I choose my hotels strategically, and this year when booking my trip to the Carolina Challenge Cup I made a conscious decision to stay in a hotel far away from TFC's.
While they're staying someplace in North Charleston, near the practice field at Charleston Southern University, I'm at the Hampton Inn on Daniel Island.
Selected this place for three reasons.
1. It's right next to Blackbaud Stadium, where the tournament is taking place. Well, not right next door. It's close enough to make driving there pointless, but far enough away to make walking inconvenient. For the record, I drive.
2. Every day at 5 p.m. they have cookies in the lobby. Fresh cookies. Still-warm cookies with chocolate chips still melting. That's hospitality.
3. Random conversations with guys from other teams. Yes, the Star's MLS coverage is TFC-centric by necessity, but you can't really understand a league until you know more about everyone in it. Last year the Houston Dynamo stayed here, and I shared interviews and small talk with guys like Dwayne De Rosario, Ricardo Clark and Dominic Kinnear.
This year it's San Jose, and earlier this afternoon as I sat in the lounge trying to get some work done, I had a short conversation with former TFC midfielder Ronnie O'Brien.
He asked me why I chose this hotel when TFC was staying across town. I explained to him about the cookies.
I asked how his knee was holding up, and he said it was fine now that he was practicing on grass every day. I hate to re-ignite the turf debate, but Ronnie offered the most honest and nuanced opinion on it I've heard yet.
He says the BMO turf contributed to his chronic knee problems, but didn't fault the team or the city for installing the fake grass. He was much more pragmatic. Artificial surface allows the city to make money off the stadium year round and he wouldn't begrudge them a revenue source, especially when the alternative is not to have a stadium at all.
As for the surface itself, he wasn't as ardently anti-turf as I thought he would be. In fact, he said he's got no problem playing on it -- occasionally. But he said training on it every day wore on his knees, prompting him to seek a trade.
And leaving Toronto without a proven playmaker.
Unless Amado Guevara actually does come to town.
Mo Johnston's not talking about it. I'll see if my other sources know anything.
-- Morgan Campbell