February 24, 2017 Toronto FC MLS--TFC President's Breakfast (by Rocket Robin)

Details of the TFC Presidents Breakfast held on Friday February 24, 2017 
at Real Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Toronto from 8:30 to 10:30am.

E-mail said "Breakfast will be provided and we may have a surprise in store 
regarding the new 2017 jersey".

The presentation got started at 9:30am with a stage of TFC broadcaster Luke Wileman 
as the MC; former player Steven Caldwell who it was announced in his intro will now 
be on all the TFC broadcasts; Bill Manning president of TFC; and Tim Bezbatchenko 
general manager of TFC.

Of course the players and head coach are still in Florida for the team's preseason 
so we didn't expect to see them here today.

Manning answered his own 'proud of the team question' with a statement of the team 
having unfinished business for 2017. He thanked the fans and the media 
for their support. He said he held the position for eight to ten years for 
Real Salt Lake and their fans were uneducated whereas Toronto fans were very 
knowledgeable about the history of soccer in Toronto then he name-dropped 
Metros Croatia, the Blizzard, and the Lynx.

A short video was shown named 'Dawn of the Reds'. There was a quote 
of 'the streets run red' and a soccer ball on fire, a little girl looking 
out her bedroom window at night and seeing rioters (oops supporters) with 
torches on the street. [Sorry guys I'm ignorant about the new TV shows with 
zombies etc so I go back to historical quotes I've seen from dictators about 
the streets running red with blood.] The video is on their website so I expect 
the chief demographic will have previewed it and loved it before it came out.

Manning continued by saying he thought TFC were the best club in the league 
from August until the end of the season. We want to win the MLS championship 
but also have longevity (like LA Galaxy during their five championship years). 
To achieve this it starts with a core of players instead of rebuilding the club 
each year (like early TFC teams).

Wileman and Caldwell now looped some softball questions at Manning and Bezbatchenko.

Manning answered the Sebastian Giovinco-to-China rumours that were circulating 
back in January. He said those reports were greatly exaggerated. Because Seba 
had said he was happy in Toronto, they weren't worried but to be polite he and 
the agent listened to all the offers. Manning warned us he was going to tell 
a joke about teams wanting to talk to Seba with "where's my cheque?" which drew 
the only boos of the morning from the crowd but he had told us it was a joke.

Manning said the team this morning was unveiling a new jersey but BMO who 
he called "The Bank of Soccer" even though they also sponsor Montreal Impact 
will continue to be on the jerseys and this year EVERY TFC team will have 
the BMO logo on their jersey (including academy teams).

A short video of every TFC jersey since 2007 was shown in a game highlight 
package (I was more intent on watching some of the players shown to bring back 
my own memories). Jerseys have included red, gray, black/onyx, and the blue 
hoop on white for last year's heritage games but mostly the jersey's have been 
red 90% of the time. A lady [late edit: Connie Stefankiewicz] was brought onstage 
who I assumed was from BMO but the acoustics weren't the best and she wished 
good luck to the team for the season starting on Saturday (oops that's next Saturday).

Caldwell now asked Bezbatchenko questions:

Q. How to rally the boys right after the season ended?
A. How incredibly far they've come, they were a bit short finishing third, 
they want to be a contender EVERY year, from midway through the season 
to the MLS Cup they were the best team in the MLS. This year there's 
a chip on their shoulder and unity.

Q. The two new signings?
A. We do have a strong core that we wanted to keep on the team.  They have 
kept 14 of the top 15 game minutes leaders from last year's team. There was 
just some 'tweaking' required for teams that were starting to sit back 
on us....that's the reason Victor Vazquez was signed as he can break down 
opponent's defenses. He played for Cruz Azul but because last year he wasn't 
getting the playing time he wanted and his family didn't like living there, 
we obtained him for TAM money.

Chris Mavinga is a defender at left back and will provide depth for 
Justin Morrow. He played in Russia but didn't like the environment and was 
loaned to some French clubs. He will be a competitor with Nick Hagglund 
for a starting position.

Bez continued: Forward Tosaint Ricketts, goalie Clint Irwin, and defender 
Benoit Cheyrou (big applause from attendees) were all re-signed. He praised 
new player Sergio Camargo (midfielder). It's the 21 to 30 spots on the 
roster in player depth that are still being determined.

Caldwell question: Video replays?

TB answers: MLS will start video replays because of FIFA starting 
this initiative. There will be an extra assistant referee able to review 
plays in the press box. It can be a real game changer but will only be used 
to review goals, penalty kick calls and Red cards. We're excited by this 
new tech.

Ex players Dwayne DeRosario and Danny Dichio were now introduced to wave 
to the fans.

Fan questions were now taken:

Q. An embarrassment of riches?

A (by Tim B): Everything is on the table, that is playing time must 
be earned! Peoples' jobs are on the line. There's a culture of pushing 
players through the Academy. There will be an opportunity in the Canadian 
Championship to use younger players. More home grown players will advance.

Q. What happened to the Academy below age 14?

A (by Bruce M): The team wanted to be widespread so instead of just having 
20 players they want 200 in the 10-13 age groups until they reach age 14. 
It will raise the level of competition. He used the example of how DeRo came 
up from local teams. They are not getting rid of their own 10-13s, we're 
getting smarter.

[A team official from North Toronto Nitros was at my table and helped flesh 
out the meaning for me]. TFC had a bad reputation of poaching players from 
other clubs and then cutting them leaving them to drift back to their 
old teams. Now it looks like they will let the 10-13s (except the ones 
already in their system) stay with their own clubs but just be called 
in to training sessions, workshops etc.

Q. European players for MLS? The prospects MLS will be able to attract 
players when European Nat team coaches discourage it?

A (by Tim B): China and Russia are limited to attracting players despite 
the money offered. TAM money will attract and influx of European players. 
Worldwide, players are attracted to North America because of safety concerns 
and the reliability of the players getting paid! (examples of Europa league 
teams three months behind in payroll). Manning adding that "Seba should have 
played for Italy at Euro 2016" drew the biggest spontaneous applause 
of the morning.

Q. (from member of supporter group Tribal Rhythm Nation): Replay technology? 
Can teams use it? (like the NFL challenge flag).

A (by Tim B): No! Only the referee assistant in the booth can use it. 
It will be a locked booth (haha). It is a good thing to try it out.

Bill M thanked the Tribal Rhythm Nation and the other five fans support 
groups for uniting last year. (big applause from the attendees).

Q. Is Raheem Edwards getting a contract?

A (by Tim B): We will let the player and the player agent know first. 
We are looking at him to fill a role so stay tuned!

Q. How did you get the supporter groups for such authentic looking videos?

A (by Tim B): The camera crews were excellent etc....

There was a player video shown for the crowd (because the players 
are actually in Florida in preseason).

Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco rotated through 
a series of answers. On consistency question 'we all know the system, 
we have the same end goal but go one further. Jozy added they are all 
'must win' games, don't give up silly points. Michael added "treat every 
game equally". Jozy on fans 'we have 12 men'. Seba said 'we can feel 
the energy'.

Wileman bragged about Seba learning so much English in the last 12 months. 
True but I still think there were some awkward pauses in his answers. 
Wileman said merchandise was 20% off (third reminder already!)

Wileman and Caldwell broke up the meeting at 10:30am although it wasn't 
a surprise as they were ticking off 'time for two more questions', 
'one more question'... Wileman then bragged about a plan for a backwards 
running race in the parking lot against Caldwell during a TFC broadcast.


Alright! My time to get busy.

The crowd headed for the exits and Manning was mobbed by pro reporters 
(don't these people get interviews with the players and staff 
everyday already?...when do fans ever get to ask questions?)

I saw a chance to ask Tim B some questions while he waited for his 
turn in the scrum and that's why his time was limited. OK.

I confirmed with him that there will be no Toronto FC team in the 
PDL this year. He said TFC III will not be all Under 17 like it was 
last year (I noticed on the website they were being called U-20).

He said TFC III will be the first pro team in League 1 Ontario 
as some of the players will be under contract. He said the team will 
still be young but will have some returning college players play 
in the summer.

(I confirmed with L1O chair Dino Rossi last season that there were 
no pros in the league—although some of the players pick up some 
money at kids summer camps).

Now Bezbatchenko was called to the scrum but over there was Danny Dichio! 
Great he is the coach of TFC III for this season as Stuart Neely 
who I saw back in November at the L1O awards banquet gave up that position 
a few weeks later to go off to Delta BC to become head coach 
of South Delta United SC.

My questions for Dichio:

No PDL club, USL (ie TFC II) new rules down to three subs a game 
instead of five last year how will all your players find time to play?

DD: TFC will still have a relationship with PDL but it will mean loaning 
returning university players to PDL teams. K-W United was mentioned and 
we both gushed about Sergio Camargo who did the TFC Academy (2010 CSL 
Rookie of the Year Award while with Toronto FC Academy II), 
Coastal Carolina U, Syracuse U, and K-W United road. Wilmington 
dropped back to PDL this year so maybe they could take some players 
I suggested. I gave the example of L1O player Kota Sakurai (1016 L1O 
Young Player of the Year) who split time between the TFC teams 
in L1O, PDL, and USL last season as being one who would be limited 
by lack of opportunities. Dichio said Kota will be attending 
Dartmouth College from August onward.

Now it's my turn to leave!

I had a question in reserve about TFCs relationship with the new 
CPL league that I wanted to ask Tim B but he had left when the 
scrum ended. That one I might get a chance to ask someone at the 
TFC II season seat holder ticket pick up (an underling said they were 
still working out the details of that at this time). Let's see 
if the pro reporters asked something about it for tomorrow's papers!

Rocket Robin

On stage from left are Steven Caldwell, Luke Wileman, Tim Bezbatchenko, the BMO rep Connie Stefankiewicz, and Bill Manning.

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