Saturday December 16, 2017 
Rocket Robin's Year End Year End Review of Soccer in Toronto for 2017.

This year I set a new record for myself by attending 100 games in the 
Greater Toronto area (GTA).  I'll keep a tally as I summarize my thoughts 
on each league or team. 

League 1 Ontario (L1O) (58 regular season games plus the Men's All Star game, 
the Men's Cup Final, the Women's Cup Final, and the Men's Championship game).  
That adds up to 62 games.  Also the year end Awards Banquet. 

I saw every men's team in the sixteen team league at least three times which was 
my goal at the start at the beginning of the season.  FC London I saw three times 
and Woodbridge thirteen times.  Most unusual was I saw a Windsor vs Ottawa South game 
without leaving the GTA as the teams played here to cut down 
on time and cost of travel.   

Ottawa South United Force was the one new team this year and replaced Kingston Clippers 
in the Eastern Conference.  Any club entering the league this year was restricted 
to entering one team so either a men's team or a women's team.  The league policy was 
was explained in a message from their site "This rule was put in place to prevent strain 
on clubs that have yet to participate in a standards-based senior league like L10 and 
help them ease into full participation of having a team in both divisions".  
There were three more women's teams added this year.  If they add men's teams next year 
it will make my minimum 'get to three times for every men's club a season' harder to do.  

I was disappointed some teams could only field teams with two subs and sometimes 
only ten players as the season wore on and players were recalled to start school.  

The caliber of play was better as there were more older players in the league 
keeping their skills sharp to hopefully attract interest from the new Canadian 
Premier League (CPL).  Unfortunately for the the younger players, that cut into 
their playng time.  Also it unbalanced some of the teams that only used their 
own academy players as there were more blowouts with some scores reaching 
double didgits.  With the CPL put off for one more year, I expect the trend 
to continue.  

Toronto FC Academy PDL team  (0 games)
TFC folded their team this year.  The team used to fill the gap between their 
L1O team and their USL team (TFC II) giving their older teenagers and college 
players a place to play in the short summer season of this league.  

With no team and the USL imposing a new rule of allowing only three subs 
per game from five in previous years when they were considered a development 
league, and their PDL team not operating, it restricted the playing time 
opportunities of some of their players.  

Also from what I was told early in the year, TFC will no longer recruit players 
younger than 14 to play in their own academy.  Any players who are now with 
them will be able to stay with the TFC organization which now stretches down 
to age 8.  That means that next year their youngest kids will be 9 
and the year after 10 etc. 

Toronto FC II of the USL (14 games out of 15 home game schedule) 
The one I missed this year was the day I was down at BMO Field covering the 
Canadian Men's team game against Jamaica.  

The team finished fifteenth out of the fifteen teams in the Eastern Conference 
but were never blown out of any home game.  Their  roster was younger than many 
of the teams they played.  I fully buy-in to what TFC GM Tim Bazbatchenko said 
at the team breakfast in February when he answered it was more important for 
the players to develop and make the MLS team than 
to win USL games.   

In the last two weeks they dumped almost all their non-Canadian players 
(these were not their MLS contract guys on the team for seasoning).  When 
I was at the L1O awards luncheon last month Steven Caldwell (TFC broadcaster) 
and L1O chair Dino Rossi said only teenage forward Shaan Hundal and maybe 
a defender or two could eventually make the MLS club.  

I followed almost all the Canadian players working their way up from the TFC Academy 
(now known as TFC III) of L1O over the years.  Some of this year's TFC III got 
some playing time and a few even signed their first pro contract with TFC II.   

TFC II media releases are always 'rah rah' and pushed fans to vote for Angelo Cavalluzzi 
to win 'save of the year' (he did).  It was a fine save in a road game in Louisville but 
it meant that they held on to a 0-0 tie...but remember the team finished fifteenth!   

Next year they will play at both BMO Field (twinning up when their MLS team plays) 
and Lamport Stadium on stand alone nights (only three blocks away).   With my struggles 
of all the subway detours it seems every second weekend I'm not looking forward to that.  
I prefer their home at the Ontario Soccer Stadium in Vaughan but they were drawing crowds 
of only 700 for this venue on the edge of town.  

I am grateful they still have a USL team.  Montreal shut down their team last year and 
Vancouver just shipped their team to California for next year.  

In 2019 if all goes according to plans the MLS teams that operate USL teams will be spun 
off to a third division of their own and the stand alone USL teams (some with ambitions 
of moving up to MLS like Cincinnati) will be the official second division of the USA.  
Many of these stand alone teams are men playing against many of the teenage players 
of TFC II.  

Best moment of the season for me was actually at their SSH ticket pickup event when 
head coach Jason Bent gifted me a TFC parka.   It's been decades since I was so excited 
by a present.  

Will any of the players on the team move up?  The MLS brought in Nicolas Hasler from 
Liechtenstein rather than any TFC II player.  Of  course that scouting worked out well 
but it must have been deflating for anyone on the roster.  Will they only move up another 
Canadian to displace one already on the roster?  

Canadian Premier League (0 games)  
The league hasn't started yet and a few months ago it was announced they wouldn't play 
the 2018 season.  There's been no team announced for the GTA area.  

I had a humbling moment when I drove to Oakville for a midweek game and got caught 
in rush hour traffic.  I figured there is no way I can get to Hamilton which is + 1/3 
even further to get to so I may try to see their inaugral game but the distance 
is just too far away.  

Toronto FC MLS 22 games in total. (17 regular season, 2 Canadian Championship games 
and 3 playoff games) plus the president's breakfast and the victory parade.  

Wow.  They won the MLS Cup in their eleventh season for the first time and won the 
Supporter's Shield for finishing first overall in the regular season—also a first.  
They set a record for most points in a season and also won the Canadian Championship 
for the sixth time.   They are considered the first MLS team to win  a 

They only lost one regular season home game and one in the playoffs although that 
series they won on the away goal rule to advance.  

My only complaint is they don't use enough Canadian players.  They stopped using 
Canadians except for Jonathan Osorio and Tosaint Ricketts a few months ago.  It was 
telling that in the MLS Cup game they finished with no Canadians on the field.  

Otherwise everything was fine except I sit too close to the aisle and fans are constantly 
passing by to leave to get to the concession stands, the restrooms, or the exits before 
the game or half is over and/or they arrive late. 

I've still kept my attendance record going of not missing a TFC home game since 
they began.  That includes two games I remember that because of weather conditions 
were finished the next morning and the game in 2010 when no buses or streetcars were 
running south of Bloor because of riots during the G20 Summit in 2010.  Well it was 
a long walk and I but I made it in time and then the rarely seen David Beckham 
wasn't even in the lineup for LA Galaxy.  

It will be a short offseason as they will be competing in the CONCACAF Championship 
round of 16 starting in February so my thinking that I ducked the worst of the weather 
to see the MLS Cup in December may be shortlived.  

National Teams games held in Toronto, Canadian Men's and Women's teams (2 games) 
plus the press conferences to announce the new Men's team head coach Octavio Zambrano 
and the 'United As One' North American bid to host the FIFA Men's World Cup in 2026).  

Fun for me watching both Canadian teams win their games in Toronto and then being able 
to attend the press conference after each game and do hallway interviews.  I know many 
of the players that play or at least started in the Toronto area.  

Total:   Exactly 100!  

Yeah I'm providing something like 2/3s of the content for a soccer site I'm writing for.  

I did hit a breaking point.  It would have been difficult to get in any more games.  
It shows a weakness that I don't get to women's games but I'd have to displace 
my concentrating on L1O Men's games.  

This was the first year since the death of my father and keeping busy with soccer 
reporting even more than other year helped me cope with the seven days a week that 
I used to keep visiting him.  I now do volunteer work at the same hospital/residence 
Sunnybrook where he spent the last six years of his life. 

Looking forward to 2018 but I figure I have to fix my 'I' s and my 'eyes'.  My computer 
is self destructing and besides my hard drive partially destroying itself the 'I' 
and the 'zero' key has popped off my keyboard and are too damaged to fit back on.  
I figured I'll get a new laptop within a month.  The other problem is more serious.  
I was advised on my last checkup for new glasses that I had cataracts in the center 
of both eyes.  The last few months they have been getting worse so I am looking into 
having an operation to have them removed.  

I started a twitter account but stalled out at 175 followers.  Nothing but links 
to game reports on my site. You won't see photos of what I had for lunch.  
Also frustrating is some of the message boards I see my L1O games are read by only 
five people.  There are more readers for topics about craft beer and rating team scarfs.  

I'd like to thank the teams and players and staff that have helped me piece together 
games answering my questions.  It gave a chance for TFC goalie Clint Irwin to look 
back at his days with Ottawa Capital City of the CSL in 2011.  
Here's hoping for a great 2018!  

Rocket Robin
Twitter @RocketRobin01  

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