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Esky Says Hello

Greetings from Toronto, a fun, sophisticated, beautiful and diverse city -- one of my favorites (except for the traffic). MLS made a wise decision coming here.

Attended Toronto FC's training session this morning at the new BMO Field. Very nice place on the shores of Lake Ontario about a mile west of city center. It will be rowdy Saturday. Be sure to read my feature story on the club and its supporters in Saturday's editions.

As for Alecko Eskandarian, he says he misses D.C. (and D.C. United) but is loving his time up here. He was living in a hotel for a long time, but then moved into an apartment a block or two from Skydome (now known as Rogers Centre). Until his furniture finally arrived this week, he was sleeping on an air mattress.

Keep reading below for more of his thoughts.....

On facing DCU for the first time: "I can't wait. It's going to be really weird going up against guys I've been playing with the last four years. I'm sure there will be some laughs, but it's going to be fun. I'm definitely excited for it. They are in a tough spot right now being in last place, and we are just a new team trying to get our feet wet and on a bit of a roll, so it should be interesting."

On text-messaging with Soehn: "He text-messaged me the other day when I missed the game [with a calf injury]. He called me a wuss. He tore his calf last year so I had given him a lot of grief. I told him even if I had a broken leg, I'd be playing against D.C. He didn't text me back after that."

On being traded: "Shock. It was definitely unexpected. No one ever spoke to me about it or hinted about it. I was very comfortable there and got along with the coaches and players. I guess it was a business decision that happens, and you just have to take it and move on."

On D.C. and Toronto: "Soccer wise, the fans in D.C., I always thought they were the best in MLS but being here, I'd have to say, hands down, we have the best fans and the best support. But I have nothing but fond memories of the fans in D.C. and actually still keep in touch with them. City wise, Toronto is a lot bigger than I thought it was, so D.C. is definitely smaller."

On wanting to prove something Saturday: "For me personally, I haven't scored yet this season, so I have to prove to myself I can score some goals and help my team and do my job. And obviously, you want to show the team that got rid of you that they made a mistake."

On the soccer culture in Toronto: " We were on the front page of the paper the other day. In no American city would soccer ever be on the front of the paper. [Um, sorry, but you're wrong, Alecko! Sincerely, Soccer Insider] It doesn't matter if they won the championship, it's never the front page cover, but over here it is and people care about it. Just walking down the street, the fans are into it. They are just genuinely excited and behind us. ...
Where I'm from in New Jersey, it's a melting pot of cultures, but everyone here unites. In Jersey, we're united to boos at the MetroStars or whatever."

On D.C. this season: "I think they are still a good team. In most of the games, they've actually outplayed the opposition and just been unlucky not to score or had a couple defensive miscues, but that's normal. We had that here in Toronto as well - games where we thought we had done well and all of a sudden we lose a game. They're still a very solid team. There's no way I would write them off. I think they will be fine."

On what happened to DCU last year: "A lot of people said we were overworked and it showed at the end of the year, but I don't think so at all. We had some injuries, we had an X on our backs because we started so well and teams started playing us differently, tried to get an early goal and then sat back defensively. I thought the New England game [in the East final] was one of the best of the year and that's how it goes."

On Toronto's fatigue of playing a third game in a week: "I'm sure there'll be some heavy legs after a tough game against Chicago and in the rain Wednesday, but I don't think it will be a problem. We're going to come out the same way and play our game and hopefully get them back on their heels and have them worry about us and our fans."

By Steve Goff  |  May 18, 2007; 5:09 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Northern Exposure
Next: Matchday 6: DCU at TFC


Esky who?

Posted by: Rocko | May 18, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

His comments on the fan support are interesting. Atmosphere is everything though, and 20000 in BMO is going to be better than 25000 in RFK.

The classic example of 20 people in a 20 seat cafe versus 20 people in a 80 seat restaurant.

Posted by: CPRoyale | May 18, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Calf injuries are not fun. Playing 3 games in 1 week, one of those games in the rain and cold, and playing/training on the new turf grass could make that injury linger longer than he would like.

Posted by: TorontoFCFan | May 18, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

i really believe that esky still has some black and red in him. he loves the fans in DC. we all know that. but he can't go spouting that and saying that toronto fans are lesser than us. personally, when toronto comes to town, i will applaud esky. a classy guy.

Posted by: antonio | May 18, 2007 8:01 PM | Report abuse

DC United organization and fans have truly lost a class player in Esky and the people of Toronto have embraced him whole heartedly. He is without a doubt, hard working with a never giveup attitude.

After a miserable start to this inaugural season, he kept the players and fans spirits high and we appreciate that. Taken from one of the Usector's chants, a segment of the chant says this; 'YOU MEAN EVERYTHING!!' ain't that the truth.


Posted by: Franky | May 18, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Esky. He is so real and available. His pieces on and these comments here show he is truly genuine.

Now only if he could find the back of the net for Toronto. It will come, but at the moment he isn't producing. Mo and TFC has shown they have a short leash with players and have strong connections to improve the team. Esky better watch out or he will be out of a team soon.

I hope he scores soon and often. He was their best forward first 3 games of the season, but forwards are paid to score goals... not come close.

Cheers Esky and cheers to Goff!

Posted by: Stone | May 18, 2007 8:52 PM | Report abuse

He's dead to me...

Posted by: SoyManya! | May 18, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

...until they give up on him at TFC and he returns, that is! ;-)

Posted by: SoyManya! | May 18, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

From the looks of it, are Toronto fans suddenly turning to the Insider much like Cowboys fans to that blatantly ripped off Redskin-themed Insider Wannabe?

Posted by: James | May 18, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I bet Esky can't wait to finally go up against Erpen. At least he'll get his first goal of the seasion.

When is the last regular season game RFK had 25K fans?

I think the last time DCU had over 25K for a regular season game was when we had 30,413 against Columbus in 2002, which was a double header with the US vs Uruguay

Posted by: Southeasterner | May 18, 2007 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Et tu Esky?

Posted by: Eric | May 18, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

props to TFC fans - they're the real deal. great article goff. some say "they're new, of course they have support" but (as much as it pains me to say this) they're the real deal and have the best support in the league.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I just google mapped the stadium -- it looks like a fantastic location. Better than Frisco TX or any other suburban stadium, that's for sure.

Posted by: RK | May 19, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I am surprised that FIFA would sign off on artificial turf, even of the highest quality, for a world championship, even a U-20 championship.

Posted by: Go Penn State! | May 19, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else out there find it odd that after 3 home games it's just assumed that Toronto's fans are the best? Is a 3 game sample just as good as 11+ seasons? Do any statisticians read the Insider?

I also think that some fans are being taken for granted. If we have a great crowd at RFK, or if Section 8 chants all game in Chicago, etc., it's expected.

Toronto has had fantastic crowds thus far. It's great for the league. However, let's see where they are if they finish the season with a record like RSL and Chivas had their first year, or how they draw when the Leafs start up at the end of the MLS season. Sometimes it helps to be patient before coming to a conclusion.

Personally, I hope they continue to be this impressive, and that in turn serves as a motivator to the other MLS cities to get louder. Here in DC, we should get hungry to make people talk about us like they used to.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | May 19, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I believe FIFA has signed off on artifical turf for all matches---US played a qualifier against Costa Rica on one down there if I recall correctly.

""I am surprised that FIFA would sign off on artificial turf, even of the highest quality, for a world championship, even a U-20 championship.""

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"I think the last time DCU had over 25K for a regular season game was when we had 30,413 against Columbus in 2002, which was a double header with the US vs Uruguay"

Although it wasn't a regular-season game, DCU v. Chivas de Guadalajara ar RFK a couple months ago had something like 26K-plus, right?

Posted by: Juan-John | May 19, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we had 26k for Chivas, but that was because all the Chivas fans came out- DC has an awesome fanbase but our numbers aren't actually that impressive (MLS wise DC has good numbers of course, and I think having our own stadium with a more limited ticket supply could make all the difference between a 17k average and a 22k+ average).

Posted by: Ricky B | May 19, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Stop knocking the TFC fans. They are hands down the best. Sure its 3 games, but when did DC ever sell 14K season tickets and then have to cut them off?

Plus the scene after the first goal when people started throwing seat cushions was one of the coolest things to ever happen in MLS (and dont even try to say that was some unruly act, it was fans celebrating the goal in style).

Watching the game the Houston - TFC on tv you could tell how much Toronto wanted to hold on to the win for their fans. I really think it made a difference. No subs were seated on the bench the last 20 minutes. Everyone was standing up trying to will the team to victory.

Posted by: srfinger | May 20, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Man I miss Esky. Kasper will live to regret the move. I know I am still pissed.

Posted by: Duke | May 20, 2007 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Not that I expect many will be reading this far down in the Goff Archive, but I was part of the United support that traveled to TO for this game and thought I'd share.

Toronto: Great city. Really.
Field: No covers over the stands, but the stands were packed. I'd take that at Poplar Point each and every game day.
Crowd: There's definitely a buzz about the team that is bringing the casual fan down to take part in the atmosphere. Four vignettes:

1. Catching the trolley on King West to Bathurst to BMO Field, 15+ United supporters joined by groups and clots of red-clad TFC supporters. Nice energy. The trolley rolls past a pub massed with red jerseys and a big Usection banner and we all look at each other and grin. (Since the stadium's downtown, the "tailgating" seems to be pub-based.)

2. While at will-call getting our tickets, a fellow (South Asian, mid forties, solo) walks up to by a ticket to the game. He's told they're sold out for today. He hesitates, turns away, and then turns back. "How much are season tickets?" he asks, and the ticket rep starts telling him about four-game packages while the fellow reaches for his credit card.

3. La Norte, Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles all gather in Section 104, middle of the section with TFC above and below. (The TFC ticket rep working with the groups was persuaded that consolidating the supporters was probably a good idea.) I'm in the last row, and two guys behind us strike up a conversation with my wife and me about our team and it's history, MLS and it's history, the DC area, (they were surprised that citizens of Washington don't have representation in Congress) and soccer in general. They were proud of their Italian heritage (recounting the scene in Little Italy when the Italians took the World Cup), proud of their city, and realistic about their young team while wanting to support soccer in Toronto. They were knowledgeable about the game, and though fuzzy on the specifics of MLS, quite pleased to be sitting behind the away supporters on a lovely day for soccer. (Aside: When some of the DC Supporters started up a "Fifty-first State!" chant, they countered with "We've got health care! We've got health care!" Actual citizens of the District managed to squash repetition of the "51st State" chant. When United tied it up, they were amused and chagrined with the "You only sing when you're winning!" chant. Hands were shaken all around after the game.)

4. After having some post-came roast corn (!) and catching the start of the reserve match, my wife and I strolled out to catch the trolley back to the Financial District where our hotel was. A couple stopped us to ask if we'd come all the way from DC for the game and were impressed with our (admittedly small) traveling support. It became clear that this was an entertainment event for them; the fellow was in a generic blue adidas shirt, and the lady, though sporting a TFC scarf, admitted that she knew nothing about soccer, but wanted to see what it was all about. And though it was obvious that they had enjoyed their share of 26 oz. beer, it was equally obvious that they'd be back.

There are other stories to tell, but I'll end here. (After all, I'm no blogger.) All-in-all, a great trip. MLS is well served with expanding to Toronto, and I hope the energy stays high through this first rough year, into hockey season and into the next decade.

Posted by: Stevan | May 21, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

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