Montreal were back in form this weekend and now top the MLS Eastern Conference. Although they still have to balance the league run-in with CONCACAF Champions League play, last night’s 5-0 win over Houston showed that Marco Schällibaum’s men could be on course for a Voyageurs and MLS Cup double.
It’s a strange situation for North American players in Major League Soccer, with the league’s domestic player rules fundamentally unbalanced. Dejan Jakovic and Kyle Porter take up a precious international slot at D.C. United (teammate Dwayne De Rosario has a green card), but if they returned to a Canadian club they’d be competing against Americans as a domestic.
Quebec’s participation in a non-FIFA tournament recently inspired Jonah Freedman at MLS to have a look at what kind of teams each US state could put out. Along the same lines, I’ve been thinking about how the Canadian pro teams would look if they were limited to players from their province, and now seems like a good time to get it down.
The season is over in most of Europe, and a host of Canadian and American players are among those that have been released in the past few weeks. Along with a few MLS veterans who are still without a club in 2013, there are enough quality free agents to form an XI of players that should be on the radar of Canada’s pro teams during the business end of the season.
As much as it pains me to say it, Toronto can take a page from the way Montreal handles their MLS team. Both have a soccer-hungry fanbase, their own stadium and are willing to spend money, so why the widening gap between the sides? This Wednesday, the Impact could win their 8th Voyageurs Cup (update – and they did). It’s time to acknowledge Montreal as Canada’s leading soccer city.
Last year, I moved from Toronto to Vancouver, and Saturday’s opening game between the two cities’ Major League Soccer franchises was a rare opportunity for me to see my hometown team in action. The Whitecaps hosted Toronto FC at BC Place to kick off the 2013 MLS season with a rematch between last year’s Canadian Championship finalists.