May 11, 2009
GTA would welcome second MLS team
By GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA
It's too bad thaat Jim Balsillie isn't a die-hard soccer fan.
If he were, would we see a push for another Major League Soccer team in southern Ontario?
No one is suggesting soccer is more marketable or profitable in this area than hockey, but imagine the possibilities.
MLS commissioner Don Garber welcomes expansion in the coming years, above and beyond Philadelphia, Vancouver and Portland.
There seems to be a will to get both St. Louis and Montreal into the fold, but nothing is certain for each city.
In MLS, bids carry more clout with a promise to build a soccer-specific stadium. Even more appealing is the presence of real grass.
Looking down the road, is it ludicrous to suggest bringing another MLS team to the GTA would be a good idea?
If a wealthy and committed individual such as Balsillie wanted to bring a team to Hamilton or Mississauga or Vaughan, Garber should roll out the welcome mat.
Let's be honest, 21/2 years is hardly long enough to deduce that MLS is an unequivocal success, and will continue to be in Toronto, until the end of time.
And to be sure, adding teams to an over-crowded market has its risks.
That being said, the GTA is, and always has been, a passionate hot-bed for soccer fans. For now, MLS and Toronto FC have satisfied the appetite.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's biggest mistake is insisting that non-hockey markets can work, despite evidence suggesting otherwise.
Garber has a similar challenge with MLS. Instead of converting the masses into soccer fans, it's more about taking existing soccer fans and convincing them to support the MLS brand.
Garber admits there has been no need to convert Canadians into soccer fans. The interest and knowledge of the game always has been there.
And Major League Socccer seems to acknowledge that going to a place with fans of the game already in place trumps seeking out new and untested horizons.
Other than New York, there is no better place for that in North America than Toronto.
Just think about how a true local derby (no offence Los Angeles) would take the league and the competitive spirit to another level.
Forget about trips to Columbus when you can bring an army of supporters down the QEW or across the 401.
And it would be intriguing to see how soccer fans would divide themselves between supporting TFC and another local team.
When asked midweek whether he thought the side had enough depth, TFC's interim head coach Chris Cummins responded that he is in need of a few more players.
Case in point: With Carl Robinson out with food poisoning and Cummins choosing to field a more defensive roster, the coach was left with no defensive substitutions on his bench during Saturday's 3-3 away draw against D.C. United.
To make things worse, two backup goalkeepers were listed as substitutes.
Thus, Danny Dichio came on in the 76th minute as Cummins couldn't replace the tired legs of Nana Attakora with another defender.
Another defensive player was needed. And it can be argued that the lack of defensive depth, for all intents and purposes, cost TFC two points.
With the games adding up, so will injuries and suspensions. Defensive reinforcements are needed or surely more points will be lost.