Saturday, April 26, 2008

Toronto shows perpetual offense, defeats KC 2-0

There is something sweet brewing down by Lake Ontario. That once wonky home team is showing signs of coming together on a fast-track schedule that not even the crazy optimistic few were ever predicting. We fans spent the winter complaining about the lack of ingredients going into the stew-pot, but if this continues who cares about the slow cooking method that got us to this point ?
Toronto FC won their second home game today, defeating the Kansas City Wizards 2-0. Amado Guevara scored both goals and if the first one was just taking advantage of bad KC defending, the second was brilliant and inspired. He curled in a high free kick, over the wall and under the crossbar. The build-up to that goal was worth the price of admission. Robert and Guevara both over the ball and deliberating to the point that Robinson ran back with what seemed to be an offer to mediate. No need for intervention, it was just part of the drama.
TFC have yet to allow a goal in two home games and have created their very first three game winning streak. Greg Sutton in goal and the back four are working together smoothly. Although you were always aware of KC’s ability to counter-attack, even the eventual Marco Velez mistake was corrected and countered. It is unfair to mention the Velez scary moment, he has looked strong and steady at BMO Field to my eye.
Every midfielder made a complete contribution. I am willing to give a huge salute to Carl Robinson who may have played his best ever game in a TFC uniform that I have witnessed. He was everywhere, tracking and disrupting the KC attack and distributing the ball crisply and smartly when Toronto had the ball. He seemed to know the Wizard attacking strategy better than they did. Lauren Robert had a productive first half as Toronto did everything short of scoring. Robert does tire in the second half and I am hoping that his stamina can improve for the hot months to come. I was silently willing John Carver to sub Robert for at least 15 minutes before he did. But Carver's delay meant that Robert was there as a free kick threat/decoy on the spectacular second goal. There is no doubt that the burst of energy that Jarrod Smith brought to the left flank was startling and we should see more of him, possibly earlier.
Maurice Edu played well,, but he seems to be still adjusting to the new trio around him (Guevara, Robert and Ricketts). Speaking of adjustments, Ricketts and Wynne seem to be on different pages. The potential to be mined there is considerable. I liked that Carver switched his wingers, Ricketts and Robert, from time to time.
Danny Dichio continues to work hard, but looks surrounded by defenders most of the time in this new alignment. Guevera seems to play a fluid role, but I think he is more connected to the midfield than he is to Dichio. Danny Dichio is still a big part of this team, but if the rumours of a summer Designated Player striker signing have any truth to them, his days as a starter may be numbered.
PS- I have to share my bleat on the release of Tyler Hemmings. You have to hope that it is a situation where he goes somewhere to get playing time and a bigger paycheque. The TFC record on developing Canadian talent is crappy and needs some attention.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Home Opener 2008 TFC 1 Real Salt Lake 0 random thoughts from the Brazen Head

Welcome to Season 2.

Live from the Brazen Head. A wonderful pub on Liberty Street just north of the tracks in Liberty Village, an easy walk from BMO Field. They were kind enough to put aside a table for my post-game blogging efforts....

The sun was shining and the lakeside breezes were welcoming, without quite being hot. It was great to be back at BMO Field. The offseason just seems to melt into a blur (granted, a long cold blur) when you are finding your way to your seat and you catch your first glorious glimpse of the field ready for action.
I was not alone in feeling a little apprehensive about this match-up today, just that deductive logic kicking in. DC beats Toronto 4- 1 and in turn Real Salt Lake subsequently beats DC 4-0 , so you figure that this will be a tough one. Not quite. Real Salt Lake did not look potent at all. Greg Sutton was barely tested in the first half and although he was active in the second half, he was in charge all the way.

TFC's first half was a clear indication that the revamp of the midfield has been "the great leap forward" we fans were dreaming of. It was also evidence that the great striker search must continue. There was a multitude of ball movement in the midfield and the few days the players have been together does not show.....most of the time. There were more creative touches and crosses from the left in the first half than the entire season one. Not that this is a scientific analysis, but part of my cruel heart wants to edit a video montage of Robert's crosses from the left today and send the finished product to the home of Andy Welsh. TFC, we have come along way.
But about that striker... I admire Danny Dichio as much as the next twenty TFC fans.... but he is a workhorse of a striker and his impact will be enhanced if TFC can vary his workload. Start him when that has a tactical advantage. Today vs RSL it worked. I was surprised at how late John Carver substituted for Dichio, what was it the 88th minute ?? There are going to be days when coming off the bench will work better. There will be days to not use him at all. Here is where a Designated Player striker would be a supreme gift. Sure Jeff Cunningham gives TFC a speedier breakaway style of striker, but we all know how many chances he squanders.

Rohan Ricketts was playing his first game for TFC and I thought he showed a lot of poise on the ball. In the first half RSL seemed to be sending two players at him to shut him down and he was still able to make a strong move, emerge unscathed and launch attacks of possibility. In the second half he seemed both isolated and wide when Toronto had the ball. Perhaps he should have been substituted for defensive reasons, but Lauren Robert had the goal and is the old experienced guy. What little attack RSL was throwing forward seemed to be down the left and it was hard to see Ricketts as a defensive stopper. Carl Robinson was playing that role to perfection. I think that this influx of midfielders has given Robinson a  new lease on life. He seemed more involved in the second half than the first, but that was when his tackling and marking was needed the most.
Something in the crusty old brain predicts that Rohan Ricketts and Marvell Wynne will combine for some thrilling goals this year...
Give me some time to digest this one. Velez and Marshall might have prompted an inward groan when they were announced as the central defenders, but they worked and they worked and the glaring gaffes were avoided.
Wow, what an afternoon. TFC has a 2-2 record, a feat never before accomplished. Two victories under the belt and still a game to play in April. Five goals already to their credit. Next Saturday we get to do this all again. I love the season. Catch you later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh cruel rumours, I abhor you as you tantalize and then destroy Part 2

Oh, I told you that this rumour treadmill never serves TFC well. Soccer by Ives is now reporting that Olivier Tebily is about to be signed and there are denials that Kluivert is under consideration. Now I have read that Mo talks to Ives and therefore the TFC news on SBI (Soccer by Ives) is reliable. However, there is a conflict because Mo called me ! He told me the start time on Saturday and told me to get up early and be ready to sing. I asked him about Kluivert and Tebily and not only did he not answer, his voice was replaced by a female's telling me that I was part of a group that I could choose to leave if I touched number 1. Whoa, whoa Mo ! Have you heard me sing !! Thanks for the invite. This special group must be season ticket holders. I expect that one day I will be joining another special group, season ticket holders who were once asked to sing by Mo but now get calls to pipe down a little.
See you on Saturday

Oh cruel rumours, I abhor you as you tantalize and then destroy

Should TFC sign Patrick Kluivert ?? Well, his talent in his prime was world class and even an echo of those glory days could be a worthwhile gamble. He does not have a reputation as a solid citizen, a party boy seems to be the knock. We fans are so easily seduced however. We have been frustrated with Jeff Cunningham's lack of finish for months and months,  yet he comes on as a substitute and puts one away to beat LA on the road and we go bananas. Danny Dichio scores 6 timely goals and he is the heart of the team. Kluivert could be a roaring success, and be out drinking every night, if he scores a dozen goals for TFC and gets us into the playoffs...
Last fall I got caught up in online rumours that Del Piero was going to leave Juve and Italy. I promised myself that this blog was not going to go down the speculation road. I am a fan, a season ticket holder and a student of the game.  If you want wild rumours there are other places to go. So I am struggling with sharing my thoughts on Kluivert. We shall see what we shall see.
So many question marks gathering onto one team seems a risky strategy. Guevara and Robert and then possibly adding Kluivert.....does this add up to volatile ? Although most of us accept Reds as the unofficial nickname of the team, I am now adding the "soap operas", the "enigmas" or the "once upon a times" for your consideration. If Coach Carver can make something of this motley crew...genius status awaits.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

TFC 3 LAG 2 !!!!

 Yes, a little bit of shock is kicking in. Yet, I knew that with the new signings TFC were not going to be the pushovers that LA seemed to expect.
I loved the 4-5-1. First Dichio and then Cunningham both scored in that role. I think that the idea of subbing between the two might be the pattern for the year, especially with Mo on the hunt for a striker (Patrick Kluivert is the rumour du jour)
Allow me to vent about television coverage. You do get spoiled when you watch television all weekend and you have been saturated with Masters coverage. The HD glory of Augusta National, the clear precise shots become your expected standard. It was so hard to figure out who was who, good thing the sun was shining off of Dichio's head. Hard to really tell which midfielder had the ball, thanks to Velez and Marshall for standing out. Sutton was spectacular.

Sorry for such a short post. I have been suffering with a horrible flu and I am desperate to be healthy for Saturday.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rohan Ricketts enters, Collin Samuel exits....

The TFC line-up continues to evolve. Rohan Ricketts has been released by Barnsley in England and has signed with Toronto.
This meant that Collin Samuel was released from the roster. Ricketts has been on trial for a couple of weeks and his signing had been rumoured.

I have mixed emotions when saying farewell to Collin Samuel. As a TFC fan you wanted him to do well. You wanted him to put together his strength and speed into a smooth performance and get some results. He did score a couple of goals at the end of last season. That was a good as it got. He was brought over as a back-up who could play striker or midfield. The injuries of 07 made him a starter and the great goal drought still haunts him. The Columbus penalty miss was his last chance in many ways. Time to move on.

There is no denying that MLS has raised the bar on talent on most teams this year. Samuel was a bit player on the worst team. TFC knows that there has to be a great leap forward to compete in the East. Robert, Guevara and now Ricketts have been added in a short period. Los Angeles on Sunday has the attention of TFC Nation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Guevara signs for TFC

The building of TFC version 2 continues. The long awaited signing of Amado Guevara has been announced. He is a midfielder who was the MLS MVP in 2004. The hope is that combined with Lauren Robert and Maurice Edu he will spark an attacking midfield. Carl Robinson would be able to play a more defensive and supporting role in the midfield. There is speculation that TFC may go with a 5 player midfield and a solo striker. There is also speculation that there are more signings to come and that players presently on the roster could face trades or outright release. The Sunday game in Los Angeles is eagerly anticipated.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Post mortem - week two

Forgive me, but I do not have the heart to go through Saturday's 4-1 loss to DC United with what passes for full analysis around here. If John Carver is a coach with a sense of decency he would not allow his players to watch a replay of this game. Best to treat it as a game already forgotten.
That's the best strategy for allowing your players to move on to the next game, but I will mull over a few points. The heart of a fan does take strength from these low points as they make the high points to come that much sweeter. At least that's the theory..
The TFC defending needs attention. DC's attackers were free and clear in those first minutes. My replay of the first goal had Ty Marshall getting out of the way of a shot (which makes sense since you do not want to deflect and make your keeper miserable) but his action resulted in his being down on the ground, completely out of it, while DC in numbers where descending on the loose ball. Greg Sutton did make some saves sprinkled amongst the goals, but his performance still leaves the role of #1 keeper still to be determined. Brennan and Wynne have better games ahead of them as left and right back, but the Marshall and Velez central combo needs to end. A healthy Julius James will be played centrally and perhaps also fellow rookie Pat Phelan. Perhaps trades will bring in defenders. In the meantime, Brennan could come back to the centre and Todd Dunivant could retake the left back spot.
(Both Dunivant and Samuel were said to have been left back in Toronto due to injuries)
There is always a sense of reality check when TFC meets DC United. Clearly, in my seldom clear mind, they are the class team of MLS and the true measure of Toronto's progress or lack thereof. In season 1 TFC did manage to beat New York and Chicago, tie NE and Columbus but we were never close to DC. So last night one started watching the game with only a faint hope of a surprise result. A battle for a draw would have been reason for wild celebration. The total collapse in the first five minutes followed by the Kevin Harmse sending off was both a worst case scenario and something other than a shocking revelation. TFC is a team with changes ahead of it and I am not the only fan who sees the Lauren Robert signing as just the first of a series.
If we are able to add talent, the lack of finish shown by Jeff Cunningham will end his time with Toronto.
Robert showed a lot of promise in his first game. Although he did not score, his corners and free kicks and his second half give 'n go with Dichio was at least equal with what TFC was getting from Ronnie O. Sorry to bring up our traded midfielder, it does cheer me up to think of Robert on the left as the replacement for Andy Welsh. Robert is such a step up from last year's model of left side attack (Welshy). Lauren Robert is far from the answer on his own, but another midfielder or two and a striker who can find the net will all be wonderful moves. Let's just not play Harmse as a defensive answer to anybody for a while, OK ?
I think the late goal by Edu was the best thing a TFC could have asked for in that situation, After all DC was toying with Toronto for so much of the second half. Playing keep away and then coming forward whenever the mood struck them.
Now Toronto has their first goal, their first goal on the road and the prospect of only one more game before the long home stand begins. Here's hoping that they arrive in LA with at least on more player added to the squad. May this be the sound of scraping bottom with better times ahead.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

DC United 4 TFC 1 quick report

Just some quick notes - expect something more detailed tomorrow.

Lauren Robert looked pretty good for an out of shape player who has been gathering dust on various benches in the last couple of seasons. His corner kicks and free kicks were promising, he seemed to be playing left central rather than out on the wing and his exchange with Dichio that lead to the break and the shot on net has to be a taste of things to come.
I understand that DC has greater fire power than Columbus, but the defense of TFC was being shredded tonight. DC United was getting into scoring areas like hot knives through butter.
What was Kevin Harmse thinking ? Thursday night in the New England vs Chicago game a NE player was red carded at the 7 minute mark. There was a red card foul on Ruiz in the Colorado - LA game. It has not been a secret that refs are quick to bring out the card when they suspect that there has been an injury or intimidation attempt.
Toronto was a long shot for a tie on the road. Harmse may have played (or fouled) his way onto the bench for a while.

TFC scored a goal tonight. The game was almost sealed and they had switched into the play the young Canadians mode (Lombardo, Hemmings and Rosenlund were all on the pitch). Then out of a long ball from Brennan, Edu was able to loop a header to the far post and catch the keeper asleep. It was both a relief and a good omen. Last year it took five games, this year two to get the first goal.

TFC at DC United road trip wishes

After watching TFC in Columbus last Saturday, my expectations for tonight are on the small side. Looking a little more coherent while defending, particularly in the centre of the field would be nice. Creative attack from the wings and Edu taking control of the ball and directing the tempo of the game would be nicer. Scoring a goal would be a relief. If Lauren Robert looks only half-decent I will be thrilled. Let's face it, we TFC fans are hoping to catch DC in an early season fog, but a tie on the road is the honest target for tonight.
I dare not call this a preview. I have not seen DC United play this year and I know that they made quite a few changes in the off season.

My hopes/dreams/delusions for a TFC line up tonight.


Wynne Brennan Marshall Dunivant

??? Edu Robinson Robert

Dichio Cunningham

Edwards is my pick as keeper because I think that the fans want to see what John Carver saw in training and pre-season. We are not sure after Columbus, but I was impressed with the confidence and ball-handling of Edwards . Getting a rookie some starts while the team is still gelling is not a bad idea.
The back four would get Jim Brennan back in a central role. Velez did not play badly in Columbus, but he did seem as if he had never met Marshall until game time. Brennan and Marshall do work well together. Maybe that is because Marshall has less to do with the ball when Brennan is there. I think the idea of Brennan out in the left back slot is if you are working towards a central unit of Julius James with either Velez or Phelan.
I put Edu and Robinson central and Robert on the left. I am stumped on the right side, Samuel maybe. I think TFC should be more patient with Tyler Hemmings. I don't think that out on the wing is his spot in the midfield. I think that he should be working towards being Edu's replacement come the Olympics. After all that was his role with U23 Canada and he looked strong. I think that there are changes to come in the midfield ( Guevera ?? Ricketts ?? ) so the lack of right side attack is short term.
Dichio and Cunningham go up front. I think that Dichio's role on the team is going to change. When you develop a team with depth , you have the luxury of playing to your strengths. After wearing DIchio out last year, it would be wise to have flexibility and not start him every time. I am already looking forward to a rested, healty Dichio playing in Montreal against Adam Braz in May. My willingness to trade Jeff Cunningham has been around since last fall, but it is always easier to move a player for something of value in return in they are starting rather than sitting on the bench.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

pinch me, I'm dreaming

Tonight on both The Score Footy Blog and the Toronto Star there are reports that TFC has signed French midfielder Lauren Robert to a two year contract.

I have been honestly terrified all night that this is some sort of cruel April Fool's Joke. I am reminded that one should not play jokes after noon...Please be true.

There have been some reports that say that Ricketts, lately of Barnsley has been in town for a trial, that Brittain who trialed in the pre-season is about to sign and that Guevara is still a possibility. TFC only had one international spot on the roster so it appears that this influx means trades or players to be released. After all these months, the signings appear to be arriving.