Time for new Canadian rivalry

GARETH WHEELER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Let's preface what follows by saying Montreal is a fantastic city with an amazing vibe.

The problem is Montrealers really don't like us here in Toronto. How many times have you been to Montreal and heard the same lame comment -- "I hate Toronto." When you press further as to why, there's never a reasonable answer. So, tomorrow we should give them a reason to hate us -- our football club is better than their's!

We're talking rivalries here, and not the half-assed hockey one that's artificially perpetuated through eight games a season between teams on completely different scales in terms of competitiveness. We've been there, done that.

It's time to build a new rivalry -- on the soccer field.

Tomorrow, as part of the CONCACAF Champions League qualification, Toronto FC plays the Montreal Impact. The Vancouver Whitecaps are also part of the series, competing for Canadian bragging rights.

More important than the potential Champions League spot is the long-term spin off it can have in creating a true sporting rivalry.

It's not that a TFC-New York Red Bulls rivalry doesn't work -- it's that a TFC-Montreal grudge match works better.

Competing for attention on a national scale, the geographical proximity, and the socio-economic factors that unite and divide our two cities are already in place.

No matter the differences off the field, Montreal certainly has an inferiority complex when it comes to the product on the pitch.

There's a sense of resentment on behalf of Impact supporters as to how the passion of TFC fans represents all that's good about Canadian soccer, when Montreal has been fervently supporting its own club since 1993. Impact attendance is fantastic, community presence is unquestionable, and the foundation of the football club is as solid as it gets.

So really, the only thing holding them back from receiving TFC type hype is a spot in Major League Soccer. And it's not a matter of if Vancouver and Montreal will get MLS franchises; it's a matter of when.

There are obstacles in the way. Rising expansion fees, Toronto FC having exclusive rights as Canada's only team until 2010, and the necessity that Saputo Stadium expand from 13,000 to a projected 20,000 are a few of them.

But 2012 seems like a reasonable target. With MLS commissioner Don Garber in attendance at the inaugural game at Saputo Stadium to see Vancouver take on Montreal, Canadian expansion is very much on his mind. Garber admits Canada is an intriguing expansion option, pointing to the overwhelming success of TFC.

So here's to the beginning of something special.

CALLING OUT CRISTIANO

Forget about the Real Madrid transfer rumours swirling around Cristiano Ronaldo because he's not going anywhere.

Why? Cristiano (I refuse to call him Ronaldo) is too good for Manchester United to let go. Sir Alex Ferguson didn't let him leave after the highly publicized bust-up with Wayne Rooney in World Cup 2006 and he will not let him go now. But let's not focus on the rumour -- it's already been talked about too much.

Let's talk about how Cristiano almost cost United the Champions League title because of a flaw in his game. Cristiano's approach to taking penalties is all wrong.

Unstoppable from the spot early in the season, Cristiano has been solved. It's become too easy for goalkeepers, not because they know where he's going, but because of his stutter-step approach.

THIS AND THAT

As per last week's column, Avram Grant's firing is no surprise. Look for Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien to join him on their way out of Stamford Bridge ... Is there currently a better left-back in the world than Patrice Evra? ... TFC's lineup looks old with seven starters over 30 ... It's unbelievable that a second-year franchise is ready to win now ... Love him or hate him, Antonio Cassano had to be included in Italy's Euro 2008 side ... After playing his last game with Ajax, is Edgar Davids MLS-bound?


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