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Toronto FC: Everything "caught up with us" in playoffs exit, already looking to 2021 – MLSsoccer.com

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Toronto FC, simply put, didn’t have the sharpness required to keep dancing in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Head coach Greg Vanney was quick to acknowledge that after the East’s No. 2 seed got upset by Nashville SC, the East’s No. 7 seed, on Tuesday night in a 1-0 defeat at Rentschler Field. The Round One game-winner didn’t arrive until Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute for the expansion side, but they generated plenty of chances throughout and had three would-be goals called back via offside decisions.

Everything that this season threw Toronto’s way reached a tipping point, Vanney said.

“I think our guys put an incredible shift in over the course of the body of work of the regular season,” Vanney said. “In the end, pushing, things caught up with us a little bit. Some of what you would call our top players, our guys that are difference-makers, our guys who are important to us in getting results in big games were in an out with injuries, starting to come back in the tail end of the season and I felt like we lacked a little bit of fitness, we lacked a little bit of sharpness, a little bit of continuity at times tonight. 

“That might have been part of why we were a little bit slow in some of our actions and didn’t connect as fast as we normally would or would like to, maybe some of that fluid combination play just wasn’t as sharp, so I think we hit the tail end.”

Highlights: Toronto FC 0, Nashville SC 1 (AET)

Toronto were hit hard by injuries down the stretch, and it showed with the club going 1W-3L to end the year. The 2019 MLS Cup finalists were in the running for the Supporters’ Shield until Decision Day presented by AT&T, but they trended in the wrong direction as single-elimination soccer neared.

Club captain and center mid Michael Bradley took stock of the match in a similar light, noting Toronto couldn’t solve the riddle posed by Nashville. The Reds were credited with 850 passes to Nashville’s 530 and had nearly 62% of the possession, but were outshot 21-10. It was a case study in how those first two stats don’t always tell the whole story.

“By and large we had decent control of the game, but we weren’t able to really put them on their heels consistently enough,” Bradley said. “We weren’t able to really create situations of wave after wave of really being dangerous. Look, they’re defensively a good team, a team that understands who they are and what they’re about and they don’t give away a ton of goals and they don’t give away a ton of chances.”

Now, after spending the last few months playing in East Hartford, Connecticut – travel conditions with Canada around the COVID-19 pandemic meant TFC set up camp stateside – they’re looking ahead. Vanney highlighted as much, with Toronto denied a chance at a fourth MLS Cup appearance in the last five years.

“Obviously the playoffs will sting a great deal, just because we feel like we have a team that has quality and we should do better, so that will hurt,” Vanney said. “But we’ll lick our wounds, we’ll regroup, we’ll continue to try make the team better and then set afoot again next year for another journey. 

“Hopefully it won’t look like this year, and hopefully we’ll be able to get back into our stadium and hopefully teams will be playing in front of fans and some of that excitement will be driven back into the stadiums and the games and all that stuff. Hopefully it will look like a different season, but the guys will get themselves turned around and ready for another year when that time is right.”

Bradley assumed a similar tact, hoping that public heath in 2021 allows for more games at BMO Field. At the same time, he stressed they don’t want to make any excuses for exiting in Round One. 

“I think when you look at the news that’s come out in the last week or two in terms of some of these vaccines, you certainly hope that as we move deeper and deeper into 2021, that little by little the world can start to return to a new normal,” Bradley said. “Certainly, what that will mean for us as a team and as a club, hopefully getting back to playing at BMO Field as soon as possible with fans at a certain point. So we’re certainly very excited about the prospect of that and hopefully that’s coming quickly.”



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Toronto Maple Leafs Make Tough Decision in Waiving Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell – The Hockey Writers

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We knew the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to have to be creative with the salary cap situation. General Manager Kyle Dubas said there would be a lot of paperwork to file out to stay compliant, but it was just a formality for the most part. But that paperwork started a dumpster fire on Sunday morning. Jason Spezza hit the waiver wire, and within minutes it got worse. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson spoke with Spezza’s agent, Rick Curran, who said Spezza would “simply retire” if another team claimed him.

What just happened? Spezza has played well as a fourth-line centre. He won all 10 of his face-offs on Saturday night in a win over the Ottawa Senators. He recorded his 600th career assist in the opening game against the Montreal Canadiens. He even played a few shifts on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. These facts did not lead anyone to imagine that his hometown team would waive the 37-year-old veteran.

Jason Spezza has been waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I’m sure Dubas did not come to this decision lightly. It’s a ripple effect of Nic Robertson injuring his knee in the first period of the game on Saturday night. A move had to be made to bring up another player from the taxi squad. According to his agent, Spezza understood the risks of these roster moves when he resigned with Toronto. He was happy to continue to play a depth role and offer leadership.

Rough Ride for Spezza in Toronto

I get that this is business, but you have to feel for the guy. He came to Toronto to pursue his dream of winning a Stanley Cup. In his first game with the organization, Mike Babcock gave the veteran the healthy scratch with several family members in attendance. A move that lit up the Toronto sports commentators for weeks. Now just three games into his second season with the Maple Leafs, he is put on the waiver wire.

It seems unlikely Spezza will be claimed. However, Toronto may lose its third goalie. Aaron Dell has also been put on waivers. Toronto was carrying three goalies to offer more downtime to Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. Andersen didn’t dress on Saturday night.

A Move Was Coming

Before Saturday’s game, Sheldon Keefe was asked about his ability to make lineup changes. His answer left it open to this kind of move. “You get the extra goalie insurance the depth there, and of course we value,” said Keefe. “I think when you look at our situation carrying a 21 man roster, and one of those guys is a third goalie, it limits our ability to make lineup changes. But a lot can happen in a season, and things can change quickly.”

Aaron Dell Sharks
Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those changes did happen quickly. Not only in Toronto, but the Edmonton Oilers are facing challenges. Mike Smith was placed on the long-term injured reserve list. Edmonton lost back-up Anton Forsberg, who had earlier been claimed off waivers. This left Edmonton one minor injury from a disaster in the net. The Oilers have signed two goalies since, but due to quarantine restrictions, they are not available to the team until January 27. Edmonton is 19th on the waiver wire list. Not only that, the Oilers are in Toronto for a game on Wednesday and Friday. It’s hard to imagine that Dell will not be claimed.

We are just three games into the 56-game regular season. We are getting a sense of how difficult it will be for teams and players to manage the new world of quarantine restrictions. Who could’ve predicted that Robertson’s knee injury could lead to a possible retirement of Spezza and could possibly help out a North Division rival? This is the new normal.

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Saints’ Drew Brees mum on future after playoff loss to Buccaneers

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone.

Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.

Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.

Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.

For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract.

“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.

That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.

This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.

“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

“There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.

As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him.

“That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates didn’t wait, though.

“He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.”

Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him.

“When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle.

“He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.”

Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43.

When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby.

“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Drew Brees’ career possibly ends with more Saints playoff sorrow as Tom Brady and Bucs move on

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

Source: – Yahoo Canada 

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