TORONTO – At a certain point, Tosaint Ricketts was playing for IOUs.
That’s Turkey, Ricketts said after joining the Reds this week.
“They never pay on time,” the Canadian international explained. “It’s rare to find a (Turkish) club that will pay you each month at the end of the month on time. It’s very rare.
“But, it’s an unwritten rule that, OK, they’ll be late — maybe one or two months behind, which is OK — but they’ll pay in the end.”
Not Boluspor. The Turkish second division side owes Ricketts three months pay, leading the Edmonton native finally to sever ties a few months ago.
“Some clubs just don’t pay, especially if things go bad,” Ricketts continued. “I don’t know what happened. They had debts from last year and the entire team were behind two months of salary.
“I took it as an opportunity to leave. The conditions were terrible. I wasn’t being paid on time. I wasn’t happy. I filed my paperwork with FIFA and Boluspor had a chance to pay everything or let me go and deal with it later.”
It was the 28-year-old’s own, uh, coup. Ricketts lawyered up and filed paperwork with FIFA. Boluspor had seven days to make a full payment, but didn’t.
So, Ricketts packed up for Canada and eventually joined Toronto FC in early March to keep fit and potentially hammer out a deal.
But without his International Transfer Certificate, which was held in Turkey and only arrived over the Internet Thursday, he couldn’t officially sign until this week.
“Supposedly, (Boluspor) were out to hurt me and prevent me from playing,” Ricketts said. “That’s what I heard. But, I think they were just trying to delay the time they’d have to pay me.”
In the meantime, Ricketts settled in at the Kia Training Ground, where he’s been training with Toronto FC for months.
He remained patient, saying he was just happy to be out of Turkey.
“Toronto FC has been great with me,” Ricketts reiterated. “From the first day they had people staying after and working with me. I’m fully grateful for this club. They did a lot of help me. I don’t know what other Canadian teams would have done that for me.”
With Jozy Altidore likely returning against D.C. United this weekend, Ricketts will provide a certain element off the bench.
Manager Greg Vanney lauded his speed, handwork and aerial abilities following Thursday’s training, which saw Ricketts mostly feature with the second team.
“He’s able to get behind people,” Vanney said. “He’s hard-working and diligent. He listens, working with the team tactically. He’s a danger in the air and has great jumping ability. He’s another guy who can be dangerous.
“A lot of what we’re doing is two-forward system type of stuff,” Vanney added. “He’ll rotate in as needed. When his skill set matches what we need for the day or the moment, he’ll rotate in.”
With key World Cup qualifiers looming in September, Ricketts is just happy to be settled.
A regular paycheque is one benefit. Stable conditions are another.
“It’s hard to be consistent and be successful every game when you’re thinking about wages and rent and whether the club will go down,” Ricketts said of leaving Turkey. “You come here every day and your conditions are prime.
“It’s the best I’ve seen. You don’t have to worry about anything. I haven’t had many consistent clubs, where the conditions are consistent. Everyone has been great. That’s what I need as a player. It translates into games.”
It’s unclear if he’ll play a role this weekend.
Jordan Hamilton is once against expected to start up front alongside Sebastian Giovinco and Altidore will undoubtedly see time off the bench.
But considering TFC’s array of injuries, Ricketts could still be an option.
“They haven’t named this weekend’s team,” Ricketts told the Sun, “but I’m ready.”
He’s had an ample amount of time to think about it.
BONO STARTS IN NET?
Rookie netminder Alex Bono appears poised to keep his spot between the pipes when Toronto FC opens a four-game homestead against D.C. United this weekend.
The 22-year-old first-round draft pick — as TFC coach Greg Vanney said Friday — “owned” a second-half gaffe that saw the Reds fall to nine-man San Jose last Saturday.
As of Thursday, though, all signs point to Bono retaining his starting spot with everyday No. 1 Clint Irwin still sidelined with a quadriceps injury.
“He has put it behind him and is moving on,” Vanney said of his young ‘keeper. “His presence behind the line has been good (in training). He has bounced back the way you’d hope he would.
“I’ve played with goalkeepers who have made much bigger gaffes than that in much bigger games and have bounced back. That’s what you want to see. Things will happen. It’s how you respond to it.
“He has been fine this week. We’ll make our selection over the next couple of days. He owned it. He owned the moment. I think that’s important as well.”
In five appearances this season, Bono has one clean sheet and has conceded six goals en route to a 1-2-2 record.
A certain faction of supporters have called on Vanney to bench Bono in favour of homegrown product Quillan Roberts, who despite being in his fifth season has yet to play a minute of MLS action.
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”
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