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TFC are in a mess and that’s a fact!
October 26, 2009, 5:15 PM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Mo Johnston, Toronto FC

What an absolute shambles.

I have to admit, I decided on Sunday not to write a 2009 Toronto FC obituary. Plenty of others will do it and I can leave my thoughts to tapings of television shows and podcasts. However, we now live in a Twitter/Facebook world and what people want, they get.

So, in the spirit of Rafa and Fergie here goes.

FACT – There needs to some serious repercussions following Saturday’s humiliating performance in New York.

FACT – This cannot start and end with the coach.

FACT – Chris Cummins was leaving this club before Saturday’s debacle, practically sticking the proverbial two fingers up at the club on his way out, so the club, and management, cannot just allow his departure to be the sole reason for them to change direction.

FACT – There are major divisions inside that dressing room. They were there throughout the season and only now are we learning about them. Incredibly, we are learning about them from a rookie in Sam Cronin but at least he was man enough to step up in front of the microphones postgame on Saturday. (Not sure where the captain of the team was, by the way).

FACT – While we are on the subject of the captain, this needs to change. Just as people, rightly or wrongly, will hold Cummins accountable for the divisions in the locker room, the same has to be laid at the door of Jim Brennan. Brennan seems like a decent enough guy but at the end of the day he is the leader of a group inside that locker room that have been in battle together for nine months and have come out of it even less united than they were when the pre-season began. He is also painfully past his best on the field. Rumours are rife about retirement and if that happens in the offseason the team will be better for it. At the end of the day, Brennan, who was never blessed with a lot of pace, has lost a step and is a defensive liability. Following the nonsensical trade of Todd Dunivant in the offseason, there was no cover for Brennan in that position, forcing Cummins to play a formation in 3-5-2 that was cool a decade ago until it became incredibly exposed by sides who employed fast wide players.

FACT – Ah wide players, there’s a nice thought. It really is absolutely amazing that a team with ZERO wide players made it so close to making the MLS playoffs. Spare me with the Marvell Wynne answer also. Wynne is a right back, and nothing else, for a reason. His pace enables him to go one-on-one with the speedy left wingers in the MLS but going forward he is a technical nightmare. I am amazed he remembers to take the ball with him when he makes the runs. The fact that players such as Dwayne De Rosario, Pablo Vitti, Chad Barrett and Sam Cronin were all, on occasions, played out wide only shows how important the position is. The fact that none of them took to the position well shows just how unbalanced this team was from the beginning.

FACT – Sam Cronin is a good player and has the potential to be a solid player in the MLS. However, Mo Johnston knew full well when he drafted him that he was a central player (this is where he performed so well for Wake Forest) yet still took him ahead of a defender (the team’s biggest need). I actually feel sorry for Cronin. He was a victim of a terribly constructed roster and was forced to play out of position for the ENTIRE season.

FACT – (I know I only have a short amount of time to base this on but…) Julian De Guzman is being used all wrong by this team. De Guzman is a great talent but on a team that doesn’t control the ball well he needs to be more involved. During the talk of his impending arrival many words were written and spoken about how this signalled the end for midfielder Carl Robinson. However, I could never work that out and still can’t. Robinson is the perfect player to play with De Guzman, in any formation. Toronto FC didn’t play millions of dollars for a midfielder to sit in front of the defence and give the ball to game-changers in front of him. Unfortunately, Robinson’s late-season injuries robbed us of seeing the two play together and forced De Guzman into that role but had there been adequate depth to the squad then a central midfielder like Cronin should have taken the ‘Robinson role’ allowing De Guzman to be the attacking central midfielder.

FACT – For those reasons, De Guzman will desperately hoping Robinson returns to Toronto FC next season.

FACT – Amado Guevara has to go. I give Guevara a lot of credit for the way he has changed his game but his continued desire to drop deep, coupled with his 300K contract, means he needs to be moved on. He will also have two eyes firmly on South Africa in 2010.

FACT – Football is a simple game. Get good defenders and you will win more games than you lose. The fact that, after three years, this is still the biggest problem (and with the lack of goals, that’s saying something) is nothing short of disgraceful. For the bulk of 2008 season, the combination of Marco Velez and Tyrone Marshall were repeatedly torn to shreds but anyone with a remote football brain knew that Marshall was the better player yet he wasn’t given a chance to play next to a more accomplished defender. A year later and neither are here and the replacements have been no better. Adrian Serioux, not a natural central back, should never play that position for the club ever again and the acquisition of Nick Garcia is one of the worst in the short history of this franchise. In fact, seeing that the rights to Ali Gerba were also involved in the deal, makes it THE worst deal in the history of the club. Mo Johnston may well have taken $450,000 in cash out of the MLSE bank account and set it on fire in the middle of BMO Field.

FACT – Mo Johnston has made a reputation for himself of giving out laughable contracts. Garcia and Gerba aside, the money given to Pablo Vitti is nothing short of a miracle. What actually merited Vitti getting close to 300K in the first place? The fact that he was from Argentina and good on a video game? Vitti arrived in Toronto with a reputation of a goalscorer, despite having never scored goals anywhere he’d been. Johnston was remarkable passive when it came to Vitti. A man who never shy’s away from cutting players should have known as soon as he saw Vitti have no desire to get in the box what he had signed yet stuck with him. As I have eluded to in the past, Vitti is now a client of First Wave Sports so don’t be surprised to see him back next season.

FACT – Talking about bad contracts. Its now 15 months since Toronto FC acquired Chad Barrett from Chicago, where he scored 18 goals in 82 appearances. Apparently, two months into his tenure at BMO Field, Johnston saw enough to give him a four year deal close to 200K per year. Staggering. For the record, Barrett has 9 goals in 42 appearances for Toronto FC. It takes him five games to get a goal.

FACT – Dwayne De Rosario had a good season but not a great season. Sure, it was hard playing with some of the players he did but he absolutely disappeared down the stretch. In fact, he disappeared the moment he was no longer ‘the man’ when the DP arrived. I’m just saying.

FACT – The job of becoming Toronto FC’s next coach is one that isn’t that appealing right now. Unless, MLSE are willing to sign a big fat check to entice a big name, why else would anyone want the job? They clearly will not be in charge and will have to answer to Mo Johnston and coach Mo Johnston’s players. They, like all of us, have read the reports of dressing room unrest. They know the squad is incredibly thin and even more unbalanced. Year three was the year they wanted to make the playoffs. Year four may prove to be a massive test to get to that unless big changes take place at BMO Field this winter and, folks, I’m not talking about the grass.

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Cummins promises attacking football
May 1, 2009, 7:56 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Toronto FC

John Carver brought Chris Cummins in to be his lead assistant with Toronto FC last May. So there is a temptation to paint Cummins, Carver’s replacement as the head coach of the club, as Carver 2.0.

On the day he was officially named as the club’s interim boss, Cummins said at least one thing to dispel that notion. He swears he will not allow Major League Soccer’s officiating get to him.

“Things like that don’t bother me. I’m quite laid back,” the 37-year-old Cummins said at a news conference yesterday at BMO Field. “You’re going to get poor decisions. You’re going to get things you’re unhappy with. But I think throughout the season, it swings and roundabouts. I think you get as many good ones as you do bad ones.”

Cummins, however, seems committed to continuing the manner in which Carver began the season. Carver resigned his post on Saturday because of his frustration with the league and its officiating. After leading TFC to a win on Sunday as the unofficial interim coach, Cummins got his official due yesterday.

Nick Dasovic, also an assistant under Carver, will serve as Cummins’ lead assistant. After the win on Sunday, the club’s director of soccer, Mo Johnston, suggested it was possible Dasovic would get the head job. But it sounds like Cummins was the man for the job all along.

“When you break it all down, within the locker room and the respect factor, it was an easy decision,” Johnston said.

“Obviously when [Carver] left, Chris took the team right off the bat,” Dasovic, a Vancouver native, added. “If you were present in the locker room before the game for the pregame talks he gave and how he got the team motivated, to me, it was a decision that already was made.”

Both Johnston and Cummins, who coached for 15 years in England before coming over to Toronto, lauded Carver’s style with the team. Cummins said his predecessor’s willingness to allow his assistants to implement their own ideas allowed him to blossom as a coach.

Still, there could be a few technical changes. While Carver favoured a formation that featured four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards, Cummins said he prefers to play four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. That look was successful for TFC in two straight wins last week that vaulted the club into first place in the Eastern Division.

“What you’ll see is a team that is going to play attacking football,” Cummins said. “There’s going to be a freedom to play, to get the ball down [the field], to pass the ball, and to put on a show as well as get the result. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be taking unnecessary risks, playing out in the back and causing ourselves problems.”

Cummins will be given the chance to implement his style.

“I’ve told these guys, ‘Don’t look over your shoulder. Just keep doing the job you’re doing and let’s get on with it,”‘ Johnston said as he looked at his coaching staff. “I’m not looking at anyone else.”

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`Laid-back’ Cummins takes over TFC’s reins
April 30, 2009, 8:16 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Toronto FC

Chris Cummins, the new interim head coach of Toronto FC, says he’s not the type of guy to get too worked up about poor officiating.

“Things like that don’t bother me if I’m honest with you,” Cummins said yesterday after being named successor to John Carver, who quit last week. “I’m quite laid back.”

That certainly wasn’t the temperament of his predecessor, who tendered his resignation a few days after being fined $750 (U.S.) for publicly criticizing the officiating in Toronto’s 3-2 loss at FC Dallas on April 19.

It was one of several run-ins the 44-year-old Englishman had with Major League Soccer referees during his 15 months on the job.

While Carver said in an interview this week the “last straw” was being ordered by MLS to return to the sidelines after spending a game coaching from a private box atop BMO Field and “out of the firing line” of on-field officials, TFC general manager Mo Johnston yesterday said it was Toronto management who made the request.

“John wanted to sit upstairs, we wanted him to sit downstairs,” Johnston said after announcing the appointment of Cummins and the elevation of Canadian Nick Dasovic to be TFC’s first assistant coach.

“John had numerous things going on that had to be taken care of,” Johnston said. “That wasn’t the breaking point.”

Johnston said Carver was “disillusioned by the whole scheme of things,” including MLS, refereeing and the stress of the situation.

Johnston insisted, as has Carver, that the two men did not have a falling out and that he tried to talk the coach into staying.

“There was no going back,” Johnston said. “He didn’t let me or anyone else down. He gave everything he had and he just couldn’t go on.”

Reached by telephone yesterday afternoon as he watched the Arsenal-Manchester United Champions League game on television, Carver agreed “there was a number of issues” that led to his resignation.

When he spoke to Johnston about sitting downstairs for last Sunday’s game, Carver said he assumed it was the league making the request.

While saying a confidentiality agreement precluded him from discussing his departure any further, he did wish Cummins all the best.

“I’m delighted for him,” Carver said of the man he brought to TFC in May of last year. “It’s a great opportunity and he’s got my blessing.”

Cummins, 37, a native of Watford, England, said he’s “really excited” and promised “a team that’s going to play attacking football.”

Cummins was the main coach on the sidelines for the past two games, both 1-0 home wins. In each, TFC employed three strikers and took the game to the visitors and should have won by a wider margin.

“Every single day we’ll be working tirelessly to bring success to this club,” he said.

TFC (3-2-2) sits first in the Eastern Conference and hosts defending champion Columbus (0-2-4) on Saturday.

Johnston said although the title is interim, “I’ve told these guys: `Don’t look over your shoulder. Just keep doing the job you’re doing and let’s get on with it.’ I’m not looking at anyone else.”

Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer with TFC owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., said he doesn’t share Carver’s concerns the team is getting unfair treatment from MLS or its referees.

“Referees are human beings and sometimes they make a call you like and sometimes they make a call you don’t like,” Anselmi said.

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Reds to name interim head coach
April 29, 2009, 8:19 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Coaching, Nick Dasovic, Toronto FC

There isn’t a great deal of suspense surrounding the search for Toronto FC’s interim head coach. Either Chris Cummins or Nick Dasovic will be named the club’s interim coach on Wednesday, and whichever of the two Reds assistant coaches is tapped for the top job, the decision will be popular with the players.

“They’re both great guys,” said midfielder Carl Robinson. “They get on well with the boys … and they’re great coaches as well. They’re both very technical, very tactical, so we’re going to be in good hands.”

TFC manager and director of soccer Mo Johnston announced on Sunday that the team would be looking only at Cummins and Dasovic for the head coaching job that was vacated by John Carver last Friday. With the season just seven games old and Carver’s resignation coming as something of a surprise, hiring one of the assistants would help the club retain some continuity.

“If a new manager comes in, he starts studying the players, getting to know them and we’re starting from scratch,” said team captain Jim Brennan. “Here, we have good momentum at the moment and whoever comes in, we’ll just continue that.

“They’re both great guys and great coaches and they have a great deal of respect from all the players. Whomever gets it, they already have the dressing room.”

Cummins ran the sidelines on Wednesday during TFC’s 1-0 win against Chivas USA while Carver directed things from a stadium box, and Cummins was also the coach of record for the Reds’ 1-0 win over Kansas City on Sunday. He said that both he, Dasovic and the whole team are focused only on this Saturday’s match against Columbus rather than the coaching situation.

“It was a tough week last week with everything that went on,” Cummins said. “I’ve just come in to do my job. I love my job just as Das does. … We’ve just trained with the lads and nobody’s talking about it, to be honest with you. We’re just coming in and getting on with our jobs. We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

It would be the first time as the head coach of a professional club for either Cummins or Dasovic, as both men have built their reputations as quality developers of young talent in several different leagues around the world.

Cummins, 37, began his pro coaching career in his early 20s and got his first professional coaching job with his hometown Watford Football Club in 1996, hired by Watford legend and former England head coach Graham Taylor. He served as the team’s youth development director and assistant academy manager of both the under-16 and youth teams before being named Watford’s director of youth and the youth and reserve team coach.

He moved on to take the same role with Luton Town, where he first worked with Carver. When Carver took over the TFC job 15 months ago, he brought Cummins into the fold as Toronto’s assistant coach upon the conclusion of Luton’s season in May 2008.

Cummins said that he has learned lessons from all of the coaches he has worked with, but also noted that part of the reason he was interested in coaching in the first place was as a reaction to what he felt was poor instruction in his semi-pro playing days.

“I was quite opinionated, and I used to get frustrated, to be honest with you, with some coaches that I didn’t think knew the game,” Cummins said. “So I got into the coaching side and I was fortunate to get the opportunity when I was very young. People talk about me being a young coach, but I’ve been in the professional game now for 16 years.”

Perhaps the best-known of Cummins’ charges is current Aston Villa winger Ashley Young. Cummins has known Young since he was a 10-year-old entering the Watford Academy for the first time, and oversaw Young’s development into a star for Watford, Villa and now the English national team.

Cummins deflected praise for helping Young and the other notable players that he had taught on the way, instead saying the credit belonged to the players themselves.

“I’ve had an influence in some of their careers but it comes down to their natural talent, their ability and their desire to want to do well. I can’t take all the credit for that,” Cummins said.

For Dasovic, Toronto FC is the latest stop in a footballing journey that has taken him all over Canada and Europe. The Vancouver native’s 16-year professional playing career took him to Croatia, Sweden, France and Sweden, as well as stints with the North York Rockets of the old Canadian Soccer League and the USL’s Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.

“I’ve had the opportunity to live in Sweden, France, Scotland and you learn different styles of football, different ways of life and cultures,” Dasovic said. “It helps to make you a more complete person in every aspect, not just in coaching.”

Dasovic’s playing and coaching careers overlapped, as he served as an assistant coach while still playing for the Whitecaps from 2002 to 2005. Upon retirement, he became Vancouver’s reserve team coach in 2006 as well as an assistant coach in the national program, first with Canada’s under-20 team and then with the national team, a position he still holds to this day. The international duty was a natural step for a man who was a fixture in Canada’s midfield and back line; Dasovic’s 63 caps are the sixth-most of any player in Canada’s history.

While Dasovic, 40, enjoys his role with Canada, he has relished the chance to work for Toronto FC. He joined the club last May as the head of the TFC Academy, and this season was promoted to working with the first team.

“I prefer to be in club football, only because with the Canadian national program, you didn’t really coach,” Dasovic said. “You had three months off then you’d go away on a trip for 10 days and there wasn’t a lot of coaching you could do. It was more monitoring the players’ fitness levels, etc. and then you’d have another three-month break. This is the element of coaching is where you want to be right now because you’re in there every single day in an environment when there’s a lot of pressure on everybody. It’s good to be part of pressure because it keeps you striving to be better.”

Dasovic said the coaching staff and players have already adjusted to moving on without Carver since each coach was already given a lot of responsibility.

“The good part about being with the club is that JC gave us roles and let us do our own thing. He wasn’t there looking over our backs the whole time,” Dasovic said. “Coming into this role it’s comfortable. Me and Chris have been working together for over a year now and we get on well. Everything’s been great.

“There is no transition, as far as I’m concerned. It’s status quo. Obviously JC’s not there, but in terms of Chris, myself, [strength and conditioning coach] Paul [Winsper], [goalkeeper coach Mike] Toshack and the rest of the staff, we carried on and I think that’s what’s been good about it.”

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TFC to up its Canuck content
April 29, 2009, 8:18 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Coaching, Nick Dasovic, Toronto FC

The nation’s only Major League Soccer team should get significantly more Canadian content on its revamped coaching staff.

Nick Dasovic is expected to get a bigger portfolio with Toronto FC in an announcement today, either as an equal or first assistant to Englishman Chris Cummins, who replaces John Carver.

Cummins and Dasovic ran the team the past few days, including Sunday’s 1-0 win over Kansas City that put TFC in top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Chris and I have been working together for a year now and we get along well,” the Vancouver-born Dasovic said yesterday at BMO Field.

“Chris has stepped up, the wheels are turning, the boys are feeding off of it and we’ll see how things work out.”

Dasovic arrived last season with Carver and Cummins, having played with and coached the Canadian national team between several overseas adventures in Scotland, France and Sweden.

‘WHERE YOU WANT TO BE’

“I prefer to be in club football,” Dasovic said. “With the Canadian national program, you didn’t really coach; it was more monitoring players’ fitness with a three-month break. This is where you want to be, an environment where there’s pressure on everybody. It keeps you (hungry).”

Dasovic and Cummins are trying to move forward from last week’s strange episodes: The stressed-out Carver’s fight with MLS officials coming to a head, his resignation and then a pair of stirring 1-0 home wins with him off the pitch.

Carver has told several media outlets that the final straw was MLS telling him to get back behind the bench after he tried to get out of harm’s way Wednesday night by taking a press box seat.

“It’s football,” Dasovic said of the wacky week. “I think I’ve had 13 different managers in my career. You just get on with it.”

Cummins continues to conduct himself like a head coach, but is not going to steal general manager Mo Johnston’s thunder at today’s press conference. The pair have all this week to get the team ready for Saturday’s home game against Columbus.

“I enjoy my job, as Das does,” Cummins said. “We’ll have a meeting (today with Johnston) and see what happens.”

The players continue to quietly lobby for one or both to stay put.

“I’ve known Das a long time and played with him on the national team,” Canadian-born captain Jim Brennan said.

“As (teammate) Carl Robinson said, whoever gets the job, all the best to them, but they’re both good. They have a great deal of respect from all the players which helps, because whoever does get it will have the dressing room’s (attention) right away.”

Brennan and Robinson have waited a long time to get the club on a roll.

“I think we showed that on Sunday in the huddle before the game,” Robinson said. “It involved everyone from the physio guys, to the equipment men to the coaches. The (players) might have made a couple of mistakes on Sunday, but they were able to smile about it.”

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In Cummins we trust
April 23, 2009, 8:16 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Toronto FC

The banner could have read ‘In Carver We’ve Lost’ as Toronto FC coach John Carver was nowhere to be found prior to his team’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday night.

The aforementioned banner is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek reference to a banner unfurled by supporters at BMO Field in 2008 that read, ‘In Carver We Trust’. But the absence of the fan-favourite coach on Wednesday night was no joke as the whispering and speculating spread like wildfire through the media ranks before confirmation came that Carver chose to watch the match against Chivas USA from the media gondola.

“John has his reasons,” was all that assistant coach Chris Cummins offered in regard to the switch.

Cummins, Carver’s No. 2, handled the touchline duties alongside fellow assistant Nick Dasovic and fitness coach Paul Winsper. Cummins was also the name signed at the bottom of the submitted starting 11.

“I had the same input I have every week in selecting the team,” Cummins said of his role. “As a staff we try to put out the best team possible.”

Carver was fined $750 by the league on Tuesday for his comments towards the officials in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas. In May of 2008 Carver was first fined by MLS for his post-match criticism of officials in a draw with Columbus.

Whether the motive on Wednesday night was based in silent protest or actual tactics is unknown, but what can be confirmed in Toronto FC responded to the decision right from the opening whistle.

“J.C can’t shout at the referee from where he was, but there is no difference to the players,” Carl Robinson joked after the match. “The instructions come from J.C before hand and he told us that the best defence is an attacking one. And he was right.”

Amado Guevara, Toronto FC’s go-to goal scorer so far in 2009, was at it again in the 36th minute when a fortuitous bounce off a Danny Dichio header fell to Guevara who made no mistake in driving it by Chivas’ goalkeeper Zach Thornton.

The goal was the third on the year for Guevara.

It is a quick turnaround for Toronto as the team will play its third match in seven days on Sunday when Kansas City comes to town. Toronto (2-2-2) earned its first win of the year in the season opener at Kansas City, 3-2.

Whether or not Carver will be back in his usual spot is yet to be determined.

“It’s one game at a time for all of us,” Cummins said, smiling from ear-to-ear. “We are not about to think we’ve figured it all out. The players will have their feet firmly on the ground.”

NOTES: An announced (and generous) crowd of 19, 915 brave souls weathered the cold and rainy night at BMO … The points were the first-ever earned by Toronto against Chivas. Prior to Wednesday TFC was 0-4 all-time against the Red-and-White … First-year goalkeeper Stefan Frei made just one save to record the clean sheet … Chad Barrett was named Man of the Match.

LINEUP: Stefan Frei; Jim Brennan, Marvell Wynne, Adrian Serioux, Marco Velez; Amado Guevara (Ricketts, 90), Carl Robinson, Sam Cronin, Pablo Vitti (Ibrahim, 80); Danny Dichio, Chad Barrett

SUBSTITUES: Greg Sutton, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Kevin Harmse, Fuad Ibrahim, Rohan Ricketts, Johan Smith, Emmanuel Gomez

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Cummins pleased with players’ response
April 6, 2009, 4:20 PM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Toronto FC

Toronto FC assistant coach Chris Cummins was happy with the players’ response in training at BMO Field Monday as preparations began for Saturday’s clash with FC Dallas.

Cummins expects the players to learn from the home opener loss to Seattle Sounders FC and now put it behind them.

“The mood was good,” he said. “We’re disappointed from the weekend because we wanted to put on a good performance and get a good result. What happened out there hurts us as much as it hurts the supporters but we can’t dwell on what happened and let it affect us during the week.”

“We’re aware of what happened and have talked about it, but you have to come in with a smile on your face and get on with preparing for the next game. We did some work out on the pitch today to get the legs moving again and we also analyzed the video to go over what we could have done better.”

Cummins led the training session on Monday as coach John Carver is currently away in Dallas with TFC Academy. The Academy’s Senior Team is playing in the prestigious youth tournament The Dallas Cup Super Group, and opened with a 1-1 tie against Tigres of Mexico on Sunday.

“We’re very interested in the talent coming through the Academy and it is great for the boys to see the first team coach taking an interest and travelling to watch them play,” explained Cummins. “We’re looking to build something here that will hopefully help this club for years to come. The way forward has to be with the Academy. The lads that came in to train with us in preseason did very well and we are keen to keep an eye on them. Hopefully we will get to see a few of them progress into the first team in years to come.”

Carver will return to BMO Field to take training on Thursday.

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