April 24, 2007 Toronto FC players don't know other teams (from Toronto Star)

Johnston says his players are in the dark about other teams and blames poor TV exposure

Apr 24, 2007 04:30 AM

Heading into tomorrow's game in Kansas City, Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston can name several players on the Wizards' roster who concern him.

Two games into the season, high-scoring forward Eddie Johnston already has a goal and two assists. Jose Burciaga Jr. scored seven goals last year, more than any other Major League Soccer defender. And fellow defender Jimmy Conrad twice has captained the U.S. national team.

But many of Toronto FC's players aren't so familiar with Kansas City's roster.

In fact, Johnston says some of them are clueless about other teams around the league, and the coach blames television.

Between CBC, The Score and Sportsnet, all of Toronto FC's games will reach Canadian airwaves, and their Oct. 4 home game against New York will air live across the U.S. on ESPN2.

But MLS has no broadcast deal here, and no Canadian broadcasters have plans to show games that don't involve Toronto FC.

Johnston thinks that situation hurts young players trying to familiarize themselves with the league.

"There are guys who have played in this league a very long time, and we've got guys who don't even know half their names. I'm going to speak to Mr. (Ted) Rogers, whoever he is," Johnston joked after practice yesterday.

But he was serious in saying he wanted more MLS on local TV.

"I'm a great believer that you have to be able to know your opposition inside and out," he said. "We have guys who don't even know who Eddie Johnston is, but it's not their fault. It's vital that we have every game available, not only for one week, but for the upcoming weeks."

Not likely, since none of the broadcasters contacted yesterday planned to expand their MLS coverage.

TSN's soccer coverage centres on the UEFA Champions league and the 2008 Euro Cup, while The Score has acquired the rights to broadcast England's Premier League beginning this August.

Rogers Sportsnet currently airs the Premier League, and is slated to show seven more Toronto FC games this season but doesn't plan to pick up extra MLS broadcasts this year.

GolTV, a digital network, airs games from several overseas leagues, including Spain, Germany and Italy, but offers no MLS coverage outside of updates on its daily news broadcast and its weekly magazine show, American Soccer.

But representatives from several networks said their MLS plans could change if Toronto FC draws strong ratings.

The team's debut two weeks ago, a 2-0 loss to Chivas USA, attracted 115,000 viewers, but their second game, a 4-0 loss to New England, netted only 15,000.

"We want to see how things are going with Toronto (FC) first," said Anthony Cicione, The Score's vice-president of programming.

"If we find we're getting satisfactory ratings, we can look at the bigger picture."

If Johnston doesn't want to wait, he can always advise his younger players to turn on their computers, since all MLS games are broadcast on the league's website.

NOTES: Rookie midfielder Maurice Edu is set to make his Toronto FC debut tomorrow night. Edu, the first overall pick in this year's MLS draft, missed the pre-season and the first two regular-season games with a stress fracture in his pelvic bone. ... Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, out with a strained knee ligament, won't play tomorrow night, but Johnston said he may play a little during Saturday's home opener. ... Newly acquired striker Danny Dichio will miss tomorrow's game while he waits for a visa that will allow him to play in both the U.S. and Canada.

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