Saturday, December 3, 2016

TFC's Cup ticket sale scatters the faithful

I know this is a classic first world problem.

But, I also feel that my section at BMO Field is more of my neighbourhood than my home neighbourhood. This might be partially due to having moved this past summer, but it rings true to me.

I have used this account as a reply to a blog post in the Vocal Minority and in a thread at the Red Patch Boys forum.

I felt there was little need to rewrite my tale of trying to buy tickets for the MLS Cup as a season seat holder since game 1....

Ok, here I am, able to testify to the bizarre day. 

Yes, Ticketmaster would not let me select my own seats or even my own section. 
I kept on trying to make the select again button reveal beloved Section 220 on their cursed best available tickets track. 

The site was suspecting I was a bot and I was selecting pictures with trees in them and getting nowhere. 

Yes, Ticketmaster shut me out.

 So when I logged in the fifth time and it gave me two seats in section 220 as my best available, I was in a panicked frenzy and grabbed them. Let me in, let me in, I’ll take anything I cried before I fell to the floor in front of my computer sobbing.

My dog came over to cheer me up.

So I have lost my section, row, seats. btw I think my seniority level amongst TFC season seats is awfully good, maybe in the double digits good. Put me amongst those first brave volunteers.

You would think that being a long timer would have saved me from this..

This banishment also cost me money – my 220 would have been 80 a seat, two sections over has me at 125 per seat.

The damned thing is that it was a huge Ticketmaster inability to deal with traffic (and, thinking about this Saturday morning, a total TFC/MLSE throwing thousands of loyal ticket buying fans to the relocation winds). 

Once I got on the phone to TFC and had the 45 minute wait I idly went back on to Ticketmaster and lo and behold now I could choose my section. I could not use my code anymore, could not buy another two tix at any price, but there were little buttons on my screen telling me that seats in the lower rows of 222 were available. Not my seats but close enough…

The trouble is bigger than just one ejection. I have been in email contact with a few section 220 neighbours and we have been spewed all over. So it not as if I can swap my pair with the folks who will find themselves amongst new faces.

 The aspect that I think TFC front office never grasps is that our section is our soccer neighbourhood. You could offer me the swankiest seats in the place and I would turn them down in an instant. Being at the game involves being with people who know my name, greet me with a smile. I send these wonderful people Xmas cards for heaven’s sake.

I should still be on a “reached the Cup Final” high. Not be feeling that I have been both evicted AND had my party shut down.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cup final bound or a night of stumbles and glory - TFC 5 Montreal 2 (series 7-5 on aggregate)

Last night was a roller coaster ride and I hate roller coasters.
At the end of the game, the end of the night, there was joy and glory, shock and numbness and a feeling of all those games over all those years washing back over you. For a decade we have cheered for this team, felt the lows and dreamed of the highs. Year after year the blog name "Mistake by the Lake" fit both the team performance and the feeling that a fan had for this journey of deep support. So often I thought that I was mistaken to love this team, this sport, in this city, so much.
Last night, when victory had been reached and a place in the Cup final had been obtained I turned to my wonderful wife and said 'well, that was a decade well spent".
The next morning I still feel the joy of it all, but I am also trying to grasp the full journey. I do recall once telling the TFC president at the time (Tom Anselmi) at a TFC town hall that having a Toronto football club was a dream come true. I am trying to recall the details of a ten year dream this morning, from the heights.

But back to last night's game

Montreal was a team that I truly feared. This summer, during the CNE, the Montreal Impact came to town. TFC was riding high, the supporter groups had the entire south end clad with gigantic banners, Montreal had a player sent off late in the first half, so TFC had a player advantage for more than 45 minutes.

And Montreal beat Toronto that summer night.

I think that the memories of that game were seared into my TFC memory cells.

So I spent Wednesday November 30th, prior to attending the TFC home game hosting Montreal in the second leg of the Eastern Final, worried. Tense and nervous.
This state of fear, worry and nervous tension is a little difficult to explain to acquaintances. Folks who might know that I write this blog or have been told of my passion for soccer. The attention has been going to TFC in this playoff run and those with a general interest are happy to discuss or join in on the happiness. So why so tense?

The glory of love for your team is sometimes like the glory of love for your kids. You bask in the fleeting glory when you can, but you are more often tortured by the chances that things might go wrong.

Montreal twice gave the TFC team and crowd a startling glimpse into that "things might go wrong" territory. Scoring the first goal of the night (and giving themselves a two goal lead-aggregate) and then scoring the opening goal of the second half (equalling the TFC accomplishment of scoring two goals on the road) Montreal had us over a barrel and cornered at the same time. So the glory of the Nick Hagglund goal (his glorious header made it 3-2 on the night) was that it was required to take Toronto to extra time. A chance to save ourselves, but not the safety itself.
Guess what my mood was as the teams took the field for those double fifteen minutes of extra time? Yes, things might go wrong.
But it was not all gloom. When I heard voices from friends around me, positive observations and a few folks picked Osorio as most likely to score for TFC, I had to voice my hunch. Not Osorio I said, it will be Cheyrou.
Benoit Cheyrou, a late game substitute with only his second touch of the ball, scored the winning goal. He headed the ball crossed into him by Steven Beitashour. The place went wild. The place was wild most of the night. The fans took their support to a new level, not just the south end supporters, but the whole stadium.

This blog post has taken me hours, so I am going to wrap it up. I just took a break to watch the highlights and my tears seem to be in both overflow and standby mode today. My favourite Nick Hornby quote is "The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score."

Maybe I am struggling today with my thoughts and words because bitter disappointment beenbanished for the time being and I am out of my natural state!
Half time selfie from Section 220

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tragic event strikes Chapecoense and wounds us all

Being a fan of this sport puts you into a global village. The joys are understood and embraced, but the sadness must be shared too. Today the global village has sadness indeed.
On a flight to Colombia to play in the final for the Copa Sudamericana (described as the South American club competition similar to the Europe League) the Brazilian club team Chapecoense experienced a fatal crash.
According to the BBC report 81 people were on board the plane and reports state only 6 people have survived.
I join all expressing condolences and deep sorrow at this loss.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TFC stumble early, but leave poised - Impact 3 TFC 2

On the morning after the game in Montreal, I am struggling to get a grip on the Impact -TFC game last night ( leg 1 Eastern final for the Audi MLS Cup, if you need the full title).

I watched it on tv. It was a game that sometimes seemed to be played on an icy parking lot painted green (and only Dominic Oduro had shoes with any grip to them).
I am always hesitant to blame a player based on the narrow vision presented by tv cameras, but I have a hunch that Nick Hagglund wishes he could replay both early Montreal goals. He slipped as the through pass went by to Dominic Oduro and I felt he was caught napping on the cross coming at him that became the second goal. I still had faith, courage and perspective after that second Impact goal. Plenty of time in the game, two goals against early is not insurmountable...

I think every TFC supporter felt an incredible sinking feeling on the third Montreal goal. The Impact defender Oyongo strips the ball (from Giovinco?) and proceeds to push into the Toronto half as if he had been granted diplomatic immunity for the night. Nobody challenges and with all the time in the world he shoots and he scores. Montreal scoring three goals against TFC in the playoffs was a return to nightmare territory.

From those depths came first the Altidore goal (and I was so ready to sub him for Ricketts at halftime) and then the Bradley goal (after I had complained that he had become as predictable as Osorio in the "never take a shot at goal" category).

By the end of the game, I was so rejuvenated by the two goal comeback it was hard to feel that TFC had lost.

I ended the night feeling INCREDIBLY optimistic about TFC at home next Wednesday night. My reasons for optimism include:

1.  The critical leg 2 game will be played on grass, not that substandard green stuff that the Big Owe uses. A playing surface that hopefully (more than fingers crossed) survives the Grey Cup Sunday. I will watch the Grey Cup on tv with a startling new perspective. I will care very little for the humans in helmets and will cheer for every blade of grass. Hold your breath, field of ours, it will soon be Wednesday night!

2. The following players will rebound from their wonky ways in Montreal - first half Altidore, Osorio ( I would start Osorio and give him the first half for his confidence, but sub Will Johnson for him at halftime), Clint Irwin and Nick Hagglund.

3. Sebastian Giovinco is right where we want him, taking the field in Toronto with something to prove and a bit of fire in his belly.

4. The cloud of a second yellow in the playoffs meaning a subsequent suspended game is now lifted. That let's Toronto play a tougher, no goals against style of game.

And the last reason for optimism is more emotional, more spirited, more hope than tactic.

I blogger and fan, we fans, we brave and hardy souls, those who have raised their voices and opened their hearts over the decade to such as Adam Braz, Mista, Nick Garcia, Marco Velez and multitudes lesser and greater, now stand one game, one resounding victory short of playing for the cup. After watching Seattle- Colorado late last night, I have resigned myself to the probability that Colorado will win the second leg and put themselves in position to host the MLS Cup. We will know on Sunday as that is when they play their second leg. Whether we stand in our stadium with the chance to host Seattle on December 10th or knowing that we travel, it could be the greatest ending to TFC's already greatest season.

Until then, TFC!

Salute Montreal for support, but image of painting delay is just too painful/delightful for me to avoid

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Make Montreal Moribund

What a strange gap in the playoffs for TFC. They last played on November 6th., weeks ago. November has snapped from warmth to winter. 

Tonight they play game 1 of the MLS Eastern Finals in Montreal. 

It seemed that Bradley and Altidore had dropped off the Canadian sports radar. I focus on them because they were the only TFC members that have been kicking a ball other than during practice. Now we find out that they were off playing for Jurgen Klinsman .... for the last time (he was fired from his US coach post yesterday).

I fear that the 5-0 thrashing of NYCFC weeks ago might have created a monster of expectations tonight in Montreal.

I think that the game should be looked upon as one of those World Cup games where it is the last of the group stage and playing in the next round is already a lock. The TFC next round is the second game in Toronto.
Victory or a draw would be nice bonuses, but TFC can bounce back from a loss. It might even be a bigger motivation for next week in Toronto if TFC have to come back from a deficit (within reason).
1. An away goal or two should be top priority. 
2. A game free of yellow cards for those TFC already carrying one.
3. A game free of significant injury from the playing surface 

Full backing to those who are travelling... I do not want to dampen your spirits and I salute your dedication. 

So perhaps I am crossing my fingers for a Montreal muted or muddled in game 1. I have little regard for Montreal's ability to weather adversity. Should Toronto continue to play as dominating as they did in Yankee Stadium, the Impact will not tone it down.

But I do look at the second leg as the night where our TFC dreams come true....

Monday, November 7, 2016

Yankee Stadium Ownership NYCFC 0 TFC 5

Toronto FC went into Yankee Stadium Sunday night and played through NYCFC as if those sky blue shirted players were made of swiss cheese. Score early, score often, keep a clean sheet, avoid injury and yellow cards. We TFC fans are just not accustomed to having everything go precisely to plan, but that is exactly what Toronto FC served up.

This morning I find the sun shining and my smile broadening and I confess that it is a strange state to be in. I don't think I was alone in looking towards the Yankee Stadium game with secret fears. It is glorious to be flying when you are so used to crashing.

I had a dream, an anxiety dream the night before TFC played this East Conference semi-final MLS Cup playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
In my dream things were bad and kept getting worse. First Michael Bradley was red carded early in the game. Then a second red card was issued to Aron Gunnarsson (yes, I am aware that he plays for Iceland as captain and Cardiff City, but my dream team TFC has flexibility).
Then for some reason my dream allowed me to be on the TFC bench and I was substituted into the game. Either, I then spent all my time trying to keep players from getting involved in altercations or they spent all of their time preventing me from picking up a red card. Then as dreams do... it faded into something else.

By the time I was sharing my recall of this dream with my family, TFC was already up 3-0 and laughing.

I have supported, faithfully attended games of, loved, blogged and thought about this team for 10 years now and the culture of things going badly must be woven deep into our fandom by now.

The final game of 2009 came to mind last night as Giovinco's hat trick brought the TFC total to 5. Season 2009 was Toronto FC's first chance at a playoff game. New York Red Bulls were the worst team in the East of MLS that year and it happened to be the final soccer game at Giant's Stadium. All Toronto had to do was win in New York and they would qualify for the playoffs.

Instead they lost 5-0. 

So when Giovinco scored late, not for a second did I feel that TFC were running up the score or making NYCFC look bad. It all made sense that a 5-0 score would put at least one aspect of TFC's haunted history to rest.

Now Toronto are to meet Montreal for the two game Eastern Final to qualify for the MLS Cup.

Am I still dreaming?

Michael Bradley played the entire game!?
Shocked that Aron Gunnarsson appeared to not be in uniform last night!?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Two goals ahead, Yankee Stadium Sunday looms large TFC 2 NYC 0

It is possible to be riding along into the day after on the elation and explosion of joy that the late two goals for Toronto FC brought to team and fans last night.

I prefer to chew a bit on the foul mood and frustration that dominated most of the night prior to Altidore's breakthrough. Tension, anger and frustration are the elements that were swirling around me as TFC took on NYC. Toronto always looked the better team and NYC hardly looked like second place in the East finishers.  I am going to avoid adding football club to New York's name as I am of the opinion that fouling club would be a better tag. It was not the first time that I have felt that the New York group went into a contest with a "mug Giovinco "strategy and not much else.

Sebastian Giovinco had an off night. First the fouling throws him off, then the lack of calls protecting him and then when he gets the calls (well into the second half, by my recall) he compounds the frustration by firing wildly on free kicks. Vanney was wise to sub Giovinco off in the late going. The attempt of the NYC player to start something with Altidore at the final whistle might have been what Vanney was saving Giovinco from.

Ref Silviu Petrescu was the wrong man for the job. He is just too lenient, too willing to listen to players and never seems able to establish a firm sense of justice to his calls. The wrong guy to take the steam out of a "mug Giovinco" strategy. 
When David Villa, who had kicked out at Armando Cooper's legs after a collision, refused to back off and was standing over the prone Cooper and lecturing him, I thought Petrescu had lost control of the game and it was still fairly early in the first half. Petrescu was practically pushing Villa away from the confrontation and Villa was still eluding him and getting back at Cooper. 
Sorry, but Villa was showing a shocking lack of respect for the ref, plus a lack of respect for a Toronto player here in Toronto. I am so pleased that Villa was kept off the score sheet and left the field to a chorus of boos.

Can you tell that I am still steamed?

I want TFC to bury these bums. Unleash Giovinco from the start and push for the early goals, the away goals that will build a mountain that NYC lacks the guts to climb.  I am convinced that Giovinco can score a hat trick in the first half. I am also convinced that Clint Irwin can make more saves at the Toronto end than NYC can even if they are allowed to have double goalkeepers.
Shut them down, fill their net and send them to the offseason they so richly deserve.
And make sure that David Villa gets a message, if you are not going to give respect, TFC will extract it from you.

I will now pull myself together and try to end on positive notes.

Michael Bradley. The man was fantastic. A true star. He abandoned the hang back with Moor approach and was a full box to box midfielder. His passing was superb, his moving forward with the ball at his feet even better than superb and there was no let up in his defensive positioning and tackling.

Nick Hagglund. A rough start was worrying. He and Moor just seemed to be unable to complete a pass to each other. Hagglund's plays forward were just as shaky. 
Then he found another gear. It is fitting that the second Toronto goal was from a ball sent into the goal area by Hagglund. He was solid.

It does not show up on the highlights, but I think special mention needs to go to Marky Delgado for his role in the second goal. He had just been subbed into the game and suddenly he was bossing the midfield. The ball just seemed to be drawn to him. When Hagglund sends in that wonderful diagonal cross, Delgado has left the midfield and he almost gets his head to the ball in front of the net before it falls for Ricketts. Ricketts scores off of his own rebound, but Delgado contributed to the energy that made that goal happen.