Saturday, September 27, 2008

TFC 1 Houston 1 -3 months and counting for a home victory

A game as dull as the sky today, Toronto struggled to squeek out another tie at home and those playoff chances continue to slide further beyond reach. Hands up everyone who still thinks that TFC deserves to be playing for the MLS Cup ? I thought so.

I had to go back to the records to double check this. Toronto fans have not been witness to a home victory since June 14th against the Colorado Rapids. Sure, ties are an improvement on losses, but all of TFC's ties have been at home this year. You can feel the fans slumping and the atmosphere at the stadium sliding as victory becomes more of a distant memory. Next year's slogan is a simple one.
Home wins and road ties
You read it here first.
Defending was a step up from the KC game, but they almost had nowhere to go but up in that regard. The own goal by Hunter Freeman was a careless play, but these things happen from time to time. If TFC had any ability to score, a slip-up such as a rare misplaced backheader would be less of a blow.
The huge break from the dullness was the flurry from Man of the Match Marvell Wynne. (Go ahead say that phrase five times quickly "Man of the Match Marvell Wynne" -fun wasn't it?) He contributed a wonderful five minutes in the second half when he scored the tying goal on a surprising dipper from outside the penalty area and then caught Dwayne DeRosario on a dangerous break and took the ball from him. Take away the Wynne contribution in those two plays and you may have had a 2-zip loss instead.

Three games on the road and one more at home are Toronto's remaining schedule. You have to go historical to develop a positive outlook. TFC 2007 ended with 6 wins, 17 losses and 7 ties for a points total of 25. TFC 2008 has 7 wins, 12 losses and 7 ties for 28 points. So TFC has an improved season even if they collapse from here on in. I won't remind you how much of an improvement Columbus has fashioned in 08.

At least we were spared Ruiz's sorry presence today. Guevara was a struggle to watch. His runs with the ball were ok, but he was starting from too deep as if he had decided to only link up with Carl Robinson no matter how defensive a position Robinson took. Guevara's passes were consistently awful, but obviously if he had scored on the set-up from Dichio all would have been forgiven.
Quick observations
No Marco Velez - the era has ended
No Julius James - remind me - is it an injury ??
Kevin Harmse was not a standout - but mopped up from time to time
Not sure that I was happy with subbing Johann Smith in for Rohan Ricketts..

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nothing New Here

Well, I almost wish still kicking had not invited me to write the blog while he is enjoying his weekend, because, at the end of it all there were very few positives to write about. Really, there was nothing in this game that hasn’t been in a number of other road games. Poor defending, rash challenges, ineffective passing, inadequate attacking were all features of this 2-0 loss to Kansas City.

What bothers me about this loss is not the performance itself, because I’m used to that by now, but the attitude of the players. Before the game John Carver expressed a sense of urgency about getting a win and scoring goals. I don’t know what happened between his talks with the press and his talks to the team, but one of the two groups didn’t get the message (and the press corps didn’t lose 2-0 to KC). If anything it seemed as though he said to the players “Take it easy boys, only a few games left now and you can take off for the rest of the winter”. A number of players mailed it in tonight, most recognisable for me were Carlos Ruiz and especially Amado Guevara. Guevara’s passing was poor and he really didn’t seem too interested in running after balls that he had a chance of winning. Sure, he had a good opportunity from a free kick towards the end of the game, but in the end it was a wasted ball in a wasted season. Certain individuals in the team apparently have been training for new careers, as members of the defence on occasion looked more like construction workers on the 401, you know, one working while four stand around watching him (yes, it’s an old joke). Carver might as well say, “You know, Tyrone, they’re building new highways in Jamaica, I found an application form for you. Please, use me as a reference on your resume”. Everyone seems frustrated, the team, the administration and the fans. The players who don’t seem frustrated don’t give a shit. We have a number of those.

For me the players who deserve kudos from this game are Barrett, Wynne, Robinson and Freeman, who will be playing this winter and therefore has something to prove. Barrett seems to care, and continually works hard, even though he might not be the most talented striker. Wynne (who might be playing this winter if the transfer rumours are true) gives the game his all, too. Robinson is so talented I can’t believe he isn’t making big bucks in Europe. He just absorbs pressure without really breaking a sweat, a real pro. I also don’t want to forget to mention Ricketts’ hard work.

If I had the chance to rebuild this team for next year I would keep very few of these guys around. My short list includes Barrett, Ricketts, Robinson and…well, that’s about it. It’s painfully obvious that the entire defence needs to be redone, and Tyrone and Marco should be plainly told to f*** off. Again, new careers are in the offing for these guys. For those of us who enjoy the personnel turn over of the off season, we have interesting times ahead.

I could go on now to talk about the size of the pitch in Kansas City, and the lovely pitcher’s mound just outside of the touch line, but when your team plays this consistently badly, complaints about the state of the MLS are irrelevant.

I defended this team to my friends for a long time, saying that all they needed was a striker, or opposing teams are packing the defensive zone to frustrate us. But no team with so much attacking ‘prowess’ (as it seemed earlier in the season) could go so long with out a positive result. One of the other lowly teams in the MLS was bound to cough up a laugher to a team that could kick it around the way we do. But this hasn’t happened. It tells me that there are two possibilities, either these terrible teams, who have many bad performances just play well against us, or, it’s all our fault. I’m starting to believe it’s the latter. If you see someone in 120 chanting “It’s all your fault” at Tyrone Marshall (or any other TFC players), just come up and say “Sit down Trout”.

Oh, I almost forgot about TFC's playoff hopes, can.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

TFC 1 Columbus Crew 1 - Just beyond our grasp .....

Those slim TFC playoff hopes still mathematically exist, but emotionally I watched them start drifting off into the fog today. Calling this the blog of hope and fog is meant to describe my own mental state (most of the time), but the team is playing in my style of thinking. This is not a good thing.
TFC now have 6 remaining games, two at home (Houston and Chicago) and four on the road (KC, NY, Dallas and San Jose). Depending on how the Red Bulls and DC United fare today, the best deficit for Toronto will be 5 points. Making up that many points will require a winning streak and some help. KC did not help by beating LA and moving ahead of Toronto in points. It would be wonderful if Toronto grabbed all of those 18 remaining points, but I do not see anyone expecting that level of fortune to grow out of today's performance. Winning the home games and beating NY on the road would make things interesting. That maybe too wild a hope.

TFC has some suitable individual parts, some building blocks for the future even, but they have not meshed into a true team. They play often like the strangers that they are. Ruiz and Barrett were unaware of each other most of the time. Ruiz showed talent today but not much in the drive and desire department. I admit I have low expectations for Ruiz, he is a rent a striker. I can't remember Chad B getting a shot on net today. Freeman and Ricketts were both capable enough wingers and Guevara and Robinson were pushing up through the middle of the field, but overall the passing touch is what's missing.

Today was sour enough that it sparked thoughts of such roster implications. If the 08 playoff run is not to be, you might as well start trying to figure out who is on your 09 roster. That must be what Mo is doing in Brazil right now. Remember there is another expansion draft in the off-season, so someone may go through that process.

Let me moan about the Columbus goal (Pat Noonan - 40). What exactly was Tyrone Marshall trying to accomplish on that play ? It did not even look like a rash attempt at a sliding tackle. It looked more like he was trying to get out of the way so that the attacker had a clear shot on goal.
I can remember on the March drive to Columbus talking about how Toronto was going to improve in 2008. Their target should be to pass the Crew. Well the Crew have turned everything around and are beyond all expectations. Now having watched them play 3 times this year, I cannot figure out exactly why this is.

Greg Sutton saving a penalty shot
Rohan Ricketts always active, controlling passes and trying to attack down the wing even as conditions fell apart. Progress was being made with having Ricketts and Wynne on the same side of field, that level of understanding was missing today.
Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson combined for a great early goal. I think subbing both of them was in honour of their
recent heavy World Cup workload.
Hunter Freeman his cross from the right wing in the final minutes of the first half that was begging for a finisher, must have surprised his team - he is another rent-a-player who is Europe bound

The turf.

More thoughts - will share later

Saturday, September 6, 2008

TFC 1 Chivas USA 3

Why did I think that Toronto had a chance to win today ? Why did I choose to attend this match knowing that the cupboard was bare ? Why was Holger Osciek, former coach of Canada and now out of a job, at the game in the MLSE box ?

Toronto came into this game with 9 players missing on international duty (Brennan, Sutton, Wynne, Guevara, Ruiz, Marshall, James, Robinson and Jarrod Smith). So it was destined to be a test of the depth of the squad. Not a test that TFC has studied for much of this season.
Three defenders that started were loans or emergency signings ( Titus, Regan and number 35) and Marco Velez was the steady hand that we were expecting to hold the fort at the back. The plan worked, for a while.
In those fleeting glory minutes of the first half, when Ricketts crossed the ball across the goal mouth and Tyler Rosenlund buried his chance, it was possible to think that long-awaited the goal scoring breakthrough would occur. That thought lingered for a while, although it did not survive to the end of the half. Chivas equalized on a goal by
Then a cheap sho from Eskendarian and a foolish retalitation from Velez were both recognized with red cards. O my kingdom for a player who keeps TFC and himself in the game by not lashing back.

Once Chivas went ahead the TFC effort was relentless, but the finish was not to be. A lot of long balls hoping to hit the target. Some forays down the wing with Ricketts or Smith trying to get a cross into to someone.
Rosenlund had a break that ended with a rushed, weak shot easily stopped. Harmse had the ball in a dangerous spot and just seemed to freeze and nothing came of it. Harmse was shifted back to right back, Gaudet came in and number 35 came out. Harmse kept the supply of long balls and lost causes coming, Gaudet barely contributed.
Nothing creative was coming from the middle of the attack. Later Saturday night, it was painful to watch Guevara get Bernier sent off for Canada, so I am not able to put forward the arguement that Amado is needed to provide drive for TFC. Carl Robinson was missed. His stops and his passing might

Keep Regan and Titus. They contributed and lord knows we need some depth.

I think that the Barrett and Dichio partnership as strikers is just not going to work. It is not that they are two peas in a pod, just that they do not mesh somehow.

Next game will be home against Columbus. It will be a reunion for TFC. The faces will change back to the well known ones. Here is hoping that the goal break through comes before the snow does.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Small squad all year long

Even before TFC sold Edu to Rangers, the size of their squad has been of concern all season long. The salary cap is the final factor, but the Senior roster numbers eighteen and the reserve squad has room for 10. So the international call-ups that will take 9 away from Toronto's roster may be a concern, but it should have been anticipated long ago. The roster appears to be at 25 and that includes Attakora-Gyan and Dunivant who are still injured.
The need for young Canadian talent has been clear for a long time. The Academy will pay off in time, but their could have been a few stop gap measures this year.
The Tyler Hemming saga has to be considered a soap opera detached from the need for a strong squad. Time to let him go to wherever he wants to go. Just be sure to replace him on the roster...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chivas USA 2 TFC 1

Labour Day weekend took me away. Off to a wonderful cottage in the Kawarthas, where radio silence was the watchword. No net, no television. Mrs Still Kicking was able to stand on a dock and catch weak waves on her berry. That was the method we used to obtain the final score on Sunday morning. During the game we were too busy singing around the campfire to care about porous defence. The last minute loss, same old same old.
I will pick Trout's brain to get more details.
The illustration is from Mr. Trout. He is my hero and my guru......