Monday, July 30, 2007

Ugh TFC 0 Fire 3

I have nothing to share other than my hesitatitions and fear. I guess if I was going to miss a game, this was the one to miss.
This past weekend was the weekend of the Hillside Festival just outside of Guelph. I attended with my entire family and had a great time. If you are a fan of indie music, this festival is the place to be. Great "under the radar" artists, great food, relaxing atmosphere, great beer, you can even go for a dip in the lake to cool off.
So I gave up my tickets to the TFC game and put the game on the pvr at home. Getting home after midnight and knowing the score, I have yet to watch the game. It is a test of my loyalty and courage and I am failing on both counts.
Just to throw in my "told you so's", it seems that my concerns with depth and defense after the Aston Villa game are haunting the team still. Millson in the Globe and Mail reports Mo as looking for 2 or 3 players, including a keeper. Go Mo Go.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

TFC 2 Aston Villa 4

It was an entertaining night. It was great to be back in those flimsy red seats with a bit of breeze coming off the lake. The game played many roles, a homecoming, a test of TFC calibre and a pre-season run around for the opposition to name just a few. We knew we were back into the swing of things when the ref started to make strange calls. It was as if we had never left.
The loss was strong medicine, all of the TFC weaknesses were laid bare for all to see.
Our central defenders (Marshall and Brennan) are on the slow side and don't cover with the physical intensity or proximity that is required and our defense out on the flanks aren't much better. When Villa was attacking, they had no difficulty getting their crosses into dangerous territory and there was always one or two or more Villans in the hunt for the ball. You know your d is rocky when Andy Welsh is tracking back trying to throw his weight around. In the second half when Boyens replaced Marshall, for a few moments I thought there was an improvement in the back, but then Villa started to go through the TFC goal area like a hot knife through butter.
Our strikers are a mismatched collection. Samuel and Dichio were effective, but seem to be two solo acts that need some rehearsal time together. Samuel and Lombardo had their moments. Their energy was the driving force behind the flurry of offensive activity that made the second half a treat for the home support. You want Lombardo to have that striker's ego, but his stealing the ball from Robinson to shoot on net was an odd moment. Shouldn't it occur to you that you are not being passed to because the midfielder knows you are offside? After all it is very rare to see Robinson making a run at net like he was doing.
The lack of depth to the TFC squad continues to be a concern. They need some Canadian talent. Melo and Posniak were the only two who came off the bench. Welsh and Robinson did not have strong games and Ronnie O'Brien should have had an early night. I say that without knowing what the substitution limit was for the contest.

Alexei Lalas made some bold statements recently to the British press about the quality of MLS in comparison to EPL. He seemed to have been provoked by the constant putdowns that have been part of the scenery since the Beckham signing. I saw the sense of his defense of the calibre of play. You don't have to agree with the statement to be glad that someone is taking it. Tonight in the last fifteen minutes when it seemed that Aston Villa could have scored time and time again if they had really wanted to, the thought occured to me. I hope the tape of this game does not get into Lalas' hands.
But TFC have come a long way in a short time. They did create some excitement in the second half with their comeback and the learning process continues.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pointed observations of excessive celebrations (or what a Sunday)

Visiting BMO without the TFC to root for is an odd feeling. I think it is the equivalent of visiting a shady motel without your girlfriend. Once the object of desire is missing, well things go downhill. So forgive the sour rant to follow, I blame it on emotions gone astray. The best chant I heard all day was rows behind me. A number of TFC shirted fans called out “This is our house....and we want it back”. I could not have said it better myself....
I have struggled for hours to make sense of the U20 World Cup Final I attended yesterday. I did not go to bury Argentina, although my English heritage makes me a strong skeptic when it comes to those blue and white stripes. I left with a sour taste about the game, that team and that soccer nation. If ever the phrase “sing when you’re winning” applied to an army of supporters, it’s Argentina, at least the group in Toronto yesterday. When the Czechs had the run of the game, they go quiet, real quiet. Chile had much better support, consistent support in the third place game. When the losing Austrians ran the field to salute the crowd at the end of their match, there was a good feeling between the players and everyone in the crowd. Even more so down in the south end where a large group of Chilean supporters had gathered. The Austrian team heartily applauded them and the Chilean group cheered them back. A touch of class on both sides.
Argentina have won 5 of the last 7 U20 World Cups, but by their celebrations you would think that they have gone centuries without victory. You would have thought that they had won the game 12 -0.
Go ahead and try to find a photo or video clip of an Argentinian player congratulating or consoling a Czech player. I was there for 30+ minutes. The Czechs stood at half field while the Argentineans danced and danced and celebrated and celebrated some more. At this end and then again at that end. They acted as if they were at a private party, not at an athletic contest.
Winning made them the better team. It was a paper thin margin of victory, but victory was theirs. The post game actions and relentless self involvement at the end made them, in my eyes, the lesser team. If I was a Czech player standing there I would be simply dreaming of the day when I would meet them again on the senior world stage.
If I could wave a magic wand and take two players from the U20 WC and put them on the TFC roster, I would not be taking an Argentinian at all.(surprise, surprise, surprise) The big number 4 for Austria playing central defense would be one and number 13 the left winger for the Czech’s would be the other. Forgive me for not knowing their names. Research department took the day off.

A tip of the Still Kicking hat to the mastermind of the “Mistake by the Lake U20 WC investigative team” yesterday, Mr Craven Cottage View. Mr. CC View is a man of many talents. A lover of the beautiful game, a footy historian, a fine official and may even be running for office ( Halton Hills chapter of TFC supporters club). cheers !

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Crew 2 TFC 0 Time to take it home and stay awhile.....

It was hard to gather any positives from this matchup in Columbus today. Toronto went into this game trailing the Columbus Crew by three points in the standings and needed a victory to eliminate this gap. Toronto looked flat and disconnected throughout the game. There was some individual effort, but TFC did not look like a cohesive unit. The defending needed help as the Crew was able to get in behind them a couple of times in the first half. It didn't get better in the second . The attack seldom threatened or was able to sustain pressure until late in the game when Columbus was happy to sit back and defend.
Perhaps it was due to the personal toll of watching two U20 games in the lakeside sunshine today (U20 report to follow tomorrow) but this was a dull contest. It didn't help that the Crew's Argentinian veteran (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) provided both goals. I was tired of seeing Argentinians score, I guess.

Friday, July 20, 2007

If only....Argentina vs Chile

A few observations on the U20 semi between Argentina and Chile.

This is not the first time during this tournament that I looked forward to an Argentina game and was let down. The previous game against Mexico was as dull as dishwater.

Didn't it seem that Chile's shutout streak was the talisman that they were hanging their hats on and once that was broken, they shattered ?
And since I am using my 20/20 hindsight..if only the ref had yellow carded the Chilean player who kicked out and red carded the Argentinian player for rolling around clutching his head in the area of his eye when there had been no contact.....we might have had a contest.

Now both teams are playing on Sunday (one in the third place game and the other in the final). Should be an interesting afternoon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Houston Dynamo 0 TFC 0

Whew, yeah, whew, a tie on the road and a little bit of justice for TFC against a team that is supposed to be top quality (although I remain unconvinced based on their play against TFC, now both home and away).
OK I am a fan and a blogger, not a neutral observer. The quality of this game was looking shaky to begin with. TFC often struggles on the road and the Houston Dynamo is going for the record of MLS minutes without allowing a goal. So fans were not expecting a goal fest.
Houston did have the upper hand at the start, a hit post and a handful of near misses seemed to be a hint that they would start scoring, but it never happened.
Edu getting a red card in the first half turned the game into a bog. The Dynamo were throwing what fire power they had and TFC was holding their positions, marking their men and allowing Serge to make some solid saves. It was ugly, but it was efficient ugly.
Credit to Mo for some cagey substitutions. Poz for Dichio was a bit heartbreaking, but you could see the sense. Lombardo for Samuels was a wonderful move. Lombardo would keep the pressure on whenever given the chance (which was the role of Collin Samuels too, but the fresh legs helped). Lombardo's counter-attacks down the right with O"Brien and Wynne kept the flicker of hope for a goal well against the run of play alive.
Back to that red card moment. I thought the call was a bit harsh and seemed to be the result of a circus on the field. You got the feeling that TFC lost a debate. I think that Maurice Edu is a quality player, a solid rookie and a fair play sort of individual. It was a mistimed challenge and did not seem vicious or reckless.
One more road game to go and TFC now have 6 points from 5 games, which is decent and keeps them in the playoff picture. The game next weekend against Columbus Crew now looms very large as I think they hold the playoff spot that TFC covets.

PS- Houston did set the MLS record of longest streak of minutes with no goals allowed during the second half.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Becks arrives in LA

Let me share a few things to help you understand my take on the Beckham LA arrival.
I love LA. I am a child of the sixties and California was the pinnacle in my growing, but frozen Canadian mind. Beach Boys and Disney, Hollywood and Johnny Carson, it was the glamour capital of my little world. My uncle and my grandfather moved there in 1959 (it was the job loss due to the cancelling of the Avro Arrow, the Canadian fighter jet that never made it, that sparked the decision to go south). I visited LA twice as a kid and have made sure that my own kids have been there many times. In recent years I tend to visit annually, my next trip down is August. Prior to TFC, the MLS games I have attended have been Galaxy games.
I am also a huge fan of David Beckham. Most of those LA trips have been to be with my uncle as we cheer on England . The land of my ancestors and relatives has broken our hearts at World Cups and Euros for decades now. Yet every new cup means new faith. Every fan has known that certain teams have an individual who has meant everything in recent Cups. Portugal success = Figo success, France success = Zidane success and England success = Beckham success. Beckham is a special talent. No matter how many birthdays he racks up, I would pay money to watch him play
Now I have never been a fan of Manchester United. However I was unable to cheer against them in the Beckham years.
So this arrival seems close to perfect for me. Superstar soccer player from England decides to play for Los Angeles. So throw away your swipes at his glamour and his wife. Forget whether you think he will make a difference to the profile of the game in North America. I am just plain thrilled that he is here and can't wait for the Galaxy game in Toronto.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Chicago Fire 1 TFC 1

Visiting Toyota Park for the first time in the MLS, TFC was able to gather a point on the road in a strange game. Toronto was a mixture of misfiring and relentless. It was hard, sometimes, to decipher which was the home team. During the second half except for a call on Marshall in the box (which lead to pk Fire goal by Chad Barrett) and then a near-miss mess-up late in the game, you would have sensed that TFC was playing for the win and Chicago was settling for the tie. That statement might be misleading, the Fire were dangerous from time to time. However the growing number of missed chances from TFC held your attention overall.
The first half was a stalemate and ended scoreless. Carl Robinson and Ronnie O'Brien both looked off their top games. There was a constant parade of knocks and minor injuries that kept the game from creating a flow or energy. Edu and Andy Welsh were both slowed by collisions and contributed little. Dichio and Samuel were ok, but with little on offer from the midfield they did have to fend for themselves.
Jeff Cunningham did not start and did not see the pitch. Andrew Boyens also was not playing. Considering the revolving doors of trades, call-ups for U-20, Gold Cup and Copa, it should be no surprise that TFC's starting 11 was a new variation.
The parade of new faces was not as dramatic as would appear at first. Left back Todd Dunivant would have played with Marvell Wynne last year in New York and prior to that would have played some time with Marshall for the Galaxy. Collin Samuel was playing with Wynne for the first time, but with Samuel's spectacular lack of finish, Marvell could have easily thought he was still playing with Jeff Cunningham.
The TFC goal was a brilliant bolt out of the blue. Marvell Wynne sent the ball long from around the halfway line, Maurice Edu controlled the ball off of his chest and , while falling, fired the ball into the net. Wynne and Edu had strong second halfs and Ronnie O' Brien came along with force. Collin Samuel was active and maddening, he has the potential to score hat-tricks based on last night's performance. He has to finish.
So it was a turbulent ride tonight. Willing to settle for a tie, mad to see TFC fall behind, thrilled to watch them even it up on a brilliant goal, willing to settle for a tie and then at the final whistle convinced that a win was there for the taking but for some finishing, pretty well sums the game up.
A couple of Still Kicking observations
-Calen Carr of Chicago had an impressive headband. It looked so wide that it probably was bought with matching mittens.

-The TFC need for depth on the bench is still there. It would have been nice to see another substitute with goal scoring potential come on late in the game, but Cunningham is being saved to ensure recovery and who else was there ? Andrea Lombardo would have fit the bill.
Chicago - Chad Barrett (pk) 70
Toronto - Maurice Edu 78
Chicago- CJ Brown 31
Toronto - M. Edu 34
Toronto- Jim Brennan 69 (arguing the pk call)
Toronto - Chris Pozniak 76
cheers and maybe more in the morning
Next game - Houston on Sunday July 15th evening game

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


What you see on television has such an impact on your opinion of the game. Seeing that turf (astro turf ??) takes me back to a very terrible time. Long ago the Toronto Blizzard played at Exhibition Stadium, the old mistake by the lake, and the ball used to skid and slide all over the place. This RSL-TFC game had a little of that off-kilter, "ball runs too fast for humans to keep up with" style of those old NASL nights at the EX. It was hard for me to cope with the flashbacks and keep a focus on the present. Salt Lake City is such a beautiful part of the world, it is a shame that their playing surface looks so awful and plays wild and bouncy.
First half gave us the two players involved in the trade between the two teams providing the goals.
Jeff Cunningham 19th minute
Alecko Eskandarian 44th minute (penalty kick)
It was great to see Cunningham finish one of his breakaways. Seeing Esky go down (with the help of Posniak's clumsy tangle) and then score, eliminated any former TFC loyalty that remained in this corner. Nothing against Esky really, it just sealed the deal.
The second half began with Cunningham getting a knock/twist/twinge on a challenge on the RSL keeper. It then seemed that the camera was going to stay on the injured Cunningham until an intimate moment was broadcast. As my dad used to say upon hearing of a player's groin injury " that will hurt his performance both on and off the field".
Collin Samuel shifted to striker and Andy Welsh came into the game for Cunningham.
TFC always seemed to be the team in control, if not dominant, through the second half. RSL had some speedy counter-attacks, but did not have prolonged pressure or control.
I'm not convinced that the challenge on Samuel in the box was truly a foul, but the penalty kick was awarded and he made no mistake on his shot. Certainly TFC was more than overdue to have a borderline call go their way.
Andy Welsh made sure that the fans back home had one final heart attack as his pass back almost gave RSL something they did not deserve.
The injuries did pile up- Welsh getting a turf rash to the face, Cunningham with his pull, Sam Reynolds had to be replaced with 5 minutes to go. Mo will have some worries ahead.
But allow me to end with a Swirsky.....
TFC win, TFC win, TFC win !

Monday, July 2, 2007

KC Wizards 1 Toronto FC 1

TFC landed in Kansas City on Canada Day looking for rare points on the road and a sense of recovery from the blasting they suffered in New England last weekend.
Mo Johnston, no doubt trying to find a new road game success formula, made four changes to his starting eleven. Sam Reynolds was new in net, Chris Pozniak played right back in place of Marvell Wynne (off to the Copa), Collin Samuel started on the left side of midfield in place of Andy Welsh and Todd Dunivant played left back in place of Kevin Goldthwaite, the man who was traded for him. For a team with so many new faces, the TFC held up very well in the first half, with the exception of a few seconds and that was all KC needed. TFC had the majority of possession and a strong advantage in scoring chances in the first 45, but it was Kansas City who had the only goal on a quick counter attack and an accurate shot from Michael Harrington.
Reynolds might have been a shade out of alignment on the goal, but his troubles really began with a scrambling defense trying to get back from a corner kick down the other end seconds earlier.
Cunningham. O’Brien and Dichio all had chances to score throughout the first half and at halftime it was possible to have a touch of optimism about TFC’s chances.

The second half started brilliantly for TFC. Some smart ball movement sprung an attack down the left side and then the ball was swung out to the right finding Ronnie O’Brien. He was able to send a great cross into the box and Danny Dichio headed in the equalizer. Dichio was able to elude the two central KC defenders with the simplest of moves, one step forward, then two steps back. Allow Dichio to be loose in front of the net like that and it will cost you.

The game was pretty much in balance for a while until Andrew Boyens picked up his second yellow card of the night and TFC was down to 10 players. Dichio dropped back into a central midfield role for only a few minutes before being substituted for Marco Reda to shore up the defence. Andy Welsh came in for Collin Samuel to add fresh legs (and perhaps to show Mo’s continuing faith in him- is he the super-sub off the bench that has been lacking ?).
Kansas City kept up the pressure with their advantage for the remainder of the game. Sam Reynolds made some excellent saves, a couple of them from close enough that the Wizard shooter was breathing on him. I think that Reynolds has played his way onto the squad tonight (was he the reserve keeper we borrowed from Chivas USA or what ?)
Andy Welsh was able to both help out defensively and provide some counter-attack speed right to the end. He had a last second shot at net that looked like the real deal. Jeff Cunningham was able to keep the KC defenders threatened from time to time and that was a useful safety valve to help the Toronto defending pack. TFC held the tie and got the point.

I have harped on this before, but here it goes again. I am driven crazy by the extreme homer announcers in Kansas City. The play-by-play guy’s voice goes haywire with excitement when KC is developing an attack. He stated late in the game that it was an “absolute joy” to commentate the games of this team since they never play for a tie. The analyst is worse. In the middle of the second half on a wide shot taken (I think) by Movsisyan, the fellow giving the analysis of the game said “ That’s ok. That’s alright, just keep going”. Buddy, that is not analysis, that is cheerleading. I know to go easy on The Score, the commentary and the fuzzy picture quality are not their fault and without them I would be watching this game on my computer screen, but it was a dreadful product. I expect the KC crew to know little of the visiting TFC. That is forgivable, but their cheering drives me batty .