After a couple weeks out of the country and a couple days working for the news department I'm back in the office and back on the.... well, not on the grind because I like my job and the preseason's the easy part for me. Last year the grind didn't set in for me until mid August, around the time I published my 845th consecutive "TFC can't score but those fans sure are wild" story.
So a quick web search this afternoon brings me this story about 36-year-old Portuguese striker Joao Pinto. I found it interesting, given that everything I'd read during my time off said he and the team weren't close to a deal. And most stories suggested strongly that Pinto wanted more cash than TFC was willing to pay. Nobody specified it but I'm betting he wanted DP money.
Faced with this conflicting information I did what a good reporter does. I phoned the team.
They said Pinto not only hasn't been offered a contract, but is still under contract to SC Braga in Portugal.
Useful info, but it doesn't necessarily mean he won't show up at BMO Field this week. I've learned to be very specific with semantics and verb tenses in situations like this because I've been burned before.
I covered the Argos the year they signed Ricky Williams, and though I wasn't there that Saturday in Regina night when he broke his arm, I had the task of following up with the team the next week. My mission: to confirm or deny rumours that he was scheduled to have surgery on the broken limb.
So I called the team's head media relations honcho, who was emphatic in telling me that Ricky was NOT going to have surgery on his broken arm later that day. No way, she said. Wasn't going to happen.
Cool, I thought. Rumour was just a rumour.
An hour later a press release appears in my inbox telling me Williams had surgery on his broken arm the previous night.
Can't even fault the media relations honcho. She answered the question as I asked it and since it wasn't in her interest to volunteer extra info, she chose not to do it.
When a TFC staffer tells me Pinto's not under contract I take it into consideration, but with the Argos experience in my mind I know I need to ask a specific question if I want a specific answer.
So I ask if he'll be at practice tomorrow, and this is when the staffer tells me its highly unlikely given that he still has a contract and that as far as she knows TFC hasn't made any moves to buy him out.
And that's where it stands right now. If you're a Joao Pinto fan and you're eager to see him play you better be willing to spring for the LIGA channel on Rogers digital cable (I think it's channel 425).
And if you're a TFC fan that likes seeing good young talent, you should be relieved this deal appears to have collapsed.
Speaking of young talent, anybody else see the si.com article on Maurice Edu?
It uses his experience with TFC as a starting point but focuses on his future with the US national team, which isn't surprising since the story originally ran in Soccer America magazine.
This is a big, big story. Three pages online, front and centre on SI.com's soccer page. Looks like U.S. soccer media are finally figuring out what Toronto writers learned roughly 30 seconds into Edu's first start:
The guy is very, very good.
TFC fans, enjoy him while you can. Only he knows when he'll graduate to the true Major Leagues of soccer (sorry MLS, but lets be real...this is Triple A ball), but at this point I can't see it not happening.
But we can look at this optimistically.
Edu will play a huge role for the U.S. team in Beijing this August, giving Canadian fans someone to cheer for in the Olympic tournament. No offense to team Canada, but they published their Olympic team player pool last week and I noticed many of the guys listed were the same ones who populated the squad that finished dead last in the U-20 World Cup last summer. Can't say I like their chances against CONCACAF's best U-23s, let alone the world's.
Not saying Canada has no chance. After all, qualifying doesn't even start until next month. I'm just saying that every time I look into my crystal ball (all sports writers keep one stashed under their desks, next to the whiskey) the only way I see a soccer medal coming back to Canada is around Edu's neck.
-- Morgan Campbell