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Toronto FC takes on ‘yard’ flavour
March 16, 2009, 7:20 AM
Filed under: Johann Smith, O'Brian White, Rohan Ricketts, Toronto FC

Colonialism hitched Jamaica to British football’s wagon. But now local fans could be drawn beyond Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea to a league – and at least one particular team – closer to home.

Toronto FC, a fledgling United States Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in a Canadian city heavily populated by Jamaicans, is taking on a distinct ‘yard’ flavour.

Despite the recent departures of Tyrone Marshall and Jeff Cunningham, when the club kicks off its MLS season on March 21, it could still feature a roster of three players with strong Jamaican roots, another star embedded in the country’s culture, plus a host of fans with ties to the island.

“Look, you always try to take the best guys available,” said Mo Johnston, Toronto FC’s director of soccer during the club’s recent preseason camp in the US. “Hopefully, we have the Jamaican flavour and maybe we can win the championship.”

The current flavour is brewed from the trio of O’Brian White, Rohan Ricketts and Johann Smith. Jamaica-born White, a highly touted rookie forward, is recovering from injury. But he has embraced the growing Jamaican influence at Toronto FC.

“Definitely,” said White, a 23-year-old native of Ocho Rios, who emigrated as a teenager to live in Canada with his mother. “When I got drafted, I looked at that because I knew Tyrone before … . Even though all the other guys are cool, it’s good to know somebody from your culture (is on the team).

” … So far I’ve had a lot of (Jamaican) friends who are telling me they are going to get my jersey and get my tickets and all that. It’s been a strong support so far.”

Both Ricketts’ parents and Smith’s mother are from Denham Town, west Kingston. The two played for Toronto FC in 2008. They recognise the Jamaican influx and the impact of representing ‘yard’.

“It should help the fan base,” said 26-year-old midfielder Ricketts, who was born in London, England, played for several British clubs, and was once called to the senior Reggae Boyz squad.

“We talk about Jamaica,” added US-born Smith, 21, a forward who also played professionally in England.

“We talk about our culture. When it’s time to go out, we have a full night out … . We go to Jamaican restaurants. We sit and eat, chat and we have a lot of things in common.”

The menu at team get-togethers may now feature as much jerked chicken and curried goat as burgers and fries; the music conversations more balanced between rock and reggae. The Jamaican connection even extends to Canada international Dwayne De Rosario, who has Guyanese parents, but whose father attended school in Jamaica. De Rosario still visits the island and his doctor is Jamaican. Growing up, he represented teams in Canada dominated by Caribbean players. He can speak Jamaican ‘patwa’.

“It’s good, it’s positive,” De Rosario, whose favourite album is Bob Marley’s Babylon by Bus, said of the Jamaican influence at Toronto FC.

“It’s good because it shows that the West Indies is always producing great talent.”

Toronto FC has already attracted a significant regional presence. Tribal Rhythm Nation, a passionate group of mainly Afro-Latin-Caribbean immigrant fans, descends on BMO Field with drums, whistles and banners to support the home team each game. Hundreds of Jamaicans also turned out to back the Reggae Boyz against Canada during a World Cup qualifier last August at the same stadium. Toronto FC’s players noticed.

“It seemed like there were mainly Jamaican fans,” said Ricketts.

So did the club’s management, which said it has scouted Jamaican talent and has been impressed, especially by the speed, athleticism and skill of the players. The technical staff attended a recent game played by Jamaica’s Under-20s. The club has no qualms about signing Boyz if they fit Toronto’s plans.

“No, no, no, no,” said coach John Carver. “If they’re 11 Jamaicans and they’re good enough (to win the MLS they’ll play) … . That’s how I look at it.”

Other MLS clubs have Jamaicans on their rosters. Marshall, who has moved to the Seattle Sounders and Cunningham to FC Dallas are among the big names. Andy Williams, Real Salt Lake; Omar Cummings, Colorado Rapids; Shavar Thomas, Chivas USA; and Dane Richards of New York Red Bulls are veterans scattered across America’s top league as well.

National goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts recently signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy, while Portmore United’s Eric Vernan has been invited to try out with DC United this season. In the past, national players Onandi Lowe, Christopher Dawes, Damani Ralph, Fabian Taylor, Jermaine Hue and Robert Scarlett have played in the MLS.

But Toronto FC appears to have secured the largest Jamaican cluster so far. One club official said the “cheaper” talent from the Caribbean could result in more arriving.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for young Jamaican players to come to,” Marshall said.

Meanwhile, with the MLS season beginning just as Britain’s is winding down, Jamaican football fans will have the option to cast their passion elsewhere.

“The England leagues have been there for so long,” said De Rosario. “A lot of Jamaicans went over there and have been successful. But now you have Jamaicans close to their own backyard, playing in the MLS, that maybe they should continue to support and pay attention to and see them as their careers grow.”

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Carolina Cup starts Saturday
Toronto FC trained at BMO Field on Friday morning before leaving for South Carolina where they will compete for the third consecutive season in the Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium, Dainel Island. The tournament gets underway on Saturday with the Reds taking on hosts Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League at 7:15 p.m. The game follows the opening match of the tournament between D.C. United and real Salt Lake (kick off 5:00 p.m.).
TFC have had a successful preseason so far and won 3-0 against Florida Atlantic University before beating Swedish Premier Division side Hacken 3-0 on the most recent trip to Florida. “The team is coming along very nicely and we are looking really strong,” said Toronto FC winger Rohan Ricketts. “I’m excited because I have never been to Charleston and I just want to go there and win the tournament.”

Defender Marvell Wynne believes the team is in good shape heading into the tournament. “We have a pretty good idea what our team is going to look like at the start of the season and that is a big difference compared to previous years. With the additions that have been made and the guys returning from previous seasons, we are all feeling very comfortable. We have a lot of confidence and high expectations,” he said.

Charleston enter the tournament with just a week of preseason training in the books. Fifth-year coach Michael Anhaeuser has retained the core of the lineup that overcame two MLS sides to earn a spot in the 2008 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finals including Dusty Hudock in goal, Nelson Akwari and John Wilson in defence, Ian Fuller and Stephen Armstrong in the midfield, and Randi Patterson up front.

Previous meetings

Toronto won their first ever clash with Charleston Battery in the 2007 tournament as the Reds prepared for their first season in Major League Soccer. It finished 3-0 with goals from Alecko Eskandarian, Edson Buddle and Abbe Ibrahim. In the 2008 Carolina Cup, Toronto were beaten 2-0 by the Battery with both goals scored by Randi Patterson. 

TFC Schedule (all times local)

• Saturday March 7: Toronto FC vs. Charleston Battery, 7:15 p.m. • Wednesday March 11: Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 5:00 p.m. • Saturday March 14: Toronto FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 5:00 p.m.

  • Marvell Wynne on Toronto FC TV
  • Rohan Ricketts on Toronto FC TV

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    Ricketts Pledges Consistency in ’09
    February 4, 2009, 10:20 PM
    Filed under: Rohan Ricketts, Toronto FC


    Every Major League Soccer player strives to achieve it, but few actually succeed, including Rohan Ricketts.

    In his first season with Toronto FC in 2008, Ricketts dazzled opposing defenders with his speed, mazy dribbling skills and knack for making things happen in the attacking third of the field.

    Weigh those qualities against the Englishman’s tendency to float in and out of games and his lack of finishing in front of net, and you’ll find a player who left many Toronto FC fans frustrated.

    Ricketts made 27 appearances during the 2008 MLS season (26 as a starter), scoring four goals and setting up four others — paltry statistics when you consider his natural talent and the amount of playing time he saw.

    Ricketts, 26, admits he under-performed somewhat last season and is determined to make amends by being more consistent in the upcoming MLS campaign.

    How does he plan do that? Simple. Score more goals.

    “I’m an attacking midfield player, so I’m judged on the goals I create and the goals I scored,” Ricketts said. “I have to improve on my tally from last season, when I scored four goals. It could have been more, so I’m looking to score more and create more than last season.”

    Concentration, fitness

    Ricketts, who joined the Canadian club last April, said the key to being more consistent is to concentrate at the task at hand and overcome whatever obstacles stand in his way on gameday.

    “All I can do is go into the games with the right frame of mind and try to be the best I can be. Sometimes it’s down to fitness, sometimes it has to do with how the team is playing overall, so that it definitely one of my goals, is to be more consistent.”

    There was speculation that the Englishman would not be brought back this season, because Toronto wanted to dump his salary (he earned $212,000 US in 2008). But Ricketts believed all along he would return to the Canadian team.

    “There was never any doubt in my mind, because I know where I want to be,” Ricketts said. “I know the manager wants me here. It’s all about sorting out the [contract terms] to make sure it’s all right for everyone.”

    He also has high hopes for the 2008 season and believes Toronto can clinch a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history.

    “Toronto FC is going places, so to be part of a club that’s going places, you can only be grateful for that .… I’m very optimistic about the year ahead.”

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    Ricketts signs on for ’09
    February 2, 2009, 10:42 PM
    Filed under: Rohan Ricketts, Signing, Toronto FC

    Toronto FC announced Monday that midfielder Rohan Ricketts has agreed to a new deal that will keep him with the club through the 2009 season. Earlier in 2009, the club extended the contracts of both midfielder Carl Robinson, and forward Danny Dichio. As per team and league policy details of the deal were not announced.

    Ricketts, 26, joined Toronto FC on April 4, 2008. The midfielder scored four goals, and added four assists in 27 games played. He finished the 2008 MLS season third in the team on minutes played.

    Robinson, 32, will begin his third season with the club after becoming an inaugural member of Toronto FC signing February 1, 2007. The midfielder split time between the Wales National team and Toronto FC, and still started 27 games for the club. He finished the 2008 season with a goal and an assist and was second in the team in minutes played. Robinson was also awarded the team’s MVP award – for the second straight season.

    Dichio, 34, is also an original member of Toronto FC joining the team on April 19, 2007. The forward quickly became a fan favourite after scoring the team’s first ever goal in 2007, and the last goal of that same season. In 23 appearances in 2008, Dichio finished with five goals and three assists and narrowly missed out on obtaining the team’s Golden Boot award for most goals.

    Ricketts in MoJo’s plans
    January 28, 2009, 9:42 PM
    Filed under: Mo Johnston, Rohan Ricketts, Toronto FC

    Toronto FC midfielder Rohan Ricketts spoke with Tyler Green and Mike Martignago at Full Time: Vancouver’s Soccer Show today and he had some very interesting things to say.

    He talked about life in the MLS, his time in Toronto and discussed his future with the club. Rohan sounds certain he’s very much a part of things and says he has been assured by Toronto Director of Soccer Operations Mo Johnston that he will be around this season.

    “He spoke to me and said I’m a big part of his plans. So, I don’t need to worry cuz there is a few changes about to happen.”

    “I’m looking forward to next season. And making the playoffs at least. That’s the least. I want to go for the title…We got a good team assembling at the moment. It’s going to be a great season down here.”

    You can listen to the clip here. And you can check out the full interview here on the Team 1040 this Sunday (Feb. 1) at 10 p.m.

    Source: Click Here

    January 28, 2009, 7:22 PM
    Filed under: Rohan Ricketts, Toronto FC

    While Major League Soccer can’t be happy with league poster boy David Beckham’s recent comments about extending his stay in Italy, at least one current player sees the upside.

    Toronto FC winger Rohan Ricketts, who has played against Beckham both in England and North America, spoke to the TEAM 1040 in Vancouver about Beckham’s potential departure.

    “I think a lot of people think it would be a bad thing because (MLS) would be losing not just a big name, but the biggest name in the league,” Ricketts told TEAM 1040.  “But I think they should look at it as a good stepping stone.”

    Although Beckham’s loan deal with AC Milan expires on March 8, he recently told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he was interested in extending his stay.

    “Playing here is the dream of every footballer,” Beckham said in an interview. “But deciding isn’t easy. It’s a question that takes time.”

    Ricketts says an exit from Beckham now would give MLS a chance to promote its current crop of players who are committed to staying in the league.

    “In two years he’s done a lot for the league, he’s brought a lot of kudos to the league,” said Ricketts.  “I think now if he leaves the league it should allow the league to get on with things with the players that we do have.”

    Ricketts, who just finished his first season in MLS with TFC, has also played in England for Arsenal, Tottenham, Wolverhampton and Barnsley.  He says he does not believe that one player can make the difference, even if the player has as high a profile both on and off the pitch as the former England captain Beckham.

    “You’ve got to look at it like this: David Beckham is a talented athlete, but since he’s been in the MLS, the L.A. Galaxy have never won the Championship, not once.  I don’t even know if they’ve made the playoffs.”

    Despite Beckham’s presence, the Galaxy struggled mightily this past season, finishing tied for last in the league with the expansion San Jose Earthquakes.  While Beckham enjoyed a fine season for the Galaxy and was among the league leaders in assists, the team missed the playoffs for the second straight year and saw its top two players (Beckham and Landon Donovan) accept loan deals to European giants (AC Milan and Bayern Munich, respectively).

    “I’m under contract and I have a lot of respect for the Galaxy. But the chance to play for Milan is something special,” said Beckham. “I knew I would enjoy it, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. But in terms of character, I’m a very respectful person.”

    “The Americans are doing everything they can to improve the level and reputation of their game,” Beckham said. “It’s a young league and I think it needs another 10 years to become successful.

    “I have to admit that, having played in Europe, sometimes it was frustrating playing in certain games. But every now and then, moving from one state to another, I also enjoyed myself.”

    While the league may not be happy that their marquee player is looking for a way out, Ricketts sees a silver lining to Beckham’s potential departure.

    “They’re going to lose him someday,” Ricketts told the TEAM.  “All good things come to an end.  They are going to lose him eventually, and next year he can go for free.  So if AC Milan are willing to pay some money now, it’s good business-wise to take it now.”

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    Ricketts: Don’t blame players for chasing Europe dream
    January 6, 2009, 8:15 AM
    Filed under: Rohan Ricketts, Toronto FC

    Toronto FC midfielder Rohan Ricketts can understand MLS players wanting to test themselves in Europe.

    The former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder said: “I think that it’s good that players want to go and test themselves against other players across Europe. Most players try to make the switch because of both money and ambition.

    As much as we love our sport, we cannot forget it’s our job, so financial security is a priority as in every working case.

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