Sports This Week - Roughriders top the west, head to playoffs

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are back atop the West Division of the Canadian Football League.

A 23-13 win over Edmonton in a game where both teams rested starting quarterbacks in preparation for the upcoming playoffs, gave the ‘Riders the first place finish thanks to a 13-5 season.

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Cody Fajardo has been the story of the year in Riderville leading the CFL in passing with 4,302 yards.

The question now is can a first year starting pivot win it all?

That is the same question fans are asking in Hamilton where Dane Evans is a first year starter, and really it’s the same with Vernon Adams in Montreal. That is half the playoff teams.

Based on the reality experience often wins out in big games, you have to give the edge going in to Calgary with Bo Levi Mitchell at the helm. Of course they have to beat Winnipeg and likely Zach Collaros throwing the football. Could Collaros rise from the ashes and recapture his past when he was at times brilliant?

Can Trevor Harris find the consistency that has always escaped him to make Edmonton a dark horse?

So many questions headed to the playoffs making this year feel as though it is the most wide open in years. There is no clear favourite and there would be no huge surprise if any of the six win it all.

 On the soccer pitch

While regular readers will know I am not a fan of outdoor soccer, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that TFC is headed back to the final in Major League Soccer.

The Toronto franchise won the championship in 2017, the first crown by a Canadian team, and looked ready to be a perennial contender. Then 2018 happened, the team basically imploded and never even made the playoffs, so had zero chance of defending the championship.

Things did not look to be much better this season, with TO struggling out-of-the-gate, and suffered through an eight-game losing streak at one-point. But the good news for TFC was a strong finish that had them finishing fourth in the east.

Toronto hosted DC United in the opening game of the playoffs with United tieing the contest 1-1 well into extra time. Then in overtime TFC went wild scoring four to win the game 5-1.

Next TFC went into the Big Apple and defeated NYCFC 2-1, then topped Atlanta by the same score to take the east title. (And, yes for those wondering I did DVR the playoff games to run as background while reading).

The three playoff wins sends TFC to Seattle to face the Sounders this Sunday. The Sounders are likely the league’s most successful franchise, but having TFC back in the final has to be good for the sport in Canada.

On a larger note in terms of MLS, the league has certainly grown to make it a big-five of team sports in North America, frankly probably growing beyond the National Hockey League long the weak sister among the big-four, well behind major league baseball, the NFL, and NBA.

With Cincinnati joining this year MLS grew to 24-teams, and Miami and Nashville are set to join in 2020, with Austin announced for 2021 and St. Louis and Sacramento in 2022 to reach 29 teams. The league has stated a desire to hit 30 teams, although a lot of press suggests they will expand beyond that sooner than later with Las Vegas, Charlotte, Detroit and Phoenix among a rather long list of MLS hopefuls.

A diamond gem for some

Switching gears the World Series was noteworthy because the teams achieved something not done before, with the road team winning all seven games.

With Toronto long gone from the picture my interest in the playoffs was zero, and the World Series made worse by Washington being there, a team MLB allowed to be stolen out of Montreal leaving Canada without a National League team to follow.

But the road wins are still noteworthy. Over the long history of the three major leagues were seven-game series are played MLB, the NBA, and the NHL have combined for more than 1,400 best-of-seven postseason series. This is the first time the road team has won seven games in any of those series.

That is the crazy fun aspect of sports, there is always some record to break, some mark to set, which adds to the interest in a game, or series.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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