April 7, 2007 Toronto FC makes debut Saturday (from Canadian Press)

POSTED ON: 07/04/07
Toronto FC makes debut Saturday
Canadian Press

CARSON, CALIF. After eight weeks of training, 10 months of promotion and 23 years of waiting Canada's newest professional team will make its official debut Saturday night in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Toronto FC, which became Major League Soccer's latest expansion team in May, will begin its inaugural season against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.

Not since 1984, when the Toronto Blizzard folded along with the rest of the North American Soccer League, has a team represented Canada's largest city in an elite league.

Though the Toronto Lynx played for the past 10 years in the United Soccer League's top division, the competition was considered inferior to MLS. The Lynx are now an amateur squad in the USL's Premier Development League.

"We finally have a professional team in the city," said midfielder Jim Brennan, a native of Newmarket, Ont. "We can't wait for the (opening) game. We're excited, we're ready and we want to get a result."

Brennan is one of five members of Canada's national team on the roster. The others are goalkeeper Greg Sutton and defenders Adam Braz, Chris Pozniak and Marco Reda.

Among their teammates are Wales international Carl Robinson, English Premier League veteran Andy Welsh, former MLS Cup most valuable player Alecko Eskandarian and Ronnie O'Brien, twice a member of the MLS Best 11.

"If you look down our roster, there are lot of guys with tons of talent and tons of experience," Eskandarian said. "We're definitely not looking to go 1-29."

But Toronto FC's roster is in constant flux. Only Paulo Nagamura remains from November's expansion draft, and the club traded midfielder Jose Cancela to Colorado on Friday to free a roster spot for another senior international player.

"We still have money to spend, and we're trying to add the best players possible," said head coach Mo Johnston, the former forward with Glasgow's Celtic and Rangers.

Johnston wants players who fit his wide-open attack.

"I don't like to be playing long ball," Johnston said. "We can pass, we can get the ball wide and we certainly have strikers who can score goals."

But O'Brien and Pozniak will miss Saturday night's opener because of injuries. O'Brien is out four to six weeks after tearing a knee ligament during training Tuesday. Pozniak has an injured hamstring and is considered day-to-day.

Though Johnston did not announce a starting lineup after Friday's training, he said that Robinson would start in O'Brien's place.

Despite injuries and the team's new status, Brennan and his teammates have high hopes.

"We're expecting a lot here," Brennan said. "We're looking to make the playoffs. By no means are we going to embarrass ourselves."

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