March 1, 2007 Toronto FC training in Toronto (from Toronto Star)

Toronto FC coach a stickler for being prompt

Johnston sits out two players for showing up late

Mar 01, 2007 04:30 AM

Midway through Toronto FC's intrasquad scrimmage yesterday, Adam Braz dribbled up to midfield, looking to pass the ball forward. Midfielder A.J. Gray, a member of Canada's under-20 national team trying out for the Toronto FC, strode toward Braz as he cocked his leg.


Gray blocked the kick and emerged with the ball.

"Good, A.J.," shouted head coach Mo Johnston. "It happens when you close out quicker."

If Gray and under-20 teammate Stephen Lumley learn nothing else from their Major League Soccer tryout, they'll know that it pays to arrive on time.

On Tuesday morning Gray and Lumley pushed through the revolving doors at University of Toronto's indoor field 45 minutes into practice. Johnston told them not to bother suiting up, and forced them to watch the session from the sidelines.

For the coach, the incident underscored the vast difference between amateur acclaim and professional success.

"Next time that happens they won't be here," Johnston said. "They're good young players, but this is a professional organization. You can't come in 30 minutes late, 15 minutes late, or five minutes late. It's disrespectful to the team and to the fans.

"They were getting their diapers changed, I think."

Lumley, a defender, stresses that diapers had nothing to do with it. He says he and Gray simply miscalculated travel time from the suburbs to Varsity Stadium. Gray left his house in Brampton at 8 a.m., and Lumley left Mississauga about the same time. It was past 9:30 when they finally reached U of T.

Lumley, 19, says they would have arrived on time if other commuters had simply stayed off the road.

"Traffic was just ..." Lumley sighed and shrugged. "We tried to weave. Traffic just caught up to us and screwed us over."

Both players, who will play in the under-20 World Cup this summer, already knew that things happen faster in the MLS. The under-20 team and Toronto FC both held mid-February training camps outside Miami, and the two squads even scrimmaged one weekend.

"It's different," said Gray, 18. "Playing against them in a game is faster. A lot faster. And they're a lot more physical."

Their course in how to keep pace with the pros continued with Tuesday's benching, and evidently Gray and Lumley took notes from the sidelines. On Tuesday night Gray stayed with a friend downtown to made sure he'd arrive at practice on time. Lumley left home at 7 a.m. and arrived an hour before practice.

"I felt like we let the whole team down (Tuesday)," Lumley said. "It will never happen again. Never. Never. That hurt me, man. In my heart."

NOTES: Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien hurt his knee in a game last Friday and didn't practise yesterday. ... Mo Johnston said the team is "in talks with" a goalkeeper from overseas, but wouldn't elaborate further.

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