Sunday, August 13, 2017

Timbers shivered TFC 4 Portland Timbers 1

We had long looks at the two sides of TFC 2017 last night.

The worrying side, the hold the ball side that can't / won't finish off opponents. The team that plays down to the level of weaker, bunker mentality teams. The TFC that passes too much, that shoots too little, gets predictable and static and gives up on motion and surprise. This was the TFC that gave us a first half of frustration. It seemed a continuation of the DC United road game. TFC, the much better team, unable to put the ball into the net.
This is the TFC that haunts us. Echoes of the MLS Cup last December abound. Will TFC 2017 take us to the brink of glory and then flounder again? Destined to be a day late and a dollar short? Bested, not be an equal but by a plucky, lucky denier? Cruelty over victory? Winter dreams of "what if" instead of "well done".

Then we basked in a second half of execution. The "victory over cruelty" TFC showed up, vanquishing Portland and keeping all dreams alive.
How to define the nature of the attacking breakthroughs is a tough challenge.
There is an element of finesse, pinpoint passing and delicious awareness of each other. Example #1 of that would be goal 2 last night. Delgado with the perfect diagonal forward pass to put Giovinco into a threatening spot on the edge of the box, Giovinco relaying that ball quickly into Vazquez's path and Victor Vazquez sliding that ball net ward. Awareness, skill and timing were key. Vazquez had to put more effort into his celebration than he had to put into scoring the goal.
However TFC is not all Barcelona style "tiki taki" of football, both the second Justin Morrow goal and the Marky Delgado goal were opportunistic blasts. As if the scoring player was fed up with all the touches and surprises and twists and applied the brute force to bury the ball deep into the twine.

How's this for a theory? Seba Giovinco is more of a MVP player not scoring but creating for others. Both Justin Morrow's first goal and that Victor Vazquez goal were due to Giovinco's set-up, but more importantly his sense of generosity and awareness. Giovinco, once upon a time, had less faith in others and would try to do it all himself. Not that Seba is perfection, his annoyed tackle AND his kicking the ball away AND sarcastically applauding the ref might have easily resulted in a red card in that second half.

Grab bag - It was tough to see Nick Hagglund go down with another knee injury. Hope it is minor. Jason Hernandez had to be the unsung hero of the night, he filled in the central defender role perfectly. I was impulsively predicting that Nicolas Hasler would get his first goal for TFC last night. A few bright moments on the ball, have yet to decide how Hasler compares to Beitashour.

Next Game - Later in the evening the Columbus Crew (of all teams to benefit TFC) helped Toronto by defeating Chicago Fire 3-1. The next up for Toronto is the long anticipated road trip to Chicago next weekend. The Fire still have a game in hand, but Toronto lead them in both the Eastern Conference and for the overall Supporter's Shield. So bring on the Fire and bring on next Saturday. Stay tuned...



Saturday, August 5, 2017

TFC falters, Trump's fault DC United 1 TFC 1

Nobody can accuse TFC of peaking early. Nor have they truly hit a summer swoon with a July and  August record so far of LWDDWD. That is 9 points of a possible 18. They are not running away with the Eastern Conference, but hold onto first place above Chicago. They are a team in need of a winning streak. Tonight was a candidate for building a streak. Alas.

TFC visiting DC United tonight was an exercise in frustration. A fan should be content with a point from a road game, yet the destruction of NYCFC last weekend easily raised expectations.

DC deserves credit for pressing early. They deserved the early goal. The red card to Lloyd Sam was deserved, but what a crazy time in the game for such a rash tackle. DC defended well, the frustration was that TFC held the ball for eons without finding a way to break DC down. Take more shots maybe? Take on defenders and try to dribble beyond them (instead of multiple long passes to forwards double covered).

TFC has no recent history of taking a man advantage. It is almost a weakness of theirs. I suppose the equalizing goal was scored (an own goal) while TFC had a man advantage, but c'mon.

How do I somehow entangle the bizarro presidency of DJ Trump into TFC's frustrating night? Proximity to the White House alone could do it. Or DC United felt their spirits rise on the day that the Trumper left their city for an extended vacation.

TFC get a true week of rest before meeting Portland in Toronto next weekend.
Wonder which TFC will show up?








He must have shown up for picture day

Monday, July 31, 2017

Number 1 with room for improvement TFC 4 NYCFC 0

Toronto is the first team in the East standings (and first overall) while New York City FC is the third place team (both East and overall). Yet the gulf between these two teams seemed to be yawning and widening Sunday afternoon at BMO Field. I honestly expected this sort of mismatch when TFC met Colorado the weekend before and more of a battle from NYCFC.

TFC dominated and it was a strange state. They never looked in danger and they never looked in top form. Early into the game right wing back rookie √ėyvend Alseth went out of the game with a foot injury. It looked like he had swung his foot into the defender's foot and it was serious enough that he was soon limping off to the dressing room. Raheem Edwards came on in his place and left footed rookie Raheem seemed to play the right side under protest. It was not the first time he has played his off wing, but one wonders why the awkwardness. So TFC seems to be only attacking down the left side and centrally and blunders persist. Victor Vazquez played a game far below the standard he has established in Toronto colours this year. So that mucked up the left side and took a lot of magic out of the middle too! You wanted Michael Bradley to take on a stronger attacking role (as I always do), but this was a tough game against a respected opponent. So Bradley sits back and puts out fires. 

It was a moment of brilliance from Giovinco that had TFC ahead by a goal at the half, but I was worried going into the second half. TFC looked off and the slightest comeback from New York could sink this game. Toronto seemed stuck in their recent mire of failing to score and win against teams that were weak and vulnerable.

Those second half fears vanished. Morrow and Bradley grew back into their roles, Edwards was returned to the left side, Giovinco scored another brilliant goal. Jozy Altidore, who I felt was a candidate for a Ricketts replacement, bought a call from the ref and scored the third. Raheem Edwards scored the fourth and TFC ran away with it.
The late game penalty awarded to NYCFC when Delgado blocked a cross with his arm seemed to be just. It was fitting that New York missed the penalty.

Toronto by the lakeshore is a wonderful spot....on a July Sunday afternoon
Daughter and blogger

I am never one to wish my summer away AND one should never count your chickens before they hatch dept.

TFC from here to playoffs looks like this -
Home games (6)
August - Portland and Philly
September - San Jose, Montreal and New York Red Bulls
October - Montreal
Road games (6)
August - DC, Chicago (that's a big game) and Montreal
September - LA Galaxy, New England
October - Atlanta
No matter how rough their season or how little their playoff prospects, Montreal will be tough games as the Impact will gladly take on the spoiler role. It would be very nice to win at home against them in October and win the Supporter's Shield in the process. But I am getting way ahead of myself. Instead think of how a loss free August will take pressure off of September...
Keep kicking.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cup kept Cup raised TFC 2 Montreal Impact 1

A June evening approaching the stadium
Well, the blog is back. Due to a busy life and the pursuit of some other fine things in life (Airstream trailers and travel to Wilco's Solid Sound in Massachusetts) this blogger missed two games. The first leg in Montreal was televised and I missed it. The home game of TFC vs New England was also missed. No blog posts, but I followed along as best I could.
So I walked to BMO Field last night wondering if I had lost ground and worried that TFC would have wrinkled without my gaze upon them.
No worries at all.
The Bradley - Vazquez combination continues to make the TFC midfield a thing of beauty. Mavinga continues to be solid, I thought it was due to Mavinga that Montreal's late addition of Oduro amounted to nothing. In other years Oduro could use his speed to exploit space down the wing. Over and out with Mavinga.
It was a strange game with Montreal getting a first half goal out of a minimum of shots, chances and possession. TFC always looked the better side and just lacked finish on a multitude of chances.
The second half changes of Delgado for Osorio and Altidore for Ricketts made a big difference.

For me, the key action in the run of play leading to the winning goal is not Giovinco's finish, although mighty sweet that was, but his reaction to blatant foul #456 from a Montreal player just seconds before. If you watch the replay you see him grabbed by the shoulder from behind and taken to the ground and he bounces back up in a micro-second to follow the play into the near post channel. At that point in the game all TFC players knew that ref Gantar had lost the plot, that his calls were scattered and without pattern. 

It might only be a case of my being a cranky old man, but I have a theory that TFC lack only one player in their roster. A cranky man. Not a starter, but somebody the opposition knows is taking names and numbers all game long. No intent to injure, just a seeker of justice. For every liberty taken with or hard foul against a TFC player, that MLS refs seem to tolerate to an extreme degree, Cranky Man gives back what TFC has had to take.
I felt that Damien Perquis and Benoit Cheyrou played the role recently.  I am happy with Cheyrou's role this year and it is almost impossible for the team's elder statesman to also be the cranky justice seeker...

So weeks of road games and the Gold Cup national team departures make the first half of July a low profile time for TFC. Some travel plans will make my blogging a mystery. 
Have yourself a Happy Canada Day and remember....


All for One.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dusty victory, a team too subtle? TFC 2 DC United 0

Yes, I am difficult to please.
Yes, TFC scored two second half goals and secured another home victory. They stay top of the Eastern Conference with 32 points (16 games played - 9 W 2 L 5 T) but only one point ahead of surprising Schweinsteigered Chicago.

Still I was a little haunted by TFC being shut out by New England on the road a few weeks ago. Altidore and Bradley missed that one for USA duty. TFC had scoring chances by the bucket in the first half and at the very least should not have been held scoreless in that game.
So this weeks old haunting combined with a scoreless first half last night had me worried. Here was TFC back at home, Altidore and Bradley back on the field, and a touch of rust and dust was to be expected. This starting 11 had not been on the field together for a while.
When the subtle touches, the close passes, the sweeping long passes to move the point of attack and stretch the defending team are moving with a beautiful flow, TFC are a sight to behold. Yet sometimes it feels as if they are one measure short of a goal of the week candidate and that only a work of art will do. Have we fans been spoiled? The five goal demolishment of Columbus setting too high a standard?

TFC were clearly the better team tonight, but DC United 2017 have been struggling. They are currently last in the Eastern standings. It might have been a classic case of playing down to weaker opponents or it might have been that dust and rust from not playing together. I worry that is more a matter of lesser teams defending with bodies in the box and TFC letting their tendency for finesse get the better of them. For all my love of the finesse game, sometimes you have to score ugly.
In the coming summer transfer window, would I trade Armando Cooper, the finesse player deepest on the midfield depth chart and lately not even gathering dust on the bench, for a hulking brute forward? Certainly. Are you reading Mr. Bezbatchenko?

The goals from Altidore and Hamilton, both set-up by Giovinco, were moments of skill and daring. Yet it was also concerning that Altidore, Giovinco and Bradley all picked up yellow cards last night. I was not comfortable with the ref last night and once again worry about our finesse team being roughed up and the ref only seeing the response. Michael Bradley now misses the New England rematch due to card accumulation.
Special mentions - Chris Mavinga was worth the price of admission last night. His bold defending, all timing and laser like feet, was a thrill to watch. He had a better game than Victor Vazquez, I felt. Since they are both the dazzling newcomers to TFC this year, I tend to compare them. Vazquez might only be guilty of establishing a supreme standard with his performance against Columbus. Michael Bradley was strong defending and positioning, but his long passing was falling back into the spraying wildly around the field category. I wore my USA shirt in honour of his superb goal against Mexico last week. Good things happen when you retain the threat of shooting the ball from surprising locations. That is surprising locations on the field of play, not surprising locations in the nation of Mexico.

I will miss the New England game due to being away in, of all places, New England next weekend. It's not soccer related. I am a long time dedicated fan of the band Wilco. Although they are from the Chicago area, they hold a music festival every two years in a small Massachusetts town named North Adams (at an incredible site- the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or MASS MoCA). The festival is called Solid Sound , I have not missed one yet and 2017 is no exception. So I am not sure if I will blog or even be able to follow the game. Maybe I will beg a guest blogger to fill something in for me. Trust me, I want TFC to destroy New England. With their Trump friend owner and their hollow NFL ambiance home field, I put them above Columbus recently on my despised rival list.

Until the next time, All for One.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Muskets amok NE Revs 3 TFC 0

I dislike the New England Revolution.
They have a Trump loving owner.
They play in a stadium designed for NFL football on a surface designed for NFL football.
They have a goal scoring ritual that has a half dozen men dressed as American Revolutionary War chaps fire muskets after the home team scores a goal. I can't quite put my finger on why I find that deeply irksome, but I do. Maybe over glorification of military?
Oh and their head coach, Jay Heaps, often looks like a maniac and I remember him as a stormy player too...


So having NE Revs defeat TFC irks me deeply.
They caught TFC on an off performance night and defeated them 3-0.
Toronto FC had too many goal scoring opportunities elude them in the first half.
A clear header from Vazquez, a goal post hit by Morrow, a screaming shot from Cooper off the crossbar and Edwards not running onto a cross from Vazquez all spring to mind.
Seba Giovinco was Mr. Invisible

I am too deeply irked to write much more. Heavens, even Cheyrou looked slow and wayward in his passing tonight!

TFC do not play next weekend. They next play at home on June 17th. That should give them (and me) some time to get this one out the system.

grrrrrrr....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Capital punishment TFC 4 Ottawa Fury 0

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies -BMO on the brink of June
TFC played the second leg, the home game versus the Ottawa Fury in the Canadian semis last night and had little problem defeating them in a fairly lopsided game. The first half was mostly one of Ottawa frustrating and TFC looking frustrated. Then late in the half Endoh put one in off of a Fury defender (after Jordan Hamilton made a pinpoint cross from a "trapped out on the wing with a defender on his back" spot) and then seconds later it was Vazquez putting in a cross perfectly to Endoh's head and TFC had two goals. After that the Fury had to put all of their efforts into keeping tabs on TFC and the minute prospect of an Ottawa goal just faded throughout the second half.

It was a pleasure watching Vazquez and Cheyrou use the midfield as their canvas. They both find space to operate. They move into positions prior to getting the ball, they welcome pressure once they have the ball and they find ways, subtle and surprising, to move from the pressure and keep their dribbling and passing options open. They seldom seem to hold the ball too long, due to their ability to read the landscape around them.  The Fury had no equivalent. Marky Delgado scored as he went unmarked down the middle of the field. Seba Giovinco scored and you felt that he had spent his second half playing time getting back into shape and taking target practice.

The next MLS season game is this weekend against New England. The Revs have not had a strong start to the season and it is possible that TFC could go into this contest with a case of overconfidence. Thumping Ottawa just might contribute to the attitude problem. Bradley and Altidore have gone off for USMNT duty and will not be playing for TFC this weekend, same as last night. Giovinco might be rested to keep him off the artificial surface and Coach Vanney has done the same with Vazquez this season. No word on the leg injury to Tosaint Ricketts that had him come out of the game late in the first half last night. After the New England game Saturday TFC have a break in the schedule and do not play again until June 17th. The starting line-up for TFC will be interesting.
Stay tuned.