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TFC supporters gear up for Crew
March 26, 2009, 7:15 AM
Filed under: Columbus Crew, North End Elite, Red Patch Boys, Toronto FC, Usector

As an estimated 2,500 red-clad Toronto FC fans prepared themselves for Saturday’s pilgrimage south for a Major League Soccer match against the Columbus Crew, the cities’ two political leaders exchanged good-natured jabs.

“I didn’t like Toronto FC last year, and I don’t like them now,” Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said yesterday, while rededicating a street adjacent to 22,555-seat Crew Stadium as Champions Way in recognition of the team’s 2008 MLS Cup victory.

While TFC have been a box-office smash at home, the third-year MLS franchise has yet to make the playoffs or beat the Crew, their rival in the annual three-game regular-season Trillium Cup competition.

Last year, the Crew went 1-0-2 against TFC to claim the honour — a sore point with Toronto Mayor David Miller, who said he and his Columbus counterpart will make another gentleman’s wager ahead of Saturday’s game.

“That was embarrassing and appalling last year,” Miller said of losing the 2008 bet. “I had to wear their ugly yellow shirt and take photos of the Cup in the [TFC] stadium … that is the last time that is going to happen.”

TFC supporters are abuzz about the early play of the team and its key off-season acquisition, forward Dwayne De Rosario, who was born and raised in Scarborough and began his professional career with the Toronto Lynx of the United Soccer Leagues.

De Rosario, who was a selected to the MLS all-star squad for a third consecutive season last year, was traded to Toronto in December for defender Julius James and allocation money. He made an immediate impact in setting up two goals in Toronto’s opening 3-2 win at Kansas City last weekend.

“It is a great feeling to see the support soccer is getting in Toronto from those days when I played with the Lynx,” De Rosario said. “My hat goes off to the thousands of people who will be driving all day and night just to see our game [Saturday]. Hopefully, we will get a result this year and make the drive home more enjoyable.”

Red Patch Boys supporters’ club president Jack DePoe is confident this year’s 680-kilometre road trip will draw equal to — or surpass — last year’s numbers of 2,500 Toronto fans. He said that 200 TFC fans attended last weekend’s game in Kansas City.

“Everyone in the Red Patch Boys are in a state of euphoria right now about soccer and the new season, and we are going down to take that stadium over this weekend,” he said. “When we chant ‘This is our house’ at their stadium, it will be true.”

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TFC WROTE THE BOOK ON MAKING HOME GAMES AN OCCASION
March 24, 2009, 8:28 PM
Filed under: North End Elite, Red Patch Boys, Toronto FC, Usector

Soccer supporters in Seattle may give the fervent Toronto FC fans a run for their money this season in the MLS when it comes to home atmosphere, says league commissioner Don Garber.

”I believe they will,” Garber said when the question was posed during a conference call Tuesday. ”But listen, Toronto has set the stage. Their fans are incredibly passionate. Toronto FC fans have proven to the MLS family that you can create a dynamic, exciting environment in your stadium for a home game and it’s what soccer ought to be.

”We didn’t necessarily have that in many of our stadiums and Toronto is writing the book. They’ll travel 1,200 people to Columbus at their game this weekend, as they did the first year.”

The expansion Sounders’ opening game last Thursday drew 32,000 at Qwest Field, with what Garber called ”the feel of a super big-time event.”

”I’ve been in the sports business for almost 30 years, involved in producing the Super Bowl for many of those years and countless other events. And I’ve got to tell you that was one of the most spectacular sporting events that I’ve ever been to. It brought tears to my eye, literally.”

Seattle is the league’s 15th franchise. Philadelphia enters in 2010 followed in 2011 by Vancouver and Portland, who each paid a US$35-million franchise fee.

Garber called the Seattle debut ”surprising to us, I’d even say shocking to us,” adding he believed the Sounders could have sold out all 60,000 seats if they had opened up the whole stadium.

”Everybody was clad in their team colours and waving the scarf. I think they learned that from the Toronto FC fans as well,” he said.

”I think the ground has been set by Toronto and I’m hoping that fans in Seattle and Philadelphia and Vancouver and Portland will take it to a higher level. As importantly, I hope that all these new teams can show some of our current fans what it takes to be a true MLS fan of your local team.”

Garber singled out Toronto FC again, saying the passion of its fan base ”really proves that North Americans will connect themselves to a local team, given the right brand, if you put them in the right stadium, and in many ways, you hope and dream to have the right product on the field.

”We’ve got most if not all of that, certainly not quite the product (on the field) the way we want it to be in Toronto, but you’ve got everything else working there. That’s in essence is what Seattle is trying to replicate, and certainly Vancouver and Portland is as well.”

Toronto, in its third season, sells out every game at 20,000-capacity BMO Field. The team, owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, has capped season tickets at 16,000 and has a waiting list of 14,000.

The Vancouver franchise has already sold out its first 5,000 season ticket deposits at a league-record pace.

”It’s really incredible what’s going on up there,” Garber said.

Garber said the addition of Vancouver will require further discussions of the league’s rule on ”home-grown” players. MLS officials will sit down with the Canadian Soccer Association, in consultation with Toronto and Vancouver, ”and determine whether or not the current rules we have make sense.

”My guess is they probably don’t and we’ll have to adjust them, no different than we continue to adjust our rules with U.S. Soccer as we’ve expanded.”

Ottawa, which was ignored in the recent round of expansion, will have to wait until 2012 for its next shot at entering the league.

The commissioner welcomed a questioner from Vancouver, who noted that _ unlike Ottawa _ soccer and CFL interests had been able to work together on the stadium front in Vancouver.

”I’ve been waiting for that question for a month now,” Garber said dryly.

Competing stadium projects have muddied the waters in Ottawa.

NOTES – Seattle forward Fredy Montero was named MLS player of the week after recording two goals and an assist in the Sounders’ 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. The 21-year old MLS rookie from Campo de la Cruz, Colombia, is on loan from Deportivo Cali. Garber credited a former league intern from Argentina who is now scouting in South America for the league. ”He found Fredy,” the commissioner said…. Garber noted 22 goals had been scored the opening weekend of the season, for a record average of 3.14 per game. .. Given the growing support for the sport in Canada, Garber wondered what would happen if Canada’s national team was competitive when it came to World Cup qualifying.

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Canadian invasion 2.0 set for March 28
March 2, 2009, 8:31 AM
Filed under: Columbus Crew, North End Elite, Red Patch Boys, Toronto FC, Usector

The Columbus Crew’s F.O. gave the Toronto supporter’s groups a cut-off date of Feb 28 to request tickets for the March 28 game between the Crew and TFC.

Although not the season opener for Toronto, the game has been targeted to be the biggest organized road trip of the year for each of the major TFC groups. Although Toronto won’t match the 2,100 that travelled to C-bus last March, this year’s trip will still be the second largest self-financed trip by supporters for a MLS regular season game.

The known numbers are:

Red Patch Boys – 665
U-Sector – 183
North End Elite – 87

Total of SGs: 935

Additionally, a private company has been selling a bus package for the past couple weeks and there will be other smaller groups making the trip down. All total the estimated size of T.O.’s travel section will be about 1,200–enough to once again fill the entire south end of Crew Stadium.

Although I appreciate that many MLS fans are tired of hearing about Toronto’s support, it is significant that there are still that many fans willing to spend about $250 each to travel 7-hours by bus to watch a team that has yet to seriously challenge for the playoffs. So much for the novelty wearing off.

Last year the Toronto trip received some bad press, with one T.O. fan being arrested for urinating against a fence (that famously was facing a church–albeit a church 500-yards away). The game was the beginning of a nasty rivalry between the fans of the two teams. Spend 10 minutes on the Crew’s BigSoccer boards and you will read some of the most ill-informed, ignorant anti-Toronto/Canada stuff that you can imagine. You will also see a great deal of TFC fans making equally ignorant and ill-informed statements about Columbus/USA.

The simmering hate — which neither set of fans is willing to admit to. On both sides of the divide you’ll find people trying to pretend that they really don’t care about the other side. It’s a load of crap — boiled over last September when Columbus traveled to Toronto with about 100 supporters. There was an altercation in the parking lot after the game and at least one TFC fan was taken into custody.

No one is advocating violence. However, a little bit of nasty rivalry is good for the game–security at and around the stadiums just needs to know how to handle it.

For instance, at last year’s Columbus invasion” the TFC fans were not provided access to a bathroom. Simply anticipating the large crowd and putting out a couple port-a-potties would have gone a long way to preventing pee-gate.

In Toronto, security forced the Columbus fans out of the stadium while TFC fans were still exiting. Marching 100 people in yellow through the sea of red was bound to cause problems. And it did.

Traveling support is only going to increase in MLS. The league and its teams need to learn how to deal with it better. They need to find the right security balance that allows for the right amount of passion, but also gets everyone home in one piece after the game.

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TFC Hiring Security Firm With Football Experience
February 21, 2009, 2:24 PM
Filed under: BMO Field, North End Elite, Red Patch Boys, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC, Usector
MLSE met with the supporters groups a few days ago and gave a run down for the new season.  Included in this was the hiring of a new security manager.
From Jack Depoe, President of the Red Patch Boys, Toronto FC’s rabid supporters group:

Let’s just say that the new security manager for MLSE is an old-school football guy and a Celtic supporter, he understands football support but he also wants to keep things clean in the eyes of the alchohol authorities.”

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