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> Players And Management, To The Annual
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Toronto FC Media Day has never been better. Seriously. Seven years of losing has brought many different faces, players and management, to the annual pre-season get-to-know-the-team round up. Unfortunately for those player-media relationships initiated and cultivated, most of the interviewees have been shipped out prematurely. Media Day became a meet-and-greet, followed by a see you later. Tuesdays team time out for Torontos media throng had a much different vibe at the Kia Training Grounds. A good mix of young up-and-comers with a core of veteran leadership has been assembled after an off-season of change, signings, spending and hype. First impressions are just that, but on initial glance, it all felt right. Nothing has been accomplished yet. But every ship needs a sail before heading out to sea. The good news is the mast is up and the TFC ship is heading in the right direction. Hopefully. Finally. Progress, alas. Stability and confidence go hand-in-hand. The revolving door of players and personnel has been TFCs worst enemy. General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko and Head Coach Ryan Nelsen have been busy in recent months filling the gaps and adding genuine quality. Bezbatchenko, hired in September, likes what he has in his group. "Im very comfortable with where we compare with other teams right now," said Bezbatchenko. The roster has coming a long way since end of season apologies and promises. On February 11th, comfortable will suffice. More is to be done, at least one more player is coming in, and more will go out. A work in progress. Here are eight notable notes from the eighth Media Day in franchise history. 1) Brazil Head Coach Felipe Scolari confirmed the seeming inevitable early Tuesday; that goalkeeper Julio Cesar, 34, has in fact joined Toronto FC on loan. The club refused to confirm anything, "I havent spoken to Julio for a couple days, but I think it would be really nice … I may have to give Scolari a call," said Nelsen. Give that man a phone! All sources indicate the deal for Cesar to join TFC on a short loan is done. Hes coming. The club will save that announcement for another day, with the five-time Serie A and UEFA Champions League winner in the flesh. Save that ink for another day. A lack of confirmation didnt stop anyone not named Bezbatchenko from heaping praise on the pending new arrival. Nelsen – "Hes a gentleman of a man, hes a quality guy, his character is flawless, and hes great around the locker-room. When you see him at work, theres a reason hes played nearly 80 times for Brazil and won everything in the game." Michael Bradley -"Its amazing, speaks volumes for the direction that this club is going. A week ago, if anybody had told us that now another guy like Julio Cesar would come in, I dont think anyone would believe them." Dwayne De Rosario – "Hes a winner. To have him here is a great opportunity to learn from him." The excitement is palpable. Although goalkeepers are often times interchangeable in MLS, the Cesar move to Toronto not only adds quality but also further shows the symbolic shift in approach and ambition of the franchise. 2) Last seasons number one goalkeeper Joe Bendik is the potential short-term loser with Cesars arrival. Key word: potential. It all depends on how Bendik takes the setback. Although Bendik wont play much, if at all in the opening months, its his job for the taking long-term. How he handles the situation will reveal whether his mind is on self or team. Cesars arrival is an opportunity not wasted rather than a shot at Bendik. The 24-year-old signed a new contract in December and has to understand this. Regardless, Bendik was noticeably uneasy about taking a back seat to Cesar. "It motivates me. Obviously its a little shot and a bomb to swallow … but it cant go badly because I can learn a lot from him and compete with him every day to play. Its a win-win." Bendik has to keep the long-view in mind. He need understand Bendik will be relied upon post World Cup as the team marches towards a potential playoff spot; the time with least room for error. 3) Big money signing Bradley didnt back away from my question regarding the sentiment amongst many MLS analysts saying Toronto FC overpaid for the midfielder. "I think its great, were now to the point with the growth of soccer in North America, a decision like mine to come to Toronto and back to MLS can illicit such a wide variety of responses and opinions … it doesnt bother me." Bradley remained poised throughout his time with the media. His teammates glowed when speaking about The Generals presence already in camp. De Rosario even spoke about meeting with Bradley and captain Steven Caldwell about direction and leadership. Bradley ticks all the boxes in terms of leadership and on-field qualities of a winner. Money necessarily spent. 4) Many players believe TFC have become the hunted after years of being the hunter. Caldwell is one of them. "We are probably the team to beat in MLS and its going to be difficult wherever we go." Teams will have undoubtedly taken notice the moves Toronto has made. And its unlikely the Reds will be MLS doormat of previous years. But it takes more than a team on paper to be the class of the league. Caldwell acknowledges as much, that the work is still to be done. Still, the acceptance of expectation is a healthy mindset and speaks to the newfound confidence in the group. 5) The third, often times forgotten designated player, Brazilian Gilberto has set lofty goals for himself for his inaugural MLS season. Through a translator, the striker stated his aim to score 25 goals. Seriously. No hesitation. Camilo Sanvezzo won MLS Golden Boot last season with 22 goals. Perhaps the proclamation was somewhat lost in translation, as the Brazilian says his biggest challenge right now is learning the language. After I wished him luck at learning English, he wished me luck learning Portuguese. Gilberto is a really friendly guy. He will be easy to cheer for, especially if he scores 25. 6) I couldnt resist asking Nelsen what he learned about MLS officiating last season. Nelsen, like many others, grew frustrated by the inconsistency and downright inferior refereeing performances on a regular basis. "They are really good guys, but for me, (they) just need experience at the very top level. In my humble opinion, theyve come to the top rather quickly without the pressure soaked experience. Its tough for them." It will be tougher for Nelsen to bite his lip when officiating goes against them this year. The stakes have been raised. How Nelsen grows from year one to year two in composure and approach will be a test. The manager sets the tone. Consistency will be key and a massive challenge for a manager with questions to be answered. 7) An ongoing worry among the media and diehards is the salary cap situation. Its a rather nerdy habit to worry about a GMs bookkeeping. Bezbatchenko tried to alleviate worries on potential limited financial flexibility. "You can always make room on your team for new players. We do have some space left. We always have space." This is a much different tactic than previous regimes, which overspent on players and used the cap ceiling as an excuse for lackluster play and lack of positive player movement. Bezbatchenkos experience with MLS puts him and the team in good stead in cap management. So dont lose sleep, moves can be made. 8) The clock is ticking on Toronto FCs efforts to resolve Matias Labas future. A loan move within or outside MLS is the most logical step. Laba is in Toronto and the club continues to consult with the player on whats best for the Argentines future. Bezbatchenko is clearly aware of the messy, borderline deceitful break-ups between club and player that have contributed to a negative perception of TFC among agents and power brokers. "Were trying to treat our players a little differently than in the past," said Bezbatchenko. This isnt a shot at past management. Its the truth. Good on him and the front office to right this long-standing wrong. The Laba situation will continue to be handled with kid gloves. Reputations and the future of a good young player caught in the middle of a rebuild are on the line. Mark Stone Jersey . Pace had a career-high 10 sacks for Rex Ryans defence-- second only to Muhammad Wilkersons 10 1/2 -- in his sixth season with the Jets. The 33-year-old outside linebacker was an unrestricted free agent. Matt Duchene Jersey . That was OK with him. He was just happy his team came away with two points. Letestu redirected Jack Johnsons shot from the point with 2:38 left, lifting the Blue Jackets past the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Monday night. http://www.senatorssale.com/authentic-jaso...enators-jersey/ . The post-season, Pierce said repeatedly, is no time to panic. And the Heat, apparently, are nothing to fear. Ottawa Senators Jerseys . On Wednesday, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas hit back. In a passionate defence of himself and the London clubs medical staff, the Portuguese coach rebuked the "incompetent people" who have attacked Tottenham for allowing Lloris to continue playing after being briefly knocked unconscious against Everton on Sunday. Custom Ottawa Senators Jerseys . Wheeler scored two goals, including the winner, as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 6-4 on Friday in a game that featured a seven-goal first period.Several historical obstacles stand in the way of the Cincinnati Bengals ahead of their key matchup against the Denver Broncos. They havent won in primetime, cant seem to beat the Broncos and are winless against Peyton Manning. Should the Bengals reverse those trends when they host Denver tonight, they will clinch their fourth consecutive postseason berth. You can watch the game live on TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 and TSN GO at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt. Cincinnati (9-4-1) is coming off its strongest overall performance after cruising to a 30-0 drubbing of Cleveland on Sunday. Jeremy Hill picked up AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense forced rookie Johnny Manziel into two interceptions and just 80 passing yards. Now the focus switches to a much more tenured quarterback. Its going to be a big shift, safe to say, coach Marvin Lewis said of facing Manning. Its a challenge. He gets everyones attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field - its going to be a great challenge for us. Its what its supposed to be in December, just like this. Manning is 8-0 in his career against the Bengals, most recently completing 27 of 35 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-23 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 4, 2012. That victory was the latest in a long line of dominance for Denver in the series - even without Manning at the helm. The Broncos beat Cincinnati in Andy Daltons second career start in 2011 after needing a last-minute, tip-drill 87-yard touchdown pass to move past the Bengals in 2009. Denver has won 13 of the last 15 meetings with Cincinnati. We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January, Lewis said. Its been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks, since Halloween. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. Thats the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart. Denver (11-3) has already punched its ticket to the postseason, but a first-round bye and home-field advantage remain at stake. The Broncos can clinch the bye with a win, but would need to jump New England (11-3) in the standings for the AFCs top seed. They beat San Diego 22-10 on Sunday to secure their fourth consecutive AFC West championship.dddddddddddd Its our goal every year. Everybodys hope and dream before the season is youll be hoisting that championship trophy, coach John Fox said. We got close last year and came up short ... Obviously, (the AFC West title) is a great accomplishment, but we still have more season left. Despite having Manning under center, the Broncos have won four straight behind a well-established run game. Since falling in St. Louis on Nov. 16, Denver has rushed for 164.8 yards per game, including a 111-yard effort against the Chargers. Manning rebounded from his first zero-touchdown performance with Denver in a win over Buffalo on Dec. 7, completing 14 of 20 attempts for 233 yards and a TD while playing through an illness. He expects to be fully healthy against the Bengals, whom he has torched for 20 touchdowns in his career while throwing just five interceptions. Cincinnatis run-heavy offense will face a stout challenge from Denver, which ranks among league leaders with 71.6 rushing yards allowed per game. Led by Hill and Giovanni Bernard, the rushing attack has amassed 145.3 yards per game and six TDs since Week 12. Denver has been less imposing against the pass but made sure to lock down top cover corner Chris Harris Jr., signing the fourth-year player to a five-year, $42.5 million extension last week. Hell be rewarded with a matchup against A.J. Green and a Bengals passing attack that has failed to top 300 yards in eight of the last nine games. We know these next two games are going to be big, said Dalton, whose 82.9 rating ranks 16th of 20 NFL quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts. The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning ... We know what we are facing. They are really important. Cincinnati has been blown out twice in primetime this season, losing 43-17 at New England in a Sunday night game Oct. 5 and 24-3 to the Browns on Thursday night Nov. 6. Denvers primetime results have been quite the opposite. The Broncos are 4-0 in night games this season, most recently defeating Kansas City 29-16 on Nov. 30. The Broncos and Bengals last met with postseason implications on Christmas Eve 2006. Trailing by seven with under a minute remaining, Carson Palmer threw a 10-yard TD pass to trim it to 24-23, but the snap was botched on the extra-point attempt and Cincinnati ultimately missed the playoffs by one game. 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