Sunday, October 21, 2007

We came, we saw, we sang

and now we dream.....
After Saturday's joyous final 2007 home game it is possible to be still on such a high that the cruel reality of "season over" may not have sunk in. TFC came, the faithful fans saw and Danny Dichio conquered.
Who expected this ?? Who thought that the beautiful game would have landed, flourished and launched something so strong, so filled with affection and celebration, so tribal in all the right ways, here in boring Toronto ?
We all fall in love in different ways, at different speeds and with different results. This cynical old grump, with his secret love for soccer, stood in the stands at the end and watched the fans dance in the middle of the pitch and understood that the "head over heels" love affair with TFC was deep and wide and strong.
Lets face it, most sporting experiences divide more than unite. Tickets tell you where to sit. Escalating prices make attending games a sporadic activity which lessens the passion of the fans. Luxury boxes basically create affluent, exclusive neighbourhoods in your midst. They are designed to convince you that someone else is having a better time than you. TFC throws that out the window. The players and coaches lapped the field at the end applauding the people in red and of course they start at the cheapest seats. The pitch invasion was filled with love. It was respectful of the team, it followed their lap of honour. It also sent a clear message, an anti-luxury box message if you will; the greatest fun happening here is in the heart of the truest, happiest fan. I hope that this feeling and the wonderful memories will carry all of us through the winter months ahead.
I want what every TFC fan wants, expects ...a host of improvements:
Improved team,
Improved stadium,
Improved media coverage,
(and maybe improved recognition for little ol'me - the blogger who stuck to his keyboard and kept blogging all season long....)
Hell, I wanted improved seats in my section and price range - but you can't have everything when you are part of a movement.

I expect within a day or two I will be blogging about the off season speculation, those signings and draft choices and trades that will usher in the TFC of 2008.
So don't dream it's over. However, it is time for expressing thanks.
Thanks to family for supporting me through the season and encouraging me to give time and energy to blogging and trying to express my appreciation for the game.
Thanks to those who happily blogged for me on those handful of games that I could not make it.
Thanks to all who read the blog and double thanks to all who commented and triple thanks to those who added Mistake by the Lake to their blogrolls around the league.
And thanks to the team, players, coaches and suits, who despite the barren patches, showed a spirit that went beyond the results on the scoreboard and made being an obsessed, passionate fan a pure joy this season.
May this be the shortest winter of them all
Still Kicking

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Toronto FC 2 New England Revolution 2

On the final day of Toronto FC's first season in the MLS, the TFC Redcoats came from behind to tie the New England Revolution 2-2 at BMO Field. Danny Dichio was the hero of the comeback, looping a shot from just outside of the box past Reis ,the NE keeper, in the dying moments of the game. Toronto had fallen behind by 2 goals without really being outplayed for any significant stretch of time.
New England scored late in the first half. TFC had been playing well and Revs goal 1 was a bolt out of the blue. Michael Parkhurst was in his own half and worked himself into the clear and kicked the ball perfectly, arcing in from that great distance, catching Stamatopolous off of his line. TFC, players and fans alike, sagged. You could hardly blame Kenny S, it was a blooper of a goal, a once in a lifetime event.
Then early in the second half a bounce around corner kick made it two for the Revolutions. The goal was given to Twellman, but it could have been an own goal. Toronto has lost twice to New England this year in blowouts (4-0 and 3-0). It looked like the game was headed into that blow-out direction.
Then the Revolution was derailed (they have their playoff spot wrapped up and NY Red Bulls waiting so the game was not a complete test of relative abilities). Marvell Wynne, Tyler Hemmings and Colin Samuel began to make forays (nothing like a well made foray) down the right wing with increasing success. Wynne had scrambled for the ball in front of New England's net and got away a hard, low shot that hit the post and rebounded. Samuel won the race, put the ball away and Toronto had new life.
Dichio had been a second half substitute for Jeff Cunningham and it was his first playing time in months. He drew his usual defensive attention and was winning balls and providing for those around him. I am sure that his goal was on his first shot of the game. Overall TFC played a solid game, Chris Pozniak was a solid offensive contributor when he came on in the second half.
Next game is a friendly later this month in Portland, Oregon and then it is on to 2008.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

LA 2 TFC 1

Toronto may have spent the summer months deep in a winless goal drought, but there is no way I am willing to call the Los Angeles Galaxy a better team than TFC. Look at the games that they played head to head. TFC battled them to a scoreless draw in August, a game that Toronto should have won.
Which brings us to tonight. TFC survived the 1st half, going into the halftime break with a nil-nil score. They played many defenders as midfielders in this one. Adam Braz and Marvell Wynne were both in midfield roles. In addition to the usual loss of O'Brien, Brennan and Dichio to injury, there was also Edu, Boyens and Robinson away on international duty. So when you consider the huge potential for a defensive shell mentality, the back four worked well together and the midfield was digging in too. The Galaxy had the game under control in the first 30 minutes, but TFC ended the half with a flurry of runs and opportunities. Marshall had a chance in alone on the keeper (how was he onside??) and missed the far post. Both Marvell Wynne and Gabe Gala showed some flashes on attack. A glimmer of hope was spotted in the California night.
Toronto came out with energy in the second half and you felt that the game was still up for grabs. Then the first crumble. Marco Reda reached out and held onto the Galaxy player (Pavon or Glinton?) in the box and not only conceded the pk but picked up a red card for fouling as the last man back. But the plot had a few more twists ahead. Down a goal and down a player, TFC found another gear. Pozniak sprung Samuel with a beautiful pass and Samuel, our king of missed opportunities, buried a hard low shot past Cannon the LA keeper. Now a tie would not eliminate the Galaxy from the playoffs, but it would not be a step in the right direction. LA made all their changes looking for the right offensive combo. No doubt they were struggling with the 10 men TFC. Then along came Buddle. Remember him ?? Edson Buddle scored the winner, wide open in front of the net, he connected on a cross. Kenny S. never had a chance.
Now I grant you, a healthy Beckham will lift this team. Yet I doubt that any team truly fears meeting them in the playoffs. I am looking forward to 2008, as any slight tweak and improvement to TFC will mean two victories over LA. I have my glimmer of hope in safe keeping over the winter...

The future is now...Del Piero is worth it !!!

The churn of rumours and chatter on the soccer forums have escalated lately and this is a wonderful thing. In the off-season all teams are equal in their potential and TFC, despite one more road and one more home game, have reached the future first. This year we fell in love with the reality that we finally had a team. These rumours and talk of 2008 are a clear indication that we fans are itching to move up to the next level. There has to be a clear path from potential to playoffs to keep TFC fans happy, singing and buying merchandise.

The juiciest rumour of the week, that Allesandro Del Piero (Juventus/Italy) was being considered for the Toronto FC Designated Player role for 2008, was music to my ears. (Larry Millson's article in the Globe and Mail in which he quizzed Mo about the rumours moved the story beyond Big Soccer chatter stage) It would be a masterstroke, not because he has worn the Azzuri or Juve shirt, but because of his offensive talent. His potential for scoring goals in MLS is huge.
This is taken from his wiki entry.
"Under Marcello Lippi's reign as Juventus coach, Del Piero's creative abilities were on display whatever the coach's formation was. Del Piero showed his class in the lethal "trident-attack" formation along with veterans Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli."
If there is a player that Dichio reminds me of, it has to be Ravanelli when he played for Juve. I think that Del Piero is brilliant because he single handedly ends the debate on the striker DP versus the midfield DP. TFC would have offensive options galore whether he played as a link between midfield and two strikers or played as a striker himself.
TFC fans will accept talent. Those who see Del Piero only as a marketing move for the Italian community miss the point. He has every chance of being as strong in the MLS of 2008 as JP Angel was in 2007. If he is not the next piece in the TFC puzzle, he at least has raised the level of Designated Player possibilities.
I am loving the opportunity to dream....

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Colorado Rapids 1 TFC 0 O must we suffer...

The first half tonight was typical TFC. There were no scoring chances of any type from them. The Samuel and Cunningham combo up front continues to fizzle. A defensive shell is all they had to offer.
Colorado was able to move the ball around the field without really penetrating into scoring territory. They were well spaced, and if not dangerous, they were at least cohesive.
Then the moment of hope. A nasty injury could have resulted from the rash two footed slide tackle launched by Belouchy. The red card was given without hesitation and TFC has the man advantage at the 36th minute. We have seen this story before (Real Salt Lake in September) . Carl Robinson was the player who managed to avoid injury.
After the moment of hope comes the moment of reckoning. In a corner kick set-up Chris Pozniak gets his hands on a Rapid player in front of the net and sends him flying. Perhaps it was just getting his hands on somebody and they made sure that they went flying, but a penalty kick awarded no matter the sequence. Goal scored by Colorado's Jovan Kirovski in the 44th minute.
The second half settled into a snore, You would never have known that TFC had a man advantage. The Colorado announcer said it best. "Toronto is not good enough in possession to take advantage of being a man up".
Give credit to Mo for switching things up at the half. Braz out for Tyler Hemming, Gabe Gala out for Miguel Canizalez. This was followed shortly after with Chris Pozniak off for Joey Melo. Although these moves did not have much of an impact, at least the young players are getting some playing time.
Marvell Wynne's speed continues to amaze. In the 65th minute he was able to get from a beaten position just outside the box and come back to win the ball from Clark inside the box.
The ref tonight, Kevin Stott, was excellent in this blogger's opinion, although the yellow card to Carl Robinson could have been avoided by a quicker call just seconds before.
Pablo Mastroeni of Colorado gets ejected in the final minute or two. WIth a two man advantage there is a real shot on net saved by a diving Rapid keeper, Bouna Coundoul.
The lack of attack is frightening. The same squad that had something happening at home against the Red Bulls returned to their punchless form. LA Galaxy next and they have something to play for.

Friday, October 5, 2007

TFC 2 NYRB 1 - Foggy Fun and the Red Bulls on the run

Last night at BMO, the fog was a living thing. It was always there, as if being pumped in from offstage, hanging high and threatening to descend to field level and truly wreck the game. It never did, though sometimes it did make play at the north end (far end for us) seem fuzzy. No officer, I was not drinking...just smiling because foggy nights by the lake are one of the joys of life in Toronto.
The quality of the play on the field from TFC was crystal clear despite these trick or treat atmospherics. A team effort, with contributions from many and only a momentary lapse (the New York goal from a corner that seemed to come from TFC's letdown after the Boyen's sending off rather than the play and pressure of the Red Bulls). That was followed by a tightening in the back. Carl Robinson came back into Boyen's central defender role and you will not hear any complaints about Robbo's game from this blogger tonight. In the first half he was mobile and distributed passes all over the field. He and Mo Edu had a grip on the midfield that held all night. Even when down to ten men (Andy Boyens red card was just the ref evening the game after the Red Bulls had Joe Vide sent off) New York seldom had an attack develop down the middle of the field. They had to be happy with nibbling around the edges. You got the sense towards the end that TFC had the utmost respect for Angel and Altidore and always had many back to prevent them from getting space.
Cunningham and Samuel up front both played well. There were some gaps in communication and understanding, but for the most part they looked quick and threatening. It was pleasing to see Colin Samuel make a contribution, he may never be a star but could be a valuble squad player if not for the Senior International limit on the roster.
Gabe Gala, the teenager from Brampton who had his first start last night, looked quick and smart with the ball. The TFC attack has gone without any action on the left wing for so many games that it seems that they forget about that part of the field altogether. Gala brought the left side back into the mix. He deserved the ovation when substituted after 70 minutes.
I came into the game with admiration for Jozy Altidore, both from US U20 play and Red Bull games on the tube. Perhaps I caught him having an off night, but he did seem to be flipping and flopping and hamming up all night. When an attacker puts more effort into putting his knees together and twisting in the air to exaggerate a challenge or foul than he does getting open and shooting........ I am a charitable fellow, an off night for Altidore and I would take him on as a Red(coat) in a heartbeat.
Marvell Wynne bested Altidore tonight. His cross that resulted in the NY own goal was a perfectly placed one. It was destined for the net, it was just a matter of which foot would complete the transaction. I would wax poetically about the Edu goal too, but there was a lot of fog between these eyes and that end.
Moisture on the mind leads to bladder build-up. One of my travelling companion last night, Shotgun C. Lakeshore was new to the stadium, new to the team and new to the concept of standing in line for ages to go to the men's washroom. The team put on a show. the south end performed brilliantly, but the need for more toilets is bordering on the cruel and unusual. Time for an old fashioned trough - all the old places had one. Thanks for joining in on the TFC adventure Mr. Lakeshore, I know you will be back for more. Next time we will whiz in the parking lot pre-game to survive the night in style.