Preki short on specifics

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

The Canadian Soccer Association pointed its spotlight on the Nutrilite Canadian club championship yesterday and had all the required happy faces lined up to hit all the necessary bragging points.

The games were 96% sold out last year. "When you go to U.S. Open Cup games there are a couple hundred people. There's not much passion," Toronto FC coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic said. "With this Cup in Canada there seems to be a lot on the line, people are interested and that's good for the football community."

The games will be played every Wednesday between April 28 and June 2.

For the first time, all six games featuring the Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto, will be televised, CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli told a press conference at BMO Field, noting "this tournament is gaining momentum each year."

The winner -- last year it was Toronto FC -- advances to the CONCACAF tournament. "If you advance it provides your team a chance to play against some of the top quality players in the world," Impact boss Marc Dos Santos said.

Still, the tournament's reputation took a hit last year when Dos Santos' team went AWOL in a 6-1 loss that gave Toronto (which needed to win by at least four goals) the championship over Vancouver. Impact president Joey Saputo at the time charged his team didn't show any "pride." And, there's nothing but Montopoli's word that it won't happen again.

The format hasn't been changed, although Montopoli said he has been assured by all three clubs that they will field their best players for each game.

So, with Toronto FC in desperate need to make the MLS playoffs this year, does Preki play his best against Vancouver or Montreal in a tournament game, or does he rest them for a regular-season MLS tilt? "We'll see when time comes around. They're both important in different ways," Preki said.

BRUTAL HONESTY

Then Preki threw in a kicker that wasn't in the tournament promo kit. "Is the priority in the league, yes," he said, then quickly added: "But is this important, too? Yes."

It was a pinch of brutal honesty, even couched by the addendum, on an afternoon during which Preki did more waffling than Aunt Jemima. Like when asked what "reasonable expectations" would be for TFC this year: "Become a team," he said. "Find a way to play together. How far can we go? I can't tell you."

And, he smiled. Quietly.

How much of an issue is the salary cap? And will it mean Carl Robinson, Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux -- the core of the team -- might not return? "We're still thinking. We'll see where it goes. I don't know. I can't tell you."

And, he smiled. Quietly.

So, what is his approach as the new coach coming into a team that never has made the playoffs? "We want to establish how we go to work, how to play as a team and how to get better ... I understand where we are and I understand where we have to go."

Where they are, exactly, he wasn't sharing. And how they're getting to where he wants to go, and whether that involves new systems or new players, he wasn't volunteering, either.

And, he smiled. Quietly.

So, if he's looking for change, what was missing last season? "I don't really know. I'm just assessing things," he said.

And, he smiled. Quietly.

While such prevarication may be annoying, it may also not be all bad. Perhaps it is an indication that this team, which often has promised more than it has delivered, is taking a different approach. Preki might not talk a great game, but if he delivers one on the field, nobody will care.

BILL.LANKHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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