TORONTO – Danny Koevermans never expected to play in a baseball stadium – let alone one with a retractable roof.
The Toronto FC striker will do both on Wednesday when his side play MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals at a sold-out Rogers Centre (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
The stadium is usually the home of baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and is being used for the match instead of BMO Field. So by no means is it a usual setting for the former Dutch international.
“No, but for Wednesday, it’s not a baseball stadium," Koevermans told MLSsoccer.com last week before the team left training in Orlando, "it is a soccer stadium. I’ve heard they’ve sold out. It’s nice. I’m looking forward to it.”
TFC hope that a big game before a big crowd can help them open their season with some momentum. But the covered venue also means artificial turf, which means further adjustments.
“I think everyone would say it’s not their favorite to play on, we’d rather play on grass all the time,” center back Ty Harden said. “But it’s tradeoffs, right?”
Harden, a former Galaxy player, said the crowd can help the Reds.
“I think it just shows how unique the game is for us and how big of a game it is for the club and the fans,” he said. “I think definitely playing in front of 45,000 or 50,000 is a little bit of added something. When the crowd’s into it, you can feel the energy in the place, and that energy it translates to players and you can feel it.”
But it is just the beginning of a long season.
“First of all, we want to be the first Toronto FC side to make the playoffsl,” Harden said. “That’s our top goal. But going to the semifinals of the Champions League, there’s a lot to play for and a lot to be excited about.”
Toronto fans need a lift
Koevermans showed that he's a fast learner by noting the sad state of Toronto sports teams.
“I heard the Leafs are out of a playoff spot, the Raptors are not doing so well and the Blue Jays are always in the same league with Boston, New York and Tampa Bay, so it’s hard,” he said. “I’m hoping for 2012 that Toronto is soccer city, so we can make good things happen, especially in the league.”