Sunday, August 26, 2018

Victory vs Montreal (TFC 3 Montreal 1)

Last season, that glorious season where almost everything went right, the one glaring game that went wrong was the home game hosting Montreal.
TFC 3 Impact 5 was the final.
I can recall consoling myself that it was late season and here I was grumpy about TFC giving up their first home loss. Losing to Montreal is always capable of putting a TFC fan on the road to grumpy.

I approached last night's game with concern. TFC is chasing Montreal for a playoff spot*. Montreal can derail the Toronto playoff drive, hanging by a thread (those phrases cobbled together for mixed metaphor fans). Did Montreal still have a touch of whatever evil magic allowed them to conquer in that 2017 game?

TFC fans were able to exhale from the start. The first 29 minutes were superb. TFC were playing precise short passes, players were finding spaces and goals were scored. Two for Giovinco and one for Osorio.
Then Montreal scored their goal and Toronto lost the attacking sparkle. The Montreal goal shattered more than the attack. Why did Alex Bono set himself up for the shot from Silva giving away so much space on the short side? I also feel that TFC lacks precisely that sort of attack, the player who will and can score off of a shot from distance.

I understand that shutting down your opponent and protecting a lead is very important, especially against Montreal, the first game after squandering a win on the road in San Jose. It was tense throughout the second half though. TFC went from attack as the best form of defending to relying on Montreal's lack of midfield possession game and lack of potent attack to get them through. A couple of goals called back on offside decisions had us holding our breath. I want to say that TFC is a much, much better team than Montreal. The day after finds me grateful for the victory and the three points, but remain concerned about the road ahead.
Not just last night against Montreal but while down to 10 men for most of the game against NYCFC and the game on the road in Atlanta I have felt that TFC retain their championship quality. Can they do that again and again in the last two months of season 2018? Can they do it for 90 minutes during the tough road games such as Portland or DC or Montreal?

Portland is a late game Wednesday night.

Until then...

* Playoff position update - Montreal and New England both losing last night helped Toronto, yet the two teams to worry most about lately are Philly and DC United. The Union have been a hot team and DC are even with Toronto in points, 27, but have played three less games.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Weak point in California San Jose Earthquakes 1 Toronto FC 1

I continue to experiment with writing my blog as a series of tweets. If you follow me on Twitter @stillkickingtfc , you have already read my blog post. The only problem I see with tweeting is that it lends itself to bad Trump instincts - extra comments as the blog bonus.
Trying to keep my blog within tweet confines. Perhaps it will help my focus and my writing? Simply put, TFC had San Jose Earthquakes down and could not put them away. Lack of urgency! Lack of killer instinct!
No matter how cruel the defensive lapse, you can't argue that it was unusual. Toronto FC season 2018 has lapses aplenty. The attitude at 1 goal up should have been TFC is going to have to win this 2-1. We have seen too many stretches of "hang on and hope"
Those who want TFC to have a clean sheet every game are on a witch hunt!
We rightly praise Osorio and his 8 MLS goals, but you have to be worried about Bradley and Marky Delgado and their ZERO MLS goals. Defending vs Toronto is too simple, swamp Seba and watch for Oso.
I know this and many, many friends have called to tell me I am right!
I still hold out hope that a smashing victory over Montreal Impact next weekend and a winning streak to follow still leaves a flicker of hope for MLS playoffs, a tiny flicker in a windstorm.
If Montreal wins that August game, depend on me to assign blame and deny responsibility, Fake News!
My practical side is pushing me to see the benefits of NOT making MLS playoffs. That would give TFC players November and December to rest and recuperate. CONCACAF Champion's League target #1 for a rested squad.
And Mexican teams will have a wall to contend with!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

TFC road point vs hyped 2nd year team - Atlanta United 2 Toronto FC 2

I thought I would write my blog as if it were a series of tweets.

Not sure how well that surface in Atlanta plays, but on tv it looks like something that my parents bought to cover the backyard patio in the 70's #TFCLive

Delightful goal from #TFCLive in the closing minutes (seconds?) of the first half. Atlanta got overconfident and Altidore, Auro Jr. and Giovinco turned on the quality.

I understand that camera angle from behind the net shows that #TFCLive Bono palmed the ball to his left and therefore it should have not been a penalty. I thought VAR allowed for multiple looks. Ref and VAR seemed to be in a hurry to get Atlanta back into the game.

Very happy that #TFCLive kept going. Clearly Ricketts in, Vazquez off worked. Telfer in, Zavaletta out a brave gamble. Giovinco as attacking midfielder worked too. Osorio cool set up to Ricketts another moment in the Osorio 2018 highlight reel.

I am always urging #TFCLive to show more grit and spine, so I am not going to second guess Chris Mavinga lashing out. I honestly love TFC putting Atlanta in their place. Violence is not the answer, but want to know more about provocation.

Okay, that's it. My blog post = five tweets. 

Thanks for reading - until the next time, keep kicking.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Playoff chase is on - TFC 3 Chicago Fire 0

The back to back victories over the Chicago Fire have given TFC fans reason for optimism for the months ahead. TFC looked like formidable defending champions Saturday night (July 28). A great way to end the month of July, considering how ineffective they looked losing 0-1 to NYRB to begin the month and how few the points they gained in July. Put aside the Chicago games (and the Ottawa Fury games in a different competition) and Toronto gained a single point from the 4 earlier July MLS games. Seems that the Chicago Fire were just what the TFC doctor ordered. The quality of the opponent is less than a tenth of the story, the continued return to health of injured players remains factor #1.

The first half was all muscle, tussle and half scoring chances for TFC. Bastien Schweinsteiger, Chicago star and German footballing legend, played way back as a Fire defender in the first half. He was effective, but I don't think he gets full credit for the 0-0 score at half time. You felt that Chicago was still in a game that they did not deserve to be in. Yes, that TFC feeling was washing over me at that point. Damn, one bad bounce, one lucky shot and the Fire could put TFC under pressure.
Credit to Greg Vanney for the halftime change. Ashtone Morgan came out of the game, he was playing ok, but a left foot on the right wing has never been his spot on the field. On came Marky Delgado. TFC shifted to a 4-4-2. Vazquez in a central role, with Bradley in behind him in a diamond midfield. 
The change in alignment might have been a spark to the greater attack spirit of the second half. Not that it was obvious for the first goal, a scramble that could have come from any formation. I thought that you had to also give great credit to van der Wiel, Mavinga and Zavaletta, the ball was always being played well from the back. Your midfield can supply your strikers with better through balls when they themselves are getting quality situations determined by the defenders. Osorio, Vazquez, Bradley and Delgado were all benefitting. I am cheering for Marky Delgado to rebuild his confidence. I still think he retreats and passes back out of situations that would benefit from him taking on defenders. Their does not have to be a clear path, move into space, draw a foul, bounce the ball off a shin to get a throw in. 
I will blog about the month ahead rather than the game ahead this week.
Keep cheering, thanks for reading...

Thursday, July 26, 2018

TFC quell the Fury TFC 3 Ottawa Fury FC (USL) 0

A balmy summer's night at BMO. The evening sky at sunset may have taken our gaze away from the game from time to time.
This part of the world can be a beautiful place.
TFC never looked worried.
It is so difficult to evaluate young players when they are playing against lower level teams, yet I thought that Liam Fraser played a strong game. I was willing to put aside his strengths on the ball as a case of the other team not pressing enough, but his tackling and ball winning in the midfield impressed me.

To those who fail to admire Marky Delgado, last night was an example of his strengths. He was a large part of why TFC was never worried. The angle of his tracking back, always pushing Ottawa wide, always cutting off passing lanes, was excellent. I can't deny that defending and ball winning is made easier when TFC are playing Morrow and Mavinga.

We now know that the Canadian Championship final opponent will be the Vancouver Whitecaps. It will be a step up in intensity from last night's walk in the park.

Bring them on....

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Road victory leads to summer's first flicker of hope - Chicago Fire 1 Toronto FC 2

Apologies for not blogging during these recent weeks.
My excuse is both travel and World Cup 2018 intertwined.
I travelled to Los Angeles to visit my uncle. He and I have a tradition of watching games together that goes way back (even includes attending a USA1994 Netherlands/Brazil classic in Dallas).

Then I travelled to Iceland with my wife, some of her siblings and their spouses in early July. I had warned all that my availability for lava fields and waterfalls was determined by the World Cup schedule. It was my fond hope that I would get to see Iceland play a knockout round game from Iceland. I dared not hope that England would still be on the stage.

Both my LA trip and my Iceland trip will be the subjects of future blog posts. Just for the record.

For now, let's talk TFC.

They have been so hard to watch. I counted myself fortunate to have missed the goal fest loss to Minnesota and even the draw on the road in Kansas City. Between my travels I had witnessed the 0-1 loss to New York on Canada Day at BMO. I knew that the huge injury list was a constant factor, but frustration was always increasing at the lack of players rising to take advantage of their opportunities. I was home from my travels in time to see TFC on tv lose to Orlando City. I did not blog. Just too jet lagged, tired, annoyed, mad and frustrated.

You might be as tired as I am of hearing that a TFC MLS game was a must game for turning the season around. Too, too many times has that label thrown around and I am sure that it has been contributing to this anger and frustration.

Last night in Chicago, I hope, the tide turned.
TFC attacked from the wings, moved the ball well down the middle, controlled the tempo of the game, shut down the Fire often and welcomed back more players from the injury list (notably Jozy Altidore, Chris Mavinga and Gregory van der Wiel, with Victor Vazquez available off the bench). They looked more capable, more cohesive than they have in months. Oso, Delgado and Bradley all had solid games. The Delgado tackle which lead to Bradley's long diagonal pass which put Giovinco into dangerous territory were all ingredients of that great first goal. Osorio scoring the winner was just another chapter of his storybook season. Yes, Altidore makes the attack smarter, better, more creative, more ambitious.

As players shed injury comeback rust and TFC still welcomes back Drew Moor and Auro Jr. AND the possibility that TFC have summer window moves still to make, the months ahead might turn this hope flicker into a flame. I am hopeful for a bonfire come September and October.

thanks for reading....

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not a pretty picture TFC 4 DC United 4

(Quickly now) I throw together a bloglet of my thoughts from last night's game with DC United. The World Cup Russia 2018 is about to hit all of us with a tidal wave of games, so I write hurriedly while watching game 1 Russia v Saudi Arabia...
I am still struggling to come towards some grasp of what happened.
Yes, it is possible that TFC felt that DC United were a struggling team and therefore all Toronto had to do was show up and waltz through the game.
Yes, it is possible that the wrong defensive alignment was part of the woeful TFC first half. We could blame the wind. Too many times this season we have seen other teams cut through the Toronto backline like a hot knife through butter. The Zavaletta / Hagglund combo just seems to invite fast attackers to let loose. A healthy Chris Mavinga is required. It was great to see a healthy Justin Morrow get second half playing time. A return to Morrow and Mavinga down the left side and the new combo of Auro Jr and van der Wiel on the right will calm the defensive waters. Question still remains about the central roles.

My big concern is a lack of attacking play in the middle of the pitch. It was true of the first half than the second half last night, but it has been a concern. It seems that the book on defending against TFC is allow the ball to stay wide and crowd the middle. Osorio, Vazquez and Giovinco had trouble moving forward in central traffic. It seems that combination short passes too often go astray and giveaways abound. Ricketts is not the right sort of player for weaving passes and dribbles. Marky Delgado has vanished from the bench and Ager Aketxe does not get the call from the bench.

So a point was gained when TFC was down 0-3. If the Columbus Crew comeback was a negative for TFC fans, then one has to grant credit to the comeback effort. The standings still look grim for playoff purposes.
Let the World Cup distract all and a fresher TFC greet us come Canada Day.