Canadian Champion Montreal and the MLS Anschluss

Let us hark back to the heady days of last May 27, when Toronto beat Montreal in the opening game of the put-up sham they called The Canadian Championship, which TFC fans - in a rare stroke of clarity - saw as nothing more than a Potemkin Tournament designed to make it look like the inevitable winner, Toronto, had actually earned their spot amongst the region's elite.


Gleefully, hundreds of TFC fans, courageous lions that they are, tried to get into a "brawl" with a small handful of Impact supporters. The intervention of some security people and a six foot fence forced them instead to simply mock them: "USL" USL" "USL" they chanted, and "Who are ya?"

Last weekend, leading diplomat Tyrone Marshall put it in words for the benefit of anyone who might have missed the point: "We have to come out and establish ourselves and show them we're playing in a higher league and the USL blows."

Anybody up there chanting anything this morning? Maybe "We're Number 2" or "Take My Sister"?

(We won't even get into JAMIE TRECKER'S REPORT that TFC was "booed off the field...amidst a hail of bottles and debris from the stands. The "Great, great fans in Toronto" would surely never behave that way.)

Now of course they're a long ways from the only MLS team to lose to a USL side. Far, far from it. MLS teams - like teams in Cup competitions everywhere - are notorious for sending out their 19 year olds in early rounds and getting tripped up by lower division sides playing their front line.

But in this format, a four match double round robin against two USL teams where Toronto played their first eleven every time out, going 1-1-2 is something that would make any self-respecting MLS team take a good look at firing the coach.

Speaking of the coach, "Whining John" Carver, if he was hoping for a post-coaching career in the MLS Public Relations office, HE'S OFF TO A BAD START:

"I heard one or two of our players talk about Montreal playing in a lower league, and that's rubbish; it's absolute rubbish … It's not a lower league"

Well, no, actually John, it is.

But Carver wasn't done. In the finest tradition of the philosophy that "we win as a team and we lose as a team" and "I accept responsibility for what my team does out there" Whining John decided it was ALL JEFF CUNNINGHAM'S FAULT; when asked about a sitter that Cunny blew late in the game, he replied:

"You want my honest opinion on that? I am thinking, ‘How did he score 99 goals?’ That’s what I thought. If you’re a poacher and you have got desire, no matter how you put the ball over the line you put it over the line,"

(Note to Mo Johnston: you might as well call Columbus or someplace and see if you can get a fourth round supplemental or a bag of socks or something in return for the notoriously moody Cunningham, because your coach just rendered the guy utterly useless.)

Of course the Canadian press is playing this as evidence that the Impact HAS PROVEN THEY BELONG IN MLS WITH THIS LINEUP. which of course is absolute "rubbish" as John Carver would say, but unfortunately there's more going on up there:

Buried at the bottom of the Sportsnet piece, Ryan Johnson supplies this nugget:

"The MLS commissioner will hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon on the Exhibition grounds, and judging from the smiles seen from the league dignitaries on Tuesday, expect some positive news over adding a second Canadian franchise at some point."

Montreal clearly thinks they have it in the bag: Impact Coach John Limniatis had this to say after the game:

"This just shows we're capable of competing ... From what I understand, we're aiming for the start of the 2011 season to be in the MLS."

On the other hand, Steve Nash and his friends in Vancouver THINK THEY HAVE MLS RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT THEM; as Canadian All Star Team Charity pick Pat Onstad put it:

“I keep hearing rumblings that Steve Nash has talked about an announcement near the all-star break, but we’ll wait and see,”

Nash himself said recently that “My dream would be to announce Canadian expansion in the MLS at the 2008 MLS all-star game in Toronto July 24,”

Yet in an interview a week ago, Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis SEEMED TO BE TRYING TO DOWNPLAY CANADIAN HOPES at least for the immediate future.

Which is good because, well, the whole damn country is now engaged in a mad rush for MLS teams.

A GROUP OF "EUROPEAN INVESTORS" wants to put a team in Edmonton.

And then we have Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk who has announced that he wants to build a stadium and apply for an MLS TEAM FOR CANADA'S CAPITAL

There are also rumblings now that a group is forming in Calgary to make a bid for MLS entry. Hey, wouldn't want to be left out.

Excuse the hell out of me but isn't this the country that asked if they could have an MLS entry in Toronto because there was no way they could ever have their own league? Yet all of a sudden half the damn country is lining up money and planning stadiums and confidently predicting an MLS team in the near future.

We were once told that one reason Canada couldn't support their own league was because of "the great distances" between likely franchise cities.

But all of a sudden Montreal and Ottawa are just itching to come into a league which includes three teams in California and a couple more in Texas.

What the heck happened? How come all these towns who never wanted a soccer team are suddenly racing to New York with their checkbooks?

Simple: Toronto happened. Once they saw the crowds packing BMO, they all decided they wanted in on the action.

Prior to that, people like Montreal owner Jimmy Saputo were positively disdainful of MLS. When he was offered a team for $10 million back in the late '90's he sniffed that MLS "isn't worth the money" and that USL "is a better league".

Now that Toronto has overcome his cowardliness for him, he thinks MLS should hand him over the goods.

So welcome to the future of Division I Professional Soccer in the US.

Back when USSF was risking $50 million in World Cup profits to establish a league and a small group of visionaries like Lamar Hunt were going in the hole for hundreds of millions more to try and get MLS off the ground, the Canadians didn't want any part of it.

"Not worth the money"

Now that it's proven it has some legs, MLS seems poised to welcome Moose Piss Saskatchewan.

Why doesn't Don Garber just announce today that MLS is shutting down operations in the US and moving the whole thing north of the border?

At least that way we might finally get to start over with a league of our own.