Saturday, April 22, 2017

Our home opener TFC 3 Fire 1

We spent our winter south of the border and returned to Ontario for the Easter weekend. So this was our first BMO Field game attended for the year. Keen readers of the blog will know it was not our first TFC game attended as we trekked up to Sandy, Utah to see the season opener versus Real Salt Lake the first week in March.
Snap out of memory lane one must. But first a complaint and a cheerful thought. Ontario this is not spring weather. We know it is coming, we experienced it already in climes such as California, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana. Yes, our route homeward involved going eastward for days to avoid going north for as long as possible. Thanks April in Ontario for reminding this potential perpetual snowbird to plan future returns for May.

It was terrific to see the familiar faces in mighty section 220. Through email, all knew we had been away for months and months, so it was great to be welcomed back. It's a funny contrast that those around me are mostly tech free, while I remain Mr. Social Media (at least through this blog and Facebook, my twitter and instagram could use some boosting). So when I take on the role of fan spokesperson, I do so in a bit of a vacuum. However most are shaking their heads at the pain of Friday night games. My combo of retired and driving in from Guelph means little difference weekday or weekend. Most fans don't have our luxury of choosing an early afternoon travel time. Friday pm rush hour is chaos in this city. Getting from work to game is a pain. I understand that US television contracts means that Friday night games will be a reality. Bradley and Altidore getting to the MLS Cup means that TFC has ratings potential south of the border. It remains a pain.

I admit I was worried about the rising fortunes of Chicago. After the poor game in Columbus last weekend I was fearing the Schweinstieger the same way the Raptors "Fear the Deer". My concern after the Crew was that the stumbling would continue. This April/May TFC homestand needs to be the winning streak or else. Fair to say that Schweinsteiger provided more stumbles than fear striking. It will be interesting to see how dedicated Mr. Schweinsteiger is to conditioning. He looked a little rough in the first half and was less effective in the second. Will he wilt in the long hot Midwest summer or prove a steiger of schweins? I am looking into travelling to Illinois in August to see the rematch game
When that early Chicago Fire goal was called back on an offside call, it just might have been the required jolt to the collective system. From then on Toronto started playing with greater cohesion, notably with their passing throughout the midfield. The midfield was setup with Bradley at the back with Vazquez and Delgado central, Beitashour down the right and Raheem Edwards down the left. I felt that Edwards played a strong two-way game. You can be taken with his dazzle on the ball, but he does the unsung work of getting back and finding his man on the defending end too.
My faith restored in TFC, time for some random observations...
Giovinco went from the sacred (scoring that screamer of a free kick) to the profane (kicking a pylon, storming off to the dressing room at being subbed late in the game) in record time. At what point does admiration for his passion give way to concern for team dynamics? Does Seba really think that he is the one in "All for One"? 

My fandom for Benoit Cheyrou was severely tested last night. He was the late sub for Gio and his only contribution of note was to give the ball away and allow Accam of Chicago to score their consolation goal. I suppose that balances out in the admiration scale, David Accam is the Fire player that always scares me. He is also on my top players Toronto should trade for list...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Discovering Columbus Crew 2 TFC 1

Methinks that Toronto FC are in the midst of a painful awakening. As much as it stings to say it, the Columbus Crew might be the perfect team to administer such an awakening.
2015 ended with Columbus hosting and losing the MLS Cup. Then they followed that with not even making the playoffs in 2016. So the Crew know well that attaining post-season heights does not magically transfer to the next year.
Right now Toronto are playing as if it does. Taking the first half lead, off of a beautifully headed goal by Jozy Altidore, just seemed to open the door to smugness. The Crew scored twice in short order and never looked back.
TFC just can't afford to allow two quick goals when their ability to score seems limited. I have not looked at any stats, but did Giovinco have a shot at all in this game?
I put my bias on the table, I think Benoit Cheyrou is the best thing since sliced baguette. He needs some playing time. I would shift Michael Bradley back to central defender until the (hopeful) return of Drew Moor. TFC depends far too much on the scoring prowess of Gio and Jozy and tries to coast along on a nonscoring midfield (my least fave stat of 2016, Osorio scored one goal, Michael Bradley scored one goal). No wonder teams smother the TFC forwards, Toronto has no offensive plan B.
I worry about this coming homestand. Chicago Fire with Bastian Schweinsteiger, then Houston, then Orlando. Remember that Columbus, Chicago and Orlando did not qualify for the playoffs in 2016, so a rise in their quality, plus the strength of expansion team  Atlanta, means a rougher road for TFC
I worry about May with two games against Columbus and road trips to Seattle and NYRB.
Toronto may know by June if they are the "Beast of the East" that they thought they were or if they are a team that will struggle to make the playoffs.
I know that the first loss of the year should not unleash such a gloomy outlook, but it seems like it is sink or swim time down by the lake.
Still kicking

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A bad case of Mavinga TFC 2 Atlanta 2

Atlanta United lived up to their early season reputation and looked the part of an established team. They are not the usual MLS woeful outfit in their rookie year and have hit the ground running. 
However, they did score their two goals on long ball breakaways and both times I would lean more towards wondering about Mavinga's (that would be Chris Mavinga, I think getting his first start for TFC) positioning and defending than praising Atlanta's skill. 
Toronto had the most of the night, but continue to squander chances or fail to find the net when you think their dominance of play for long stretches deserves a reward. Playing the end of the game with a man advantage just underlined this. I know they proved me wrong in Vancouver, but most of the time when TFC get an opponent sent off, my hopes go nowhere.
Good to see Giovinco get his first goal of the season. He lost the plot late in the game when he felt that a foul had been earned. Bad karma there.
If all goes to plan, tonight was the final Toronto game that I will watch from afar (writing this in my airbnb in San Antonio, Texas). The next home game will see me back in the stands. I relish the opportunity to yell Schweinsteiger at Bastien Schwiensteiger... stay tuned and score goals.

Zavaletta about to be semi-clunked. A semi-clunk that was met with a full red card.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Home Opener 2017 T FC 0 SKC 0

Missed the home opener for the first time ever, but caught the Fox broadcast delayed the next day.

As I always value the eyewitness report over the filtered through TV version, I offer the highlights from our ace reporter Trout.

Freezing at the half. 0-0, wind playing havoc. Edwards has been great. Kc had most of first 20. After, Sebastian and Vasquez dropped back just ahead of Bradley. Good time on the ball and more chances. Seba ranging all over the field. Looks promising for second half. Osorio trying out for Argos kicker, missed the net incredibly high three times. Irwin slipped on a wet pitch coming for a ball, went down awkwardly. Subbed out. Is Bono the first choice keeper forever now?
0-0 final. Lots of chances. No joy. Seba put a free kick off the woodwork. Bono had a great stop. A good game, but they still are lacking finish. Edwards had a great second half too, in for Morrow.

Now that I'm home and warmed up I can tell you it was the same ref from the cup final. Forwards didn't get much in the way of fouls against. In other words, the old rude referee songs still apply.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

West coast road victory Whitecaps 0 Toronto FC 2

Although TFC came back west to my winter time zone, I did not travel to this one. If travelling from Tucson to Salt Lake City put me into the lunatic fringe, travelling from Southern California to Vancouver would have put me under observation. Or at least have bent both travel plans and matrimonial harmony.
So this weekend found me watching the game on my iPhone, from some mystery stream, while in a lawn chair at my camp site in Morro Bay State Park. Just for the weather envy crowd, high today was 19 C, down a bit to 18 C at time of writing. The sun has been making steady afternoon appearances after a mostly cloudy morning.
Now I am usually hesitant to share much when going off of a televised game. Amplify the hesitation when squinting at a phone screen.
It was wonderful to witness Toronto FC take advantage of a player being sent off. 2016 seemed to be the year where other teams laughed about going down in numbers against Toronto. Let's hope we have killed that for the new season.
Jozy Altidore continues to be a scoring star. Both his assist on the Vasquez goal and his own goal where examples of his making the most of the smallest of opportunities. No wonder defenders spend so much of their time wrestling with him.
So the three game road trip prior to the home opener ends with Toronto FC holding onto FIVE points and rolls into the end of March undefeated.

Plus a road victory grabbed while Giovinco recovers and rests up for BMO.

So I end with a shout out to some of the wonderful ladies in my life. To Sadie Tess, daughter extrodinaire, who will be sitting in the Kennedy seats in section 220 come the last Friday night in March (her being there cheers me up when I get gloomy about missing my first home opener) and Hindy, travelling superstar and Jozy fan who understands that devoted fan and blogger is not something I can turn off just because the California sun is shining.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A continent span away - Philadelphia 2 TFC 2

From the blogger/fan perspective, it was a week's journey from the heights to the depths.
Week 1 had me in the stands at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Week 2 found me in greater Los Angeles, fiddling with my ipad and finding wonky streams of the telecast out of Philadelphia. I understand that it was cold in Philadelphia. That might explain why my screen kept freezing.
So my usual hesitation to blog and expound upon a team's or player's performance from watching a televised game is amplified by the technical glitches.
It was good to see TFC score again. I felt that the first Philly goal was a moment of skill from the Union's Simpson. Getting his head onto a low cross was a surprising move. The second goal seemed to be a combo disaster. Not thrilled with Cooper's giveaways, he tries to dribble through impossible scenarios and expects too many calls. In the sequence prior to Philly scoring that second goal I felt that perhaps too many TFC players were expecting the foul call that never came. Then Sapong was allowed to saunter and Irwin came out towards the ball and then hesitated. Better to dive, attempting to get your hands onto the ball and miss, than not dive at all
The Giovinco injury has me thinking the TFC needs an enforcer. Cheyrou and Perquis in recent years have provided that grit. Now you can wipeout Toronto's star and play on with impunity. 

Early days in the season and TFC have a point from both road games. I am not hitting the panic button and the Giovinco injury could have been worse.
Rays of hope, but points to worry about.

Next weekend I am still in California and to make watching the Vancouver game (and blogging) a greater challenge, we are tent camping in a state park. Morro Bay is right on the Pacific Ocean in central California.
Stay tuned, the whitecaps I encounter may not be in uniform.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tiny, first steps on the long road RSL 0 TFC 0

It was great to be basking in the sunshine at a Toronto FC game today. We may have been skipping out on much of Ontario's winter this season with our trek through the southwest, but an offseason is still an offseason and it felt great to see the team take the field.
The stadium was Real Salt Lake's and the sunshine was beaming through the Utah air, but the season was on.

First half corner from Seba

Coach Vanney has been quoted musing about the process the players have to go through, the adjustments that must be made when playing your new season games while your head is still wrapped up in bouncing back from that Cup loss. Might be fair to say that fans and bloggers have their own process.
TFC took a point on the road today against a historically tough western conference opponent. Many a year such a result from the first game on the road would have been embraced as good news. I think instead fans (and players?) want a resounding smash victory. A game that will be the one that we wish had been presented as what TFC could achieve on that December Cup Final night.

Today was not that game.
Jozy Altidore and Seba Giovinco more concerned with pleading for calls that just weren't going to come than combining and creating.
Michael Bradley sitting back as Drew Moor's wall, shutting Toronto's door instead of destroying RSL's. 
Wrestling a point from RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium was efficiency, not banishing the wounds left from December.
I was impressed with Victor Vazquez's 30 minutes of play after coming on as a substitute. Still hard to decide what is TFC's best midfield alignment or starters, but Osorio is going to have a battle for playing time.

Let me sleep. I leave Utah in the morning, heading back to California via Nevada. Not sure if I can blog about the next games as it could be difficult to find them. Stay tuned.