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TFC’s Sutton isn’t tempted by the overseas money
April 8, 2009, 7:21 AM
Filed under: Greg Sutton, Toronto FC

Greg Sutton balked at Germany and he never has made it to England’s premier league. Instead he found a wife, their seven-month old daughter, Maya, and a home in Major League Soccer.

In life, this is what is called a fair trade.

“If you had asked me 10 years ago where I would end up I’m not sure what I would have said — probably not Toronto,” says Sutton, who has taken a twisted path to find happiness.

“Sometimes I do think about what might have happened if I’d signed in Germany. I think everyone wonders how life would be if they’d done certain things. But I have no regrets. If I had done that who knows if I would have met my wife. Would I still have my wonderful baby daughter? Some guys are always trying to go overseas because of the monetary values. For me, that’s never been a persuasive argument. I was comfortable here,” says Sutton, who has hung up his shingle in Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.

In his third season in Toronto, he has been capped 11 times as a goaltender with Canada’s national team.

His road to the national team was another path he didn’t even realize existed. He grew up more American than Canuck. It wasn’t until he got to college that his coach Mike Toshack informed him he was eligible for Canada’s national program even though he’d grown up in Bethel, Connecticut.

That is the thing about Sutton — he has always come from the shadows to do unforetold things.

The story starts in Hamilton where he was born but his father got a job in Bethel when he was a year old. His father is from Oshawa; his mother from Calgary. He lists his home town as Montreal. He is, shall we say, complex or at least well-travelled. “In life you never know what to expect. I went to a small university (St. Lawrence University) in up-state New York … When I got drafted nobody knew who I was,” says Sutton, laughing. “There aren’t many guys from Division 3 schools in the MLS.”

But it was while at St. Lawrence that he met Toshack and got involved with the national program. That got him a bit of international exposure and even led to an offer from Werner Bremen, which thought it could develop him. He might have even stayed except his “shining moment” in life came when the Chicago Fire surprisingly drafted him. “Getting drafted is probably the biggest moment I’ve had in soccer.”

He suddenly had a place to play, not just watch other German guys play. He earned a shutout the first game he played. There were stops including New York and he made his national team debut in 2004.

Call it a victory for “The Little Guy” — although at 6-foot-6 he is hard to miss. Ask some of the best goal scorers in two leagues. He won a USL championship in Montreal in 2004 and in 2006 he won his fourth consecutive league goalkeeper of the year award. In Toronto, he has been a stablizing force in the expansion franchise’s ever-changing landscape.

He is now 32. “I think I’ll know when it’s time to quit and go — and not just get released because I’m too old and frail.” He believes he has another five years left. Those could be in Toronto, where he is facing the challenge of first-round draftee, Stefan Frei. It may be elsewhere — but it likely won’t be overseas. Not now. Not anymore.

“I’ve really never pushed myself to get serious about finding a place overseas. I’ve enjoyed wherever I have played. Great cities and I like the MLS and that has been an important factor.”

There was a brief fling in 2004 when he had a trial with Bolton, an English Premier League club. It was never really meant to be. “There were work permit complications to start and them being in the Premier League at the time it would have been a tough squad to make.”

He has instead become one of the pioneers in a sport still elbowing its way into the conciousness of North America. That, in retrospect, isn’t a bad legacy.

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Toshack impressed by ‘keepers
February 27, 2009, 8:28 AM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Mike Toshack, Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

Toronto FC’s new goalkeeper coach Mike Toshack has been impressed by the standard of the three ‘keepers he is working with. The Reds squad currently includes the experienced Greg Sutton, Brian Edwards and SuperDraft pick Stefan Frei.

“It’s been great working with them,” said Toshack. “The level that we’re working at is very high and very competitive. The players are very much aware that there is competition between three quality guys. It is a great situation to have because the competition makes everyone better individually and also makes the team better.”

With the three goalkeepers at different stages of their careers, Toshack believes they all bring different attributes to the squad. “Greg Sutton is such a good athlete and has represented his country over a number of years and has done very well. The accolades for Stefan Frei are justified. He is a good young talent and has all of the physical qualities as well as the mental qualities that are needed to play in front of 20 thousand people each week. In a short period of time he has done very well and is picking up new things very quickly,” explained Toshack. “For Brian Edwards to come out of the NCAA and start the season in goal says a lot about him. I remember being in Houston last year and seeing games and thinking that he was a good young goalkeeper that looks comfortable. We are extremely lucky with the goalkeepers that we have.”

Toshack has previously worked for Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact and returned home to Canada to join Toronto after three years with Houston Dynamo. “It is fantastic here and more than I could have hoped for,” he said. “The coaching staff is made up of very committed people with great personalities so it is very easy to work with them. Everything is in place to achieve success here and you get a real feeling that something good is about to happen.”

Mike Toshack interview on Toronto FC TV

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Greg Sutton: Looking over his shoulder
February 13, 2009, 9:22 PM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Stefan Frei, Toronto FC

Greg Sutton has seen it all in his two years as starting goalkeeper of Toronto FC.

From having to deal with top-quality strikers the calibre of Juan Pablo Angel and Kenny Copper bearing down on him to serving as the last line of defence behind a porous back four, the Canadian goalkeeper has packed a lot in during his stint with Toronto FC.

And now a new experience: two youngsters trying to beat him out for the No. 1 goalkeeper’s job for the 2009 MLS campaign.

Toronto FC currently has three shot-stoppers in pre-season training camp after the club used the No. 13 pick overall in last month’s college draft to select Stefan Frei from the University of California.

Frei will battle it out with Sutton and Brian Edwards, Sutton’s backup last season, for the right to earn the starting goalkeeper’s job for the upcoming season.

Sutton missed most of 2007 because of a concussion suffered while playing for the Canadian national team but rebounded with a solid 2008 campaign that saw him post a 7-10-7 record in 24 games with a 1.46 goals against average and six shutouts.

His stellar play didn’t lead to any kind of job security, though. In fact, the opposite occurred, and now Sutton is looking over his shoulder as Edwards and Frei try to usurp him as Toronto’s top man between the posts.

Increased competition

Sutton, 31, said he takes it all in stride and welcomes the opportunity to have to earn the starting goalkeeper’s job.

“It’s great. Anytime you have competition, it brings out the best in yourself. Every year there’s competition, not just this year. There’s been competition my entire life,” Sutton recently told CBCSports.ca.

“It’s something that’s normal in a professional atmosphere … so bringing in new talent is good for us, and it’ll be a good training camp.”

Toronto coach John Carver said Sutton is not a lock to start in net and that he expects “healthy competition” among the three goalkeepers in pre-season.

“When you come back to camp, everything is up for grabs. … It’s a fresh start for everybody. To be fair to your players as a coach, you have to give everybody an opportunity,” Carver explained.

Sutton echoed his coach’s sentiments saying “everyone starts from ground zero, and you have to win yourself a spot in the lineup. That’s how every pre-season works, and everyone has a chance. That’s the way it should be.”

Toronto selected Edwards, 24, in the second round of the 2008 draft and the New Jersey native was so impressive in training camp that Carver chose him — and not Sutton — to start in net at the beginning of the regular season.

Edwards welcome challenge

Like Sutton, Edwards is looking forward to competing for the starting goalkeeper’s job this season.

“I love competition, and I’m the kind of person that wants to win at anything no matter what is, whether you’re playing pick-up-sticks or playing soccer. It’s going to be great,” Edwards said.

As for Frei, 22, he’s hoping to pick up as much as he can from Sutton and Edwards while training alongside them.

“I’m happy that I’m practising with two goalkeepers that are really good because I’m looking to learn from them. Hopefully I can push them to get better,” Frei stated. “Right now, I’m just trying to learn and get better. It’s up to the coach to decide who plays.”

Frei anticipates that making the transition from college soccer to the pros will be a daunting task.

“The shots off the foot of strikers will come a lot quicker and harder, the pace of the game is faster. So, it will take some time to get adjusted to it, but it’s good because that means a new experience for me and hopefully [a chance to] get better,” Frei admitted.

Although he is in direct competition with Edwards and Frei, Sutton said he feels obliged to mentor the youngsters and give them a chance to benefit from his years of experience.

“You always try to give guidance to young players, and you can’t be a selfish player in that respect,” Sutton said. “I look back to when I started my career, and there were older players who helped me out, so I look to do the same.

“Those two guys [Edwards and Frei] have bright futures ahead of them so if I can help them, I’ll do it. Helping them is going to help me in the end, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

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Sutton becomes mentor
February 5, 2009, 6:11 PM
Filed under: Brian Edwards, Greg Sutton, Stefan Frei

Tending net behind an oft-porous Toronto FC defence, Greg Sutton has grown accustomed to having to be on his toes.

So when the veteran Canadian international came into this year’s training camp to compete for a job against a pair of highly touted youngsters, he saw it as just another chance to prove he belongs.

“That’s the way it should be,” Sutton said yesterday at BMO Field. “You always want to try and bring out the most competitive nature in the guys, and bringing new talent into camp is one way of doing that.”

The new talent is provided by Stefan Frei, 22, of the University of California, drafted in the first round, 13th overall, in last month’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Also on hand is Brian Edwards, 24, a second-round draft choice last year who was so impressive in 2008 training camp he started the season’s first game.

In all, Edwards started six games, posting a 2-3-1 record, a 1.33 goals against average and two shutouts.

Sutton, 31, who missed most of 2007 due to a concussion suffered while playing for Canada in the Gold Cup, saw the bulk of the action last season, going 7-10-7 in 24 games with a 1.46 goals against average and six shutouts.

“I wish I could play the three of them,” quipped coach John Carver, whose team allowed 43 goals last year, tied for fifth-worst in the MLS.

Despite those numbers, Carver said Sutton had an “outstanding season” in 2008, stealing wins and points some nights and preventing blowout losses in others.

Sutton’s attitude and work ethic also mean he’s “still getting better,” a decade into his professional career, Carver said.

“He has been around a long time now but he’s not going to give up that position easily, and the other two guys have to realize that,” Carver said. “But for two guys to learn from, there’s probably nobody better in the league.”

Edwards, a New Jersey native, said he has “learned a ton” from Sutton, especially as he got ready for his first MLS start last season.

“Greg could see I was nervous,” Edwards recalled. “And he gave me some advice while we were warming up and was real positive with the whole situation, and that really helped me during the season.”

The Swiss-born Frei is coming into his first professional camp.

Sutton, who has played for Canada 11 times in a career that includes six seasons with the USL’s Montreal Impact and a stint with the Chicago Fire of MLS, said the education goes both ways between the goalkeeping trio.

“If I can pass down anything that can help them I’m willing to do that,” Sutton said. “(But) it’s going to help me with my game, watching some of the things I might see from the younger guys.”

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