Saturday, May 26, 2007

playing the Crew on a Saturday night

Tonight I tried to blog live along with the game
MINUTE 2 Oh my God....a Columbus goal from Andy Herron
I was going to write about my fond memories of hearing the home announcers in both New England and Kansas City earlier this season when Marvell Wynne was beaten too easily. What is the story on the tent behind the Crew goal, it makes it look like the circus is in town and using their parking lot.
MINUTE 17 A smart cross from Cunningham on the diagonal and Pozniak has a shot in a great spot and forces the Crew keeper to make a good save. TFC are starting to look like they are snapping out of the early game shock.
MINUTE 27 Danny Dichio, he has the first home goal and now has the first road goal!! That was a shot out of the blue, a first touch to be proud of. Nigel and Craig are already dreaming of what the Dichio and Cunningham combination up front could bring. This changes everything, just not used to a change of fortune in road games.
MINUTE 36 Crew scores - Andy Herron gets another. TFC were not able to clear the ball down the left and Columbus took advantage of sloppy play at the back.
Wow that set up for Cunningham from Dichio was smooth. I believe that we TFC watchers are learning how critical Carl Robinson is for the control of the midfield by his absence..
Andy Welsh is a player that I cheer for and see so much potential in. Yet he is driving me crazy with his indecisive play on the ball. I am fighting the urge to moan everytime he has it.
Time for a cold one..
MINUTE 48 What a cracker from Jim Brennan, he scores from a free kick quite a distance out - Crew 2- TFC 2
Dichio puts Cunningham into the clear. He goes for the far post and just misses. There is a lethal sense to the attack of DIchio/Cunningham.
Minute 70 something Time for a substitution I would say. Reda looks tired but do we have another central defender...
Cunningham keeps coming up with chances.
But then how could he not put that one away !!
The game just seems to hang in the balance.
Minute 86 Cunningham says goodnight and Buddle comes in. Jeff Cunningham certainly sparkled in the attack tonight. If this is what he brings, you can see why Mo made the deal this week.
A point on the road, 2 goals on the road. A good night, a good effort and a sign of things to come.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toronto FC 0 Benfica 0

There was a time when the notion of hosting a soccer team of international stature in this city meant that the away team would really become the home team. I remember attending a game in the 90's at Varsity Stadium between Canada and Iran, where the pa system was in Farsi only, the music at half time was the Iranian hit parade (or maybe the expatriate Iranian hit parade) and the Canadian players were booed and heckled. Now don't get me wrong, the Iranian-Canadian community is a fine group of people and I enjoyed the day amongst them. But the day left you feeling that cheering for the team in Canadian red was both a minority interest and a lost cause.
A new era dawned tonight.
TFC was the home team and don't you dare think otherwise.
The crowd showed something special at BMO. It was a touch of passion and pride, of sophistication and sense of history and a wink of y'all come on back now.

The passion on display was the TFC support , constant and dominant. The chants were clear, the energy was high and the TFC Massive was energetic.
There was sophistication and awareness of the game's history in both the ovation for Eusebio at the pre-game ceremony and the ovation for Rui Costa when he was substituted late in the second half.
There was national pride as more and more Canadians took the field and held Benfica from the score sheet. Maybe the defensive effort was showing and the counter-attack chances small for TFC, but the tie was earned.
As for the wink, I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth here, it is just a feeling. But I think that many of the Benfica fans were taken in by TFC and the groundwork for their return to the stadium as TFC supporters was laid. The all for one strategy is paying off. Maybe a handful of people were thinking as they left " I am not coming back to this stadium until the return of Benfica or the Portugese national team comes to town". I think that most left thinking that it is easy, fun and exciting to support both an old country team and the local new kid in town.
Just a feeling, but team and fans did themselves proud tonight ....

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Esky traded ??

There is a lot of talk that Alecko Eskandarian has been traded to Real Salt Lake.
The only media site reporting it as a rumour right now is Steven Goff, the Soccer Insider at Washington Post. However a few message boards are saying that confirmation is on Esky's Facebook site.

I won't comment further until it becomes official.

ps - Now Steven Goff has it as confirmed by Esky himself ..

But still no confirmation or information on what was given in return...

Still Kicking

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Toronto FC 1 DC United 2

TFC and their loyal fans were given a cold dose of reality today in the clear sunshine of a May Saturday afternoon. The second half was not all disaster, but an own goal, some lethargic play in the middle minutes and a very dubious penalty kick given against Marvell Wynne all added up to the worst stretch of play in this now concluded homestand. TFC had gone into half time with a 1-0 lead on Alecko Eskandarian’s first goal of the season. Life was all sunshine and tallboys at that point. TFC seemed capable of scoring again and there had been few serious counter attacks from DC. I was convinced TFC had it in the bag.
Here are the mistakes by the lake today…
It seems to me that one constant tactic used by DC United (Larry Millson in the Globe and Mail today wondered if the DC stands for Diving Club) was to save yourself from many lost challenges by dropping and getting a call from a ref who bought it everytime.
When TFC had the ball, Welsh and Dichio were taking a beating. You expect Dichio to be in the battle, but the ref did not seem to keep the situation level and under control. Andy Welsh’s ankles must have needed ice at game end as he was being taken out low time and time again.
Three games in a week is too much for this small squad. They cannot change the schedule, but they can increase their squad can’t they? If anyone can enlighten me on MLS roster limits I would be appreciative.
We lost the battle for the central midfield in the second half. Edu and Robinson were scrambling more than creating and too often balls played wide to O’Brien and Welsh lead to them looking awfully isolated.

Stayed for the first half of the Reserves game. It was not the messy afterthought of last week’s game. Having a concession open was very thoughtful. Buddle and Lombardo were the TFC Reserves strikers. They did not click together well in either their substitution time in the main game or in the first half of the reserves match. I am starting to suspect that they don't like each other. I can't put my finger on it, but a lack of cameraderie seems to be there.

The sightlines from my seats to the field are excellent when the play is directly in front of me. I am west side – upper deck. When I have to swivel to my left to watch play in the far half the traffic from people migrating to and from their seats in the aisle by the doorway is a constant distraction since you are forced to look through or around them.
I divide the folks of the world into 2 camps, fans and tourists.
The fans get there early and get their snacks and beverages in before the start of the game. They might do some coordination so that they have beer x in their hand at the start of play and might go and get beer y quickly at half time and not miss a minute of play.
The tourists arrive late and get up and down constantly. They think that they are attending a pizza slice festival and “oh, isn’t that cute there are some soccer players down there and now I have to saunter off for a coke and fries. Tourists leave with 10 minutes to play because they want to beat the traffic. You know what really helps you beat the traffic ? Not coming out to the game in the first place because all you are going to do is obstruct the view of those fans who truly are watching the game.
Tourists stay home.
Tourists, the Blue Jays love you.
And yeah, I would not be this cranky if that penalty kick hadn't been given.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Toronto FC 1 Houston Dynamo 0 (May 16th)

Sometimes a team has to eke out a victory with a minimum of force and style and tonight the TFC did just that. It was a wet and windy night and although some of the sellout were there disguised as empty seats,those who were there were in finest voice.
Andy Welsh got his head perfectly to a ball off of a free kick in the first half and the goal had to stand up for the duration. Houston were neither dominated nor dominating, if you know what I mean. They always retained a sense of danger when they were on the ball, but the Toronto defense was able to bend (and slip and stumble) but did not break. Canadian MLS star Dwayne DeRosario looked average for want of a better term. Watching his team had me questioning the team name - Dynamo. They did not seem dynamic. More of a chippy team that flopped at every passing wind and benefited from a ref who could have been auditioning for the role of Mayor of Houston.

The Esky and Buddle combination up front looked rusty. They do not seem to be on the same page often, if at all. Buddle was a force going forward and Esky displayed his usual high energy - but as a pairing or individually they never had that sense of lethal finish. When Andrea Lombardo came on for Esky he was able to stay active and keep the Houston defenders from joining the attack. Lombardo was furious with Buddle when the best scoring chance of the second half went awry. Buddle had a clean break at goal and Lombardo had worked his way in the clear trailing at the far post. I think the anger was a little after the fact, Buddle had every right to take his shot in that situation. But I think Lombardo's annoyance might reflect a touch of impatience that is growing both on and off the field.
The slippery conditions were not doing any favours for Greg Sutton. He might have had moments where the handle was hard to find on that slick ball. To keep a clean sheet in those conditions was worthy of a salute.
Maurice Edu remains one of my faves and had a solid game. Robinson was involved in some tackles and did the unsung work in the midfield, but did not look as strong as Saturday.
So happy to report that no projectiles were thrown, no showboat drunks on the field and the south enders were at a new height in their musical performance. The songs were clear. the clapping and the coordination thereof was top quality. From the west stand you can see the support spreading and it seems to have started jumping the gaps- in other words the fans in the sections(both east and west sides)that are closest to the south end are starting to participate in clapping, singing and chanting along with the Red Patch and U Sector. No tribal drum group tonight and I think that was a good thing. Oh and the TFC Superstar song seems to be really catching on. The one to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar that goes T O R, O N T, OOOOOO TFC. It sounds beautiful ringing out on a night when beauty was in short supply. But that is a weather comment - we have our first winning streak so rejoice !!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mr. Paul Beirne gets it right

Today Paul Beirne, Director of Business Operations for Toronto FC, did the right thing and sent an email to all TFC fans. While praising to the skies the energy of the crowd at BMO, he also made it clear that fans at future games must be aware of their limits.

"In only two games, Toronto's BMO Field has been established as one of the most difficult and intimidating places for visiting teams to travel to, but it must be everyone's responsibility to ensure this reputation is for the right reasons. The Stadium and Club will be taking a very hard line on the following infractions:

- Throwing projectiles of any kind onto the playing field

- Fans entering the field of play

- Any action that jeopardizes the safety of the players, officials or fans"

I love a rowdy crowd, but the energy has to be positive and the three rules above have to be considered fundamental. We can be great supporters of a great team. It is the beautiful game after all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Toronto FC 3 Chicago Fire 1

For a day in May, the TFC red had all the dazzle of an autumn display.
My heart is red with TFC pride in honour of the first ever victory….
I suspected that it would be worth the wait, that the goal drought would end with a flood. (biblical, you know). They played with heart and head and skills galore.
I will leave it to my fellow bloggers to give their intelligent ratings on the players today. I would give most a rating of 11,
Maurice Edu and Carl Robinson would get 12s
Ronnie O’Brien would get a rating of a billion and a half. He made that game winning goal with his run down the right side.
And I would even give Edson Buddle a passing mark –mostly because of that nice 2nd half back heel.

I am also red as a steamed lobster with indignation at the beloved Danny Dichio being red carded for (gasp) trying to make a play for the ball in the air. He might have had his arm up a little, but to kick and push and cause a scuffle was a foolish overreaction by the Chicago keeper. The teams did manage to put a lid on the fireworks and get on with the game, but that keeper should have been gone, the Chicago player who was red carded seemed a peacemaker to me.

Danny Dichio will get a hat trick on July 29th when the Fire visit Toronto next. You heard it here first.

A few final observations.
I hate that song- you know the goodbye song from the sixties, by that famous band Spiral Staircase. If that is the level of wit that you can muster in the form of song- keep your lips together.
I hate fools who run on the field at game end and act as if dodging security is somehow the equivalent of playing an excellent game of football. The team is saluting the fans and the fans are saluting right back. If you lack the sense or sobriety to salute the team and thank them for a super day of entertainment, either go home or lie down and sleep it off.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Toronto FC friendlies announced.

Tonight Toronto FC announced two friendlies against major European teams this season.

Benfica visits on May 23
Not sure of the timing of this visit, when does Portugal's league end ??

Aston Villa visits on July 25
Late July is a traditional time for English teams to play warm-up games abroad, since their season starts up in late August.

These games are already included in the season ticket package.

For those wanting to buy tickets, the prices range from 95 to 195 dollars.

This is interesting news, but the prices for these games makes me think that friendlies may not be included in
season tickets in the future or the price of season tickets will go much higher next year. After all, if I choose to sell my pair of
tickets for both games, I think I could break even on the season.

still kicking