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Nov 7, 2012 10:16pm
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. Reggie Wayne Jersey . —Paul Mariners tenure
as manager of the beleaguered Toronto FC didnt begin under the best of
conditions. The team had less than a weeks time to adjust to a new boss and
offensive formation before setting down for Saturdays game at Livestrong
Sporting Park, where Sporting Kansas City has one of the best home records in
MLS this season. All that proved too much for Toronto, which fell 2-0 and
suffered its league-high 10th loss of the season. C.J. Sapong and Julio Cesar
scored goals for Sporting KC in the first half in front of a packed and
boisterous crowd of 20,488. “We worked on a lot of stuff this week,” said
Mariner, who took over for Aron Winter as Toronto FC manager earlier in the week
and immediately shifted the teams offensive formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2.
“I thought the team showed tremendous strength of character in the second half.
The second half was excellent.” True, Toronto played the equal, or even better,
than Sporting KC over the final 45 minutes. But by then, it had already spotted
the home team two goals. From the opening kickoff, Sporting KC imposed its will
offensively and put the Toronto FC defence on its heels. Keeping especially busy
was defender Doneil Henry, who was able to clear away several Sporting crosses
into the Toronto penalty area early. It was a clearance Henry missed, however,
that ended with Sporting taking a lead it wouldnt relinquish. Sporting KC
newcomer Jacob Peterson, who joined the club in the off-season, fired a hard
cross from the right side across the penalty area. Henry was waiting, but his
attempt at getting a piece of the ball missed, and Sapong buried a shot past
goalkeeper Milos Kocic for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Toronto
was without a shot until the 30th minute, when midfielder Eric Avila took a
high-arching pass from Torsten Frings near midfield, got behind the Sporting
defence and keeper Jimmy Nielsen. But Avilas shot toward an open net caromed off
the left post straight across the goal mouth and off the right post before being
cleared by KC defender Aurelien Collin. Its just been that kind of season thus
far for Toronto, 1-10-0 and in last in the Eastern Conference. “Ive hit one
post, but never two,” Avila said. “Seeing it hit one post, I thought it was in.
It was heartbreaking. If it goes in, its 1-1, and who knows what happens.” Five
minutes later, Torontos fortunes turned even worse when a corner kick from
Sportings Graham Zusi found the foot of Cesar at the far post. Kocic had no
chance at the save as Cesars bullet shot found the upper-right corner. Toronto
had its best scoring chance in the 70th minute when Luis Silva, a second-half
sub, threaded a beautiful pass through to a breaking Danny Koevermans, who was
looking for a goal for the third straight MLS game. But Nielsen got his left
foot on Koevermans shot, knocking the ball harmlessly over the endline. “We came
into a tremendous venue against a great team, give up two goals in the first
half … . We couldve put our heads down,” Mariner said. “Im very proud of our
staff and very proud of the players. If we play like we did that second half,
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time for the Pistons, who had lost six of seven to fall into a tie with Chicago
for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.LONDON – AC/DC,
Led Zeppelin and the Beach Boys blared Tuesday as Canadians hit the sand to
train in what will likely become one of the London 2012 Olympics Games most
iconic venues. The beach volleyball venue is set in the shadow of the Horse
Guard Parade, a site that dates back to 1745 and takes its name from the
soldiers who have provided protection for the monarch since 1660. It is perhaps
best known for the annual Trooping of the Colour event that takes place on the
Queens birthday. But for 13 days starting Saturday, it will be a rock n roll
sandbox filled with athletic beefcake and hard-bodied women in itsy-bitsy
bikinis. Its a sport that is the antithesis of golf — fans are encouraged to
rock out. The beach party takes place in an intimate, temporary stadium that
seats 15,000 and wraps around a court stocked with some 5,000 tonnes of sand
brought from a quarry in Godstone, Surrey. “Its amazing,” said Marie-Andree
Lessard, sporting a huge grin. “Its so vibrant. The sands beautiful. The colours
awesome. The site is of utmost beauty and of great historic value as well. So I
think were very grateful and happy to be playing here. “Beautiful venue,” added
Martin Reader. “Amazing place in London.” The venue is sure to become one of the
television images of the Games, especially from high in the stand that faces the
Horse Guard Parade building. But the entire site is packed with history.
Surrounding buildings include the Old Admiralty Building, Household Cavalry
Museum, Scotland Office and St. Jamess Park and the Guards Memorial. The Duke of
Wellington was based in Horse Guards when he was in charge of the British army.
And judging from the automatic weapon held by a police officer at the gate of
one of the surrounding buildings, there are still some important people around.
Pairing such history with the rock n roll sport of beach volleyball is a neat
twist. A stones throw from the sandy court where Lessard and partner Annie
Martin went through a training session under the sun in bikinis, a member of the
Horse Guards stood guard outside the venue in full uniform and traditional
silver helmet. The women admit they have been spoiled for volleyball venues.
Lessard, from Ville LaSalle, Que., notes they have played in front of Il Duomo,
Milans famed cathedral, on the Champs-Elysee in Paris and at the Olympic Stadium
in Rome. “We have been very, very fortunate in the venues that weve played on,”
she said. “Some have not been as great,” she added. “But the ones I named are a
few to feel grateful when you are on court, whether its going good or bad, youre
like Oh my God, what a great life I have.” Both teams are enjoying Londons
current sun and heat but packed for all conditions. “Everythings still tight,”
Lessard said reassuringly of the cold-weather gear. “We have a lot of gear for
cold weather — long sleeves, long pants. ... But from the moment we got here, we
havent seen a drop of rain.” That means they can wear their traditional gear,
which could be stowed in a glasses case with room to spare. Reader, six foot
seven of lean surfer dude muscle from Comox, B..dddddddddddd., is trying to put
the surroundings and conditions out of mind. “It really doesnt matter where we
play,” he said. “We just have to play the best possible, whether its in front of
15,000 people or back home on Ashbridges Beach (on Toronto). Its still the same
for us.” Both the Canadian men and women open on the weekend against host
Britain. “Its going to be loud,” said Reader. “Its not like we havent been in a
hostile environment,” added partner Josh Binstock of Toronto. The Canadian men
had to win in Mexico to get Canada a London 2012 Olympic spot. “There were a few
thousand Mexicans fans yelling not the nicest things at us,” said Binstock. “But
we relish that. I love playing the spoiler, I love being the bad guy. Of course,
I love being supported and loved but either way its fun having that pressure on
us.” After Mexico, the duo had to defeat a rival pair to book their ticket to
London 2012. Given that happened July 14 for both pairs, it made for a whirlwind
week before the men headed to Austria to refocus on the London 2012 Games.
“Literally the moment after we won, we were just getting pulled (from all
sides),” said Binstock. “And that lasted for the whole week. I dont remember
just sitting down and enjoying a meal the whole week.” The Canadian men are
selling London Calling beach towels to raise funds for their volleyball
campaign. “A lot of people are buying towels and showing their support, so its
really motivating and inspiring for us,” said Binstock. Lessard is also no
stranger to helping pay the bills. She won the $50,000 first prize in the Quebec
TV reality show “Defie des Champions,” which features top athletes doing Cirque
du Soleil-like performances. Lessard performed a double trapeze act. She plowed
the winnings back into her sport. “This prize is going to help me get to the
Olympics,” she said at the time. Martin, from Sherbooke, Que., is the only one
of the four with Olympic experience. She was fifth at the Athens 2004 Games.
Canadas lone beach volleyball medal at the Games came in 1996, when John Child
and Mark Heese won a bronze in the inaugural Olympic tournament at Atlanta 1996.
The Olympic playing field is a level one for the Canadians, who benefit from the
fact that powerhouse countries like Brazil can only enter two teams in each of
the mens and womens draws. Binstock and Reader are in Pool F with John-Garcia
Thompson and Steven Grotowski of Britain (ranked 41st on the World Tour), Pedro
Cunha and Ricardo Santos of Brazil (No. 3) and Tarjei Skarlund and Martin
Spinnangr of Norway (No. 20). The Canadians are ranked 41st on the circuit. The
52nd-ranked Lessard and Martin are in Pool F as well with Zara Dampney and
Shauna Mullin of Britain (No. 46), Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti of Italy
(No. 5) and Ekaterina Khomyakova and Evgenia Ukolova of Russia (No. 30). The top
two in each group advance to the knockout first round stage along with the two
best third-place teams. The remaining four third-place teams will then play off
to see which pairs fill the final two places in the first round. ’ ’ ’ 

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