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Scope forges Toronto links

Bermuda Hogges are hoping to forge links with Major League Soccer (MLS) side Toronto FC as part of a mutually beneficial agreement.

Hogges co-owner Paul Scope met with the club's hierarchy in Orlando, US, last week where the Canadian professional team have been holding a pre-season training camp.

Scope was encouraged by the talks and said Toronto's new coach, Aron Winter, and star player, Dwayne De Rosario would visit the Island in the summer to access the standard of the Hogges players.

“I've had some discussions with Toronto FC which have been productive,” said Scope yesterday. “Their coaches are going to come and watch some Hogges games to access the level. Hopefully we can get two or three players up to Toronto for trials. De Rosario is also very keen himself to come down and work with our kids as that's what he does in Toronto.”

Toronto's director of player development, Paul Mariner, is a close friend of Scope's and regularly visits Bermuda.

Last season the former England striker watched two Hogges games and invited goalkeeper Freddy Hall for Plymouth Argyle tryouts after being impressed with his performances.

Scope said Mariner, an ex-Plymouth head coach, had already spoken to Winter about the raw talent on the Island and believed Toronto could be an ideal “big brother” for the Hogges.

“Paul's always recognised that Bermuda has plenty of potential. He came to a few of Hogges' games last season and spotted Nahki Wells and Freddy Hall,” Scope said.

“Toronto want to copy the Ajax model and bring the academy down to a younger age, so there could be plenty of opportunities for young Bermuda players. Maybe (Toronto) could even help get some of Bermuda's young players into colleges that they're linked with.”

Scope hinted that the Hogges could sprinkle their squad with greater experience this season in an effort to help prepare the senior national team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

However, he stressed the bulk of last year's players would still form the backbone of the Hogges roster, with Scope wanting the franchise to continue being a “shop window” for Bermuda's brightest talent.

“Maybe we can go a little bit older this season. Last year we were preparing players for the under-20 World Cup qualifiers whereas now we're building up to the World Cup qualifiers,” said the former national team assistant coach.

“We haven't yet decided who will do the coaching and that's all to do with our ongoing negotiations with the Bermuda Football Association. If I had a say in it, I feel we should go older than last season's team and hopefully that would make us more competitive. We still want to take the bulk of the guys that played last year and sprinkle it with a bit of experience. We want some continuity.”

Last season saw the Hogges switch to the Premier Development League as part of a partnership with the BFA to help prepare their under-20 players for international competitions.

But with the BFA having their annual grant slashed from $1million to $750,000 in last week's Government budget, it remains unclear whether they will continue to provide financial support for the Hogges as part of that agreement.

Scope, however, remains optimistic. “I've not written off the BFA's help. They can help in lots of ways both financially and logistically,” he said. “We're having upcoming meetings and I know they've had their grant cut but we've got the Hogges down to a manageable budget now.

“For 16 competitive games it's a relative bargain when compared to arranging internationally friendlies, so the BFA have to look at what they would do without the Hogges.”

Hogges kick off the new season with a trio of home games at BAA Field. Up first will be a match against Reading United on May 27, followed by a visit from New Jersey Rangers two days later before facing Ocean City Northeasters on June 4.

Hogges, who finished bottom of the Eastern Conference last season, then embark on a road trip on June 8 when they will play four matches in seven days, against Westchester Flames, Brooklyn Knights, Jersey Express and Long Island Rough Riders.

Scope added: “The most exciting thing for me is that we have eight different opponents coming to Bermuda. Last season we played four teams twice and it will be good for the fans to see some different teams.

“It will be more difficult for us because we will be playing against fresh teams whereas before everybody had the same amount of rest. That's fine, it will be a test for us.”

n www.uslsoccer.com and www.torontofc.ca

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Published March 03, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 03, 2011 at 8:24 am)

Scope forges Toronto links

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