Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dig a hole and bury it - NYRB 3 #TFC 0

I want to both throw away the first half of the game in Red Bull Arena last night and learn from it.

Throw it away because it was not a huge shock that TFC, without Bradley (USMNT friendly), Altidore (hamstring injury) and then Giovinco going off injured, would be a weakened team.
TFC has a problem scoring goals even when they have their 3 designated players in the line up.

Throw it away because Bradley Wright-Phillips is a capable scorer on a hot streak. I am willing to bet my hat that BWP will not score when TFC play NYRB next in late September. It was his night, or more precisely, his first half.

Learn from it and look at it as a sobering lesson in Canadian content. At one point TFC had Hamilton, Babouli, Chapman, Osorio, Johnson and Morgan on the pitch. 6 Canadians and none of them in the traditional defenders and keeper spot in the line-up. Against 10 man NYRB for an entire half TFC was incapable of scoring a goal. I am inclined towards saying that the lesson learned is that our Canadian contingent is a big reason we don't have the depth to handle injuries and international departures. The summer transfer window has to be the time for some important player moves.

Learn from it . Will Johnson deserves full credit for effort, and he was clearly tortured by a ref decision on that penalty kick. What was the ref thinking? the first and greatest infringement on the penalty was a NYRB player. Using the logic of his call what would be the incentive for a defender to not jump into the box and mess with the penalty kick taker? However Johnson/Osorio did not have a great night. Perhaps Cheyrou needs to get back. It will be interesting to see who starts v Montreal Wednesday night.

One TFC win and one TFC loss here in 2016. Goal difference -1 


Sunday, May 22, 2016

#TFC Out of Whack TFC 0 Crew 0

There was a detectable lack of whack yesterday at BMO Field.

I suppose that I should be content with TFC correcting the goals against problem of last weekend against Vancouver. In the two games since allowing 4 Whitecap goals, TFC have allowed only one goal. There is every indication that this trend will continue. Clint Irwin looks solid in net. Coach Vanney's starting line-up could be described as 5 in the back. Sure, Morrow and Beitashour were  more midfield than defender in their "wingback" positions, but Michael Bradley enhances the defensive mode by playing well back. He shields the back line and provides the link to drive the ball forward. That sounds better than it actually functions. The TFC attack tends to be holding the ball without much purpose or fruitless long passes.

Defending your way to nil-nil draws might be a way to negate a powerful opponent, but Columbus came to town struggling and off to a poor start this season. It should have been a chance for TFC to shine. Instead we were treated to dull and out of whack. Giovinco did not have his standard dazzling sort of day. Will Johnson and Justin Morrow were both struggling. If I am reading the stat sheet correctly, TFC took 8 shots and two of them were considered on target. Both of these shots were taken by Seba Giovinco. Somehow this meant the "Man of the Match" award went Mo Babouli. I want TFC to nourish and promote young Canadian talent as much as the next guy, but Osorio, Chapman and Babouli were neither creating much on their own or combining well with others. I should say that Babouli played more centrally than when TFC met NYCFC, but Chapman was not any more effective with the shift that should have freed him. Tsubasa Endoh came on for the entire second half and simply vanished. Well, I could see him, but I don't think Michael Bradley did.


When you find yourself walking away from the last game of a home stand relieved that May contains no more home games, something is wrong. Very wrong.



This team needs some whack.




Dullsville during a whack shortage




Thursday, May 19, 2016

#TFC tactics lacking TFC 1 NYCFC 1

This was the midweek game that I  had calculated would be the cure for the home game on the weekend past. That shoot out loss to Vancouver had to be one of those aberrations, one that you wanted TFC to quickly put behind them. I blamed the Saturday night blue shorts worn at home, of course, and was pleased to see them take the field all in red.

A nicer weather night than expected


If the prime objective of last night's match versus NYCFC was to return to a calmer, cleaner condition in your own end following that Whitecap onslaught (allowing 4 goals in one game when you had given up a total of 7 goals in the previous 9 games) you have to give TFC some credit. Other than one lapse, the combo of poor marking (Beitashour's side) and a flash of great skill from NYCFC's Poku, TFC looked solid in the back. I am not thrilled with how pulled back Bradley and Johnson play. If TFC are playing a 4-3-3, then having two holding midfielders tends to strand those ahead of them (Endoh, Chapman, Babouli and Giovinco). The Vanney era TFC has always used the fullbacks to take the ball up the wings, but it would be nice to own the middle of the middle.

If the secondary objective was to demonstrate that TFC is developing a multi-player attack and can score goals despite injuries to Altidore and Osorio, they get minimal credit in that area. It's frustrating to watch the fundamentals of attacking soccer go out the window. TFC had control of the second half, but when it comes to finishing or even getting into position for a shot, they either fade away or get in the way of each other. Mo Babouli got the start as striker and plays wide (his preference or coach instructions to keep him out of Giovinco's hair?). But if your striker is wide and playing crosses into the box, who is he sending them too? One of the basics of interchanging roles on the pitch is that if player "A" takes the role of player "B", then player "B" becomes player "A". Jay Chapman or Tsubasa Endoh should have been exploiting those near post channels as Mo Babouli took to the wing.

Any MLSE bean counter reading this will wonder about my musings about on field efforts and tactics. This is MLSE running the starship TFC and selling tickets is always the sole goal. A sellout for a midweek game, with the Jays in town and the Raptors on a historic playoff run, has probably inspired smiles and fist pumps.

I find myself looking at Coach Vanney with greater respect these days. Here is a coach, late in the game and needing a goal, looking at a bench of defenders Hagglund, Perquis, Zavaleta, Ashtone Morgan and Mark Bloom, the keeper Quillan Roberts and midfielder Daniel Lovitz. I think that Tim Bezbachenko had better have a move or two up his sleeve. Herc Gomez and Luke Moore (the two vet strikers set free by Tim B.) were not world beaters. They may have had big contracts and old legs, but they had shooting and scoring skills.
This sympathy for Vanney is greatly tempered with frustration as it seems that TFC may never get their attack calibrated. The young players are going to find it hard to develop when the attack strategy does not go beyond getting the ball to Seba Giovinco and let him figure it out with brilliance. A couple of ugly goals to go along with the ugly one from Will Johnson in the first half would have been welcome.



btw The NYCFC goal scorer, Kwadwo Poku displayed a flash of skill when scoring. The sort of skill that the TFC youngsters seem to lack. I had overlooked Poku before last night, figuring that this NYC team was three big paycheques (Villa - who came on a sub, Pirlo - who was seen on the sidelines only and Lampard - seen only on the long term mend) and the remainder were crunchers. At least last year I gave credit to NYCFC for starting the "stop TFC by kicking and tripping Giovinco every chance you get" strategy. Poku is a player to watch...

Next game 5pm Saturday vs Columbus

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cohesive? Defensive? Blaming those blue shorts TFC 3 Whitecaps 4

Sunday morning and my head is still reeling. My little blogging brain is spitting out kernels. So forget flow, forget style. If this blog is sporadic, so was the game we suffered through last night.
sunset Saturday night


Just when I was entranced enough with the early success and defensive promise of TFC 2016 that I was thinking of retiring the blog name...along came the Whitecaps. Was it a matter of Vancouver's dazzling, lightning quick attack abilities just could not be denied or TFC's defending was an audition for a horrible movie  "Turnovers in Statue Park"?

There were millions of Saturday night stories in the big city last night. TFC fans were stuck with the story of watch a team dig a hole for themselves, climb out of it, dig another hole for themselves, almost climb out of it. At least TFC play again Wednesday night, a wonderful opportunity to put this clunker behind them.

There are a headful of "ifs" that arise out of any contest, but I hope that TFC is haunted by the sheer multitude of "ifs" from their loss to Vancouver. If Altidore scored on his penalty, if Babouli had pounded the ball low on his golden chance late in the game, if Perquis had chosen a different game to play horribly, if Vanney had benched Perquis at half time, if Irwin had come up with a spectacular save in one half or another, if Endoh had not had an off night...


Jozy Altidore must have heard the silence. He had the spectacular misfortune of missing his penalty kick and hobbling off injured in the same sequence of play. He has yet to score in 2016. He continues to be an enigma, which just might be a polite way of saying he's a multi-million dollar designated player on a team that only has one proven scorer (and it's not him). 
Walking to the stadium I overheard one loquacious fan citing Altidore's scoring record for Sunderland to his friends. When Altidore was being helped off the field one fan booed and another chided the booing fan. "Don't boo him, he's sensitive" was the corrective comment. No "cheer up, Jozy, get well fella" sort of applause from the crowd at all. Jozy Altidore must have heard the silence.

Could this be the end of Altidore in Toronto? I am guessing that his injury is the recurring hamstring problem. I am also guessing that he would target the Copa America USMNT games of June 3, 7 and 11 for his return. After that the summer transfer window, trades and MLS moves must be opportunities for moving Altidore. Altidore playing with good friend Bradley is not working out. Altidore on another roster south of the border, say Philly, DC or Houston, could sell tickets. He is not selling tickets in Toronto. A few sets of ears in the TFC box must have heard the silence.

I could be developing a bad case of sympathy for Coach Greg Vanney. So many doubts about just how coachable Bradley, Altidore and Giovinco must be. The bench for TFC is dominated by defenders and overall seems designed for injury protection not game changers. With Altidore's and Osorio's injuries TFC went to Babouli and Lovitz. Chapman came on too (perhaps for Perquis?). Vanney is forced to send out hope and potential. It is nice to have hope and potential, but it does not strike fear into the heart of the opposition late in the game.

Blue shorts - never want to see them again. Whatever the motivation for adding blue to a team that has had ten years of red and grey, it just does not work. It makes as much sense as trying to add blue to the Raptors uniform. Never want to see them again.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Home inspection TFC 1 Dallas 0

I sat under a roof last night and watched TFC in "their" stadium launch the home portion of the 2016 season.
I know I am an old geezer, a fleeting impression that zipped through my head was of many "once upon a times" sitting under a roof nights at the old Exhibition Stadium. It was only fleeting, the sound quality, the way the lights bathe the field are just two aspects present last evening that are simply, cosmically beyond whatever the old stadium could ever dream of offering. After only one home game, I might be a convert to the idea of a steady diet of Saturday night games. It did create an "event" feel. However getting home after midnight is bound to wear down this old blogger. I write this the morning after. I used to blog my first impressions either on the drive home or at home. Last night I was barely able to stay awake for the drive, never mind the blog.
I suspect it will take some time for it to feel like home however. It feels akin to somebody taking your favourite chair and putting it into a showroom. 

As to the game, I will not be the first to feel that the score flatters Dallas. TFC shows signs of slowly building their offence. Elements of the attack look like pieces trying to fit into a new puzzle. Altidore and Giovinco have had time together, but Bradley's passing has had rough spells and Johnson and Endoh are new to the mix. Superb new elements to the mix, but new nonetheless. Endoh's ability to run off of the ball is a joy to behold. I am sure that Bradley was giving him hell for neglecting defensive roles from time to time, but I am not sure that he should. 
If you have ever read a blog post, you could know that I am in the "frustrated with Altidore" camp. I found myself watching him a lot in the second half. He had a solid "plays well with others" game last night. Perhaps he tried the finesse touches, the flick ons, too many times, but he seemed just a lucky bounce away from scoring. I do not detract from or dismiss his talents, his skills or his contribution to the team. I think that I can suffer from mild frustration and still see his qualities. Don't see my frustration staying mild if he continues to not score goals. 9 games into a 34 game schedule, we are getting close to a third of the way through the season. 
We must keep in mind that patience with the attack is made possible by secure defending. 
Clint Irwin - yes, I am rushing it, may be the best goalkeeper TFC has ever had. Perquis, Moor, Morrow and Beitashour all were solid and smooth. 
Until Saturday...
None of my quick snaps captured the look and feel of the new BMO Field



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Over Drogba - Montreal 0 Toronto FC 2

Ah, the pleasure. The pleasure enhanced because one was expecting pain. Montreal smoked meat pain.

2015 ended for Toronto FC with a double dose of Didier Drogba's Montreal Impact. You know the story. The pleasure of making the playoffs for Toronto was thoroughly smothered by losing the home playoff date through losing that final game in Montreal, followed by the disaster of the knockout game in Montreal just days later...

Montreal was a monster at the end of last year, under the spell of Drogba's scoring and skill and spirit. The news that he was making his first start of the 2016 season against Toronto was enough for the nightmares to start again. I might not have been the only TFC fan who had thrown in the towel on this road trip now that the Montreal and Portland section had been reached. Give us some character building moments and an injury free stretch and one could just count the days to the home opener.

Well, hold off on the towel throwing, TFC 2016 is shaping up to be giant steps ahead of where we fans are used to be. Montreal was subdued in their own stadium and TFC seemed capable of scoring more than the two.

Drogba dread ... delayed?

Second shut out in a row for Irwin. Seldom tested, but what a difference he has made to the team!
The back four of Beitashour, Perquis, Moor and Morrow continues to look smooth and cohesive.
The diamond midfield of Will Johnson on the left wing, Osorio forward and Bradley at the base looked very strong. You can tell that Marky Delgado continues to be the junior member of the midfield contingent, but he contributes.
Giovinco scored both goals, one a pk from a foul on Altidore and the other a sacrificial set up from Will Johnson. 

Next Sunday, May 1 is the game away to Portland and then countdown to the home opener....

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quick goal followed by long grind - DC United 0 TFC 1

TFC whipped up an acceptable recipe for winning or getting points from road games today versus DC United. Score before their keeper has had time to ensure his gloves are on correctly (Giovinco now owns the TFC record for fastest goal in a game at 58 seconds) and then take care of business.
I would not submit the game as evidence of TFC 2016 at their peak, but progress is being made.

close-up of DC keeper at critical juncture...


Keeping in mind that TFC President Manning said before the season began that getting eight points from the season opening eight game road trip was his goal (and he repeated this target in the tv interview at halftime), it must help to hit eight points after six games. The games still to come prior to playing in Toronto are in Montreal and in Portland. Another point or two would be a bonus, but it's not expected.

I continue to admire the growth of the midfield pairing of Bradley and Johnson. This might have been the sort of game that they dream of, lead grabbed early and plenty of time to snap at heels and close off space. They took charge.
Marky Delgado was taken off for Jay Chapman in the second half. It was good to see Chapman get some playing time. I am not sure which of these two are going to grab a starting role. Or, shades of recent years when Luke Moore would get time on the wing, does Jozy Altidore get the right side of the midfield and a new striker is brought in?

Clint Irwin did not make any spectacular stops, but deserved the clean sheet.

Playing a home game in three weeks time feels a touch less like fiction with spring weather finally making a visit. Rumour is that season ticket packages are about to be delivered in the week ahead.

Keep cheering....