have both.

It’s one game at a time. Always was. Always will be.

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Soccer is taking over the nation
March 2, 2009, 8:11 AM
Filed under: Canada, MLS, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, USL, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Hey puckheads — Montreal Impact midfielder Sandro Grande has a message for you:

“This (Canada) is not a hockey nation. This is a soccer nation.”

What?

Questioning hockey’s status as the undisputed No. 1 in Canada is sacrilegious. Hockey always has been top dog.

Sure, Grande was coming off a high, after beating Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League in front of over 55,000 jacked up fans at the Big ‘O’ in Montreal.

But there’s truth to it — Canada is a soccer nation, and maybe how important we’re told hockey is to Canadian culture isn’t reality.

Soccer culture is slowly but surely coming to the mainstream surface of Canadiana, with the Impact, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Let’s be real, Grande Montreal is a hockey city — check that, a Montreal Canadiens city. Just like Toronto is a Maple Leafs town and Vancouver is all Canucks.

But the point here isn’t to suggest the pro soccer teams are more popular than the hockey clubs.

It’s about soccer culture. It’s about the interest, passion, knowledge and soccer lifestyle being just as prevalent in Canada as hockey.

MLS commissioner Don Garber acknowledged as much, seeing first-hand the reaction to Major League Soccer in Toronto. He has tried to make America a soccer nation for 13 years, but Canada was a soccer nation all along.

Canada’s foundation for being a soccer nation is obvious. Over 300,000 more Canadians play organized soccer than hockey.

Growth in hockey has been stagnant in recent years, partially because of the expense it costs to play it. As those costs continue to rise, hockey is going to become even more of an elitist sport.

Participation is only part of the story — our immigrant population base is another.

Thus far, Canada’s multicultural population hasn’t embraced the North American soccer game.

This isn’t surprising, with soccer being divided on cultural, ethnic and national lines. The same kind of nationalistic ties don’t exist in hockey, which speaks volumes, because Canadians define themselves by where they came from.

The immigrant population remains true to its old hometown club ties, preferring to watch soccer from where they, or their families came from.

This is one of the holes in assessing Canada’s passion for soccer through television ratings.

Hockey lives off its strong ratings, but it is an unfair indicator when comparing the sports. Hockey’s superior ratings have more to do with accessibility than anything else.

Watching soccer in North America takes serious commitment, with the majority of games overseas airing weekday afternoons or early in the morning. Only diehard fans will skip work or wake up at all hours to watch.

Hockey is easily accessible, to the point we have essentially been programmed to embrace it.

It’s like American politics; the public consumes the mindless derivative because it is being told it matters.

So Canadians get the same-old crap, redundant hockey conversation served up in a slightly different way all hours of the day. It’s quantity, not quality. Just because you’re forced fed, it doesn’t mean it tastes good.

While hockey is forced upon us, Canadians remain starved for soccer.

With soccer, it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Unlike hockey, you can’t put any two-bit soccer broadcasts out there and call it gold — soccer fans see right through it.

Pushing high-interest match-ups (Impact vs. Santos) to little-known, little-watched channels at a time only few can watch does nothing to satisfy the appetite of the Canadian viewer either.

Canadian soccer doesn’t have a ’72 Summit Series defining moment to its resume. The fact Canada is ranked 86th in the world doesn’t take anything away from Canada’s soccer culture either.

Canada’s soccer culture is truly grassroots and has been bred over time.

Grande was right to point out what Canada really is.

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