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TFC fans threw beer at Drew Carey
April 6, 2009, 4:24 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

Drew Carey, the host of The Price is Right hardly had a Bob Barker-Adam Sandler rumble type moment from Happy Gilmore Saturday. It was a beer thrown at the Seattle minority owner, after Carey’s side soundly beat the home side 2-0. The $10 beer may have been meant for Carey, but the television star walked away with nothing more than a few drops on his blue and green scarf “It was a great toss but the reporter standing in front of me got it worse,”Carey said. Nothing could have spoiled Carey’s day, after his expansion Sounders moved to 3-0. “And we get as many X-Box’s (Sounders sponsor) as we want. You guys get all the B-M-O’s you want. Whatever they are,” Carey joked. Well Drew, BMO is a bank. And many fans in attendance on a cold, windy day in Toronto would have asked themselves, what exactly they paid for.

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Unbeaten Sounders FC Deals Reds First Loss
April 4, 2009, 8:12 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

Toronto FC saw their season-opening unbeaten streak snapped on Saturday in a 2-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC at BMO Field.

Expectations were high for the Reds after picking up four road points over the first two games of the season, but first-half goals from Seattle’s Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani doomed TFC to just their third home loss in league play since the beginning of the 2008 season. The defeat drops Toronto’s all-time record in home openers to 1-2.

Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson returned to the TFC lineup after missing last weekend’s game for international duty, and Greg Sutton made his first start of the season at goalkeeper.

Neither team developed much of an attack in the early minutes, as both sides had to adjust their passing attack in the face of strong winds at BMO Field. The wind chill dropped the temperature below freezing, thus creating a very English atmosphere weather-wise in Toronto but not at all dampening the spirits of the 20,658 supporters on hand.

Seattle, however, quickly turned up the heat on the Reds. In the 15th minute, Ljungberg carried the ball up the center of the field towards the TFC net before passing to Nate Jaqua just outside the penalty area. Jaqua passed it straight back to Ljungberg in a perfect one-two and the Swedish striker made no mistake in burying the ball past Sutton to give Sounders FC the early lead.

It was the first Major League Soccer goal for the former Arsenal star, in what was also Ljungberg’s first MLS start. He started the game at forward in place of MLS scoring leader Fredy Montero, who didn’t make the trip to Toronto due to illness.

The goal seemed to put the Reds back on their heels a bit, as Sounders FC kept the ball in the TFC end for much of the next 10 minutes. The Toronto backline held steady in the face of the increased attack from Seattle and limited the opposition to just one wide shot over the period.

It looked as if TFC might generate some offense of their own in the 27th minute when forward Chad Barrett made a fancy between-the-legs move to evade a defender and then found enough space for a pass to Guevara on the left side. The play, however, was broken up and left the Reds still searching for their first genuine scoring chance of the match.

The most aesthetically pleasing attempt for Toronto came in the 40th minute when fullback Marvell Wynne battled his way down the right side and was just able to fire off a cross before being forced out of bounds. The ball found its way to the foot of Dwyane De Rosario, but the midfielder’s shot was partially blocked and sent wide.

The situation got even worse for the Reds when Sounders FC was able to increase the lead just before halftime. Ljungberg sent the ball in from the right side to Brad Evans, who managed a pass to Jaqua. Two Toronto defenders were in front of Jaqua’s shot, but the ball deflected off the crossed-up pair and bounced to an undefended Zakuani on the left side of the net. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft buried the shot for his first professional goal.

With his team in a deep hole after 45 minutes, Toronto coach John Carver substituted rookie midfielder Sam Cronin in place of Rohan Ricketts at the half, and then Danny Dichio for Barrett in the 55th minute in an attempt to shake up the TFC attack.

The Reds’ offensive struggles also made them an unwilling part of MLS history. Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller set a new record for most scoreless minutes to start an MLS career, surpassing the old mark of 228 minutes set by Dallas’ Mark Dodd in 1996.

Keller’s streak was nearly broken in the 69th minute on a tantalizingly close chance from Guevara. Fullback Jim Brennan made a nifty move to evade a defender on the left side, and then sent a perfect cross into the box for Guevara. The Honduran star made contact with a header, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and over the net.

TFC came close again eight minutes later on a cross in from De Rosario that found Pablo Vitti on the right side of the Seattle net. The striker collected the pass and shot, but was denied by a diving stop from Keller. The only other major scoring chance of the game came in the 88th minute when a Guevara direct free kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

The Reds will be back at BMO Field next Saturday for the first in a two-weekend, home-and-home set with FC Dallas. Toronto is 1-2-1 all-time against Dallas, with the lone victory being the largest in team history — a 4-0 rout on June 17, 2007.

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Watch TFC vs Seattle LIVE online
April 4, 2009, 9:57 AM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

CLICK HERE at 4pm E.T. to watch Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders FC @ BMO Field.



Ljungberg could start today at BMO
April 4, 2009, 9:53 AM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

Freddie Ljungberg has long grown accustomed to the spotlight as one of soccer’s most recognizable figures, whether it’s on the pitch delivering precision passes or posing for underwear ads as the former face of Calvin Klein.

Still, the Swedish midfielder was surprised by the rock-star reception he’s received in Seattle.

“It’s been amazing,” Ljungberg said Friday, on the eve of Seattle’s game against host Toronto FC. “When I signed up there was 500 people standing there screaming and greeting me, which I never thought possible maybe in America.

“Even now, how they behave in the stadium, if you meet them on the streets, they’ve all been great. I’m very very pleased.”

Just two games into their inaugural season, the Sounders are taking Major League Soccer by storm. They opened the season 2-0 and drew capacity crowds — averaging more than 30,000 a game — in both appearances at Qwest Field.

Toronto has certainly been no slouch this early season either, opening with a 3-2 win over Kansas City and then drawing Columbus 1-1 last week. TFC will have a sellout crowd on hand in its home opener Saturday in the meeting of the league’s two newest teams.

“I’ve heard it’s a great atmosphere,” Ljungberg said of Toronto’s BMO Field, home to arguably the most fervent fans in the league. “I like to play in front of great fans that are loud. Of course it’s better if they’re home fans, but as long as it’s loud in the stadium, that’s the main thing, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

Ljungberg made his Sounders debut in last weekend’s win over Salt Lake, coming on in the 61st minute. The former Arsenal star had surgery in December to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, and hadn’t played since captaining Sweden in last summer’s European championships.

He could be in the starting lineup against Toronto in the absence of Sounders star Fredy Montero. Prosecutors in Washington state are reviewing a woman’s allegations that Montero assaulted her last month. No charges have been laid and the team said the Colombian striker, recovering from the flu, didn’t make the trip to Toronto.

Ljungberg signed with Seattle in the off-season, becoming the team’s designated player and the league’s fourth-highest-paid player at US$1.3 million per season.

The 31-year-old played for West Ham United of the English Premier League in 2007-08, then reached an agreement with West Ham to terminate his four-year contract after one season.

Before last season, Ljungberg spent nine years with Arsenal, scoring 46 goals in 216 regular-season appearances. The five-foot-nine Swede was voted one of Arsenal’s 50 greatest players in franchise history.

Gunners fans had a popular chant in honour of Ljungberg, who endeared himself with the slash of red dye he wore in his spiked hair. It went to the tune of Frankie Vallie’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You:”

“We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair, we love you Freddie because you’re everywhere, we love you Freddie, you’re Arsenal through and through…”

Asked Friday whether he plans to die his hair the Sounders’ green and blue, the shaven-headed Ljungberg laughed.

“That’s many years ago,” he said. “In the end they changed (the song) to: I didn’t have any hair, so I think I’m going to stick with that.”

Ljungberg, who captained Sweden’s national team until he announced his international retirement after Euro 2008, said his role is to be a calming force in the midfield for Seattle — keeping the ball on the ground rather than firing the long balls.

“They want me to have the ball as much as possible,” Ljungberg said. “Sometimes unfortunately it’s a high tempo, people run a lot in America, but people can sometimes get to scared to holding the ball that they pass it too quickly. That’s the main thing we’re going to try to do, make us play enjoyable football for the fans.”

Ljungberg has high hopes for his Sounders squad in its inaugural season, and when he spoke to the owners — including actor Drew Carey, who will be at Saturday’s game — he was sold on the team’s desire to be an immediate force in the MLS.

“They don’t want to just have an expansion team that would not do great, they want to have a plan to make this a great soccer team,” he said. “They have great vision for it… we didn’t want to be a team that was going to be beaten by everyone.

“It’s a great start, but I think that shows what the franchise wants to do, we don’t want to be, `I’m sorry I have to say, a bad team,’ we want to play good football.”

Toronto, meanwhile, opens unbeaten at home for the first time in its three seasons.

They’ll look to end Kasey Keller’s perfect record in goal, and will have midfielders Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson back from international duty to help them do it.

Keller has two shutouts in his first two career MLS starts.

The game is the only one on this weekend’s MLS schedule that features two unbeaten teams.

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Sounders comment on TFC matchup
April 3, 2009, 2:57 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

The Sounders FC has experienced so much in their first two matches.  Nearly all of it has been positive, too.  Among the things they have yet to learn of though, some will come to an end this week.

They have yet to play on the road and that undoubtedly will change on Saturday when they play Toronto FC at BMO Field in Seattle’s first away match of the season after two home wins against the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake.

“It’s a little bit different pressure,” said goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller.  “We can go there and play spoilers, they like to say in England.  We can just go and do what we need to do to get a result.  I have no problem going into Toronto and not necessarily playing as well as we want to, but getting a result.  It’s up to Toronto to make the game attractive for their fans.  For us, it’s to just get points.”

After two home matches, the Sounders FC has yet to face a hostile crowd.  In Toronto, they will face the reigning kings of crowd noise.  Only in their third season in the MLS “The Reds” are already considered to have one of the rowdiest crowds in the league.

“The first road trip will be a good test.  We know they’re going to be sold out and they’ve seen our fan base so that might make it a little bit more rowdy.  But we’ve got a lot of guys that have faced similar environments, so I’m sure we’ll be ready,” midfielder Brad Evans said.

Former Toronto defender Tyrone Marshall has been on both sides of the field at BMO Field and he said it would be a similar atmosphere to Seattle, though Qwest Field has been louder to this point.

“It’s going to be like that from Minute 1 to Minute 90,” Marshall said.  “They’re going to want to prove that they are a better crowd than ours but we have to prove them wrong by scoring a couple of goals and taking the fans out of the game.  At the end of the day, if we win the game, their fans can cheer as much as they want.”

Head coach Sigi Schmid has plenty of experience coaching against Toronto.  While with Columbus, he coached the Crew to an unbeaten record in the Trillium Cup derby between Columbus and Toronto, going 3-0-3 over two years. 

Having Toronto as Seattle’s road opener while “The Reds” are playing their home opener just creates another challenge for Schmid and the Sounders FC.

“I’ve always felt that there are two things that are fun to do.  One is to really get your home crowd excited and the other is to quiet down the away crowd,” Schmid said.  “In this case silence is golden.”

In addition to playing an unbeaten schedule in two home games thus far, the Sounders FC has yet to allow a goal and has two MLS Player of the Week honors.  Fredy Montero scored two goals and added an assist to earn the POTW in Week 1, while a five-save performance in a shutout gave Kasey Keller the award.

“It’s great to have an expansion franchise have the player of the week two weeks in a row,” Schmid said.  “It speaks well to how our team’s done so far in the season.  But it’s only two games … there’s still a long way to go.  We’re satisfied with what we’ve done, but there’s still a lot ahead of us.”

If nothing else, the club hopes to carry the momentum from those two wins to the road with them.

“There’s confidence, but we won’t get too confident,” Evans said.  “But you can’t argue with six points.  We’re sitting nice right now, but there’s still 28 more games and 15 of them are on the road.  Our crowd’s been behind us  – it’s the talk of the league so far.”

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Battle of who has most passionate fans
April 3, 2009, 12:03 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

With a 2-0 record and an average home crowd of more than 30,000 supporters per game, Seattle Sounders FC have taken MLS by storm thus far in their first season. But while Toronto FC greatly respects the Sounders’ accomplishments on the field, the Reds don’t quite buy into the hype that Seattle is now the hottest soccer market in the league.

After all, it was Toronto’s fan support that generated headlines during the Reds’ expansion season in 2007, and with Sounders FC coming to town on Saturday for TFC’s home opener, head coach John Carver thinks that the BMO Field fans will show that they can top any level of support from the Pacific Northwest.

“The commissioner threw the gauntlet down to our fans saying how good the atmosphere was in Seattle,” Carver said on Monday. “It was great in Seattle, but that was [a case of getting] bums on seats. We’ve got fans who sing and are right behind the team. There’s a difference between getting people through the door and getting the crowd supporting the team. I’m looking forward to Saturday and [Seattle] see what a real atmosphere is like.”

While Saturday’s match already seems to be turning into a battle of who has the most passionate fans in MLS, the stakes on the pitch will be even higher. The Reds also enter the game on a roll after picking up four points from two road contests — a 3-2 victory in the season opener in Kansas City and a 1-1 draw last week in Columbus.

Saturday’s game at BMO Field is the only match on this weekend’s MLS schedule that features two unbeaten teams, so both sides knows that a win would help them lay claim to early-season supremacy.

“You’ve got guys coming in who are playing well, who deservedly have six points,” Carver said. “Although they’re classed as an expansion team, they’re not really. They’ve got a top coach in Sigi [Schmid] who has them well-organized. … They’re coming in here on a high and it’s set up for a nice game.”

This is the first time in TFC’s three seasons that the club has been undefeated heading into the home opener, and the fast start has created an even bigger buzz than usual around Toronto.

“I’m really looking forward to this one,” said captain Jim Brennan, a veteran of all three TFC home openers. “We’ve had high expectations this season. The squad is completely different from the ones in the first year and last year and I know the fans will be up for this one.”

The road results add even more weight to TFC’s home schedule, as the thought before the season was that TFC would need to perform away from BMO Field in order to have a chance of making the MLS Cup Playoffs. Now, however, the pressure has somewhat shifted, and the onus is on the Reds to match or better their impressive 6-2-7 home record from last season. Just two teams (playoff-bound Houston and Real Salt Lake) had fewer home defeats then TFC did last season.

So the Reds know a few things about being a new club that wins at home, and now they hope that they can pass a taste of the expansion road-result blues onto the Sounders.

“Teams around here always seem to do well at home,” Brennan said. “We’ll see how they are on the road. It’s very difficult on the road in this league and we’re dangerous at home, so it should be a good test.”

Brennan and the rest of the TFC back line will no doubt have their attention focused on Seattle’s top scoring threat, Fredy Montero. The Colombian striker has collected three goals in the Sounders’ first two games to take the early lead in the MLS Golden Boot race. Brennan believes that the road atmosphere may have a particular effect on Montero given that it will be the forward’s first MLS away game.

“He’s a good player, he’s scoring a lot of goals and he seems to be on form,” Brennan said. “But as I said, we’ve got to see how he does on the road when he’s out of that comfort zone. We’ve got good players here, we’ll be watching him and marking him.”

While Montero has carried the Seattle attack, Sounders FC have been no less impressive on the other side of the field. U.S. goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller has recorded two clean sheets in his first two career MLS starts, picking up seven saves and showing the form that made him a fixture on the U.S. national team and in Europe’s top leagues over the past two decades.

“He’s an experienced goalkeeper,” said TFC striker Chad Barrett. “He’s going to fight that line, he knows when to come out, when to stay. He’s a very smart ‘keeper. … To have your first away game be up here in Toronto, he’s going to be really tested and I think he knows that.”

The Reds will have all hands on deck in their attempt to break Keller’s shutout streak, as midfielders Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson are expected back from international duty. As well, Barrett is looking for his first goal of 2009 as he looks to rebound from what he considered to be a sub-par performance last week in Columbus.

“I just had a bad game, to be honest,” Barrett said. “My touch wasn’t there, my touch was affecting my work ethic which it shouldn’t have been, but I’ve got my head on straight again.

“I’ve been in this league long enough, I’ve had my droughts, I’ve had my scoring streaks. It all comes in streaks. Once I get one, a bunch will follow.”

Saturday’s game will be Barrett’s first home opener as a member of TFC, as he joined the team in a midseason trade last season. Barrett played at BMO Field as a visitor as a member of the Chicago Fire in 2007, and thus he knows full well that Sounders FC will quickly realize that they’re a long way from the Emerald City.

“They’ve got a great fanbase out there but I don’t think it’s anything compared to what Toronto fans bring,” Barrett said. “This was my most hated crowd to come to as an away player, but now that they’re on my side it’s awesome. I think the Seattle players that have been here, they’re dreading coming to Toronto.”

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Tough home opener awaits TFC
April 3, 2009, 7:28 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

Toronto FC coach John Carver played killjoy at training on Thursday by refusing to look past the expansion — and undefeated — Seattle Sounders FC as an automatic three points for his club in its home opener on Saturday.

“We won’t get carried away,” Carver said of what is a highly-anticipated home opener. “What I will say to the fans is, ‘Please be patient,’ it’s not a slam dunk three points on Saturday. There is a good side coming in here and we have to prepare as if we are playing against one of the best sides in MLS, which they are, and have no complacency.”

Seattle (2-0-0) arrives at BMO Field with two wins in its first two games, well ahead of the pre-season expectations placed on the expansion club. The Sounders defeated MLS Cup runner-up New York in the MLS curtain-raiser before blanking Carolina Challenge Cup winner Real Salt Lake to remain on top of both the Western and overall standings.

The Sounders owe the early season success to the play of American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who was named MLS Player of the Week after posting consecutive shutouts. The last goalkeeper to win a MLS Player of the Week award was current San Jose Earthquakes ‘keeper Joe Cannon in the 2006 season.

“He is an experienced goalkeeper,” Chad Barrett said of fellow American Keller. “But keep in mind they played two home games. To have their first away game here in Toronto, he is going to get tested; and he knows that. Player of the week doesn’t mean anything now.”

Barrett’s focus, however, will be on his own form. Scoring nine goals after a mid-season trade to Toronto last summer, Barrett was a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Columbus and has yet to find the score sheet in the new season.

“I just had a bad game (in Columbus), I’ll be honest,” Barrett explained. “My touch wasn’t there which affects my work ethic. But I got my mind on straight again. If I get the start this week I am going to come in and work my tail off.”

Toronto FC (1-1-0) is also ahead of pre-season projections by taking four of a possible six points from two road games to begin the season. In 2008 the club was dismal away from BMO Field, earning just 10 points in 15 road games. But when playing in front of the raucous home fans, Carver’s club is a different animal. Toronto registered 25 points at home in 2008, buoyed by a franchise best six-game undefeated streak in April and May.

Like Seattle, the strong play of Toronto’s goalkeepers is partially responsible for the impressive start to the season. Rookie Stefan Frei earned his first MLS victory in Kansas City before a first-half injury led to his substitution in the second game at Columbus. Canadian international Greg Sutton came on to keep Toronto in the game long enough to score the equalizer and stretch the undefeated start to the year.

Carver was not ready to name a starter for Saturday, but is pleased with the progress made by the injured Frei during the week.

“He has made progress this week, I am going to leave the decision until (Friday),” Carver said of the injured Frei. “He came in Wednesday when we were all off and I was happy with what he did, he has had another session today and he will have one tomorrow. Then I will make my mind up.”

Toronto FC may also be without two of its key players in the midfield as both Carl Robinson and Amado Guevara played in World Cup qualifiers mid-week. Robinson, who retired from international play with Wales after a loss to Germany on Wednesday, has yet to arrive back in town.

“When (Robinson) comes in (on Friday) I will see how he feels. But I have a contingency in place if he is not available or if Amado (Guevara) is not available.”

Kick-off Saturday is set for 4 p.m. ET at BMO Field in Toronto.

NOTES: Toronto FC trained at the Oakville Soccer Club on Thursday, in front of a huge gathering of young fans and players … John Carver, who was briefly linked to a move back to Newcastle United, commented on the recent hiring of legend Alan Shearer to run the club: “I am surprised it didn’t happen a little bit earlier. There are eight games to go, he has brought in Iain Dowie — who is a good friend of mine — and for the sake of the football club I hope they can do a job and keep them in the Premiership.”

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