ABOOT: A Canadian Soccer Digital Magazine for March 2013

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VOL. 1 NO. 1 MARCH 2013


S L M 3 1 0 2 W E I V E R P





F rom t he p u b l isher Vol. 1 No. 1

Welcome to the first issue of ABOOT, RedNation Online’s digital magazine dedicated to adding another layer of coverage to the sport of soccer in Canada. This issue has been a long time in the making, as it has gone through a lengthy period of development, a few delays, but with the MLS season kicking off the first weekend of March, the timing was critical to get this up and running.


Ian Clarke ianc@rednationonline.ca


Rick Evangelisa ricke@rednationonline.ca

The main idea behind the digital magazine has come from publishing rednationonline.ca for over four years now. The mandate for the website has always remained front and centre, and that is to profile and give exposure to players, teams, coaches and the sport of soccer in Canada where it is sorely lacking. Over the years we have published interviews and articles that have been excellent in terms of quality content, however, as many know from reading or publishing content online, a great article can go up and within three days disappear forever into the archives.

Steve Bottjer steveb@rednationonline.ca

The primary purpose of A BOOT is to give some of these articles and interviews a longer shelf life and publish them in a medium that displays them in a manner to enhance it more than just text on your computer screen, iPad or phone.


Since this will be published the first week of March, of course we will be focusing the issue on a preview of Canada’s three MLS teams. RedNation Online is fortunate enough to have several dedicated writers in each of these cities and enclosed are thorough breakdowns of the Vancouver Whitecaps from Matthew Low, Toronto FC from Armen Bedakian and the Montreal Impact from Kevin Duarte. Lastly, as noted above, another purpose of ABOOT is to reopen some articles and interviews that might not have gotten the exposure it deserved on rednationonline.ca. Last year Djuradj Vujcic conducted an outstanding interview with Mike Bakic, a former Canadian international and player for the Serbian White Eagles and Washington Diplomats in the NASL. This hopefully is just the beginning of another successful addition to the coverage RedNation Online provides, we hope you enjoy the first issue and any feedback is always welcome.


Armen Bedakian armenb@rednationonline.ca Kevin Duarte kevind@rednationonline.ca Matthew Low mattl@rednationonline.ca Djuradj Vujcic djuradj_vujcic@yahoo.ca Paul Marhue marhue@gmail.com


Ian Clarke


Opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors. A Boot and Havoc 88 Inc. accept no liability for information contained herein. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

18 Stafford Street, Suite 916 Toronto, ON, M5V 3W4 www.rednationonline.ca All contents copyright © Havoc 88 Inc.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Heritage Canadian Periodical Fund - Business Innovation. Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada par l’entremise du ministère du Patrimoine canadian ‘Canadian Periodical Fund - Business Innovation’.

Ian Clarke - Publisher ianc@rednationonline.ca Twitter @ClarkeRNO

MARCH 2013




2013 M LS P R EVI EW



Matthew Low looks back on the 2012 season for Vancouver and lays out the club’s chances for 2013. Without question, a key to their success will be the emerging Darren Mattocks and whether he can build on his success from last year and improve on his scoring rate.



Armen Bedakian tries to ease the pain of Toronto FC supporters, as difficult a task as that might be. It certainly can’t get any worse than last year, right? Well, hope and faith are two words not uncommon in the Big Smoke and it will be required as TFC are still stuck in ‘building’ mode once again.



Kevin Duarte sees what Montreal have in store for supporters this year and whether Joey Saputo’s ‘European experiment’ will pay off. MLS is a different beast than overseas and key players such as Marco Di Vaio, Matteo Ferrari and Patrice Bernier will all be critical to the Impact’s success.



In an interview conducted in 2012 Djuradj Vujcic spoke with former Canadian international Mike Bakic. Arriving from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1970s, Bakic played for the Serbian White Eagles and alongside Guus Hiddink at the Washington Diplomats.




2013 MLS PREVIEW With the 2013 season underway at the beginning of March, the three Canadian clubs competing in Major League Soccer all have tough questions they will be facing this season. Can Vancouver build on being the first Canadian team to reach the playoffs? Will Montreal’s ‘European experiment’ pay off in reaching the post season? And finally, can Toronto FC avoid another year in the basement and start the foundation for a long awaited ascent in the league? RedNation Online writers break down each club, from last year’s finish, to key players, coach’s challenges and expected starting eleven at the start of the season, to project where Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will finish in 2013. A BOOT


MARCH 2013


VANCOUVER WHITECAPS 2013 SEASON PREVIEW By Matthew Low Email: mlow1991@gmail.com Twitter: @LowMatthewJ

Canada’s only playoff team has to improve on sophomore season Vancouver come into 2013 having the prestige of being Canada’s first MLS side to reach the postseason. The task is still daunting for the Whitecaps this year as they will look to build on this milestone and enter the playoffs as more than just fodder for the top sides in the Western Conference. The biggest mistake from last year was mid-season tinkering that disrupted early success and brought in players who could not take Vancouver to the next level. Martin Rennie’s task for 2013 will be ensuring the Whitecaps can remain consistent all season long and repeat their playoff appearance, this time on the ascent. What To Build On From 2012 Speaking from a technical standpoint, last year’s season was an excellent outing for the Whitecaps on two major points. They cut down their goals allowed by 14. They secured the first playoff berth by a Canadian MLS squad. A BOOT


MARCH 2013



Two huge pillars to build off of yet, talk to any fan, and they’ll tell you the retooling stage in Vancouver is far from over. Inconsistency was an issue, their road form could be better and the team still lacks significantly in the goals department. Those two points combined provide the Whitecaps with a good starting point though. They’ve now whet their appetites for the playoffs and have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful in the postseason. The continued growth of players like Gershon Koffie and Darren Mattocks means Vancouver’s youth have yet to determine the full extent of what they can contribute to the team. Meanwhile, full seasons from players like Andy O’Brien, Kenny Miller and even Omar Salgado should bring more stability to Vancouver in game and coming off the bench. What’s key is that the team, or at least the players who were around at the time, remember that last playoff match against MLS’ eventual champions and remind themselves of how they let potential victory slip from their grasp; the memory of playing with in a position of power, only to turn wasteful and succumb to defeat. If the team can use that image to fuel themselves, to inspire each other and those new to the team, then you have a powerful recipe for success; a team that will stop at nothing to reach new heights and set higher standards.



Key Player: Darren Mattocks There is no question now that Mattocks is the Whitecaps talismanic striker and he will be relied upon heavily to finish off the majority of Vancouver’s chances. It’s still up in the air as to who will provide the secondary scoring, whether it be Camilo or a newcomer like Kekuta Manneh or Daigo, so Mattocks will have to be clinical and consistent. Breakout Player: Daigo Kobayashi The import playmaker is expected to fill a role that’s been empty ever since Davide Chiumiento returned to Europe, and that’s no easy task. However, if preseason is any indication, Daigo should be an admirable replacement and can be looked upon to provide some much-needed attacking support to an offense that was rather limp at times last year. Biggest Match Of The Year: Vancouver vs. Portland, May 18th, BC Place An argument can be made that Vancouver’s likely appearance in the Amway Canadian Championship will be key, but all previous inadequacies against Cascadia rivals trumps the four team tournament. Having yet to beat Portland or Seattle in MLS action, a win in the Whitecaps first match against a Cascadia rival this year will carry a lot of weight. In terms of setting the tone and showing they are capable of being a dominant force, anything less than a win will be hugely demoralizing to both club and fans.

MARCHoregonlive.com 2013 7 Photo courtesy of Kip Kesgard,

Whitecaps projected starting XI for beginning of 2013 Goalkeeper - Brad Knighton Spot Guarantee: Probable By the end of his first season with the Whitecaps, Brad Knighton firmly established himself as Vancouver’s number one stopper. He rarely made mistakes and could be relied on to make the big save when it was needed. Left Back - Alain Rochat Spot Guarantee: Situational Lock As the year progressed, we saw Alain Rochat evolve. No longer was he only a force down the flank; he could also be relied upon to protect the back line, making crucial stops and wiping out threats before they materialized. Centre Back - Brad Rusin Spot Guarantee: Depth Defenseman With Jay DeMerit still nursing an Achilles injury, the towering American will probably start over Carlyle Mitchell and Jonny Leveron, who is still awaiting his visa. Like DeMerit he is adept at using the slide tackle and heading the ball, but has also shown some ability on the ball. Centre Back - Andy O’Brien Spot Guarantee: Lock With O’Brien’s leadership and experience around for a full season, Vancouver should see an even bigger improvement in the defensive game, one that saw them give up 14 less goals than they did in their inaugural season. Right Back - YP Lee Spot Guarantee: Situational Lock In 2012, YP Lee firmly established himself as one of the league’s top fullbacks, on either side of the pitch. Vancouver will heavily rely upon his poise and probing attacks down the flanks, but when long distance travel comes into play, we may likely see Nigel Reo-Coker slot into this spot and Rochat step into the defensive midfield spot we often saw him in. A BOOT


Central Midfielder - Gershon Koffie Spot Guarantee: Lock One of the league’s rising stars, more will be expected of Gershon Koffie as expectations continue to mount. Koffie will be given more responsibility as one of the Whitecaps’ key midfield players. If he can build on his ability to win the ball, retain possession and improve his distribution skills, he’ll become one of the league’s top players. Central Midfielder - Nigel Reo-Coker Spot Guarantee: Probable Martin Rennie hinted on the March 2 weekend at the possibility of NRC getting the start in the opener and should he be healthy, there’s no reason for him not to. A self-described ‘box-to-box’ midfielder, Nigel Reo-Coker should fill into the role vacated by Barry Robson more than admirably. Left Wing - Camilo Spot Guarantee: Lock As well as both Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado performed this offseason, Camilo’s talents cannot be ignored; scoring a hat trick in the final preseason game likely cemented his spot on one of the wings. This season he’ll need to become more of a team player and develop his game to be more dynamic or he’ll be rendered ineffective, just as he was for much of last season. Attacking Midfielder - Daigo Kobayashi Spot Guarantee: Lock It’s no small task to replace Davide Chiumiento in both the eyes and hearts of Vancouver fans, but Daigo may just be the right man to stand up to those lofty expectations. Anyone who watched him play during preseason will tell you he has a certain craftiness to his game, highlighted by his scorpion-kick goal against the Charleston Battery. A link between the midfield and strikers was often missing last year as the Barry Robson experiment proved fruitless; Daigo can and will be that link. MARCH 2013



Vancouver Whitecaps projected starting XI - March 2013 Right Wing - Kekuta Manneh Spot Guarantee: Probable Kekuta Manneh gets the nod over Erik Hurtado based on the chemistry he showed with his teammates, but the two are very nearly interchangeable. The speed they bring to the table provides Darren Mattocks with players more accustomed to playing at his pace, something that was lacking at times last year. Should either or both players stumble out of the gate however, this spot could fall to Paulo Jr. Striker - Darren Mattocks Spot Guarantee: Lock Last year was certainly a breakout year for the Jamaican, and though he didn’t match his predicted goal totals, there are a lot of positives for him to build upon. Consistency will be the key issue for him as there were times where he was non-existent, but having a stronger supporting cast offensively should do wonders in creating more clear-cut opportunities for last years team leading goal scorer.




Challenge For The Coach Much as it was last year, Martin Rennie will need to find the right combination of players to form his attack. He certainly doesn’t lack in options or skillsets, but chemistry will play a key part in deciding whom he uses to compliment Mattocks. Expect a number of variations before Rennie finds the winning combination. A BOOT









Expected Finish: 3rd place Western Conference, Out in Conference Finals. With a more experienced coach and squad, and more stability, the Whitecaps should have no problem improving on their record from last year. It’s safe to say stumbling into the playoffs will be unacceptable as Vancouver looks to establish itself as a Western Conference powerhouse.

MARCH 2013


TORONTO FOOTBALL CLUB 2013 SEASON PREVIEW By Armen Bedakian Email: armenb@rednationonline.ca Twitter: @ArmenBedakian

Year seven yet another rebuilding season for TFC With MLS first-kick just around the corner, fans of Toronto FC have endured yet another short-handed preseason with plenty of roster change. What promises to be the first year in a long-term plan has led to a preseason of foundation laying, rather than move-making. Toronto FC sent Eric Hassli to FC Dallas, Torsten Frings retired, drafted Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman and made few big moves. It looks like it’s going to be another long year for Toronto FC in 2013. What To Build On From 2012 Toronto FC started the 2012 season about as terribly as a club can, breaking Major League Soccer’s losing streak record with nine losses in a row. In reality, 2012 was a season over before it even started for Toronto FC, with not a single point gained in nine games. The gap between Toronto FC and the rest of the Eastern Conference was too vast to close throughout the season, and any hope of playoffs was soon extinguished. However, Toronto did manage to find some success in 2012, namely in the form of the Amway Canadian Championship, which the club won for the fourth consecutive year. A BOOT


Photo courtesy of theendline.com

MARCH 2013



Toronto FC hosted a few CONCACAF Champions League matches and flew down to Mexico and Central America for this international adventure, but paired against their now-bitter rivals, Santos Laguna, Toronto FC was unable to advance past the group stages, as they had done in 2011. The highlight moment for Toronto FC in 2012 was the first match against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Rogers Centre, where almost 50,000 people came to watch the Reds take on their MLS foes in the CONCACAF Champions League QuarterFinals. The match ended 2-2 and set the stage for the return leg win that saw Toronto FC placed in the semi-finals against Santos Laguna. Ultimately, Toronto FC’s 2012 was marred by off field coaching changes, losing streaks and a lack of motivation for a season lost early. Key Players Stefan Frei - Returning in 2013 and already battling an injury, Stefan Frei will mind the posts for Toronto FC this season. His partner in crime, Milos Kocic, has gone to greener pastures (quite literally wearing the green shirt of the Portland Timbers), which leaves Frei the sole hope for Toronto in net.

Luis Silva - It’s tough being a sophomore in MLS, and with a slump in the waiting for superstitious fans, Luis Silva needs to show he is capable of stepping up and providing those key assists and odd goals from time to time. Danny Koevermans - If Toronto FC doesn’t find a suitable pair of forwards up front, it comes down to the enormous amount of faith the club is paying to their Designated Player forward Danny Koevermans. This goal-scoring machine has suffered a few knocks in his career with TFC, but when healthy, can be a dangerous threat up front. Breakout Player To Watch: Kyle Bekker It comes down to believing the hype surrounding Kyle Bekker. The young Canadian midfielder has played for the senior international outfit before ever playing a game of professional football in his life, and now, having been drafted by his hometown club, Toronto FC, expectations will be high on Bekker to perform. Toronto FC doubled down on Canadian content in this years’ MLS SuperDraft, and at third overall, Bekker will have the comparisons between himself and Luis Silva or Sam Cronin drawn up throughout the year. Biggest Match of the Year: The Return of Danny Koevermans Unlike the Montreal Impact or the Vancouver Whitecaps’ previews that can point to a specific date and opponent, Toronto FC management has their eyes on a rather more vague date. Sometime in May or June, Danny Koevermans could be match-fit again, and when he returns to the field, Toronto FC will look a very different outfit, indeed.



MARCH 2013


Photo courtesy of Mark Blinch, Reuters

Toronto FC projected starting XI for beginning of 2013 Goalkeeper - Stefan Frei Spot Guarantee: Lock There is no other option in between the posts than Stefan Frei. Joe Bendik is inexperienced and makes a decent replacement but doesn’t look the part of starter, while Quillan Roberts is too raw and young. Right Fullback - Richard Eckersley Spot Guarantee: Certain The only way Richard Eckersley loses the role of starting fullback is if there is a need for him to return to centerback or if he suffers a severe lack of form. Right-Centerback - Danny Califf Spot Guarantee: Probable While Gale Agbossoumonde has slowly but surely impressed in preseason, Danny Califf will get the nod here simply due to a need for experience on the pitch. However, this is the one spot in the defence that looks like it can be lost. Left-Centerback - Darren O’Dea Spot Guarantee: Certain He’s potentially a captain, too, unless Stefan Frei takes the armband. O’Dea will be relied upon to marshal the backline and keep the club from conceding goals. He will also help Morgan in his positioning. Left Fullback - Ashtone Morgan Spot Guarantee: Certain There is no other option at left fullback and even if there were, replacing Ashtone Morgan at this point would be very difficult indeed. The young Canadian defender has impressed so much that he has earned national team call-ups, and looks a guaranteed sight on day one.



Central Midfielder - Terry Dunfield Spot Guarantee: Probable At the time of this writing, Toronto FC are short midfielders, so good ol’ Terry Dunfield will have to do for now! The club’s fearless Canuck never really looks out of his depth, but he never really excels, either. Central Midfielder - Julio Cesar Spot Guarantee: Probable Julio Cesar showed what he’s made of in Sporting Kansas City and Nelsen would be hoping he could replicate that form in a red shirt. When he’s on his game, Julio Cesar can split defences apart with a through-ball, or connect on a corner kick and score the odd goal or two (remember that one?) Left Midfielder - Kyle Bekker Spot Guarantee: Probable Who else is there at left midfield? No one, really. The lack of depth Toronto FC has in positions up top is certainly concerning, and for now, Bekker earns the role based on fitting quality players wherever there are gaps in the starting XI. Right Midfielder - Reggie Lambe Spot Guarantee: Questionable We’ll see exactly who starts on game day one at right midfield. For now, the only natural player in this position is Reggie Lambe, though Nelsen has used Jeremy Hall quite a bit in preseason. We’ll have to wait and see. Central Attacking Midfielder - Luis Silva Spot Guarantee: Lock He’s an offensive threat and a sets up chances, and at second-striker or attacking midfield, Luis Silva will be in his preferred position. Much of Toronto FC’s hopes up top comes down to Luis Silva performing at a high level again, though his lessons in Germany will certainly help his cause.

MARCH 2013



Toronto FC projected starting XI - March 2013 Striker - Justin Braun Spot Guarantee: Probable Braun is the only experienced striker Toronto FC employ at the moment that is available for action. Danny Koevermans would easily get this spot if available, though. Can Braun be the short-term solution Toronto FC need? He was once the preferred option for Chivas USA, and any semblance of that form would help. Challenge For The Coach Nelsen needs to get a few things right – first, he needs to establish himself as a players’ coach. With Payne up top taking care of the business side of things, TFC players also need a leader they can talk to. Under Aron Winter, TFC players looked to a coach who had the weight of the world on his shoulders – Nelsen has one job; be the head coach. It is a distribution of responsibility that helps all parties involved. Nelsen’s role will be to motivate, to train and teach, to maximize the abilities and skills of his players. Nelsen also needs to prove that he can be the coach that TFC players can turn to, but he must also be smart in a league that punishes those that underestimate it. If he can pull it off, Nelsen has the potential to be the head coach of TFC for many years to come.












FREI Expected Finish: 6th or 7th place Eastern Conference The difference between 2012 v. 2013 comes down to a combination of statistical odds, focus, and, well, faith. At the end of the day, Toronto FC do not look a side stronger than they were last year, when the club finished last overall. However, to repeat certain events like a nine-game losing streak or freak injuries to every key player is statistically unlikely. If the assumption is made that TFC will be at least a bit more competitive this season, and that injuries will be kinder to the club, then predicting an seventh or sixth place finish in the east isn’t too far off. MARCH 2013


MONTREAL IMPACT 2013 SEASON PREVIEW By Kevin Duarte Email: kevind@rednationonline.ca Twitter: @DuarteK27

Expectations are high for the club in Year Two North American football fans are a few days away from seeing their favourite club’s back on the pitch. On Saturday, March 2, Major League Soccer will kickoff for its 18th year. The same 19 clubs from last year will have a chance at a fresh start. The Montreal Impact will be entering their second year as an MLS side. With all the hype associated with an expansion team in 2012, things should be more relaxed from the Canadian side in 2013. What To Build On From 2012 After an expected sluggish start to the season, the Impact slowly started gaining more confidence and eventually found themselves closing in on a playoff spot. With a similar core intact from last year, new signings, and a new manager, expectations have also been raised. Last year was mostly an experimental season. It was a chance for the club to get used to the new league. Team chemistry was a big problem for the club in the early weeks of the campaign. New players with hardly any experience together, combined with a new young coach, made things tough for the Impact. A BOOT


MARCH 2013



As the season progressed, Montreal started picking up wins here and there. The players were finally starting to understand, not only each other, but coach Jesse Marsch’s philosophy as well. After signing two Italian stars in Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta, midway through the summer, the roster was tweaked and results on the pitch finally came. A five-match winning streak, going from the end of July to the end of August, put Montreal in the race for the final playoff spot. The Impact closed the season with more positive results, but more importantly, were playing some attractive football. Ultimately, the run for the post-season fell short. Key Players Matteo Ferrari - Ferrari became the undisputed leader at the back last season. With Nelson Rivas suffering from injuries and Nesta only joining the team halfway through, Ferrari became a leader and a quality defender. Ferrari turned a shaky and unpredictable back line into a strong reliable force. Patrice Bernier - After a career year last season, the same, if not more, is expected from the hometown Canadian international. Bernier thrived when the team converted to a 4-2-3-1. He contributed as much offensively as he did defensively. This season he will most likely remain as a defensive midfielder.

Breakout Player To Watch: Andrea Pisanu He isn’t so much an up and coming young player who’s about to burst onto the scene, but rather the 31-year-old Italian winger is the perfect addition the club has been waiting for. Pisanu is a smart player and will make the Impact’s attack more dynamic by his wide play. Pisanu has already impressed in pre-season, by scoring and assisting on plenty of goals, and is expected to contribute in the same way when the game really counts. Biggest Match of the Year: March 16 vs TFC This fixture is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is Montreal’s first home match of the new season. Second, it is against the club’s biggest rivals Toronto FC. This match is part of MLS’s Rivalry Week and there is already a lot of build up to the date. The Impact have already put out a statement looking for fans to come out in numbers wearing blue to drown out the red from the couple thousand TFC supporters making the trip down the 401. The two Canadian Championship legs against Toronto FC on April 24 and May 1 will also be significant. The Impact are looking to recapture the title they won back in 2008. Toronto FC have won the last four editions of the tournament.

Felipe - The 22-year-old was a gem in his first season in Major League Soccer. Felipe quickly established himself as the squad’s playmaker. He class touch, precise passes and dribbling abilities will make him a target to opposing teams. The Brazilian will have new support on the flanks and is expected to connect well with Di Vaio up front.

A BOOT Photo CANADIAN SOCCER DIGITAL MAGAZINE courtesy of impactmontreal.com

MARCH 2013


Montreal Impact projected starting XI for beginning of 2013 Goalkeeper - Troy Perkins Spot Guarantee: Certain Perkins comes in to this season as the definite starting goalkeeper. He was impressive in all his time as an Impact player last year. Perkins is a league veteran and gives Montreal some much needed stability in goal.

Defensive Midfield - Patrice Bernier Spot Guarantee: Certain Bernier should be starting almost every encounter. The Quebec native could stay as a defensive midfielder or move up besides Felipe. If that’s the case, then look for Collen Warner or Camara to take over as defensive midfielder.

Left Back - Jeb Brovsky Spot Guarantee: Questionable The Impact have a few options at left back. Brovsky had a good season in 2012, but Schällibaum has options with Denis Iapichino on the bench. Zarek Valentin is also an option should Hassoun Camara play as right back.

Left Midfield - Andrea Pisanu Spot Guarantee: Probable Pisanu will find himself on the starting XI playing on either flank. He prefers the left side, but has already been seen playing on the right. The side will depend on which player plays opposite to him. If Sanna Nyassi starts, Pisanu will be on the left. If Justin Mapp starts, he will play on the right.

Center Back - Matteo Ferrari Spot Guarantee: Certain Unless the Italian picks up an injury early in the season, Ferrari will almost definitively be starting every match. He had a good 2012 season and will look to lead the back four once again. Center Back - Alessandro Nesta Spot Guarantee: Probable You can most likely count on the Italian World Cup winner starting most matches. But, chances are he will not see out 90 minutes every time. When Rivas is 100 percent fit, Nesta and him will probably rotate as starters or substitute for each other. Right Back - Hassoun Camara Spot Guarantee: Questionable Camara played on the outside most of last season and a bit in pre-season. He will probably start a good amount of matches, but it won’t always be at right back. Camara will be used in the middle as a center back or as a stopper/defensive midfielder on occasion. Zarek Valentin would be the next candidate for the role.



Center Midfield - Felipe Spot Guarantee: Certain Look for the Brazilian to have a similar role as last year. Playing in a 4-1-4-1, he may have more defensive responsibilities, but his role on offence will be the same. He will be the playmaker once again. Center Midfield - Davy Arnaud Spot Guarantee: Questionable Felipe’s partner is not a guarantee as of yet. In the meantime, Arnaud will probably slide inside after playing last year on the right side. Arnaud used to play in the middle back in Kansas City and is probably more suited for the role inside rather than as an outside midfielder. If it’s not Arnaud helping Felipe, it could be Bernier, Pisanu, Warner or Mallace. Right Midfield - Sanna Nyassi Spot Guarantee: Doubtful This position is really a tossup. Nyassi could probably get the nod because of his attacking capabilities and tremendous pace for an outside player. If it is not Nyassi, then it will almost certainly be Arnaud or Mapp.

MARCH 2013



Montreal Impact projected starting XI - March 2013 Striker - Marco Di Vaio Spot Guarantee: Certain There’s no doubt Di Vaio will be the one responsible for finding the back of the goal. Di Vaio was not pleased with his first season in MLS, and is looking to make up for that. Anywhere inside or around the box is a good place for him to score. He just needs to have someone sending passes his way. Given his age, he may not always last 90 minutes and could be replaced by Romero or Wenger. Challenge For The Coach Montreal is coming into the season with a new manager at the helm. Early signs of Marco Schällibaum’s work have been positive. The club is already playing a dominant, possession-based game which looks already pretty fluid and the club has already won a minor award after winning the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Schällibaum is looking to break the curse that is European coaches trying to implement a European style-of-play. The challenge for Schällibaum is to prove to the MLS that attractive football is capable of being played in North America. The North American style is static and physical where players need to adapt to tough playing conditions. This new tactic, which has failed at many teams in the past, should work in Montreal, as the club has a roster with tonnes of European experience already capable of playing this way. A BOOT












PERKINS Expected Finish: 3rd place Eastern Conference It’s a bold prediction, and even probably ludicrous to some people. But the way Montreal worked this off-season, by keeping the same core and adding promising signings, the squad ranks as one of the top MLS sides on paper. The biggest difference is Schällibaum, who has a very direct approach and the Impact were highly successful this pre-season. If the veteran players stay healthy, and the team stick to a possession-dominant game plan, the Impact will be able cruise to a comfortable season. And who knows, the signing of a second Designated Player can even confirm this wild prediction. MARCH 2013







Outside of news, reports and columns, RedNation Online offers a series of podcasts delivering analysis and interviews on Canadian Soccer. Look for the PODCASTS section on the homepage on the right hand column, listing all the newest episodes available on rednationonline.ca LOOK FOR ANOTHER ADDITION TO THE RNO PODCASTS BY APRIL 2012




E A S T S I D E S TA N D U P The only Toronto FC-specific podcast, East Side Stand Up is now heading into it’s fifth season of covering Canada’s first MLS team. The podcast provides post game analysis and discussion after every match the team plays, as well as episodes following the club through the off-season.

REDNATION I NTE RVI EW S E R I E S/ I N S I D E TH E M LS RedNation’s longest running podcast, Interview Series & Inside the MLS provides questions and discussions for those who follow the sport closely. Each podcast appears bi-weekly, combined for each week, interviewing players and personalities in Canada and Major League Soccer.


S TA N D U P 514 FC



inside the i n t e r v i e w s

RedNation’s newest podcast covers the Montreal Impact. George Chudobey and Roberto Garcia go beyond the onfield displays from Montreal and discuss at length the going-ons with the Impact, both in the front office and the news.



MIKE BAKIC Born in Belgrade’s urban neighbourhood of Crveni Krst (Red Cross) in 1952, Milovan “Mike” Bakic began his soccer career with Partizan Belgrade’s famed youth school in 1965 playing under the late Mirko Damjanovic. He climbed the ranks of Partizan, reaching their reserve side in 1971. He then decided on a move to Canada, playing for the Serbian White Eagles from 1972 to 1976. In 1977, he donned the red jersey of his adopted country four times (scoring twice).

Sitting and talking with Mike, I’m reminded of the good old original North American Soccer League days and the beginnings of professional soccer in Canada. Today, Mike is working on a book and gave us an exclusive insider look into his soccer career and future plans.

By Djuradj Vujcic Email: djuradj_vujcic@yahoo.ca



RedNation Online (RNO): Mike, you started off with Partizan Belgrade’s youth school but you established a name for yourself in the old NASL during the league’s influx of European players. How did you start playing in Canada? Mike Bakic: I was friends with Slobodan “Piva” Ivkovic who is the brother of today’s Serbian national basketball team coach Dusan “Duda” Ivkovic. Piva was the coach of the basketball club Radnicki Belgrade and he was visiting New York, stopping by in Toronto to see some friends. They asked him if he knows of a (soccer) player to send to Toronto and he said that he would ask me because he knew I was looking to move out of Yugoslavia. It was supposed to be a summer thing. When he came back (we were very close friends), he asked me if I want to play soccer in Canada and I said, “sure, why not?!” They (the White Eagles management) then contacted me, and filled out some forms for me. Someone from the team’s management came to Belgrade, prepared my Visa and I and Saban Romanovic were the only players to come from Serbia in 1972. MARCH 2013



The remaining players came a year later. Our name was always Serbian White Eagles, in some places it says Toronto White Eagles, which is a mistake. Before that, when I played in Partizan’s reserve side, we often played against the first team in training sessions. I played with Momcilo “Moca” Vukotic (club legend) in Partizan’s reserve side. Moca Vukotic, Zarko Olarevic, Zoran Smileski – that’s the generation that’s older than me by a year and I played with all of them.

When I went to Portugal and signed a pro contract, the Yugoslav government (as my passport didn’t read Canada yet, it still read Yugoslavia), didn’t want to extend my passport as I had played for the Serbian White Eagles. I might have stayed in Portugal to play for Vitória de Setúbal if Yugoslavia had extended my passport or gave me a new one. The Yugoslav passport I had was expired, I went to Portugal with an expired passport!

Partizan wanted to loan me to a second-division team to gain experience which didn’t interest me at all however. I was at a crossroads. I went to France for a try-out match for Strasbourg in 1971. That tryout however was during our break where we didn’t play so I wasn’t ready to play at my best. I was always ready but not fully ready in December so that didn’t turn out the best. I went and signed a contract in the Portuguese First Division side Vitória de Setúbal. I signed a professional contract with them – I played for them as a guest at a tournament which was in Central America. The problem was that the White Eagles sold my rights to the Rochester Lancers who didn’t allow me to stay in Portugal and I had to go back. That’s why I played in the United States, I wouldn’t have even played in the US, I would of ended up in a European first division team (in Portugal) but I couldn’t stay and that was that. If memory serves me correctly, that was 1976 or 1977.

Photo courtesy of nasljerseys.com



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Afterwards, I got Canadian papers of course – the landed immigrant papers. I was worried if I stayed in Portugal, what would I do, I had no passport and there was a chance they wouldn’t let me back to Canada so I wanted to return to Canada to get that sorted out. That was the biggest reason why I returned and didn’t remain playing for Vitória. Since I had already known Eusébio (we played in Toronto together and travelled Europe), he came to see me in Setúbal and that was in the newspapers – you know how big of a star he is there. At that time, he was playing for Beira-Mar. After the knee injuries he had, you’ll see the photo I have, he couldn’t even crouch. He couldn’t even bend his knee after all the operations he had on that knee. He was the best player in the world at that time, he was the best forward – you know how defenders go at you when you’re the best like that!? They go at you trying to injure you. RNO: You appeared in a Canadian jersey four times (in 1977), scoring twice. That’s a very good statistic. Did you get called up for Canada after that? Mike Bakic: I did get called up and I was supposed to play in the next qualifying cycle. I was talking to John McMahon and they (the CSA) sent me an official letter inviting me to training camp. At that time however, I had groin surgery – the late Dr. Branko Nesovic performed the operation – and I couldn’t play. That was the problem, it wasn’t that they didn’t call me up. That injury was at the end of my career, when the NASL fell apart. After that, I played indoor soccer for Kansas City. I wasn’t interested in going back to Europe and playing “little” soccer for little cash. For Canada, I played against Suriname, Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico. Also, we (the Canadian national team) played an exhibition match against Hajduk Split who was almost always near the top of the table in the Yugoslav First League at that time. I scored the winning goal against Suriname and the tying goal against Haiti.



The photo I have of the goal against Haiti (first page of interview) – that’s not in any archive unless it’s in a Mexican archive as that goal was on the front page of all the papers in Mexico. Why? That was in the 90th minute, tying up the score against Haiti who with that goal lost any chance to reach Mexico in the group standings and Mexico directly qualified for the 1978 World Cup thanks to that goal. RNO: Did you decide yourself to stay and live in Toronto even after your playing days? Mike Bakic: I left Belgrade forty years ago. Honestly, I decided myself to stay in Toronto (after my playing days). I like it here. This is the best country in the world. I was in the United States, I lived there for fifteen years, played there and I like the US as a country but Canada is the best country in the world, for me. I travelled all over. I never got a call from the US to play for them as I wasn’t their citizen. You can get US citizenship but I was never an American and I never got rid of my Serbian passport – I still have two passports. They called me to play for Canada when I legally got a Canadian passport. The moment I got Canadian citizenship, since I was one of the prominent players of the best league in Canada and the best team in Canada, they called me up. You know, it’s very strange how I even got called up. Most of the Canadian national team players then played for the Vancouver Whitecaps who even then were a very good team. Not as good as the White Eagles but they were a pretty good team. Most of the players played in Canada, nobody even knew me. Zeljko Bilecki was the goalkeeper for Toronto Croatia at that time. He told our German coach (Eckhard) Krautzun that I “was the best player in the league” and he asked him “how can Bakic not be in the team?” They then called me up and I went to play for Canada. Those were players such as Bobby Lenarduzzi, Bobby Iarusci, Bruce Wilson, Buzz Parsons – they were the main players on the national team.

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RNO: How do you compare the Canadian national team of your day to the one we have today? Mike Bakic: Look, you can’t compare it. I wasn’t in the 1986 World Cup team but I should have been and would have been had it not been for my injury. Has the Canadian team ever qualified after 1986? No. My generation qualified for the World Cup so when the new generation qualifies, then you can say they’re on the same level. The difference between soccer today and soccer then, in regards to skill and similar things...well you can’t compare the soccer of today to the soccer of then. You can’t compare the players of today to players such as Cruyff, Pelé, Beckenbauer, keeper Gordon Banks, Gerd Müller – it’s funny to even talk about which generation of players is better. Spain is the only country in the world today that has skill. You can’t take any other country. OK, maybe Germany has started, with their new, young players. To be fair, German football is pretty for the eye and they play very well today. There is no one else. The English and Italy aren’t even a shadow of what they once were! Only Spain has progressed. Look at the physical qualities of the Spanish team and compare it to the others. The other teams look like they’re going to eat Spain for breakfast but they’re inferior. Skill is the factor that always dominates if everything else is equal. RNO: You played for numerous NASL teams where you’re most often listed as a forward. Mike Bakic: I was never the main goalscorer – I was a midfielder. I was an offensive midfielder, I wasn’t a centre-forward but I scored a lot of goals. At least 20-25 per season. In Canada, I scored a lot of goals. When I left the Washington Diplomats to go play for the Houston Hurricane, Johan Cruyff arrived in Washington and played in my position (with the Dips, I was playing as left-wing). That was the season I had that groin injury and rarely played. When I actually did play, I played injured. At the end of the season, I went and had surgery on my groin. That was 1981. Later that year, I played indoor soccer for Kansas City. A BOOT


While with Washington, I scored maybe the fastest goal in the history of the NASL. You’d have to double-check if it’s the fastest ever but I scored it in the first ten seconds of the game – most likely somewhere around the 7th and 8th second. That was against the team Sead Susic and Branko Radovic played for – the Colorado Caribous. RNO: You played with the legendary Dragoslav Sekularac. What was that like? Mike Bakic: Sekularac played for the Serbian White Eagles in 1975. We were with the White Eagles in Columbia while Sekularac was playing for Santa Fe. Then, in 1975, Sekularac came and played for the White Eagles as player-coach. In one exhibition indoor soccer game, we represented Toronto. We played in Lyon and we beat Lyon 14-11. Sekularac and I scored six goals each! You know what that means? Eusébio was part our team but we loaned him to Lyon for that one match. This was October of 1974. Also while with the White Eagles, we played at the Maple Leaf Gardens and the stadium was jampacked. Stars from all over the world played in that tournament. I’m talking English national team players such as captain Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Jackie Charlton. This is history. That’s how indoor soccer started in Toronto (the indoor soccer we have today in America). We invented that. Who invented that is Dragan “Don” Popovic. Don Popovic was the coach when they brought me here. Don was coach 1972, 1973 and 1974. After that, Dragoslav Sekularac was brought in to replace Don which was a mistake in my opinion – although I love Sekularac and I brought him here to coach the new expansion White Eagles in 2006 when I was president – but it was a big mistake. Don Popovic proved what kind of a coach he was, he made us into the best team on this continent. With Popovic, there was no fooling around during games or practices. If you’re not trying, you’re out.

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We (the White Eagles) beat Vardar in an international friendly. Vardar was near the top of the Yugoslav table at that time and in this match, they played with their entire first-team including Dragan Mutibaric who was the national team goalkeeper at that time. We beat them which means we had a serious team. We went to Columbia and beat a Columbian first division team. The White Eagles were a team that could beat any one! Many of the players from the White Eagles who came over to play, most of them are still here. Some of these players were big in the former Yugoslavia as well – big players such as Miroslav Vardic. Vardic came in 1975 and played here. We had some big players. We were champions of the league (the National Soccer League), the cup and we were the best team in North America. We played in the CONCACAF Cup, representing Canada.

The photo you see there of me and the trophy, that was taken after the Washington Diplomats defeated the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 4-1 on April 16, 1978. I scored a goal and was voted man of the match. The men I’m surrounded by are Henry Kissinger who was a huge soccer fan and since he was a well known American politician, he was invited by the league and awarded me with the trophy. The other two are NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam and a representative of the Happy Days tobacco company who made a donation to charity in my name. In the other “group-hug” photo, I’m getting kudos from Guus Hiddink. RNO: Thank you Mike. I thoroughly enjoyed this as statistics and photographs from that era of North American soccer are scarce.

RNO: Mike, you have an astounding collection of never-before-seen photographs from the era you played in. Could you explain the stories behind some of them?

Mike Bakic: Of course. This is history that, if not properly documented, will be forgotten. Lost. It’s especially important to document the beginnings of indoor soccer in North America as well as that is at even greater risk of being lost. Thank you as well and let’s hope these photos are preserved over time.

Mike Bakic: The team photo where you see Eusébio struggling to crouch, that is from that exhibition match in Lyon I was telling you about where we represented Toronto. I’m the third one from the right in the top row of that photo.

Portions of this interview were edited for space purposes. For the entire interview, please go to rednationonline.ca and enter Mike Bakic in the search engine to the bottom right of the navigation bar.



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