Thursday, July 14, 2016

Always take the road point Crew 1 TFC 1

It was not a recipe for sustained fame, style and glory, but it got us through the evening.

Combine a first half of effective, with flashes of slapdash,  sit back defending. Add in a young keeper named Bono, who is showing signs of confidence. Blend in a second half where TFC looked on the edge of a total collapse in the minutes just after allowing the Columbus goal. Drop in a moment of Cheyrou to Jay Chapman with the through ball to Jordan Hamilton that becomes the TFC goal and highlight of the night. Chapman, Endoh and Hamilton all deserve to mentioned as positive ingredients. The defending of Moor, Williams and then later on Hagglund, were all positive ingredients too.

You have to worry about Osorio (two golden scoring opportunities missed) and Mark Bloom (very sure from my tv screen that he kept everyone onside on the Columbus goal).

I was saddened to read the news that TFC have released Damien Perquis. He brought style and fire to Toronto and was a favourite player of mine.
I have blogged before that a central defending role is a hard one to make an instant success with in the MLS. He arrived in 2015 and at first you guessed the plan was he learn the ropes alongside the veteran Caldwell. That lasted only a handful of games as Caldwell retired and moved to the front office. 
I hate salary cap decisions - I think that faces and names build a sense of team. The TFC history is less one of team and more one of revolving door. On the soccer side I understand the argument that Perquis' spot on the field could be filled by Williams or Zavaletta or Hagglund or even a healthy at last Clement Simonin. This is just looking at the TFC roster, TFCII could be ready to provide MLS capable defenders. 
Yet, none of those players play yet with the Perquis passion. A player who can pass the ball forward with amazing precision one moment and then teeter on the edge of red card the next. 
I will miss him.

Damien Perquis TFC 2015, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Giovinco "torn shirt" blues - TFC 1 Chicago FIre 0

Seba mad like Hulk...

You can understand the frustration that Seba Giovinco must feel. He is in a scoring slump and the Toronto injury trend (notably Bradley, Johnson and Altidore) increases the pressure on him to lead the team's attack. Seba tries and tries, but the goals continue to elude him. I would like to see him eliminate his talking to the ref about the grabbing and grappling he must endure. The chatter throws him off of his game.

You can also understand the relief opposing teams must feel to encounter Toronto during this section of the schedule. Double/triple cover Giovinco and dare the remainder of the TFC squad to score against you. Toronto had the Morrow goal early, but you had the sense for too long that Chicago could catch a lucky break at any time and find themselves back in this game.

So TFC fans wake up this morning with a sense of unease. Toronto takes the victory but what the hell is going on with this team? Squeaking out a home win against a Chicago Fire team (that has not had a victory on the road in eons) should not be part of the summer success plan. This team needs a winning streak and an improved goals for stat. Get somebody else scoring and Giovinco will find his place again.

Where would TFC be without Cheyrou? He is forever shutting counter-attacks off of TFC giveaways. Delgado and Osorio seem to be on the road to nowhere when it comes to passing or dribbling. I look at the passing stats the next morning and feel mystified. Their stats look stronger than their contributions feel on the night. I am always thinking that Tsubasa Endoh shows the most movement and promise out there and he is always the first midfielder taken off the field.

I should salute the clean sheet for Alex Bono - the goal of bringing down the TFC goals against column seems to make steady progress even with keeper Irwin injured. 
Looking this unpolished at home makes road victories seem improbable. TFC play Wednesday in Columbus and next weekend in San Jose. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

TFC 1 Seattle Sounders 1

Canada Day weekend glow

The TFC (MLSE) front office deserves credit for throwing a top quality party yesterday. Pre-game they booked the Muzik club, located just west of BMO Field. Food and liquids were fantastic. The Italy-Germany Euro 2016 game provided gripping entertainment. At first I was going to write this as a postscript - but then I reflected that I arrived at the stadium on such a (MLSE purchased) gin and tonic glow that my integrity forced me to place it at the fore. The party was a fan thank you/ 10 year celebration, but I am campaigning for a TFC get together every Canada Day weekend. 

It was a treat to be at a game again (even though the home leg against Vancouver was only June 21st). I think that overdosing on Euro 2016 tv games and the two televised TFC games (Orlando and Vancouver) had me forgetting how much I enjoy seeing what I want to see, not what the camera shows me.

Overall, we have to be unhappy with getting only one point. It was a tie that felt like points lost, not gained. Hard to decide whether it was promising that TFC had so many faces missing (Irwin, Moor, Bradley, Altidore, Johnson, Morrow either injured or on the bench) and still looked strong or has Seattle fallen so hard they make everyone look better?

The formation took some adjusting to, both as a spectator and it seemed for the players. It looked a 3-5-2 most of the time.
A back three of Zavaletta, the return of Damien Perquis and Nick Hagglund was a new combination. This trio held up well, with the exception of losing their minds on the Seattle goal. I am a fan of Perquis, although that does not make me blind to his flaws. He can be rash or impulsive with the ball in his own box. I think vs Seattle was the first time we have seen Perquis without Moor by his side this year and that is an experiment I would end. I suppose that would end the three across the back then.

The two wingbacks were the long awaited return of Mark Bloom and Beitashour. I felt that Bloom was on the invisible side most of the night. Perhaps it was due to the lack of support behind him. Hagglund as a left side player seemed new and it might have been too much to expect chemistry after such a lengthy layoff. I don't recall Bloom playing at all in 2015 and we are months into 2016. 
The youngster central midfield of Delgado, Endoh and Chapman took time to gel. I thought that Chapman's passing was crisp and he took defenders on down the channels too. Endoh improved as time went on. I did not think that Delgadcomfortable in a central holding role. He was too stationary when the TFC back three had the ball. I worry that he has not made a study of Bradley and Cheyrou over the months and months. A few decisive steps or a looping run so that defenders can play the ball to space or your feet and you see the field ahead always seemed to be either missing or too many steps to get to for Delgado. I know he is young and has both talent and potential, but I don't see him, YET, as a natural candidate for a future first team role.

In the second half it seemed that play down the middle were long balls, bypassing Delgado or play down the left wing using Beitashour and Endoh. Delgado might have picked up some scraps from passes back into the middle, but he never seemed to be the true playmaker. I disagreed with Vanney taking Chapman and Endoh off and moving Delgado forward in the midfield, supported by Cheyrou and paired with Osorio - that it did not produce a late goal was zero surprise...
Up front was Jordan Hamilton and Seba Giovinco. Hamilton is playing with greater confidence and his goal was a reward for a night of effort. When you consider how quickly Seattle bounced back with a goal, I hope that a TFC coach has had a talk with Hamilton regarding his post goal celebration (he went so far into the supporter section I feared for a second that he was going to order a hot dog and a beer).
I was hoping the Seba Giovinco would be in such turmoil over Italia bowing out of the Euro 2016 on penalties that he would score 4 goals for TFC as the start of his campaign for World Cup selection for the Azurri. Perhaps he was too intent on scoring his goals all on penalty kicks. He needs to stop fighting with refs about the treatment he gets from defenders. It does not enhance his game.

July beckons. Of the next 7 games, five are at home. The road games are stuck together, a Wed. night in Columbus followed by a Saturday in San Jose. TFC need a returning Altidore and some wins for the month to take the sting out of missing Bradley, Johnson and Irwin for this next stretch. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

TFC Canadian Champions 2016 Whitecaps 2 TFC 1 (aggregate 2-2 TFC champs on away goal)

TFC lift the Cup

There are times when your fan loyalties can waver and falter. I estimate that time for me was somewhere near midnight. I was standing in front of my tv and was wondering why do I do this, why do I trade sleep away for the chance to watch my team spin their wheels?

And then Will Johnson scored...
Endoh, in the final seconds of the game, sent an optimistic (but it should have been futile) ball into the goal mouth area. Vancouver keeper Ousted collided with his defender Waston and the ball fell forward onto the onrushing foot of Will Johnson. He paid the price for his goal with a subsequent collision. It was hard to watch his pain while all Reds around him were celebrating.

TFC stuck to a defensive game plan throughout the first half in Vancouver last night and they arrived at half time with a 0-0 score. The Whitecaps came roaring out in the second half and scored twice. TFC seemed to have no answer for that. It seemed just a matter of time before Vancouver scored the goal that would clinch it. We must remember that just seconds before TFC won the cup, Whitecap Blas Perez had a shot go off the post. TFC was a centimetre away from elimination.
And then they found a way to win.
I found a way to hold my arms in the air and whisper/yell "Yes"!

What a karma turnaround in just days. From the last minute call against them in Orlando to the last minute heroics in Vancouver. Saturday night will see TFC end this round of continent crossing with a home game vs Seattle. Until then...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Phantom foul or feeble foul? - Orlando City 3 TFC 2

I had been tipped off and knew to expect something with TFC's road game at Orlando. A Saturday featuring a triple header of Euro 2016 games (winners Wales, Poland and Portugal) also had a family gathering in the evening. The family deal had been made that I was free to watch games all day, but that TFC needed to be on the PVR and watched later.
I arrived home to messages - Did you see that? Give you opinion on that?
So I watched with a sense of anticipation. Or is that dread?
So, for those who neglected to watch, TFC came from behind to tie twice on a steaming hot night in Orlando and seemed on the edge of a point on the road. Then, well into injury time (no complaint there, a water break, the injury to Clint Irwin, plenty of substitutions and then Hagglund going down all contributed to a lengthy time block) TFC's Moor is judged to have "mugged" Orlando's Baptista in the box and Orlando wins on Kaka's penalty kick.

Orlando City's front office might still be in a meeting to determine what they are going to get ref Elfath for an end of season present. We already know the gift that the ref gave to Orlando City.

Game decider - wish Ref Elfath was in pic - his angle would be close to 180° from this one. Wish we had video from this angle - did Moor pull back or was Baptista already leaning?

I have watched the replay a number of times. Granted, the camera is quite a distance from the field and the players and is from the opposite angle from where the ref was observing. Yet Moor and Baptista can hardly be seen as grappling. They move together and then apart. Was it nothing or a veteran defenders super subtle foul?

I have a warm place in my heart for Orlando City Lions. Fans of that team create a video blog of fan interviews and match previews and they invite me onto their match preview video blog everytime OC is to play TFC. They know their sport and they know their team. I can imagine the elation that they felt when, already with 8 ties on the season and surely heading for yet another, Elfath awarded the penalty kick when the mighty beast Baptista went to ground. On twitter, Sam of OC Lions Fans TV says that there was contact, but not enough to fell Baptista. He also felt bad that the Bendik grabbing of Hamilton down the other end was not a call.

I think the final word has to go to Coach Vanney. He has to file that incident away into two folders - future Baptista intimidation and Ref Ismail Elfath cultivation.
Intimidation -TFC will see Baptista twice more this MLS season (and who knows about playoffs?). Baptista needs to get a simple message. Stay on your feet against Toronto. He may be gently persuaded or he might need harsh reminders. This is an area that Damien Perquis can handle well.

If Ref Elfath made a jumpy call and gave a game to Orlando, Vanney has to be firm, but calm. It is not that TFC are owed anything, but a future balance can be sought. TFC does not need another Toledo.

Two TFC goals scored in a game, one from Hamilton and the other from Morrow.
2nd half performance was improved
Osorio and Babouli were moving the ball well late in the game
Hagglund survived a game at right back
Josh Williams picked up the red card for arguing with Ref Elfath. I liked the heat and passion. Send the message.

Clint Irwin injury
Alex Bono debut
Giovinco scoring drought continues

Friday, June 24, 2016

Argos (CFL) land on TFC turf with a thud

Two things.

I know I have written about this before, but it is both timely and important to restate my sports history. I started my life as an Argo fan. My father emigrated to Canada in 1952 and it was Canadian football that he adopted as his spectator sport. He kept his love of soccer and was an avid golfer, but he loved his Argo football. Soccer would rise back to the top when the World Cup had a team from England, but soccer was not easily followed otherwise.

I have long claimed that the first Argos game I ever attended was the Calgary Stampeders defeating Toronto 50-0 (Sunday September 22, 1963). Somehow I think my dad took me to games earlier than that. I would have been 6 years old that day (and a Kennedy was US president).
When my father died in 1992, it was a huge factor in deciding to drop our Argos season tickets. The other factors would include raising a young family AND the decline in CFL football in the Toronto market by then. We felt like the last hold outs in 1993. Soccer and basketball were going to be the sports that I coached and the sports that I followed. 

The section below was also shared as a contribution to a forum on the Red Patch Boys site. I read and post there regularly. 

It was weird.
I attended the Argo game at BMO. I did not sit in my regular section, was down in 119, so I can't really comment on the crowd size. It did not look like a sellout. Before half time I spotted somebody from the stadium security staff collecting up the Argo t shirts draped on the seats in the south end that had not been occupied. It seemed a fair collection of shirts.
The pitch looked in fine condition - all along I have been worried about October-November impact on the pitch, not the June-July honeymoon. Overall I felt my TFC fan sensibilities were protected, the Argo invasion is dialed low, every Argo signage was a temp cover, you did not feel that the stadium could be stopped from bouncing back in a day or two.
The highlight had to be The Shipyard - the pre-game licensed area where $4 Buds are cold and the chance to throw a football at a target truly got this old man ready for a night of Canadian football. However the line-ups for food were too long and became motivation for getting to the stadium early where the poutine line was incredibly short.

The lowlights - I am picking two. The Argos have no ideas on how to promote their players. No stats on the screen, you have no idea who is a vet Argo and who is a rookie. Who comes from a high profile college and who comes from an obscure one. If you arrived having no name awareness of players, you leave the same way. They are crying out for an app that fans can dip into for player info and stats. And better use of the scoreboard.
The other lowlight has to be the Ti-Cat fans. I was sitting in a section dominated by them. I salute their dedication to their team, but it can seem sometimes that TC love is competing with Argo hate in their heads. Which underlines, in my thin book, a scary situation. It seems a very old demographic, a rough and ready lunch bucket group, and they can seem as if they have been sealed underground since 1983. Hating the Argos without understanding that the Argos are not even on the sports radar for the VAST majority of Torontonians just seemed weird. It was as if they were incredibly proud of the ability to punch air. And the few dedicated Argo fans around all seemed as if they had been sealed in the same 1983 underground chamber. 

My sports passions are the world of soccer, TFC and the Raptors. The Euro has been fantastic and I was using my phone to figure out how the NBA draft was proceeding last night. The dedicated TiCat and Argo faithful seemed to be people who would NEVER have an interest in those topics. Could they provide a take on how the Brexit vote was going in the UK or plans for the summer or an interesting non-CFL antecdote? They just seemed like a sub-culture hanging on to something that used to be mainstream. I salute the attempt to revive the Argos, wish it was happening in a dedicated stadium, but money losers (Argos) can't be choosers. The CFL problem in Toronto is not going to snap back with the stadium switch band aid and $4 Buds...they may stave off the next stage of decline for a while, but the Argos have truly lost their bounce....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Better one than none, but potential has a shelf life.. TFC 1 Whitecaps 0

As part of the pre-game ceremonies against the Whitecaps last night, TFC took the time to salute Jonathan Osorio for reaching the 100 game mark. Considering that the other TFC player who has reached 100 is Ashtone Morgan, one wonders if the spotlight brings the wrong things into focus on the TFC player performance over potential measurement. I feel that TFC is in real need for a summer signing or a trade to bolster their attack, but I would be shocked if either Osorio or Morgan were coveted by other teams.

Somehow by the end of the night the salute had backfired in both my mind and his play. Osorio did not play a bad game, perhaps a typical Osorio game. He was rarely caught out of position defensively, but then with Cheyrou and Johnson in the midfield Osorio does not need to defend. No goals, no assists, no shots.
I suppose I am more comfortable with the salute over the alternative, which would have been to ignore it. Still TFC has long struck me as too quick to dub something historical without looking too hard at whether it reached a worthy standard.

When scoring a goal (or taking a shot on target) means thinking three steps ahead, too many TFC players think one or two steps ahead, slowly it seems. The ball gets moved around, the players move around, but the scoring chances rarely develop. Last night, in the first half, there were large segments of play where TFC looked like a group of athletes that had met, for the first time, the night before.

Seba Giovinco is being quoted after the game as describing the first half as TFC at their worst. I agree. There are very few measurable stats in this world that I can safely claim to exceed Seba Giovinco in. Years lived and years watching TFC play like crap are the two that spring to mind. I know that I am ignoring the solid defending and excellent goalkeeping as I bleep about the ineffective attack.

The TFC schedule ahead is a series of continental crossings. A MLS game in Orlando this Saturday and then the game in Vancouver next week and then a home game July 2nd. I will hold my tongue and hope for coherence. The elimination of the US from the Copa last night at the hands of Argentina should send Bradley back into our midst. Stay tuned...

June sunset at stadium