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Five Whitecaps to miss MLS tournament – TSN

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The Vancouver Whitecaps will be missing five players at the MLS is Back Tournament, including forwards Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts.

The club said defender Andy Rose and defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa are also sitting out the Florida tournament, which starts Wednesday and runs through Aug. 11.

Ricketts has a medical issue while Mukumbilwa is not cleared to leave the country. Cavallini, Montero and Rose are not taking part for personal reasons.

Cavallini, Ricketts and Rose all started in the Whitecaps’ last game, a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 7, while Montero came off the bench. Ricketts scored the game’s lone goal.

“There’s no doubt that the players that are not present are very key players and players that help the team,” coach Marc Dos Santos told a virtual conference call prior to training Tuesday night in Orlando.

“Now with that being said, it opens the door to other young players … I don’t have a doubt from what I’ve seen in training and what I’ve seen from them that we’re still going to be a hard team to beat.”

The Whitecaps’ five remaining forwards are 20-year-old Theo Bair, 21-year-old Ryan Raposo and Cristian Dajome, David Milinkovic and Yordy Reyna, all 26.

While Reyna has 19 goals in 70 MLS regular-season appearances, the other four have a combined two goals in 22 games.

Cavallini, a designated player, cited losing family members to COVID-19 in his decision not to play.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for me,” he said in a statement. “I would love to be out on the field with my teammates fighting with everything I have to play for this club and community in Orlando.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 has had a very big impact, taking away two beloved members of my family. I feel that it is best that I remain home to support my loved ones at this challenging time.”

Rose and Montero also cited family for missing out.

“My wife is due to give birth on July 17 and my original plan was to be with the team in Florida for our first and possibly second game,” said Rose, an Australian-born English defender who is also a diabetic. “However, the sacrifice of potentially missing my daughter’s birth and the risk of infection travelling home meant it didn’t make sense to go.”

Montero, a native of Colombia, cited the pandemic in making the “hard decision” to stay with his wife and daughters in Canada.

“I truly love what I do for a living and have been eagerly waiting to return to the pitch as much as anyone however the health of my family is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “My family and I have had a complicated few months not only with being isolated in Canada without family or friends but also with unforeseen health emergencies.”

The club did not detail Ricketts’ injury.

“I worked hard and was prepared to fight with my team in this tournament. unfortunately, I was not given a choice and was pulled out due to a pre-existing condition,” the Canadian international said.

Ricketts told Vancouver radio station TSN 1040 that he had been taking medication to deal with the condition.

“Everything is fine with me health-wise,” he said. “Unfortunately the pills affected my immune system and put me in a position where I’m at a much higher risk if I contract COVID.”

The club said Mukumbilwa, a Canadian resident who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is not cleared to travel outside of Canada at this time. Mukumbilwa, who signed a homegrown player contract in August last year, has seen just nine minutes of action with the first team.

The withdrawals leave Vancouver with just 23 players.

Dos Santos said the club supported all five players who decided to stay at home,

“This is a tournament that is important, but it’s not life or death,” he said. “It’s not the last tournament we’ll be in. So it’s important that everybody that’s here feels good about being here.”

Vancouver opens its tournament July 15 against the San Jose Earthquakes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Orlando area.

Group B is down to three teams — Vancouver, Seattle and San Jose — with the withdrawal of FC Dallas due to 11 positive COVID-19 tests.

Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster says the league is trying to find a solution that would allow the teams in the group to still play three matches. The tournament’s original schedule had every team playing three group games that will count in the regular season.

Complicating the matter is the availability of fields, he added.

Vancouver Whitecaps Roster

Goalkeepers (3): Maxime Crepeau, Thomas Hasal, Bryan Meredith.

Centre Backs (4): Derek Cornelius, Erik Godoy, Jasser Khmiri, Ranko Veselinovic.

Fullbacks (3): Ali Adnan, Cristian Gutierrez, Jake Nerwinski.

Central Midfielders (8): Michael Baldisimo, Janio Bikel, Simon Colyn, Inbeom Hwang, Patrick Metcalfe, Leonard Owusu, Damiano Pecile, Russell Teibert.

Forwards (5): Theo Bair, Cristian Dajome, David Milinkovic, Ryan Raposo, Yordy Reyna.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020.

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Raptors to face Nets in first round of playoffs – TSN

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors will face a familiar opponent in the first round of the playoffs — the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets clinched their spot against the defending NBA champions with Sunday night’s 129-120 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Toronto lost to Brooklyn in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, the thrilling series that led to the creation of Jurassic Park fan zone outside the then-Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors (50-19) clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with Sunday’s 108-99 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and achieved 50 wins on the season for the fifth consecutive year.

The Nets’ confidence is high after going 6-2 under interim coach Jacque Vaughn.

“As far as going into Toronto, you know what to expect,” Tyler Johnson said after scoring 21 points against the Clippers. “But then again, there’s no home-court advantage. You play a basketball team in the same spot for however many games it takes to advance.

“So for us, it’s continue to play our style of basketball and at this point we understand that if we continue to do that we’re capable of beating anybody and we’ve shown it.”

Nets guard/forward Caris LeVert told reporters that Toronto moves the ball well and is a “great defensive team.”

“But for us, we feel like it’s about us,” LeVert said. “If we move the ball well, if we play good defence, if we’re locked into the game plan, we can win that series. We truly believe that. So we’re going to go into that playoff matchup all the way locked in.”

While there is no traditional home-court advantage in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said recently that he wasn’t writing it off entirely. The league has been tinkering with game presentation, Nurse said.

It includes 300 of the team’s fans appearing digitally on courtside video screens and manufactured crowd noise piped into the arena. During scrimmages in the Walt Disney World bubble, it had been so quiet Nurse said the opposing teams could hear him calling plays.

“There’s crowd noise (now), you can see family members and coaches’ family members and players’ family members (on the giant video screens), there is a sense of personal touch to it,” Nurse said. “It seems like they’re tweaking a little bit more and more as they go here in the games, as they’re learning things about how to put the game on in this setting.

“We’re seeing familiar faces on those screens, and who knows what it’ll evolve to here two months from now. So I don’t want to discount the home court thing quite yet.”

The Raptors’ playoff series against the Nets was their first post-season appearance in six years. Brooklyn won Game 7 104-103 in Toronto when Paul Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry‘s shot as time expired.

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Raptors to face familiar foe in Nets in first round of post-season – Sportsnet.ca

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors will face a familiar opponent in the first round of the playoffs — the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets clinched their spot against the defending NBA champions with Sunday night’s 129-120 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Toronto lost to Brooklyn in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, the thrilling series that led to the creation of Jurassic Park fan zone outside the then-Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors (50-19) clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with Sunday’s 108-99 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and achieved 50 wins on the season for the fifth consecutive year.

The Nets’ confidence is high after going 6-2 under interim coach Jacque Vaughn.

“As far as going into Toronto, you know what to expect,” Tyler Johnson said after scoring 21 points against the Clippers. “But then again, there’s no home-court advantage. You play a basketball team in the same spot for however many games it takes to advance.

“So for us, it’s continue to play our style of basketball and at this point we understand that if we continue to do that we’re capable of beating anybody and we’ve shown it.”

Caris LeVert guard/forward told reporters that Toronto moves the ball well and is a “great defensive team.”

“But for us, we feel like it’s about us,” LeVert said. “If we move the ball well, if we play good defence, if we’re locked into the game plan, we can win that series. We truly believe that. So we’re going to go into that playoff matchup all the way locked in.”

While there is no traditional home-court advantage in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said recently that he wasn’t writing it off entirely. The league has been tinkering with game presentation, Nurse said.

It includes 300 of the team’s fans appearing digitally on courtside video screens and manufactured crowd noise piped into the arena. During scrimmages in the Walt Disney World bubble, it had been so quiet Nurse said the opposing teams could hear him calling plays.

“There’s crowd noise (now), you can see family members and coaches’ family members and players’ family members (on the giant video screens), there is a sense of personal touch to it,” Nurse said. “It seems like they’re tweaking a little bit more and more as they go here in the games, as they’re learning things about how to put the game on in this setting,” Nurse said.

“We’re seeing familiar faces on those screens, and who knows what it’ll evolve to here two months from now. So I don’t want to discount the home court thing quite yet.”

The Raptors’ playoff series against the Nets was their first post-season appearance in six years. Brooklyn won Game 7 104-103 Toronto when Paul Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry’s shot as time expired.

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Tortorella says criticism of Maple Leafs coach 'beyond belief' – NHL.com

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John Tortorella defended Sheldon Keefe one day after the Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

The Blue Jackets coach responded to criticism leveled at the Maple Leafs coach for decisions made during the best-of-5 series, won by Columbus with a 3-0 victory in Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday. The Blue Jackets advanced to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is in Toronto, the hub city for the East, on Tuesday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

The Maple Leafs have not won a postseason series since a seven-game victory against the Ottawa Senators in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

“I just can’t get over people ripping Sheldon Keefe and his staff as far as the job he’s done with the Maple Leaf team,” Tortorella said of Keefe, who played most of his 125 NHL games for the Lightning from 2000-03 with Tortorella as his coach. “They have done a terrific job with that team. Now this is after the series and all that, and some of the things I read, some of the things I watched last night, I mean, half the pundits in this city think they really know about the game, but they really don’t. And it just [upsets me] for a fellow coach in this league.”

Keefe was hired to replace Mike Babcock on Nov. 20 following a 9-10-4 start and was 27-15-5 in 47 games. He guided Toronto of the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup in 2018.

“And I know it’s Toronto, a great city, a great hockey town, I love being here,” Tortorella said. “But some of the things he’s criticized for are beyond belief to me. And it just shows that people have no clue what’s going on in this game. So I just want to support him, I’m glad we won, but I just want to support him and his staff have done a terrific job with that hockey club.”

The Maple Leafs were the No. 8 seed in the East after going 36-25-9 (.579 points percentage). They are one of eight teams (Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets) eliminated from the Qualifiers with a 12.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday (6 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

Alexis Lafreniere, a left wing for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is the projected top pick.

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