Sunday, October 26, 2008
San Jose 2 TFC 0 cloudy sunset on a season
So the season ended with a whimper and a sloppy effort in San Jose. It was as if the adrenaline that has been fueling TFC since the disaster in Kansas City expired at the same time for the entire team. I would pair the SJ and KC games as required viewing when making decisions about next year's team and beyond. The plucky efforts in New York, Dallas and at home against Chicago would not supply the correct perspective as to our strengths and weaknesses.
Let me outline the events of the final game briefly. The briefer the better.
Toronto was lucky to get to the half with a scoreless tie. San Jose had all of the early scoring chances. Sutton and some klutzy luck kept the Quakes from scoring. Any hope that Toronto could change the nature of the game expired early in the second half when Ryan Cochrane scored a header off of a corner kick from ol' Ronnie O'Brien. Sure Sutton misjudged the ball, but you knew it had only been a matter of time for the Quakes to connect. San Jose seemed to ease up with the lead and Toronto crept back into the game. There was never any sustained pressure, the rare attacks only inspired hopes for a lucky, undeserved goal. In the late going Kevin Harmse reminded us of his weakness for rash moves (a weakness that I thought he had been able to limit in his recent run as central defender). He lunged and clearly fouled Shea Salinas who then scored a screamer on the penalty. San Jose 2 and Toronto no show. The game and the season ended. It is hard to put a finger on my mood at that point. Empty would be too harsh, hopeful would be too optimistic.
Marvell Wynne did not play as he is recovering from concussion. He was missed. Danny Dichio was substituted early in the second half. Dichio's willingness to return as a role player coming off the bench should secure his TFC future. Re-read that last sentence a few times if you are out there Mo. Johann Smith and Jarrod Smith split the game out on the right wing and neither amounted to much. Jarrod Smith had a chance at a shot late in the half, but he tried to set up the player he expected to be heading for the far post. Silly Jarrod, that was Carlos Ruiz and he was not going to expend any effort. He had already squandered a scoring chance by looking more interested in buying popcorn from a vendor than making a play for the ball near the far post. The highlight of the game from a TFC fan perspective was watching Ruiz being substituted so that Ibby could have ten minutes of action. Ruiz was angry, very angry. He refused the towel and drink from the trainer and then shoved the gatorade container and stormed to the bench. I thought that he made better contact with the gatorade container than he did with a soccer ball in scoring range these last two months. It is fair to say that his anger in San Jose pales in comparison to the anger I felt when we picked the bum up in September. Get out of town fella, as a rent a striker you were not worth a Canadian dollar.
The speculation season now begins for TFC. Who returns and who is to be acquired? The need for improvement is clear. We could argue all night if Toronto the second year team is a better squad than San Jose the first year team. Either way there is not much between them and that reflects badly on TFC progress. Now Seattle arrives on the 2009 scene and their early signings indicate strength. They have a veteran keeper in Kasey Keller and the rumours are that they are about to announce the signing of Freddie Ljungberg. Wow, that is a player with potential. If Huckerby can have a positive impact on a MLS team, a healthy and active Ljungberg comes in with a potential that no player in TFC history can match. Seattle has also signed some young players, Sébastien Le Toux and Sanna Nyassi who have been playing for the USL version of the team this year. So they begin with a solid base. It will be interesting to see if Seattle uses the expansion draft to seriously weaken Toronto. They also get the first pick from the NCAA crop in the Superdraft. So it is not a stretch to say that Toronto will have to make a number of player upgrades just to stay where they are in competitive terms. It is a tough spot as a TFC fan going into the offseason fending off such strong feelings of Seattle envy. I may need a Starbucks to calm me down.