December 23, 2015--Rocket Robin's Soccer in Toronto--2015 year end editorial (by Rocket Robin)

Rocket Robin's Soccer In Toronto Summary of 2015 Season 

December 23, 2015

I attended a lot of soccer games this year—I counted 86—which felt like too many but there was always 
one more big game that dragged me away from home to cover the MLS, USL, PDL, League 1 Ontario, and 
Canadian National team games in the Greater Toronto area.  Here's my own feelings about each league 
or team:  

Toronto FC (17 regular season games, 1 Voyageurs Cup match, 2 friendlies)

The team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history but still it was a bit disappointing 
the way they finished in sixth place out of ten teams in the weak Eastern Conference which included 
two expansion franchises.  Their record was only .500 with 15 wins, 15 losses, 4 ties.  They wouldn't 
have made the playoffs last season with a sixth place finish.  It wasted the achievements of new forward 
Sebastian Giovinco's record of most combined goals and assists in a single MLS season.  The poor showing 
can be blamed on the defence which tied for worst in the league.  

Personally I didn't like the way their home schedule was squashed between May and October but it was 
understandable because of the construction of an upper deck in the East side.  This extra deck didn't 
effect me at all as it had its own exits and washroom facilities.  At least the overcrowded downstairs 
washrooms didn't get more overcrowded.  

The things that really bothered me was the difficulty getting to and from games with one subway line 
or another being closed in what seemed like every third weekend game.  Also the weather had rain 
in about five games in the season.  Two of them were really severe.   I like to write notes while 
the game is playing but I had to shut my notebook quite a few times last year.  

Prospects for 2016:   The team has taken steps at improving with addition of three MLS veterans—defenders 
Drew Moor, and Steven Beitashour, and midfielder Will Johnson.   At the time of this writing they 
have no MLS calibre starting goaltenders.  This season the bar must be raised to a minimum of hosting 
a playoff game. 

I'll have problems getting to the stadium if not by the subway but from my preferred streetcar route 
which will be shortturning a good eight blocks from the stadium this year while a new train platform 
is being built inside the CNE grounds.  The rain problem will hopefully be solved by having a partial 
roof installed although I don't know if I'll be protected from driving rain falling into the 
seventh row.  

The team will have another unbalanced schedule because of construction of the roof so may not start 
their home schedule until May and have to squash two home games per week later in the season. 

Toronto FC II (10 out of 14 games plus 1 friendly)
This was a new franchise in the USL Pro League that seemed to be set up on short notice.  It has 
an important function to give grads of the TFC Academy and MLS draft choices a chance at regular 
playing time who aren't ready for the MLS team yet.  Their record was 6 wins, 17 losses, 5 ties 
for an eleventh place finish out of twelve teams.  I can excuse their poor record as I understand 
them as a development team.  Some of the USL teams like Rochester Rhinos who won the league 
championship are the highest calibre for their city and have older and more experienced players.
Also the team had about half a dozen players away to Canada's Pan Am team for an important
month of the season.

I was disappointed by the team having their home schedule squeezed between late May and early 
September.  The late home start was because the Ontario Soccer Centre was still installing a new 
field for them to play.  There were no permanent stands during the season but temp stands that 
looked like they were brought up from the CNE grounds after the Molson Indy car races.  Workers 
were still installing duct tape to the cracks where the rows fit together to prevent people 
from tripping or tearing the clothes during the first home game.  Port-a-potties were the limit 
of their facilities.   Another big problem was their schedule seemed to be thrown together 
at the last minute and so they had conflicts with their MLS team.  The games may have been 
later in the day in most cases but even two hours is not enough time to get between the two 
stadiums.  That kept me from buying a season ticket which was a very moderate price.  

Prospects for 2016:
I can see the team improving just by having some returning players on the roster and new grads 
and draft choices pushing for positions.   I don't know if there will be any difference of the 
facilities as after their season ended the stands were taken down.   

Toronto FC PDL team (five out of seven games)
This was a strange situation.   The team seemed thrown together when a spot opened up in the 
USL at the PDL level when the Toronto Lynx left their spot vacant when they dropped 
to League 1 Ontario.  It was known at the beginning of the year that the Ontario Soccer 
Association was pressuring teams to quit the PDL and join League 1 Ontario.  The team played 
at the KIA Training Centre and did not actively seek fans.  Their home games were mostly held 
on weekday afternoons.  Their roster was made up mostly of grads of the TFC Academy who'd gone 
away to NCAA schools in the US and came back to stay in shape for the next school season.  
Their record was three wins, eight losses, three ties for fourth place in their seven team 
conference.  Again with this league, development of players was more important than their 
record.  Their rivals K-W United ended up winning the entire league.

Prospects for 2016:  
The Ontario Soccer Association is going about ensuring that 2016 will be the   last year 
that any Ontario team in Southern Ontario will participate in this league.  One of their 
rivals FC London has already made the switch to League 1 Ontario and am not sure that 
TFC Academy will run a team in 2016 (they already have a team in League 1 Ontario although 
they use their under 18s for that league).   

League 1 Ontario Men's (45 League and Cup games, 1 interprovincial game)
This league expanded from nine to twelve teams in its second year of existance.  
Woodbridge Strikers won the Cup competition and new team Oakville Blue Devils (who were 
the Toronto Lynx organization the previous season) won the league championship and then 
the interprovincial cup against the best Quebec team.  The league's biggest problem 
is drawing fans consistantly but is great for player development.  

I was well treated by the league getting a printout of rosters before each game in almost 
all situations.  One administrator from a team refused to give me their roster for one 
game because I'd reported 'too negatively' about her team (it was hard to be rosy because 
they'd only won one game out of twelve at that point) but the league ensured that after 
that I was provided for.  Only thing that hurt was not being invited to cover the league's 
year-end banquet.  

Prospects for 2016: 
The league recently announced they are expanding to sixteen teams this season.  
The possibility exists that at a certain point a few years from now they may institute 
a promotion/relagation system. 

League 1 Ontario Women (one championship game)
This league just got started in 2015 with seven teams.  I soon realized that I didn't 
have enough time to cover this league and only covered their Cup championship game 
which was played before the Men's Cup.  

Prospects for 2016:  
They have added four more teams for 2016.  I don't expect I'll have enough time to even 
cover their standings on my page this year.  

Canada's National teams  (Men two World Cup Qualifiers, one Gold Cup game)
(Women none)
I did cover the national teams game in Toronto but with time commitments I did get 
to any of the Pan Am soccer games—all held in Hamilton nor any of the   Women's World Cup.  
Canada won two rounds of preliminary games against Dominica then Belize.  They also tied 
their Gold Cup game against Costa Rica but did not advance in that competition.  

I also got invited to vote for Canada's Player of the Year (media vote) for senior team 
players.  My first choices Kadeisha Buchanan for the women and Atiba Hutchinson for 
the men both finished first in the voting.  

Prospects for 2016:
I'm not sure how far the men's team will advance.  Short term the men's team will play 
in Vancouver for a few reasons including the further construction at BMO Field.  

Media Coverage in 2015:
Media coverage continues to decline.  Just when you'd think TFC would get more coverage,
the city's baseball team made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years and grabbed
all the headlines.  The GOL tv channel, owned by TFC owner's MLSE folded the beginning 
of August so there was no television coverage of the team in anything other than games.

I joined Twitter to send out links for my game reports but that seemed to fizzle out 
after 68 followers.  The links I post to my site from the soccer message boards 
go mostly unread.  I also started writing for Northern Starting XI which turned out well.

I'm grateful to the game officials and team officials and players of the Canadian 
National team, USL, PDL, and League One Ontario for helping me fill in assists and 
recapping scoring plays to make my reports more detailed.

Rocket Robin
twitter:  @RocketRobin01

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