Reds Rant: The long goodbye
By Ian Harvey
BMO Field was a shadow of itself Wednesday night as the Chicago Fire came and nicked a point in a 1-1 draw.
Chicago opened with one of the softest goals ever scored at the venue when a lobbed ball into the box from Dulaver Duka intended as a defence splitting pass in the 20th minute. It dropped between oncoming attacker Mike McGee and Joe Bendik and then bounced over the TFC ‘keeper into the net. Bendik was visibly upset, as he should have been.
A few minutes later however, Chicago failed to clear a left to right cross from Bobby Convey and it fell to Robbie Earnshaw at the back post who calmly jinked and turned past the defender before slotting home. Earnshaw went off with a tweaked hamstring a minute later.
That was as exciting as it got for the announced crowd of 15,217 which looked a lot more sparse than that optimistic number. No surprise, given TFC’s dismal season and the forecast of severe thunderstorms which did not materialize.
New signing Alvaro Rey, however, unleashed a thunderbolt of his own at the 45th from about 20 years and was unlucky to see it cannon back from the underside of the bar.
Newly acquired Bright Dike came on in the 75th but didn’t have much impact, though he could have if Justin Braun had lifted his head a passed on one of two or three breakaway he managed to squander.
On the night the bigger story casting a cloud over BMO was that of former Toronto Mayor David Miller, a fan since Day One, turning in his season tickets for the balance of the season, saying in an open letter, “there used to be magic at BMO.”
Disappointed and dejected at the team’s lack of progress and doubly upset that MLSE, the parent company which also owns the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs is still not shooting down persistent stories it plans to buy the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and install them at BMO.
The Argos lease to play at the Rogers Centre which they share with the Toronto Blue Jays expires in 2016. The Jays own the stadium and plan to install real grass and don’t want the footballers tearing it up.
It’s an issue TFC fans have faced before when the Argos were looking for a new home and declared the Rogers Centre – then called SkyDome – was too big for their crowds.
Since then, in an effort to raise their game and attract better players, TFC has installed real grass at BMO, jettisoning the turf – paid for in part from the share of the sale of Maurice Edu to Glasgow Rangers in 2008 for $5 million. (He’s now at Stoke City in the English Premier League.)
What TFC fans fear most is that the CFL will pressure the City of Toronto, which actually owns the facility, to rip out the grass and install turf again. The further ugly prospect of a gridiron configuration imposed on the pristine soccer emerald rectangle already has fans shaking their heads with a huge banner protesting the discussion hanging on the south stand Wednesday night.
The countdown to the end of another nightmare season continues for the Red and the politics around the future of the field isn’t helping elevate the mood.
In the supporters’ section at the south end of BMO it’s gloomy.
“Just going through the motions now,” said my seat neighbour. “We come here with zero expectations. It really isn’t the fun it used to be at the beginning.”