|Toronto FC run on the temporary grass pitch at the Rogers Centre in preparation for their upcoming friendly against Liverpool FC in Toronto, Ont., July 20, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
TORONTO - It was a pre-match release meant to soften the blow.
“Unfortunately,” a release from TFC read, “due to FIFA regulations … Liverpool’s squad in Toronto will not feature internationals Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Pepe Reina and Fabio Borini, who all took part in last month’s (Euros).”
To that end, Toronto’s squad should be equally as watered down, especially after an exhausting run of 10 MLS matches in just over a month — something Mariner alluded to in the buildup to this afternoon’s match against Liverpool at the Rogers Centre.
“If I’m brutally honest, (the match) couldn’t come at a worse time,” Mariner said. “I have got some sore young men … But it’s Liverpool.”
It’s also a crucial break in TFC’s busy summer that must be taken advantage of if the team is to continue its month-long push to climb out of the basement. Following three-straight wins in July, although they still sit last in the overall table, the Reds are just five points back of the Montreal Impact, which sits just behind Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot in the East.
Although the club has been talking up the friendly for the better part of two months, the massive cash grab likely won’t feature many first-team players for more than a half on either side — if at all.
“It gives you a good opportunity to look at players,” Mariner said. “Some of the youngsters are going to get a real nice treat (today).
The fans who dropped $60-$150, however, won’t.
FORD: ‘WE RETROFIT BMO’
A retrofitted BMO Field could house two tenants, according to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
In an interview with Inside the CFL last week, His Worship invoked conversation from 2007 in pointing to TFC’s home as being an option for the Toronto Argonauts.
“I think (the Argos) need a stadium,” Ford said in the exclusive interview. “We have Downsview (Park) … Or, we retrofit BMO Field, and make it like McGill Stadium in Montreal, a 25,000-seat stadium … Obviously the partners have to work together.”
While the idea of gridiron lines pasted across BMO Field won’t sit well with TFC ticket holders, if serious talks arise, certain compromises would need to be made.
Major League Soccer — unless you support the New England Revolution — is well past the days of playing on fields imprinted with football lines. As such, any agreement would need the assurance that the stadium’s grounds crew could handle the round-the-clock work of keeping TFC’s grass pitch in exceptional shape sans pigskin grids.
It might be fantasy at the moment, but it’s conceivable that a Ford-led retrofitting could be a blessing. A chance for TFC management to agree to significant upgrades that could see BMO expanded with a roof.
“I really hope Premier (Dalton McGuinty) gets on board,” Ford said. “But I understand he’s in a situation.”
Which could make reconfiguring — improving — BMO Field a secondary option both sides could be satisfied with.
DOT DOT DOTS
Canada’s announced closed-door friendly with Trinidad and Tobago next month is a bit underwhelming. While the Canada will be doing battle with a regional minnow, the U.S. and Mexico will meet in Mexico City. Panama — Canada’s World Cup qualifying opponent in September — will travel to Portugal while lowly Puerto Rico entertains Spain … It’s difficult to look past the lose-lose situation the league and its teams continue to conjure up. Playing mid-season friendlies does little to grow MLS as Eurosnobs are quick to write-off any result MLS teams earn due to opponents bringing in reserve sides … MLS is set to become the most high-tech sports league in the world. Beginning in 2013, players will wear small tracking sensors. The sensors will send real-time health stats back to club officials during games.