Monday, November 7, 2016

When Canada Matters to the World's Sport

Canada hasn't mattered much for sports in the U.S. in a long time, but that has changed in 2016 with one Canadian team guaranteed to make it to the MLS Cup final. This is a big deal because no Canadian team has been in a team sports final since the Vancouver Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup final of the NHL.

However, this is not an issue of just a guaranteed appearance in a final. These two Eastern Conference teams, Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact, are playing the most beautiful soccer of all the MLS teams in the playoffs thus far. The Western Conference semifinalists, Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders, deserve credit for advancing too, but they haven't been a ton of fun to watch, like Toronto and Montreal.

Now that Didier Drogba has resolved his issues of playing time with the coaching staff, he has resumed playing at legendary status. He can come in and immediately, pardon the pun, make an Impact, assisting or scoring. Playing alongside Ignacio Piatti, who counters elegantly and seems to always be around the ball near the goal, Drogba has a chance to add to his legacy with an MLS title. One of the fastest men in MLS, Dominic Oduro, who is unpredictable for defenders to guard, is a complimentary piece for Piatti and Drogba and is a driving force for scoring goals.

Toronto FC is looking to get the FC jinx off its back. With Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, they are showing why the USMNT made major advancements over the last 10+ years. Together, they know how to set each other up and Bradley is a field general in the midfield. Altidore can make moves on a dime unlike most MLS goal-scorers. He is always a threat. Then, there is Sebastian Giovinco, who has stirred emotions of MLS followers for the last two seasons. His goals are the usual and the sublime. He has been a highlight reel for a while now in MLS.

Unlike the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, who made the semifinals last season in the NBA, and unlike the Toronto Blue Jays who made the semifinals for MLB in 2015, this Toronto soccer team is a predominant favorite to win it all. Vegas odds show Toronto FC as the favorites at 2-1. Toronto is followed by the Sounders at 3-1, the Rapids at 7-2 and Montreal at 4-1.

Having already been eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it's hard for men's soccer in Canada to matter too much anywhere else in the world. But, in the U.S. and around the world, 2016 could be the year that Canada makes a difference in soccer. It will only happen if Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact seal the deal with a win on December 10th in MLS Cup.

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