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Big occasion for Ontario's own
by Ridge Mahoney, July 25th, 2008 7AM



The packed house of 20,844 at BMO Field for the MLS All-Star Game caused some consternation before kickoff when large sections booed and whistled during the U.S. national anthem, which followed hundreds of West Ham fans singing along lustily along to "God Save the Queen." Many fans apparently believed the Canadian national anthem wouldn't be played, but of course it was.

After both teams filed onto the field and a large Canadian flag had been unfurled, red-hatted Mounties saluted and the entire crowd sang along with Queen's Own Rifle 2nd Lt. Scott Mewlands to "Oh, Canada." That set the mood for a spirited beginning; it took the All-Stars some time to get in sync, yet they started with a quick tempo that forced West Ham into errors and turnovers.

The crowd celebrated the goals by Christian Gomez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, yet early in the second half began chanting "We Want Brennan," and were rewarded when Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan began warming up. All-Stars coach Steve Nicol said prior to the game he make his starting lineup and substitution selections based on competitive criteria, yet with a sense of drama as well as tactical acumen he sent on Brennan and DeRosario - both from the Ontario province -- to a tremendous ovation in the 62nd minute.

Five minutes after they came on, Dean Ashton tied the game. Less than two minutes later, DeRosario glided through the penalty area with a through ball and a tiring Lucas Neill lunged recklessly.

DeRosario hammered the ball to keeper Robert Green's right as he went the wrong way and it slammed so hard against the underside of the bar it hit the bar again on the way up after landing over the goal line. This game, and that kick, as well as the result, meant a great deal to him.

"I always wanted to play in my hometown in my home stadium especially in a game of this magnitude," said DeRosario, who grew up just east of Toronto in Scarborough. "You have to realize how important this is for our league."

Brennan owns a condo a mile or so from BMO Field and admitted hearing the fans chant his name unleashed some feelings.

"It was great because all of my friends and family were here and obviously there are the fans that see me play week-in and week-out, so I mean it was a special moment for me, definitely," he said. "It was amazing, it's hard to describe. You know you're sitting on the bench having the fans scream for you to come on, you know, like I said, it's something I'll always remember."


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