Canada steals the show

Jim Brennan battles during MLS All-Star action at BMO Field on Thursday. SUN MEDIA/Stan Behal

Jim Brennan battles during MLS All-Star action at BMO Field on Thursday. SUN MEDIA/Stan Behal

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

If Major League Soccer was looking for a home-pitch advantage against English Premiership side West Ham United in last night's all-star match at BMO Field, it started off on the wrong note.

And in spite of the 3-2 result over the Hammers, it took until the 59th minute and the arrival of Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan to lift the fans from their seats.

Not even the play of all-world midfielder David Beckham in the first half could draw cheers from the record 20,844 fans at the Lake Shore Blvd. stadium.

What started the fans' disenchantment was a decsion to play both the English and American national anthems in the opening ceremony for the ESPN-TV feed being broadcast back to the U.S.

It wasn't until after the TV opening was complete that the Canadian flag appeared and a Canadian Armed Forces honour guard was brought to sing O Canada.

Thinking that there wouldn't be a Canadian anthem, fans already had started an acapella version themselves.

It was the first sign that the normally rabid TFC soccer crowd wasn't happy with the proceedings.

In fact, the most vociferous chant until the Reds' No. 11 appeared was: "We want Brennan."

When Brennan did come in, with the score tied at 2-2, BMO erupted as if the game had just started.

"It was a moment I will never forget," Brennan said. "I was getting a lot of stick from (teammates) when the cheering started. They said: 'Are those all your family behind the goal?' "

Just less than 10 minutes after Brennan and Toronto native Dwayne De Rosario came on the pitch, the deciding goal was scored.

De Rosario was sent into the penalty area on a play started by Brennan. The Scarborough striker, who plays for Houston Dynamo of the MLS, was fouled and he sent the resulting penalty kick off the top bar into the net behind West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green.

"I never had even the tiniest doubt that I would score on the penalty," De Rosario said. "And to do it in front of my hometown fans made it extra special."

West Ham striker Dean Ashton scored both his team's goals from inside the penalty area with MLS forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco scoring the other two MLS goals -- one off a perfect feed from Beckham, who until Brennan arrived on the pitch was getting as many jeers as cheers.

QUIET FANS

The TFC captain admitted in a post-game interview that he noticed the fans sitting on their hands in the first half of the game.

"I kept looking over (to the southeast corner of BMO) to see what was going on," he said. "I understand they were unhappy at me not starting and because of rumours the stadium was going to be re-modelled for the Argos.

"But I knew that they couldn't keep quiet for the whole game. These, after all, are our fans and we know how supportive they are."

Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, MLS boss Don Garber confirmed that three Canadian cities -- Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa -- are among eight bidders for two expansion teams to be awarded in 2011. The other cities are Atlanta, St. Louis, Portland, Las Vegas and a second team for the New York area.

The reported expansion fee has been set at $40-million US, a steep jump from the $10 million that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. put out for the Toronto franchise just four years ago.


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