TFC Republic Weekly: November 8-14 lookahead
With the MLS season over, Toronto FC turns its attention towards playing CF Montreal in the Canadian Championship final.
Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, a free email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday.
This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC, and set up their schedule of games for the week.
You'll also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.
So, without further ado...
What's next for Toronto FC?
TFC ended up closing out its MLS campaign on a six-game winless skid (three losses) after suffering a 3-1 defeat to D.C. United at BMO Field on Sunday afternoon.
The loss means Toronto (6-18-10) finished in second-last place in both the Eastern Conference and overall standings, which is quite the comedown from a team that competed for the Supporters’ Shield only a year ago.
TFC’s 28-point season total is the third-worst in club history, and lowest since the 2013 MLS campaign when they collected 29 points. The Reds’ six wins is their lowest tally since 2013 (also six wins). With 66 goals against, this was Toronto’s worst-ever defensive campaign.
Toronto ended up going 5-10-8 in MLS under Javier Perez after former coach Chris Armas was fired in early July. There’s no word on whether the Spaniard will be back in charge in 2022, but you’d have to think management will make an official announcement after the Canadian Championship final.
With its MLS commitments now over, Toronto turns its focus towards CF Montreal, although the date and location of the Canadian Championship final hasn't yet been announced by Canada Soccer.
Perez noted that his players will have some time off now, but the entire team will remain in Toronto and train as usual ahead of the Canadian Championship final.
"I think at this point we will try to balance the rest and the training. But everybody is staying in Toronto. Everybody has to be ready for the final. And all that we have to do is regroup and regain our strength, our confidence, and be ready to fight for the Cup," Perez told reporters after the game.
"I think both teams will be hungry, and at least on our side, we will be ready and preparing for that final."
Justin Morrow's last MLS game
The loss to D.C. marked an end of an era as it was Justin Morrow's last career MLS game, although he'll still be available for selection in the Canadian Championship final.
The veteran TFC defender announced in September his plans to retire at the end of 2021. Sunday's loss was his 254th appearance in all competitions for the Reds (behind only Jonathan Osorio, 291), and his 278th MLS regular season appearance overall (he played four seasons in San Jose before coming to Toronto). Morrow wore the captain’s armband instead of Michael Bradley on Sunday. He was subbed out in injury time and received a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
Before kickoff, Morrow, his wife and their two daughters were honoured by club president Bill Manning and GM Ali Curtis during a special on-field presentation, while supporters in the south end of the stadium unveiled a special tifo that read “Some Heroes Wear Cleats” to honour him. The club also ran a special tribute video on the scoreboard with present and past teammates (including Sebastian Giovnco, Drew Moor, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Beitashour and Nick Hagglund) paying tribute to Morrow.
Morrow admitted he was feeling a lot of different emotions on the day.
“Mostly, it’s joy. I’m the only happy guy in the locker-room today because it’s been a tough season. But for me, I obviously have thoughts about my career and all the beautiful moments that I’ve shared here. To see the crowd out there today, for them to show up and give (me) that at the end, it meant a lot to me," Morrow said.
Morrow revealed he knows what the next step will be in his career, but that he’s not ready to make a public announcement.
“I want to wait until after the season is over. We got one more game to play. We got a championship, we got a final to play against our rivals,” Morrow stated.
CanMNT vs. Costa Rica on Friday
Friday when it hosts Costa Rica in the first of two crucial matches in Edmonton. The Reds will also face Mexico on Nov. 12 at Commonwealth Stadium.
Coach John Herdman announced his 23-man roster last week, which includes key returnees in Atiba Hutchinson, Cyle Larin and Milan Borjan, and also features newcomer Ike Ugbo.
Canada has gone undefeated through its first six games with two wins, and sits in third place in the Octagon with 10 points, behind Mexico (14) and the United States (11). Costa Rica is fifth (six), so Los Ticos desperately need three points in order to climb up the table and get back into the thick of the race for a top-three spot. The top three nations at the end of the group stage next March automatically qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place side moves on to the intercontinental playoffs with a World Cup berth at stake
Canada and Costa Rica last faced each other at this summer's Gold Cup where the Reds earned a 2-0 win in Arlington, Texas to advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2007. Junior Hoilett and Stephen Eustáquio provided the goals for the Canadians, who ended a five-game winless skid against the Central Americans.
Canada is No. 48 in the current FIFA world rankings, three spots below the Costa Ricans.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Canada is flying through the World Cup qualifiers, and looks to be a serious threat to qualify for next year's tournament in Qatar.
I spoke to a few members of the last Canadian team to make it to the final round of the Concacaf qualifiers (in the build-up to the 1998 World Cup in France) to get their views on the current side. Look for my feature story later this week.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- I'll take a look at the numbers behind Toronto FC's nightmarish 2021 MLS season.
- Peter Galindo's latest tactical feature story on Canadian men's team newcomer Ike Ugbo.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's match vs. Costa Rica on Friday.
- My breakdown of John Herdman's latest Canadian roster.
- A feature story on Canadian women's team fullback Ashley Lawrence.
- My column on Bev Priestman and the one year anniversary of her appointment as Canadian women's coach.
- Another edition of the reader mailbag.
- And more!
TFC Republic mailbag
TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.
I'll answer the best questions submitted to me by TFC Republic readers, so feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to me via Twitter and Facebook.
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(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)
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