Well it is the beginning of May and the snow is finally gone all over Canada. The weather is heating up and along with it so is the Canadian club teams qualifying rounds to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Last year the Montreal Impact USL outfit shocked the North American soccer world by beating out current MLS squad Toronto FC and one of the next arrivals to MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Montreal did surprisingly well in the Champions League advancing to the quarterfinals before blowing an aggregate lead in the second half of their second leg game against Santos Laguna.
With the new season all three Canadian teams compete once again for the sole berth into the most prestigious club competition in North America.
Toronto FC is trying to prove that MLS is the most dominant league in Canada, while Vancouver and Montreal are playing for the USL and trying to show that they, too, belong in MLS and last year's success was no joke.
The action kicked off last night at BMO Field in Toronto, where the raucous FC supporters gave the tournament a proper beginning as Canada's future MLS rivalry kicked off the tournament with style.
The game conditions were rainy which in BMO Field equals a disastrous playing surface, which is one of the kinks that needs to be solved with FieldTurf.
Toronto FC was in control for most of the match and showed the skill of MLS throughout the game and Canadian legend Dwayne De Rosario, who has been a winner wherever he has been in MLS, set up the game's lone goal in this one-nil affair.
The Whitecaps also impressed with Canadian and Steve Nash's brother, Martin Nash, playing excellently, but it seemed like the Whitecaps opted to go to a more conservative approach in contrast to TFC's attacking style with their skilled forwards.
Toronto FC Player Ratings For The Game:
Frei - 8: Solid all-around performance from the young Swiss and a great fingertip save near the end.
Wynne - 7: Very involved today in all aspects of the game. He controlled his area well and looked to cause trouble when moving forward.
Attakora - 7: Replaced the injured Serioux and did very well, I was impressed. He had one slightly sketchy moment near the beginning but the fact that I can't remember what it was is a good sign. He dealt effectively with the supposed dangerous Vancouver strikers. The pair were left to bemoan their wretched lives all match long. Sweet.
Velez - 7: Cross your fingers and hope the clangers are a thing of the past. He is well on the way to convince me that he's worth more than a piece of meat (if you're interested, a player from the fourth division in Germany somewhere was sold to another club for something like 75 lbs of meat). Looked composed tonight and did well to sweep away threats.
Brennan - 6.5: Effective when called upon but didn't seem all that solicited in this match, at least to me. He gets a slightly lower grade through no fault of his own.
Robinson - 7: His passes looked a little more accurate than usual and was effective in locking down the middle. As I've said, the commentators made a point to say that the Vancouver strikers were dangerous but they never really got a sniff at goal.
Harmse - 7: I was surprised to see him start over Cronin but I guess in hindsight it was a good idea since he got the goal. And I suppose it is more important to rest a rookie and give them a chance to recover from the long season. Other than the goal, I was pleased with Harmse's play, he did more than just boot it around. Booked.
Guevara - 6: Played an excellent first half but seemed more lethargic in the second.
De Rosario - 8.5: Good god! He was the most dangerous man on the pitch on either side. Looked so lively, and a big handful to whoever was marking him and managed to elude double-coverage with regularity. Was effective the whole game and set up the lone goal of the match. Booked.
Barrett - 5.5: Got so many chances by the virtue of his great effort (as usual) but boy would I have been angry at him had we not gotten the three points. He had several chances to put the game away but couldn't do so. Subbed.
Vitti - 5: Had some flashes of brilliance but didn't really play a factor in the match. Subbed.
Dichio - 6: Solid but didn't make TFC more dangerous than before. He did give the team and supporters a moral boost by coming on, however. Booked.
Ibrahim - 6: Got forward on occasion but lost the ball by trying to run through a blockade of Vancouver players. He'll learn that that doesn't work all that well.
Cummins - 8: Made an enforced change to the starting line-up by inserting Attakora, and an elective change with Harmse. Both players performed very well tonight. He also subbed out the two players that I've identified as underperforming tonight. He has done wonderfully in stepping in since John Carver's resignation from the club.
MOTM: De Rosario. I think I've explained that fairly well above.
Referee Rating - 7: I recently complained about how 50-50 penalty calls always seem to go against us but of course, fate has conspired to make me eat my hat. Early on, there was a decent shout for a penalty as one Vancouver player got a bit of a shirt tug.
Otherwise, the match was competently arbitrated and the only thing I can really disagree with was the yellow to Harmse. He was completely innocent during that sequence. Vancouver supporters would no doubt give the referee something near 0 if they believed the amount of unwarranted by the 'Caps.
Vancouver's Stars: Tough to pick, really. Charles was a beast but made a few errors so I'll go with Martin Nash. He seemed into the match more than anyone else and didn't make any glaring errors.
Next game in cup - Wednesday May 13: Toronto FC hosts again against the defending Canadian champion Montreal Impact, who will be hungry to prove that they deserve to be in MLS after being horribly overlooked in the expansion process. I will break down the action next week.