Saturday, August 23, 2008

TFC 1 NE Rev 1 - playoff hopes hanging on a Chad

Chad Barrett continues to be the bonus of the summer. His two timely goals scored in a TFC uniform in August have resulted in a win and a tie. Where would the playoff hopes be right now without him ?? Not that they are soaring, but in a Chad-less universe they would be sinking like a rock.
In a nutshell last night's game boiled down to a moment of TFC leaving Twellman unguarded and paying for it, Barrett's rocket volley off of a cross from Jim Brennan and wondering if TFC will ever have a cohesive attack.
It certainly does not help when so many are playing out of position. The starting 11 is not quite random, but we are seeing a steady invasion of defenders. A shift from the back with Brennan and Wynne becoming midfielders or true wing players. I know that Brennan has played midfield for years and Wynne saw some time there during the injury woes of 07, but this is going wrong. It is as if since the team only has depth in the defender position, so they are going to play defenders everywhere.

Rohan Ricketts was moved up into the striker spot, but that was frustrating. I am a fan of Ricketts and hope he wears the red for years to come. Yet the striker position does not suit him at this stage, he was not able to make himself much of a target for his midfield passers. When he had the ball he was not driving to the net, he was acting like a winger looking to cross it in to a striker. That's you Rohan, at least last night it was.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ruiz trade - a mistake

This is not rational evaluation, but in my bones I feel that TFC has made a mistake in obtaining Carlos Ruiz from LA. There is still a sour image in my mind from his antics in last year's Gold Cup and while playing with FC Dallas. Even if he is a TFC goal a game marvel, I will be waiting for the inevitable crap behaviour to surface.
Yes, TFC needs offensive production, but at any price ? Here's hoping that this is a stop-gap measure for a playoff push and that it is not a haunting waiting to happen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Mo Edu has been sold to Glasgow Rangers for 5 million. A talented young player with potential, his departure had been long rumoured. His play for Toronto in 2008 had been below expectations, yet his Olympic play sealed the deal. He will be missed , he has been a part of the TFC story since game one. The Globe is speculating that TFC may use the money from the Edu sale for a real grass field. Now that will a huge legacy. It is wise to remember that he is young and the team, in not blocking the move to a big Scottish club and a big pay increase, may one day be able to bring him back.
Midfielder Lauren Robert has been released today. Again, no surprise as his playing time had been shrinking and his goal production was a concern.
The TFC roster has had holes all season and the departures continue to outnumber the arrivals. Will players arrive in time for Saturday ?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

TFC at New York - Cruel, but not unusual

You could ponder tactics and strategies when you try to think about TFC's loss today, but it would lead you nowhere. It was not a game of match-ups and styles. It was more of a simple tale of talent and luck. New York had both. Talent does not have to show up for long. New York proved that today. Two flashes and two goals. The first goal was a surprise break from a clearance in the first half that was evenly played up to that point. The second was the last in a series of long balls to Dane Richards that finally paid off in injury time (although actually Angel scored)
It was a physical game. Toronto's only glimmer of hope came when Gabriel Chichero was ejected for striking Danny Dichio in the head in the first minutes of the second half. There was a flurry of passes and infrequent chances at net for TFC following that, but overall New York was slowly strangling the disconnected TFC attack.
I will avoid the debate of New York luck versus lack of Toronto talent because that will have me snarling.

Questions to ponder......
Is watching soccer being played on a fully lined and marked NFL field the largest crime in televised sports ?
Was the substitution of Danny Dichio after the collision a precaution or a sign of serious injury ?
Did Andy Boyens get away with a series of fouls ?
Why play Jarrod Smith as a sub ahead of Gabe Gala ?
Why does TFC runs out of attacking ideas the moment NYRB packs the middle of the field ?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Makeshift TFC gut out a victory in Colorado

Wow, a road victory, an honest to goodness road victory. Toronto defeated Colorado 1-0 today. A great goal from Chad Barrett very close to the end of the first half and then a rollicking, nail biter defense in the eventful second half were the key ingredients.
Watching TFC as visitors on television has become a battle between hope and history. It was tough to muster up much on the hope side going into this one. Guevara and Velez out on suspensions, Wynne and Edu at the Olympics, Dichio still doubtful. It was not looking good. The continued lack of significant signings to strengthen the team is a nagging concern (Dunivant, Cunningham and Tebily have left holes still to be filled).

At least Toronto has not been clobbered away from BMO of late. Yet the recent away games in both Salt Lake City and in Chicago had added blown opportunities to hold onto ties on the road as a new wrinkle to a sad story.
So the day started with a very unique line-up, a 4-3-3. It was hard to decide if this was brilliance or desperation.

Attakora James Marshall Brennan

Harmse Robinson Ricketts

Smith Barrett Ibrahim

The formation worked though. TFC started with energy, Jarrod Smith had some early chances on balls down the wing. He seemed to be fighting the altitude and was not reaching long balls. It looked like he was brought down in the box in the early going, but no call given. The day put to rest the early fear that it was going to be another tough day from the officials. Omar Cummings in particular was always a threat for the Rapids. When chasing back on a Colorado break, Tyrone Marshall went down with what looked like a leg injury (later described as a popping of his quad) So Marshall came out of the game, Tyler Rosenlund came into the midfield and Carl Robinson dropped back as central defender.
Both teams had opportunities but Sutton was playing well. One memorable move for him was coming out on Conor Casey and kicking away the ball.

The TFC goal was a highlight gem. Chad Barrett hit a perfect high screamer into the upper left corner from just outside the box and scored his first TFC goal. Colorado’s keeper Bouna Coundoul made a brave effort, but it was undeniable. The free kick had been won through Rohan Ricketts’ determination with the ball as he pressured the Rapid defenders (although he did seem to miss a give and go opportunity with Attakora).

Colin Clark picked up a yellow card at the end of the first half and that proved critical.
Now the second half was a roller coaster ride.
The indirect free kick awarded TFC when Coundoul handled a back pass was squandered. I admit that this would not be the scenario that many teams would plan for. Yet it seemed that either playing the ball back to a shooter who would still be in great range or changing the point of attack would at least looked like a strategy. Instead the ball was too easily cleared by the charging keeper.

The game turned when the Rapids’ Colin Clark thumped Attakora on the line from behind and picked up his 2nd yellow and was ejected. Did he carry a grudge into this game against TFC based on his being challenged into the boards in the June Toronto game ?? Although Colorado put on the pressure and had some scoring opportunities still to come, you felt it was more TFC having scrambling moments rather than a master plan from the home side.

Rohan Ricketts picked up what looked like a cramp in his leg and Gabe Gala took his place on the left wing.
Greg Sutton kicked the ball into the stands in the late minutes over a corner call went against him. It earned him a yellow card. Danny Dichio came on for Chad Barrett and contributed to the play at both ends.
Nana Attakora-Gyan looked strong on the ball and in the tackle and is making the most of his opportunity (his shirt only had Attakora as the name= so I am doing the same). Rosenlund, Gala made solid contributions, maybe not a starter spot grab, but solid.
So TFC remain afloat, playoff talk is not insane today.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cunningham traded to Dallas, a day long awaited...

There will be a toast tonight in Mistake Land. Jeff Cunningham has been traded from Toronto to FC Dallas. TFC gets a third round pick in the draft in return. It is not the return that makes this trade. JC is no longer on the field, no longer on the payroll and no longer in my nightmares.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Small atomic device goes off at BMO field, referee shields self with red cards

FC Dallas 2 - TFC 0

This game could be the turning point in the season. Many of the bad things about TFC were on display today, including frustration and violent temper (which in this case go hand in hand). Don't get me wrong, there was lots of good on display, just that it was overshadowed by what happened in the second half.

TFC demonstrated almost exactly what they have been showing the last several games, many chances (or, if you prefer, half chances) created, but little or nothing to show for it. Also, the general strategy for opposing teams has been to pack the penalty area and/or centre of the field with defenders to try to frustrate the creative midfield of Toronto. This is what we saw from Dallas today. The aim was to frustrate and overwhelm any attacks in front of the net and, like KC, San Jose and a host of other teams, they succeeded.

As early as the sixth minute Carl Robinson was yelling at Jeff Cunningham about his positioning. For the most part the first half was dominated by the reds, and there were vigorous performances by a number of players including Rohan Ricketts, Guevara, Barrett (more on him later) and, surprise, surprise, Jeff Cunningham.

Cunningham looked as though his new prescription glasses had come in and he finally saw the writing on the wall. He had a number of useful attacks, several chances to score, ran hard, got stuck in on tackles and even made a couple of defensive plays just outside the 18 yard box. Also, as a first impression, it seems that he might be a good strike partner with Barett, time will tell. He still has problems with his finishing but maybe, just maybe, he's working has way out of it.

Most of Dallas’ chances in the first half came from outside the 18 yard box. Nothing too dangerous, in fact, their best chance came from a ball headed over the net by Jim Brennan. More potent attacks came from the hoops in the last five minutes of the first half, and continued into the second half of play.

I wasn’t too impressed with Kenny Cooper, he's a big guy, gets into some scoring positions, but he’s not a world beater (although he would look good in a TFC uni). I know he scored both goals, and I give him credit for being cool and clinical while BMO was imploding during the penalty take, but colour me unimpressed. Adrian Serioux was the best Dallas player on the pitch. He was defensive and willing to join the attack. Why isn’t he in a TFC uniform? Oh yeah, he was traded for Ronnie O’brien, and what did we get for O’brien? San Jose’s first pick. Hope that turns out for us next year!

At the end of the half I had that feeling that said this could be one of those cruel games, unique to soccer, where one team works really hard and deserves to win, but the other team gets lucky and manages to steal 3 points. Unfortunately, Dallas' three points was earned less from their own efforts and more from a complete meltdown from frustration on TFC's part. The key moment in the second half took place when Amado Guevara took a swipe at one of the Dallas players in the Toronto penalty area. I believe that be was expressing the frustration that we've all been feeling over the last two months. Unfortunately he was in view of the referee, who deemed his action to be violent conduct. Guevara was red carded, a penalty was awarded, a goal was scored, and a firestorm erupted in fortress BMO. Not too long after this Marco Velez was shown a second yellow, for dissent, and TFC were down to 9 players. A number of Toronto players had been griping at the ref for some time, but Velez was nicely placed for the Referee to put another nail in the TFC coffin. Kenny Cooper’s long range worm burner (if the field turf had worms, that is) that eluded Greg Sutton just confirmed what everyone was hoping against.

In the end, the frustration was palpable. The players, the coaches (those who had not been ordered off the field by the ref), and the fans showed outward signs of anger towards the officiating. Really, the men in yellow were nothing more than scapegoats for the disappointment we are all feeling. The crew did get an earful from John Carver as they lined up to leave the field. Not a single TFC player, save for one, approached the officials. The one who did was turned away by Carver, and then, to show his further frustration, the coach shoved the player in the direction of the dressing room. It will be astonishing if there are not repercussions from the league for the incidents today, if not for the coach then for the projectiles thrown by far too many fans.

What lies ahead for TFC? Before today I may have been optimistic, discussing playoffs and a possible MLS cup. Now, your guess is as good as mine. But, I’m starting to think that a DP will not cure what ails our team. A therapist on the other hand…

A note on Chad Barrett

I expected to come into this blog post discussing a great deal of things about Chad Barrett, how wrong I was. My research indicated to me that he could be one of two things, either a young man with lots of potential who will be moulded by Mo Johnston in his striking image. Or an immature striker, using the mould of Jeff Cunningham’s cement shoes. Sure, He’s a hard worker, he tackles physically and seems to be able to get behind the defence on numerous occasions, but today his touch eluded him on the chances he took. Of course, the jury is still out, and when two strike partners are blanketed by five defenders, not too many good things happen. Let’s just hope that the hamstring problem that took him out of the game is not serious, or we’re back to square one.

On the horizon are two away games, Colorado and New York. What we need are two resounding victories to get us out of this funk and rebuild our shattered confidence. If we see two (likely) losses, it may be the beginning of the end.

Thanks to Still Kicking, who has moved me to the substitutes bench. This game was certainly not a friendly.