Thursday, June 18, 2009

A tale of three cities

The seemingly-impossible 6-1 victory Toronto FC pulled off against the Montreal Impact tonight gives them the Voyageurs Cup, the one fact everyone can agree on. Apart from that, there's no clear lesson or moral to draw from this one, though. It means drastically different things to fans of all the teams involved, and there's no one right answer. Read on for my thoughts on what this result means to fans in each city.

Toronto: It's a great day to be a Toronto FC fan. Almost everyone wrote them off after the Vancouver game; sure, they've got a solid team, but a four-goal victory on the road is hard for any side. For a team that's suffered some significant setbacks recently, including a brutal home loss to the L.A. Galaxy, a series of fan protests and a recent roster makeover, this is a huge step forward. They finally have the CONCACAF Champions League berth they've coveted for so long, and they have some tangible silverware to show their fans. The load on Mo Johnston's shoulders just got significantly lighter; regardless of how TFC do in the remainder of the MLS season, this year will be seen as at least a partial step forward thanks to tonight's events.

Vancouver: For Vancouver fans, it's the opposite. The championship seemed in their grasp, and it would have been a perfect stepping stone on the road to MLS as well as a way to bring some well-deserved Eastern media attention to the Whitecaps. To have that ripped away by a stellar TFC performance would have been bad enough. However, the way this went down was much worse. Their old archrivals, the Montreal Impact, first decided to dress a B-squad, including former Whitecaps' backup goalkeeper Srdjan Djekjanovic. That B-squad then went on to roll over and play dead (after notching the game's first goal on a penalty) in a manner that made the Montreal Screwjob look positively fair, all but assuring TFC's triumph. The faces of head coach Teitur Thordarson and the Whitecaps in the stands told the story of the night; first joy, then cautious optimism, then worry and then disbelief.

In the end, though, Vancouver fans don't have anything to be ashamed of. Their side put in a great tournament and may have deserved the trophy. With a credible effort from Montreal, they might even have won it. There's no point in kicking themselves or their franchise over something that in the end was out of their hands. You can bet they'll be fired up for Saturday's USL game against the Impact, though.

Montreal: In many ways, Montreal fans come out of this in the worst situation. They just watched their side demonstrate that they don't care about the Voyageurs Cup when they don't have a chance to win it. The appalling effort shown by the Impact tonight gives Montreal fans nothing to be proud of, and that's made worse by their lacklustre performance handing the championship to their Toronto-based rivals. Montreal's going to take a lot of criticism over the next few days, and much of it will be deserved. That's not the fans' fault, but it's going to be awfully tough for them to defend their franchise at the moment. Tonight's showing brought back horrible memories of the Santos Laguna defeat, and perhaps was even worse. That was an Impact team that had overachieved; just making it to that point was an accomplishment, and getting any sort of result in Mexico is always difficult. Losing by six goals at home to an MLS team with a poor recent run of form? It's hard to find a way to rationalize that.

In the end, I don't think it necessarily means much for Canadian soccer as a whole. Toronto FC will make a great representative for the country in the CONCACAF Champions League, but as I argued a while ago, Vancouver would have as well. Each would bring a different audience to the table, and a run by either will be good for the game. For Toronto, their focus now shifts to the CCL; for Vancouver and Montreal, the mission's now to succeed in the USL and come back hungry for the Voyageurs Cup title next year. It's been a great, thrilling, dramatic tournament, and it's really shown that these sides at their best can compete with each other and give us some fantastic soccer to watch. In my mind, that's the most important thing to take away from this one.

[Cross-posted to Sporting Madness].


GoGades said...

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, that burgeoning soccer hotbed according to several breathless posters a few months ago, the Ottawa Fury got crowds of 347 and 200 people for their 2 most recent games...

sager said...


'Gades, just to be clear, are you maligning the Fury or the local interest in soccer? You cannot expect a W-League or Premier Development League team which plays at a college field to get fan support comparable to MLS and USL teams. The latter have more money and media coverage behind them, not to mention a greater perception that they are big league.

I'm on record saying you would see a streaker on the Rideau Canal in January before you see a MLS team in Ottawa. Personally, the USL might be the way to go, give it a chance to rise or fall on its own merits. It's not going to draw fans away from the Rough Riders, which I hope against all hope will succeed.

Anonymous said...

Comparing the Ottawa Fury to TFC is like comparing the Saskatoon Hilltops to the Sask Roughriders.
I mean it's completely irrelevant.
Toronto has had developmental teams that played in front of next to nobody too.

Meanwhile...kudos to TFC for digging themselves out of a huge hole.
At one point down five goals to Vancouver after falling behind 1-0 to the Impact, Toronto just crushed Montreal the rest of the game.
It must have been agony for the Whitecap players to watch this massacre.
Once Montreal fell behind, they basically showed little effort in getting back into the game as they really had nothing at stake for themselves.

GoGades said...

Not picking on the Fury, not at all.

But according to the soccer supporters, Ottawa is under-served market that is just waiting to burst - and I'm pointing out that the best soccer team in the city can't even get CLOSE to 4 digit attendance.

And Neate, I think you're absolutely right - USL is a far better fit for a completely unproven market - which is what Ottawa is at this point.

After the countless rip jobs Melnyk and his supporters did on the CFL and football in general, I have no hesitation to tweak their noses a bit. :)

Anonymous said...

The roster Montreal put on the field last night had 655 USL games of experience. The roster Vancouver put out in their last Voyageurs game against Montreal had 528 USL games of experience. Which is the B-squad?

The talk of sending out a "B-squad" is weak. 7 of the 11 Montreal starters last night were starters against Vancouver in the Cup. And a couple of the subs started against Vancouver too. Those 7 guys plus 2 subs were key members of Montreal's run in the Champions League last year.

the "b-squad" thing is exaggerated.. but Vancouver fans can think that's what caused the loss if it helps them cope with failure. wouldn't want their fragile psyches to have to deal with the truth ;)

The fact is Montreal has collapsed under the determined pressure of two better teams this year. You put determined pressure on them combined with skill and they will be beaten regardless of the lineup.

Anonymous said...


1)Don't forget when toronto was in the usl they had awful crowds and they were 2 steps above the fury.Aslo pdl teams for the most part don't get huge crowds the biggest crowd so far i beleave is 1400.THe fury are right in the middle of the pack for the most part.

2)Tell me how many fans do the geegees or sooners avg thats right its about the same.


Dennis Prouse said...

Jayme - you wouldn't have asked that question if you actually knew the answer. The Geegees get about 1500 - 2000 fans per game, or about 7 to 8 times what the Fury draw. There is no comparison -- football destroys soccer as a spectator sport in Canada at every level. It also destroys it in television ratings as well.

sager said...


The London PDL team is drawing 3,000 fans per game, just as a random example. I say this strictly to note that it is getting harder to deny the inroads soccer is making.

This is like an argument between two people who speak different languages. It's a competition for attention (advertisers, sponsors), but people can make the case for the league they follow without bashing or belittling the other.

Speaking personally, I try to follow both the CFL and MLS. Both are getting stronger in Canada, for that one should be grateful.

Anonymous said...

I would not say football destorys soccer.If that was the case jr football team which is more or less the same level as pdl would be drawing massive crowds.Most jr team do not draw massive crowds good crwds but not massive.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the crowds the Gee Gee football team draws at Frank Clair Stadium is nothing to write home about, especially in comparison to Laval.
I have seen a couple of Fury games as well as some Algonquin Thunder men's games.
I happen to live in the area.
The venue, while nice, is hard to find if you are not familiar with the Algonquin campus.
It's located way back from the main buildings along the back parking lot.
I think part of the problem for Ottawa soccer fans is the lack of a top notch venue for the game.
I recall back in the late 80's a semi pro team called the Ottawa Intrepid played their games at Mooney's Bay on Riverside Drive, after starting off at a quaint but tiny stadium located in Aylmer, Quebec. That place, located just off the main street was an ok place to watch the game, but getting back home to Ottawa was a hassle because only two roads led back to the bridge.

GoGades said...

Neate, you're kind of making my point: if London can draw 3,000 for the PDL, then wouldn't a city as hungry for soccer as Ottawa draw the same, or at least close to 1,000 ? I mean, that's all we heard from Melnyk and the Red Pat... I mean from the Ottawa MLS supporters, that Ottawa was just ready to burst ?

And while we're talking attendance: so far in 2009 MLS is average 15,024, that's including the 29K the Sounders are drawing.

Attendance for week 1 CFL *exhibition* games: 18,241 27,742 34,793 25,463

Not bad for a dying league, eh Melnyk ?

sager said...

Glad I could help! I wasn't trying to refute your point.

This is not meant to argue that this a sleeping giant of a soccer hotbed. However, like a previous commenter said, the venue where the Fury play is hard to find. The lack of a good venue for soccer hurts. (The London team plays most of its games at TD Waterhouse Stadium on the UWO campus, very easy to get to.)

People in London, a good soccer city, see those Forest City games as a Place To Be. That buzz is not there in Ottawa. To be fair, it was not there for the Ottawa Rapidz team last season after the first week of the season.

I'm not going to endorse Melnyk's "dying league" comments. Soccer is on the map in Canada, but that does not cancel out three-down football.

Total attendance figures are not always a tell-all. Average ticket price is a big factor.

2 questions that I need answered:

1. When the Riders and 'Gades were here, what was their standard home game night?

2. What do tickets to a CFL pre-season game go for, compared to regular season (where a good seat can be had for $30)?

Anonymous said...

There are some teams that do very well.But for the most part those teams are in citys that does not have alot else to do.There could very well be a good amount of interest in ottawa for soccer that does not mean all of those fans are going to support any level of soccer.I am pro football and soccer but i am getting tired of this double standard some football fans seem to have.They bring up the fury and claim if they can't support a pdl team how are they going to support a mls team.Yet when someone says the sooners and jr riders don't get great support how are they going to support a cfl team.Some football fans say you can't comapare the n2.

GoGades said...

Even under the Glieberman regime - twice - at least 18,000 football fans (of the non-rioting kind), kept showing up.

Meanwhile, in soccer land ...

... in the 80s, NASL & Pele were going to take North America over...

... in the 1990s, the World Cup in the US was going to take North America over ...

... in 2000s, it's the MLS & Beckam...

uh... see a pattern, "sport of the future" fans ?

To be blunt, Ottawa MLS/Soccer supporters: Put up, or better yet, shut the fuck up. You were flapping your gums all thru the Spring, but now that you actually have a chance to show your colours, it's pretty pathetic (as I suspected). Ottawa CFL fans have enough trouble battling the Glebites, without all 350 of you, and the RPB, muddying the waters further.

Neate, to answer your Qs:

1. Thursday in the summer time, Fri/Sat/Sun in the Fall.

2. in the Gades' days, you got in extra exhibition ticket if you had season tickets (at full pop for 10 games). In my case, that meant that I got 2 tix for $55 (lower deck south side, R.I.P.)

sager said...

Thanks, GG ... I was just trying to figure out how it might work in 2012 if this city has the CFL, Canadian university football (8 home dates if Carleton and Ottawa are both playing) and the 67's all on one site.

Did it ever occur that there was a CFL game at the same time as a 67's game next door? How did that work?

GoGades said...

I should add that the "stadium location" defence is incredibly weak sauce. Baseline and Woodroffe - are you kidding me ? That's a bad location ? Even the #95 goes there every 5 minutes...

GoGades said...

Neate, I don't recall having both a football game and hockey at the same time, or close to.

I'm sure it happened at some point in the last 30 years - but it just doesn't register with me, if it did.

sager said...

They could probably arrange it so it wouldn't happen ... Riders on Thursday/Sunday, 67's get Friday Gee-Gees or Ravens on Saturday ... the CFL and OHL could arrange it so the Sunday dates would not conflict. This is where the CFL's move to play some Saturday playoff games would help — although what happens if the Riders played on a night when the Senators were home?

That would be a nice problem to have!

Anonymous said...

Again you can not judge supprt at the pdl level and say they will not support mls.By that logic people should they same not be said about football if you can't get great crowds at the jr level how would they support a cfl team.Aslo there is alot more then 350 fans i will say i am not sure if they would sell mout a mls team but i think they would get solid crowds.The only real way you can measure support for a mls team is to have a pro team and see how well they do attendance wise.