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Toronto FC thrashed by Union – TSN

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CHESTER, Pa. — A top-of-the-table showdown turned into a lopsided loss Saturday for an understrength Toronto FC that saw its nine-game undefeated run snapped in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.

It was one-way traffic all night long, a night to forget for a Toronto franchise used to being the hammer rather than the nail. Philadelphia took advantage of TFC’s shambolic defending and non-existent attack, bullying a team that had been on a 7-0-2 run.

It was a costly defeat, given a win would have put TFC six points ahead of its nearest challenger. Instead, the Union moved into first place in both the league and Eastern Conference on goal difference over Toronto with the two teams at 12-3-5.

Toronto had gone unbeaten since suffering a pair of losses Sept. 1 and 5, against Montreal and Vancouver respectively.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney called it a “hard lesson,” the kind of performance he had not see for “a long, long time.”

“What went wrong? It was wrong from start to finish,” he said. “We weren’t close to them the entire night, really…We couldn’t put passes together and they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that’s for sure.”

The decision matched Philadelphia’s largest margin of victory and Toronto’s largest margin of defeat in MLS play, according to Opta. TFC lost 6-0 to the Montreal Impact in a Canadian Championship semifinal second-match in 2013.

Philadelphia outshot Toronto 27-3 (12-1 in shots on target) and had 11 corners to TFC’s three.

“There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves and nobody’s panicking, I can promise you that,” said captain Michael Bradley, who marked his 200th career MLS start.

Sergio Santos scored three goals, Mark McKenzie and Jamiro Monteiro added singles with Kacper Przybylko contributed three assists for a rampant Philadelphia side. The margin of victory could have been higher had it not been for some fine saves by overworked Toronto ‘keeeper Quentin Westberg.

“The way that we play represents, I think, (Philadelphia) in a lot of ways,” said Union coach Jim Curtin “We don’t fear anyone. We’ll go toe to toe with any superstars and our guys stick together and really fight for each other.”

It marked the first time Toronto had given up five goals since a 5-1 loss to Houston in April 2018. That day, Toronto fielded a second-string lineup in advance of a CONCACAF Champions League game.

Vanney and Bradley were singing off the same hymn sheet after the game, saying it was a reminder for some of the intensity of play in the run-up to the post-season and the playoffs themselves.

Bradley, who came off the bench last week in his return from a knee injury, made his first start since Sept. 1. Fullback Justin Morrow, who had missed the last four matches with a calf strain, returned to action off the bench.

But Vanney had plenty of other injury concerns including designated player Pablo Piatti who sat out with calf tightness.

Centre back Chris Mavinga and striker Ayo Akinola missed their second straight game with hamstring issues. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who left last week’s 1-0 win over Atlanta after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury, did not dress.

Star forward Jozy Altidore, another Toronto DP, is a long-term casualty with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

“Yeah, we were missing some guys but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us” said Vanney.

Akinola could be back for Wednesday’s game against New York City FC. Osorio is being pencilled in for either NYFC or next weekend’s game against Inter Miami, TFC’s penultimate regular season match. Vanney is awaiting a final verdict on Piatti from club doctors.

Richie Laryea, Nick DeLeon and Gallardo came into the starting 11. Gallardo had played just 62 minutes in two substitute appearances since March 7, when he started the second game of the season.

The Venezuelan lasted just 35 minutes before Vanney brought on Patrick Mullins in a bid to find someone to boost an impotent attack

Philadelphia ran its undefeated streak to five (4-0-1) since a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Oct 3 in East Hartford. The Union also improved to 7-0-0 in league play this season at Subaru Park, which has opened its door with local authorities allowing 15 per cent capacity or approximately 2,775 spectators.

“They’re making a lot of noise, really pushing the players on,” said Curtin.

Philadelphia wasted little time taking it to a Toronto lineup missing some big names through injury.

The Union outshot Toronto 15-1 (6-0 in shots on target) in the first half alone, with 60 per cent possession and nine corners to TFCs one.

The Union went ahead in the 27th minute on a rapid-fire counter attack after Brazilian fullback Auro and Gallardo both lost possession for Toronto in the Philadelphia end. Jose Martinez swept the ball wide to Kai Wagner, who made a run down the left flank and floated in a perfect cross that Santos headed in as defender Omar Gonzalez lunged in vain at the ball.

The Union doubled the lead off a corner in the 33rd minute, taking advantage of some dreadful defending. Monteiro’s corner found Przybylko alone beyond the back post and he floated a header to an unmarked McKenzie to head it in from close range as a half-dozen defenders looked on.

Monteiro made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a booming shot off that cracked in off the cross bar after a giveaway by Liam Fraser. Santos scored his second on the night in the 63rd minute, knocking in a cross from Wagner with little opposition from Toronto. A dummy run by Brenden Aaronson added some sizzle to the goal.

Santos’ hat trick came in the 68th minute, with the unmarked Brazilian knocking in an Aaronson cross over Westberg. It raised Santos’ season goals total to seven

Alejandro Pozuelo played up front with Tsubasa Endoh, Gallardo and DeLeon trying to offer support. But the Toronto attack offered nothing and Pozuelo, usually a game-changer, was rarely seen.

Morrow and Fraser replaced Auro and Marky Delgado at halftime.

Midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who turned 16 on June 16, became the youngest player to appear for TFC when he came in the 72nd minute — four minutes after Santos exited to applause. Raph Priso, an 18-year-old midfielder just signed as a homegrown player, also made his Toronto debut in the 64th minute.

Coming into the contest, Toronto had lost just two of 29 regular-season games (16-2-11) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.

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Rockets deal Westbrook to Wizards for Wall, 1st-round pick – theScore

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The Houston Rockets are trading Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a future first-round pick, the Wizards announced Wednesday.

The pick is lottery-protected in 2023, top-12 protected in 2024, top-10 protected in 2025, top-eight protected in 2026, or becomes two second-rounders after that point, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.

“Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell’s caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a statement.

He added: “With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”

Both guards reportedly requested trades this offseason.

Sheppard and Rockets executive Rafael Stone reached an agreement within a few hours on Wednesday afternoon after the two sides hadn’t spoken on a potential deal for weeks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The Wizards GM previously said he had “no plans” to deal Wall, though owner Ted Leonsis reportedly had the final say.

“At the end of the day, this is a Ted (Leonsis) call,” a source told The Athletic’s David Aldridge.

Wall is set to earn $41.3 million this season and $44.3 million the following year. He holds a $47.4-million player option for the 2022-23 campaign.

He hasn’t appeared in an NBA contest since December 2018. Wall is the Wizards’ all-time leader in assists and steals.

Meanwhile, Westbrook is owed $41.4 million this coming campaign and $44.2 million in 2021-22. He also holds a $47.1-million player option for the 2022-23 season.

His move to the nation’s capital reunites him with former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

“Russell’s accomplishments and honors on the court speak for themselves, but his drive and will to win are what separate him as a truly unique player,” Brooks said in a statement.

Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 boards, and seven assists during his lone season in Houston.

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Report: Steelers believe Dupree has torn ACL – TSN

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree‘s season appears to be over.

According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Aditi Kinkhabwala, initial tests on done on ‪Dupree following the injury he suffered Wednesday against the Baltimore Ravens have indicated that the linebacker has a torn ACL.

Garafolo and Aditi Kinkhabwala add that the Steelers expect Dupree to now miss the remainder of the NFL season.

Dupree was injured late in the fourth quarter on a play where he attempted to rush Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley but was ultimately blocked down to the ground by Baltimore offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. Following the play, Dupree was seen moved gingerly as he made his way to the locker room.

 The 27-year-old Dupree is in his sixth seasons with the Steelers after being drafted by the team in the first round (22nd overall) over the 2015 draft. After signing the franchise tag the Steelers placed on him ahead of this season, Dupree will be a free agent at season’s end.

Dupree has amassed 26 tackles, 8 sacks and two forced fumbles this season.

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How the Toronto Raptors are navigating loose COVID-19 restrictions in Tampa – TSN

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TORONTO – When the Toronto Raptors landed in Tampa, Fla. on Monday evening, several players and staff members weren’t quite sure where they could go or what they were permitted to do.

Not only were they unfamiliar with the city – their home for training camp, which begins this week, and likely for the duration of the 2020-21 season – but they’ve got to navigate it amid a global pandemic.

Most of them were coming from their off-season homes across the United States, where COVID-19 protocols vary from state to state. Some crossed the border and flew down from Toronto – a city on lockdown, where only grocery stores and essential businesses remain open, where you can order takeout from your favourite restaurant or have food delivered but you can’t dine-in.

What they learned pretty quickly upon arrival is that restrictions in Florida – where positive cases continue to soar – are minimal.

Want to grab a bite to eat? Restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity. How about nightlife? Bars and clubs are also open, though “limited social distancing protocols” are “encouraged”, according to the city’s official website. Masks are recommended but not mandatory under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines, which have been in place since September 25. Not to worry, though, because “menus, if laminated, should be cleaned after each use.” That’s reassuring. Gyms are open, as are movie theatres.

“People keep asking me, ‘where are you staying? What’s going on? What’s around you?’ And I have no idea,” guard Norman Powell said via videoconference from the team hotel, where Toronto’s players and staff are staying until they get settled in the city and find temporary homes to rent, and located just down the street from Amalie Arena, where the Raptors will play their home games in downtown Tampa.

“[I’m] trying to figure the whole city out, where to go, even what to do in terms of just being able to walk on the beach. Especially the rules and laws here with COVID. You’re so used to what was happening in the bubble, you knew the rules there. Going back [home] to California [during the off-season], you knew the rules there and what was changed, what was open, where you could and can’t eat. Same when I lived in Vegas. Being in Vegas, there’s a little bit more freedom there, but certain things are locked down, things you can’t do. So it’s just picking up the environment that you’re in, and trying to make the best decisions possible.”

The NBA recently issued a 134-page manual detailing its health and safety standards for camp and the upcoming season, though teams didn’t receive it until this past weekend – just a couple days before the Raptors were set to fly south. Once again, protocols will be tight on the league’s watch – masks, frequent sanitization and social distancing, where possible, in arenas and practice facilities. Players and staff will be tested daily, like they were in the bubble.

However, that’s where similarities to the restart end. The NBA reported zero positive tests during a three-month span that saw them finish the regular season and complete the playoffs on the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando this past fall – a remarkable feat, given the circumstances.

In addition to the testing, safety measures on site, and the commitment and sacrifice of thousands involved, the league’s bubble experiment was successful because it was contained, thus minimizing the risk of exposure and outbreak.

What the NBA is hoping to pull off this season – what other leagues have already done, to mixed results – will be far more challenging. This season, all 30 teams will operate out of their home cities, with the lone exception of the Raptors, who couldn’t get the government clearance they needed to play in Canada and will be based in Tampa for the foreseeable future.

Teams will play games in their arenas – some will even host a limited number of fans – and travel around the United States. And while the league and its clubs can strictly enforce the protocols in their buildings, and even encourage their players and employees to follow those same rules after business hours, there’s only so much they can control.

On their own time, each individual will be free to come and go as they please. Ultimately, it will be up to them to make the right decisions – not only for themselves and for the health and safety of their teammates, but also for the sake of the league and for the season.

“There’s certainly more freedom than there was in the bubble, but we’re going to have to use very, very good judgement to keep this moving,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “The responsibility falls on each of us, individually, to make sure we’re following all the protocols. I hope that everybody has their own health and safety [interests] and the health and safety of their family first and foremost as kind of how they’re moving around their day.

“Obviously, [VP of player health and performance] Alex McKechnie and his staff will be giving continual reminders and all that kind of stuff too, but it does place maybe an extra layer of importance or priority that’s different than a normal season. We’re certainly not in a normal season or in normal times, so we’re all going to have to be very vigilant on this aspect.”

When it became clear that playing their home games in Toronto – their stated preference – was unlikely, the Raptors considered multiple contingency options stateside. With the backing of their players, several of whom were consulted in the process, they chose Tampa, in part because of the warm weather and no state income tax. But in doing so they’ve also chosen to work out of a known COVID-19 hotspot.

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the Raptors landed in Tampa, Florida became the third U.S. state to surpass one million reported coronavirus cases, joining Texas and California.

For the Raptors and the rest of the NBA to pull this off and get through the planned 72-game schedule, and the playoffs to follow, it will take a buy-in from everybody. From the league’s best players all the way down to the trainers and equipment managers, everybody needs to stay disciplined and commit to following proper health and safety protocols – on, and more importantly, away from the basketball court. If the NBA can take anything away from the other leagues that have attempted something similar, it’s this.

The first few months of the Major League Baseball campaign were mired by multiple outbreaks. Several teams, including the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals were forced to close their facilities and cancel games. It wasn’t until commissioner Rob Manfred reinforced the protocol and threatened to shut down the season that teams, presumably, tightened up and cases started to go down.

It’s been inversed in the National Football League, where cases have skyrocketed as the season’s gone on, culminating in the Ravens-Steelers game – originally scheduled for last Thursday – getting pushed back three times and eventually landing on Wednesday afternoon after more than 14 Baltimore players tested positive throughout the week.

When everybody is doing their part – wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing and reporting their symptoms, among other preventative measures – then things can go relatively smoothly. But once that commitment slips, even from one or two people, then so do the results, as we’re seeing in the NFL.

All it takes is one player, coach or staff member to go for a meal in crowded restaurant or hang out with friends indoors without wearing a mask. All it takes is one person contracting the virus to put the rest of their team – as well as any other team they’ve played against or been in contact with – at risk.

There are going to be isolated cases – that’s unavoidable outside of a bubble setup. Of the 546 players tested during the initial return-to-market phase, 48 returned positive tests, per an NBA press release on Wednesday. Earlier this week the Warriors announced that they were delaying their first practice after two players tested positive.

The NBA’s health and safety guide covers the protocol for dealing with isolated cases, and what’s required for players who test positive to return to play. That won’t jeopardize the season, it states. What it doesn’t specify is how many cases, or outbreaks, would necessitate another league-wide shut down.

Ensuring that those cases remain manageable will depend on how fast they’re caught and treated, and whether they can be contained before they become outbreaks.

“As most people know, you’re not going to prevent people from contracting the virus with the testing but you are able to contain the spread,” said Toronto general manager Bobby Webster. “The daily testing is something that we’ll do every morning, which is similar to Orlando, but we are out interacting, we are in a major city with exposure risks. But I think that’s [something] we’re all learning to live with. How do you go get a coffee? How do you go to the grocery store? How do you do different things where you’re trying to have some sort of normalcy but reducing the risk for yourself and ultimately reducing the risk for the entire team?”

“During the season [there] might be a couple delayed games or whatever it is, it’s just the nature of the reality that we’re in right now,” said Powell. “But hopefully our team will stay true to [the league’s] protocols and regulations, hold each other accountable, stick to our routines and just get through this as fast and safely as possible.”

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