Saturday, July 26, 2014

This is YOUR House Kansas City - Toronto lacks guts and skill and finish-TFC 1 SportingKC 2

Sporting Kansas City visited Toronto last night and it was a rare home game missed for me. I watched it on TSN. I had spent the day at the Hillside Music Festival just north of Guelph at it was just too much of geographical challenge to get from Wellington County to lakeside Toronto in time.
TFC went into halftime with a 1-0 lead. This was a lead that could have been greater had the ref made  a call on the taking down of Gilberto by Collin in a "last man back" situation. Toronto, both Oduro and Hagglund, hit the post. The ref, Mr. Uncle, had  been happier showing yellow cards to the home team than the visitors.
I am not sure if Ted Uncle is the name of a ref or a horrifying relative.
Then the second half began as one feared, Kansas City taking advantage of Toronto confusion and Zusi scoring to bring the game level. Toronto managed to get a better grip on the game, but playing without Jermaine Defoe (accumulation of yellow cards) meant that scoring was always going to be a challenge. Oduro created some action down the wing, but Moore and Jackson could not add some finish.
Then Oduro breaks down the wing and is pulled from behind. SKC sees yellow and you get the feeling that nothing short of gunfire is going to inspire this ref to clamp down on Kansas City. Then Gilberto gets wiped out and no call is made.

FINALLY in minute 75 a Kansas City player gets a red card - Besler for his 457th foul. Rather than Toronto taking advantage of KC down to 10 men, they subbed on Jacob Peterson (former Toronto FC player) who scored the go ahead goal for SKC.

I do feel that Nelsen takes too long to make substitutions. The first TFC change came after KC had completed their three. It is clear that Nelsen has more faith in Jackson than perhaps he should.

The fact is that Kansas City gets away with this, they have a combo of skill and playing on the edge. Toronto FC does not have the desire or the skill to compete.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toronto FC 2 Tottenham Hotspurs 3

A clear but cool evening lakeside tonight. This was the first friendly that I was attending since year 1 - Benfica and then Aston Villa. This is not an indication that I am a raving opponent of the summer friendly. I guess I can see both sides to the argument. Most of the time I have avoided the friendlies because of price point or having a scheduling conflict or somebody else wanting the tickets. 
It was a different crowd, of course, since it was an optional purchase for the season ticket holders. A huge contingent of folks wearing Spurs gear. I am not sure how to measure these folks. If they are expat Londoners I suppose that global travel is such that they go back and see their team periodically. It would be sad to depend on North American tours for access to your team.
The Spurs fan were not an overwhelming force. THey were not together enough for any songs and  chants and when Toronto FC scored I felt that the crowd was behind them. Of course there was little in the way of south end supporters groups for TFC, they are the most likely to be somewhere grumbling about midseason friendlies.
I am not enough of a fan of Tottenham to know the strength of tonight's starting 11. Seeing Solardo and Lamella had me thinking that they started strong. The difference between Spurs and TFC was startling throughout the first half. The Spurs were smooth, well placed around the ball. It sometimes seemed as if it were a different ball on a different surface when Spurs were moving the ball around. Spurs had a ball that zipped and zoomed, always at a top speed. At one point I observed that the ball looked like it was on a monorail, under Spurs control.
Toronto had short passes, wild passes, bumpy bouncing passes, direct to the Spurs passes and "what are you thinking passes". The midfield of Lovitz, Warner, Oduro and Bekker were the culprits mostly, although Ashtone Morgan and Gilberto were making sure that every positional group had brutal contributions to make.
There was a sense that the two first half goals were inevitable. While Toronto were reeling around, THFC rode that quality passing and movement off the ball, that speed and dominant possession until a Spur was in a dangerous spot free from any defender and the ball was in the net. At the half they had scored two and you felt that they could easily run up the score.
If the marketing angle was that Jermaine Defoe wanted to show something to his old team, that something was probably a postcard, because he mailed it in tonight. I usually avoid the stat game as a ticket to nowhere, but I would like to see how many seconds Defoe had the ball at his feet, his passes attempted, completed, shots taken and any other measure. Part of it was an appalling lack of service, but Defoe was less than a show tonight. Chris Konopka was in the net for Toronto in the first half and Joe Bendik was probably the happiest player in the press box. I am sure that Konopka is rusty. He made some saves, but twice he looked out of his depth.
The second half might as well have been two different teams. I think that Kyle Bekker played the full game for Toronto, possibly Jeremy Hall and Ashtone Morgan too.
I think Spurs had a full change except for Brad Freidel in the net. I think that Tottenham were taking their foot off the pedal in the second half. Suddenly you saw less of the constant pressure leading to extended possession . I think that Toronto forwards were being given space and time. They were being allowed back into the game, in my humble opinion.
Weideman scored a goal and then the youngster, Jordan Hamilton scored for TFC to tie it up. Hamilton looked good. He had a great first touch and was a handful for defenders.
Yet, you sensed that Tottenham could turn it back on at any time and that they did. Andros Townsend found a channel (you know, a lane or a seam) and he curled a powerful beauty around Quillan Roberts who was Toronto's keeper in the second half.
It seems that the playing time with the Wilmington Hammerheads is a benefit to Hamilton and Roberts, they looked in good form. With Jeremy Hall playing in his old right back position, you wonder if either Bekker or Morgan are going to be heading south soon.
Next game is a big one, home against Kansas City. Defoe will not be playing due to going past the limit on yellow cards. Therefore it was wise to rest Michael Bradley, Joe Bendik and Justin Morrow tonight. Perhaps  we will see the TFC acquisition Warren Creavalle Saturday.
I won't be at the game, but will attempt to watch it on tv. Thanks for listening...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A steady supply of Toronto power after Houston started "lights out" TFC 4 Dynamo 2

A Saturday night game had arrived and I had yet to recover from the prior Saturday. Losing to DC United had not been a pretty sight. The failure to connect offensively was worrying and the fear that the team was going to be flat-footed and unplanned throughout the critical month of July was still gnawing at me.

This night began with Davis of Houston twice wide open on the TFC right side and twice scoring. I think both Oduro and Bloom were responsible for that side of the field, but Davis' positioning in behind the first wave of attack seemed to indicate that Oduro had neglected to track back properly. I had felt that Oduro was a significant non-contributor the week before and this score was not going to change my mind on this.

It may be World Cup hangover in the perception of the fan, but having TFC give up two goals that reminded me of Brazil vs Germany in the semi-finals was not a comfy feeling. It was not Nelsen doing a big Phil impersonation or Luke Moore playing like Fred. More of a feeling that Houston had done their homework and had exploited a flaw in TFC's formation and were going to go to town on this.

The Toronto climb back was steady, which is not the word to describe the Dynamo keeper. Keeper Tally Hall dropped the ball to enable Osorio's goal, Oduro shot and then scored due to the keeper's rebound and the teams reached the halftime tied.

I understand that it takes a long time to "click" with your peers and it is very early moments to critique the Warner - Osorio midfield, but it shows more industry than fashion. Jermaine Defoe broke down the defending horde and scored two goals to put the game away.

All this was done without Michael Bradley even on the bench. This gives me hope for the return match in hot as blazes Houston on July 19th.

And now Vancouver...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dreaming and drooling over next time Chicago Fire 1 TFC 1

Watching Toronto FC on television Wednesday night involved multiple stages of mental adjustment for the football saturated.
The first hurdle was grasping that this was not a World Cup game, an everything on the line, billions watching sort of contest. It was just a MLS regular season game played on a very rainy night in Illinois.

The second hurdle was figuring out the uniforms. I am a huge fan of the TFC third uniform this year, the onyx. However it takes awhile to understand that the flash of red uniform is Chicago, not Toronto. It was also confusing that the Fire were also looking just a little like the USA in colour scheme, although that could be just my Brasil 2014 brain going into overdrive.

Before I have had a chance to fully tuned into the game, Luke Moore is red carded for an elbow to the head of Fire midfielder Chris Ritter. Replays indicated that Moore was looking at the ball as he jumped and that Ritter came from behind and jumped late.

I am all for protecting the heads of players. Sure, when we wear our TFC fan hats, that elbow to the head of Ritter could have been a yellow card. I think that the ref was both listening to the chatter of Fire players and observing the extent of Ritter's injury before making his decision. I am comfortable with a ref who hesitates because he is getting information from the other refs, but player complaints should be background noise. The ref should be smart enough to know that not every injury is due to a foul, sometimes accidents happen

But once you establish that protection level, Mr Dodgy Ref, you can't be giving yellows for Amerikwa's kick to Caldwell's head and the late game elbow to the back of the head of Oduro. It just seemed that either ref scon was calling an unbalanced game or he was spending the rest of the night compensating for his rash red.

TFC looked adequate with 11 men, then functional with 10. A point on the road should always be valued, but TFC do not look cohesive. July needs to be spectacular. I can see reserving judgement on the midfield as Warner, Jackson and notably Oduro have not had a chance to play with Bradley. Solving and settling the midfield then creates more for the strikers, Defoe in particular.

TFC have two more MLS season games with Chicago. Here in Toronto on August 23 and back in Chicago on September 13. There is the possibility that Chicago will improve their team with a summer signing or two. The internet chatter surrounding bringing USMNT player Jermaine Jones to the MLS mentioned Chicago as a destination (not sure of chatter validity). Even with another player, the Fire are in trouble. They will not get another ref as friendly as they had last night. Toronto should be marking both of those games on their calendar as opportunities to recover from last night's confusion. See you Saturday at BMO Field.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gilberto Scores !!!!! Toronto FC takes a road point in New Jersey

NYRB 2 Toronto FC 2

It was a Friday night of delightful conflict. It was an inspired touch of scheduling that had Toronto FC visit New York Red Bulls on the night of the Brasil 2014 break. Tomorrow we have the round of 16, yesterday we had the end of group play and the MLS schedule around here pops up in the break.

I had conflicts of the delightful kind because I had family social obligations. I wanted to watch the game in peace, but a cottage invite to Muskoka from family is highly valued.

Who ever thought that I would end up witnessing the first Gilberto Toronto FC goal in a cottage driveway while smacking mosquitoes?

I always fear attempting analysis of a game on tv. I missed the first half completely. The Toronto goals were watched, but then live music and social obligations pulled me away. So I missed the NYRB late goal.

From my limited vantage, getting a point on the road is always a good thing.

Stay tuned for better blog coverage next Saturday.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

World Cup feast during Toronto FC break - Naz and Wally AM740 Zoomer Radio

I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Naz and Wally Show, a Sunday morning sports radio show on AM740 Zoomer Radio this morning (June 22).
They are aware of my TFC blog (and love) but we spoke only about Brasil 2014.

Who can blame them??

What a feast this World Cup has turned out to be. It seems that every team (ok, exceptions might include Portugal, Honduras) has decided to play with an attacking zest. Yesterday's games included Iran vs Argentina that went scoreless for 99% of the contest. Yet there was no defensive dullness. Argentina was trying to go forward, but seemed to be a talented bunch that have yet to "click". Iran defended with determination and focus, they were not about to let Argentina run riot, but those Iran counter-attacks were thrilling. They came so close and had attacking skills that had Argentina worried. Messi scored in injury time with a brilliant curving, powerful shot that eluded all.
Germany - Ghana was a thriller too. It ended 2-2, but Ghana was up 2-1 and things looked bleak for Germany. They then had the intelligence to put on my favourite International player, because I think his name sounds great at top volume, Schweinsteiger. Sorry, that should be SCHWEINSTEIGER!!!

Today is USA Portugal and the German tie means that USA has a chance, with a victory today, at taking the group!

So thanks again to Naz and Wally...they have invited me back to blab about Brasil 2014...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

TFC 1 San Jose 0 - A win with no frills

This might have been Nick Hagglund's "could have been, should have been" moment

So TFC leaves Montreal. TFC fans are miffed that Toronto was unable to score a goal and that Montreal took advantage of won the V-Cup mid-week.

TFC traded Alvaro Rey to the Crew for Dominic Oduro on Friday. I thought that Rey was on thin ice as he was not creating scoring opportunities and defending was not a big part of his game.

Walking to BMO Field the question on my mind was could we expect a greater offensive display? Points in MLS play seemed a greater priority and adding Oduro seemed a move to benefit the team right away.

Declaring that TFC "squeaked" a 1-0 win might be a touch too harsh, there were a lot of positives on display Saturday. Putting the ball into the net repeatedly from a number of sources was not one of them. This was the first time that TFC had ever defeated San Jose here in Toronto, so I give them credit for both the timely three points and the historical aspect of the result.

San Jose is not a cuddly team. Former TFC players starting for them were Gordon, Cronin and Harden. Certainly Cronin and Harden are considered good citizen types, but I think that the presence of Lenhart makes them a pain. He was poking, probing, grabbing, shoving and always complaining to the ref. Late in the game he capped it off with runs at Bendik. How does this Lenhart guy survive? It's pleasing to scan down the schedule and see that a visit to San Jose is not part of 2014. One and done suit me fine.

Jermaine Defoe scored the Toronto goal on a penalty kick. There were some scoring opportunities for Defoe and Moore in the run of play, but not much overall. Hagglund, with two cracks at net in the first half and a header that should have been in the second, might have been the biggest TFC scoring threat. Oduro came on later and paired with Defoe up front. Oduro's speed and opportunism just might create space for Defoe.
The back four of Hagglund, Henry, Caldwell and Bloom were solid all afternoon. Bendik only scared the fans once with a mishandled ball in the box. His goal kicks are improving too.

The messy midfield had some signs of improvement. The second time watching Warner in Toronto and he just might be what Tim Bez. promised when we fans were all grumbling about the Issey trade. He defends well, goes forward with the ball with skill and his passing is ok. Even when his passes go astray, you can see what he was attempting. Osorio looked a lot like Osorio 2013. Perhaps it is a matter of getting over injuries and regaining confidence. Bekker was less impressive than Osorio, but he contributed a solid game.
Jackson is coming back from concussion problems, so it was tough to see him fouled regularly in the second half. It was always late, hard tackles that followed his passing the ball well. Still Jackson seems to be unable to feed the ball to Defoe or Moore with any success, as if he remains on a different page from the strikers. This is a problem, especially since he does not seem to be creating shots for himself either. I thought before the game that trading Rey gave both Jackson and Gilberto some time to prove themselves to TFC. Now I am not so sure.
Injury concerns were part of the game. Besides Jackson having a rough ride, Lovitz suffered a head injury in the first seconds of his arrival as a substitute and Gilberto was announced as a starter but neither started nor was on the bench.
So TFC now faces a three week World Cup break. The next game is June 27 at New York. Let the global footy feast begin.