Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Wishes for the Holiday Season

All the best to you and yours. Whatever you celebrate, do it with gusto. Bring on the New Year I say, then the countdown to MLS season 2010 can begin.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Midfielder clear out continues, no shock as Vitti goes

Toronto FC is moving swiftly into the Preki era. Yesterday Amado Guevara was let loose, today Pablo Vitti goes walking too. I guess the new coach was not impressed with the 2 goals, 1 assist in 32 appearances statistic .
Lesly Fellinga, the most obscure of TFC players has also been released.
Three midfielders off the roster and two of them had large contracts (at least in MLS 2009 terms) must give us all a clear idea of what has crept to the top of Preki's Christmas shopping list.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guevara could be gone?

There are reports that TFC's midfielder Amado Guevara has signed for two years with Motagua in Honduras.
Ben Rycroft has the details here at Metro.

I was a big fan of Guevara's skill, guts and guile. He had ball skills galore, was always willing to drive forward with the ball in search of holes in the defense. He often seemed to be the only guy in red (ok, Dichio could do it too) who understood that drawing fouls was part of the game. He was also disciplined as a defender. He may have been too slight to be a crunching tackler, but he knew where to be. I guess that ability, knowing where to be, led him to depart Toronto and new coach Preki at the first opportunity.
It was a treat to see him play in Toronto for two years. I will be cheering for him to do well next summer at the South Africa World Cup. Adios.

Other news has been a December trickle- new asst. coach from Chivas as Preki brings in his guys. Winsper gone. Argos threat to the soccer turf as potent as their threat to be considered a big team in these parts...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Toronto players not chosen in Philly expansion draft

Toronto was one of five teams that had no player chosen, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City and RSL (although a deal might have been involved) being the other teams.
From a TFC perspective, an unchanged roster might not have been the target. Preki and Mo have made noises about cleaning house, but Philly stayed away.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TFC protects...

Attakora-Gyan, Nana
(youth, talent and potential=worth protecting)
Barrett, Chad
(I am mystified, unless there is trade potential)
Brennan, Jim
(symbolic, loyalty and leadership, CDN content rules rising?)
Cronin, Sam
(youth, talent and potential=worth protecting)
de Guzman, Julian
(you can't spend the money and then let him get away for nothing)
DeRosario, Dwayne
(heart of the team)
Gomez, Emmanuel
(youth and potential=worth protecting)
Sanyang, Amadou
(youth and potential=worth protecting)
Serioux, Adrian
(CDN content makes him hard to replace)
White, O'Brian
(youth, talent and potential=worth protecting)
Wynne, Marvell
(Philly would take him...)

So these means the following are available, remember each team can only lose one player to the draft, but trades can happen.
Edwards and Frei ? (questions about Frei's GA status)
Guevara (is there a trade in the works?)
Ibrahim (unless GA still)

Real Salt Lake take the MLS Cup??

The MLS Cup was won Sunday night by RSL on penalty kicks. Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy were tied 1-1 after extra time. The penalty kicks were dramatic though, crummy way to win or lose I know..
My scattered thoughts shared to bring season 2009 to an end.
- Landon D missed his penalty. So did Edson Buddle. I saw myself as a neutral, but those misses must have sparked some smiles somewhere.
- It was a game of two chapters, LA looked in full flow for the first half and then RSL became stronger as the second half wore on. I think that LA truly missed Dema Kovalenko in the midfield. Beckham ran out of gas in the second half and without Kovalenko in there, RSL began to find room in the middle of the field.
- If you feel that RSL was hardly the better team, that pks at the end make it the slightest of margins, then you can ignore my gut feeling. Yet, the fact that RSL grabbed the 8th playoff spot, a spot that TFC could have had IF they had bothered to show up at Giants Stadium, has me thinking that TFC is not as far off the mark as the 5-0 convinced me in October. A defender, a winger and a striker could make all the difference.
- I can understand the thinking behind the Cup final in Seattle. However the evening start must have hurt the Eastern time zone ratings. Then again, a Salt Lake vs LA final was already going to do that.
- The tv coverage was good enough. My take on N. American announcers vs English ones is that over here they are obsessed with telling you what the future implications are of every bloody thing that happens. Just talk and describe what is happening before you.
- Expansion draft looms. Remember it is possible that no player from TFC will be selected. I am hoping that Philly plays the Mo game and starts trading picks back to the teams they just grabbed them from.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TFC introduces Preki as new coach for 2010

It would be foolish to have too strong an opinion either way on the hiring of the new TFC coach. What he has done in the past may be a foundation, but right now Preki puts a face on the 2010 season and the countdown has begun.
-TFC moved quickly and hired a coach before the dust had settled on the season. Weeks ago I was hoping they would grab a coach before the winter college draft, it is a huge surprise that they have one before next week's expansion draft.
- Preki knows Mo. They played together, there should be no surprises. That is not to say there will be harmony and light every day, but this pairing seems to be a huge improvement over the confusion of the last two.
- Preki has both MLS experience and head coach experience.
- Preki has a reputation in recent years of getting to the playoffs and getting his under valued teams to over achieve.
- Preki stressed work ethic and balance in his first press conference. Seems like he is going to clean house and

Is Preki the coach to take the team to the next level?
Remember the buzz around town last spring when Preki brought his undefeated Chivas USA into Toronto for their big game? No, I don't either. I fear that he is an under the radar coach who got the most from an under the radar team. Face it, Chivas USA is the second fiddle team in LA where MLS is well down the list in media and fan support (LA's sports list might be Lakers, Dodgers, Trojans, Angels, Raiders/Rams/Chargers, Bruins, Golf, Tennis, Surfing, Clippers before soccer (and hockey) teams show up.
Preki will find Toronto FC is on a much shorter list in this market, with the chance to rise quickly in the year ahead. On one hand he may find his decisions, tactics and comments more scrutinized than he's used to. On the other hand, TFC fans will take success and victories from a new coach with or without tons of media glamour.
TFC fans don't want success from a mediocre team, they want success from a powerhouse team. Parity is a concept that inspires salary caps and profit margins, it does not inspire fans. Preki has an opportunity to see a few basic improvements take TFC a long way...
Already the hurt of Giants Stadium of only a few weeks ago is starting to fade. Bring on 2010.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Preki, Preki, Preki

Rumours abound that Coach Preki, having been let go by Chivas USA, is possibly heading to Toronto as coach of TFC. He has the MLS experience that Mo says he needs in his next coach.
Stay tuned...

RSL beat Chicago Fire in penalty kicks

Real Salt Lake will meet LA Galaxy in next weekend's MLS Cup. RSL defeated Chicago in Chicago after defeating Columbus in Columbus, so they sure qualified the hard way. Yet it is hard to cheer for the team that made the playoffs because of Toronto's collapse in New York.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LA Galaxy win the west - on to the Cup final

The lights went out twice in Carson, California last night, but LA scored twice in the overtime portion to eliminate Houston and win the west.
I would like to salute myself for tactical wizardry in the area of PVR programming. I did not stay up all night to watch this, I pvr'ed it to watch Saturday morning. The power outages took more than 30 minutes, so having the entire game to watch took some luck. Had the game gone to penalty kicks I might have come up short.
Oh, you want to know about the game? The teams were so well matched, the game was well played, I think that Houston with a DeRo would have had the extra ingredient they lacked, LA can thank the crossbar for stopping two and the ref for calling back one on a dodgy foul in the box.
TFC fans were spared watching Todd Dunivant who was a late scratch due to illness. Edson Buddle played a low key game, but he really is a bit player in the Beckham to Landon show.
I think that LA will take the MLS Cup next week in Seattle, no matter who they face.
So tonight I am cheering for Chicago, if only because who truly thinks Real Salt Lake deserves a cup final?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Still dragging after all these hours

More than a week has passed since the end of the Toronto FC season and it honestly still hurts. It is heart wrenching to have hope and faith in your team so deeply shaken. To go into a game hoping for the best and to have the all time worst handed to them, I am still recovering from the shock. So I have been relying on others to have the head and heart intact to chart the course ahead.

Asif, who writes The Kick About on the TFC web site, takes the high road and calls on supporters to take on the Liverpool style. Saturday when Liverpool was being beaten by Fulham, you could hear those Liverpool supporters on tv singing “you’ll never walk alone”. It is noble of them and I will always have time for Asif’s view, but it will take time for me to join him on that high road. Right now my feeling on supporting TFC through thick and thin is complicated only by the view that there has been an awful lot of thin. I need more time

James Sharman of The Score writes well on the coach search that Mo Johnston has embarked upon. Even Mo knows that despite a two + year contract extension, if he misses on a solid new coach and does not reach the 2010 playoffs, it’s the end of the line for him.

I glanced at the first round MLS playoff scores and I hope that the second legs are televised.
Houston and Seattle are scoreless heading back to Houston. Advantage Houston, but I still cheer for a Sounders upset.
LA and Chivas had a 2-2 result. I don’t think anyone has an advantage – they play in the same stadium, but I am picking the Galaxy to win.
New England beat Chicago 2-1, but I expect Chicago to roar back at home.
RSL beat Columbus 1-0, but I expect Columbus to win this one at home.

Too bad watching MLS playoffs just makes me mope about TFC not being there again. I chose the Sam Cronin pic for this post, because I think his honesty about the need to change the culture of the team was my ray of hope for the offseason. May he be proven right.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chris Cummins departs TFC - Mo in charge of new coach search

Today, in a total non-surprise, Chris Cummins departed Toronto FC as head coach. Mo Johnston declared that the next head coach will have MLS experience, but the head coach search must wait until after the MLS Cup game.
Mo also confirmed that he signed a 2.5 year contract extension in August.
Whatever your opinion of Mo, it is clear that this next coach choice is going to be his make or break moment. He messes this one up (say another Carver or Cummins) and it's party over...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New York Red Bulls trounces TFC 5-0, TFC never showed up for their biggest game ever...

That was torture. That was pathetic. Shep Messing on the New York broadcast had the best line of the night. He said that he would hate to see Toronto play a game that meant nothing.

We all know that this was a game where victory would have been a huge step towards TFC making the playoffs. This has to be the all-time low moment in TFC history. What a way to end the year. TFC looked incompetent. A disgraceful display in every aspect of the game. There was no finish from Toronto on a night where New York was capable of finishing anything and everything.
Somebody contact TFC leadership, I want my Saturday night back. I feel cheated for caring, for hoping, for dreaming that Toronto would finally put it all together. When you give your support and then have the team implode like that, you are left with an empty feeling. Empty, empty, empty.
It was tough enough watching ex-TFC player Andy Boyens shut TFC down all night, then word came through that Julius James had scored for DC to put them ahead of KC. It was that kind of night and I guess it was that kind of season...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

TFC hanging on, TFC 1 RSL 0

Today was a little lesson in redemption. I guess it is possible to bounce back. TFC looked a tougher team today, Cummins seemed a smarter coach and I might not have been alone in feeling that I was a more confident fan.

It was cold down by the lake this afternoon. Cold in temperature and cold creeping into the heart as so many elements of this week’s game seemed to mirror chilly aspects of last week’s game. Such as a scoreless first half, a Toronto goal early in the second half and then the visiting team storming the TFC end in the final minutes.
This time TFC got it right and defended to the end. We fans will gladly take the victory, but nobody wanted to witness another tight game. I was hoping for a Toronto goal scoring smorgasbord. Smorgasbord, now there is a fine word that has fallen out of fashion.
Guess who saved us from misery (or is it just postponed)? Chris Cummins, the coach who learns from mistakes, too bad he makes them in the first place.
Nick Garcia benched, Gomez playing was the first sign of hope. Amado Guevara back and patrolling the midfield with skill and stealth was item two. All substitutions were used in a timely manner makes it three (Sanyang in for Chad Barrett, proving that a defensive midfielder was on the bench last week, Lesley Felinga for DeRo and then late with Ali Gerba in for OB White).

Those starting line-up changes and wise substitutions were just part of the improvement. There seemed to be more flexibility in how TFC aligned themselves for different parts of the game. Brennan played more time as a midfielder than in the back four. Sam Cronin did time as midfielder, defender and even a winger up front. In those injury time minutes TFC looked more like a fortress and less like a shell. There was one late play when Brian Edwards came out to challenge for a long ball and managed to get the ball out on the west side. It was not a pretty play, but it was great to see Edwards take charge of aerial balls in his area. It has been a fairy tale finish for the season for the second year keeper. He has gone from Brian “Who” to the star of the show. I expect that even a fully recovered Stephan Frei might find it hard to get back the starter’s role in the New York game.

I extend the full Still Kicking salute to both Red Patch Boys and the U-Sector for the Danny Dichio mega banner. It is moments and efforts like that one that make you proud to wear the red and care for this team. Some days it feels like too much a cliché to call Toronto the home of the best fans in the MLS (and maybe I am just pissed that latecomers and early leavers are constantly obscuring my view of the game), but the banner salute to our first hero was no cliché.
Although the Brennan goal was critical to the victory and Edwards was able to make some incredible saves, I would have been inclined to vote for Emmanuel Gomez as the man of the match. He seemed to grow in confidence throughout the game. He was seldom out of position, played the ball with skill and strength and his ability to make up ground on attackers is a delight to watch. I guess I was looking for a player who brought another aspect
Julian de Guzman reads the game well and his wonderful skills seem to burn brightly from time to time. At the same time it also seems that he has yet to fully join the team. He seems to be too willing to defer to those around him when TFC has the ball. He has yet to grab a game by the tentacles and make it his own. New York could be his kind of town.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New game, same old collapse -TFC in a loop of crummy endings TFC 1 San Jose 1

Again? They did it again? Snatching a tie from the jaws of victory seems to be the perpetual TFC result of choice. It makes me want to swear and spit. I did not sign up for this style of suffering. Give me glory or the promise of it on the horizon. This folding like a cheap suit has to go.
Saturday was game day and we went to the park expecting that the momentum would begin. Toronto hosts San Jose, a team that has been eliminated from post season play and is playing their third game in a week. The stage was set. This was to be the start of the glorious TFC push to the playoffs. Three games = nine points and let’s see if any one can stop them. I guess we found out today that any team can stop them. Just show up and hang around. A little determination and Toronto finds a way to flounder.

The damn thing is – the tie does not eliminate them from the playoffs. If they wake up and win the final two – they have a shot. At the time of writing Columbus is doing Toronto a favour and is winning against New England. Right now it appears that Seattle, Chivas USA and Colorado have the inside track on playoff spots (that is the spots to the best four teams other than the top two teams in each division. New England has the last spot, but they are only 2 points ahead of Toronto, Dallas and DC United, the three teams tied in the out of luck spot.

Part of being a fan is the joy of having faith in your team. You think and feel that they will prevail. This momentum you look for is when those qualities that you have glimpsed from time to time somehow will become dominant traits and the competition will falter.
I am afraid that Toronto revealed their true nature today and sadly it is less than heroic. Tonight I feel that missing the playoffs might be for the best. Spare the fans some misery and put this year to bed.

A few observations – most made before that late goal.

Could we clone Attakora? He scored the goal and defended well all day.
OBW showed determination and energy Where was Ali Gerba?

Do you feel a little like a strange movie fan who keeps attending the same movie in hopes of a different ending? I do.

JDG does not seem to be a full part of the team yet. There were times when his play was reminding me of Carl Robinson at his least effective, you know when he gets pass happy and the defenders are always anticipating. I think that midfielders have to drive the ball forward. Make something out of nothing. Create space for yourself and others. Keep the defenders honest. JDG needed to control the second half and instead he was less and less a force.
His first half was filled with flashes of movement and touches of real quality and you can see progress has been made. It was not enough.
Why did Chris Cummins allow the team to fall asleep in the second half ? They pursued a second goal with drive until Dero had that good chance stopped by the defender.That was it?
What will Chris Cummins being doing for a living in 2010?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ouch, bad timing

The news out of Toronto FC land is painful. Carl Robinson was injured in practice on Tuesday, a facial injury, and was operated on today (Thursday). This finishes his season as the recovery time is 6-8 weeks.
A player on trial was involved in the accident. You have to file this as a new way to not make a team.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pointless play earns a point in the windy city Chicago 2 TFC 2

Nick Garcia poses with irate visitor from space

For a handful of seconds Saturday night, early in the second half against Chicago Fire, Toronto FC looked like a team that knows how to play this game. Gerba with the ball at the half line in traffic, rather than his usual solo struggles out in the wastelands, sent the ball out to the left wing for Dero. Dero attacked that wing and sent in a cross with real promise and pace. Chad Barrett showed a finishing touch and scored the goal, but more importantly he made a strong run to the near post in anticipation. Runs in anticipation or even runs to act as a decoy to pull and stretch the defenders were in very short supply in Chicago. Those few seconds just make you shake your head about all the other 89+minutes. If they are capable, why do we have to suffer through so much pointless play? This is a team that is playing their 27th MLS season game of 2009, with 4 Canadian games, two CCL games against Puerto Rico and two international friendlies also under their belt. Why do they look like they are stumbling through a pre-season scrimmage? Craig Forrest, throughout the broadcast, has fallen in love with the term “ring rust”. He used it everytime Brian McBride was on the screen. Toronto FC played like a team with an extended case of everywhere rust.

Overall I have to file last night’s game under the odd and dull category. Toronto FC played an overall ineffective game and yet came away from a road game in Chicago with a point. A win would have created so many more opportunities for a playoff berth, but a tie does not eliminate them. Every game of the remaining three are must wins, yet it is still possible to win all three and not make it to the post-season.

The biggest mistake I made last night was switch the channel after the game. I stumbled on the Blackburn v Aston Villa game on Setanta Sports. The speed of play, the way players with the ball instantly seemed to have a plan and those off the ball seemed to be playing their part in that plan at incredible speed was, after plodding through Chicago v TFC, astonishing.

Sometimes you wonder just what Gerry Dobson’s vision and vocabulary is connected to. He described the first half as entertaining. I thought that the Dero goal was a matter of taking advantage of Chicago’s botched ball handling in the back and Nick Garcia came up with an own goal that was truly awful. I can recall no exciting shots or saves, both teams showed substandard ball control and I have experienced more excitement at a “watching paint dry” festival. Perhaps Dobson has lower standards.
For that matter, I am not at all sure that I understand Chris Cummin’s vision and vocabulary . I do understand that it is an adjustment period, that plopping de Guzman into the midfield is not going to click overnight. Yet, it is hard to cheer for a team in such a big overhaul mode when the success of the season hangs in the balance. In LA, de Guzman and Guevara seem to be playing well together and Dero went missing. In Chicago, Dero comes on strong and it's de Guzman and Guevara (to a lesser extent) who move into the invisible category. I thought that Emmanuel Gomez had shown enough size, skill and energy against Seattle and Puerto Rico in August that he should at least be a defensive substitute. If Carl Robinson is healthy enough to play, surely having him play in a central defending role is better than another Nick Garcia appearance.

It is a good thing that we fans now face a two week gap in the schedule. TFC does not take the field again until the home game on the Thanksgiving weekend. Please TFC, I want my Saturday to be turkey free.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

de Guzman debuts in Hollywood (well, Carson), but Beckham does the shining LA 2 TFC 0

I was just settling down to watch the action and "bam" -Beckham waltzed in to open the scoring while the game was very young. Up until that flurry of LA's, Toronto had looked promising. Julian de Guzman had plenty of time on the ball and he did not look like he was surrounded by strangers.
Toronto highlight of the first half was Gerba's close range shot that LA keeper Ricketts stopped. It was de Guzman who passed to Gerba, but I don't think Gerba got the contact he wanted.
LA always looked lethal on the attack, Beckham hit the post on a shot that had beaten Frei late in the half.
Toronto started the second half with some energy, some pep. Chad put Ali Gerba through and he hit the crossbar. There was a lot of pass with little penetration, the same old TFC story.
Then Beckham to Donovan to Buddle lead to the second LA goal.
I'll try not to get too sour, but it was clear that I was cheering for the second best team tonight. Julian de Guzman showed skills, but faded in the second half, which is understandable. White was put in for Chad and made an effort, but the other subs were a waste, Fellinga and Vitti don't seem to mean scoring chances.
This loss does not kill the playoff hopes, but it does make the uphill climb steeper. At least a point in Chicago next Saturday seems to be the requirement. This road game was not at the level of stinker such as Real Salt Lake or Colorado, but no credit is given when no points are gained.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Toronto finds scoring touch - TFC 3 Colorado 2

Saturday’s home game against the Colorado Rapids turned out to be a spectacular day. The weather was glorious, sunshine beaming down, a few clouds scattered across the sky and only the faintest of wind off the lake. You had to look past all this beauty of a late summer day, since it was conspiring to cover the fact that this was a desperate “back against the wall” sort of game. Toronto FC badly needs victories and points to qualify for the playoffs and a home loss would make their long shot chances even longer.*

It was an odd pre-game in terms of the line-up. Carl Robinson went down during the warm-up. Danny Dichio was being saluted as a retired player**. Julian de Guzman, designated player and designated season saver was not playing as his transfer papers were somewhere in a dusty drawer in Spain.

So Amado Guevara took on the holding midfielder role, which I think is a positive as Guevara is more willing to drive the ball forward, through both dribbling and penetrating passes, than Carl Robinson. Although it was announced as a 4-4-2, it became a 4-5-1 with Chad Barrett out wide as a left winger and Ali Gerba as the sole striker. DeRo was playing in behind or in between those two. TFC started on the tentative side and it took them some time to get into an attacking mode. I suspect that there was a Casey/Cummings fear haunting the TFC players until they got going.
DeRo opened the scoring, showing his power and his touch as he gathered, turned and fired. A deflection off of a defender’s leg helped the scoring arc of the ball, yet it was DeRo’s quick turn and fire that made it happen.
It was interesting to watch the match-ups in the Toronto end in the first half. Clearly TFC wanted Attakora to be on the swift Cummings, while Colorado only had eyes on a Cummings/Brennan or a Cummings/Garcia situation. For the most part Toronto’s wishes were coming true.
The other highlight of the first half was watching the Fieldturf and knowing it’s on it’s last legs. The growing prospect of real grass for 2010, c’mon City Council! , could mean plastic turf gone before Christmas. May I be the first to enquire about a souvenir patch for my basement sports bar welcome mat??
Then early in the second half Conor Casey scored for the Rapids. I am guilty of hindsight, but the size of our defenders, in this case Wynne and Garcia, puts the onus on the keeper to be off his line knocking away the looping cross that Casey headed into the net. There are games when you forget that Frei is a rookie, so the rare rookie gaffe can be forgiven.

It was all Toronto attack after that. There were some real chances to score. I thought that Ali Gerba had played his role well and only fate had prevented him from scoring. So no knock against him that the scoring came after his substitution. It clearly was a good strategy to bring on O’Brien White as a fresh striker as he scored the next Toronto goal. Then Attakora sealed the game with a header off of a corner kick.
I will gloss over the dreadful goal that Colorado scored to make the game close when they had no real right to be in Toronto’s time zone at that point.
The shot that DeRo took late in the game that hit the post was a rocket that should have found the corner. There was also a late game move that DeRo pulled down the right wing that I would love to see again on video. I have trouble describing it, it happened right below and it surprised me. I don’t think it was a back heel, but somehow DeRo looked as if he was moving to his left and then the ball squirted the other way onto Guevara’s feet. More of that next week and we will be celebrating the destruction of the LA Galaxy.

* I have fallen in love with the site Sportsclub Stats as it gives you the playoff implications of every game from the perspective of any team. Yesterday’s victory moved the TFC playoff chances from 16 to 30%. Most of the results from yesterday, other than the Seattle victory over DC United (a tie would have been the best thing for TFC) were good news. A victory next week over Los Angeles is a fantastic result as it will provide a huge boost to the chances. If you scroll down the page you see all the possible outcomes for the remaining 5 season games. I have personally picked the 5 victories method.

** I have avoided posting a retrospective or a salute to Danny Dichio on the blog because I do not believe this “retirement” for a second. I am convinced that I will see Danny Dichio play for TFC again. He has one more goal in him. I consider this all a roster/salary cap ploy and shifting DD to a coaching role means that he is still in Toronto and available for emergencies. I only go as far as calling it semi-retirement. We know that the agreement between players and teams is to be negotiated in the offseason and who knows what salary cap rules and roster stipulations will be in place for 2010? Even this year, if you dream on the large side, should Toronto make a playoff run and encounter a combo of success and injuries, I see Dichio on the field again (I am starting a psychic hot line for TFC fans). I will salute his playing contributions then and only then.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Julian de Guzman signs for TFC

Friday September 11th, 2009 was the day that Toronto FC announced the signing of their first designated player, Julian de Guzman. This has been rumoured for so long that it is difficult to accept this as a done deal. Yet there he is at a press conference between Mo Johnston and Chris Cummins in uniform, so it must be happening.
I admit to being at a disadvantage here, I was out of the country during the Gold Cup matches, so I have not seen de Guzman play for Canada of late. So how he will fit into the team and what this does for TFC playoff prospects are questions that dwell in my mind too, but only the remaining games will provide answers.
There seems to be doubt that de Guzman can play Saturday, his transfer papers must come through. With or without him, TFC victory against Colorado is critical.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Colorado 1 - TFC 0 Boring.Undisciplined.pathetic

Stillkicking is lost in the North Woods this weekend, so I’ll be filling in for the time being.

What is there really to say about this game? Personally I had a new experience during this one, I managed to sleep through most of the second half, something I have never done before. At least during a TFC game. Fortunately I missed both the Colorado goal and Amadou Sanyang’s second yellow. I think I spared myself extra anger and frustration.

Aside from the poor marking on the Casey goal, the defense played rather well, but with the back four accompanied by Wynne, Cronin and Sanyang in the midfield there was an awful lot of defensive experience out there. Naturally the flip side of having so many defensive players on the field is a lack of attacking players.

Now, Pablo Vitti has been improving every game, but I think the general consensus is that he isn’t yet the attacking menace we expected. Chad Barrett’s difficulties have been well documented. That left DeRo for the attack, and as much as he has been TFC’s MVP this year, he does tend to take the fate of the team on his shoulders, sometimes without the desired result. So, the attack flounders on many occasions. A question here (and I know lots of other people have been asking this) why not start Dichio and Gerba up front? Then, Barrett and Vitti are there to provide a different look and fresh legs later in the game. When does the “he did really well in training, so he should start” excuse become just so many ineffective words?

Was Cummins playing for a draw with this lineup? It seems likely. Is the possibility of one point on the road acceptable this late in the season with so much at stake? I’m not too sure. At the beginning of this three game home stand, 9 points seemed to be a real (if optimistic) possibility. Should we be disappointed with the team’s performance? Looking back, I think so, 1 out of 9 possible points doesn’t seem like a successful trip. Poor performances in Colorado and Los Angeles, and a hard luck point in Seattle were far below what this team can accomplish. What lays ahead will determine the final season outcome, will TFC gain enough points in 6 games (three at home) to flow through the bottle neck of playoff contenders, or is the chance already gone? Next week’s fixture at BMO field with Colorado will go a long way towards answering that. I just try to keep in mind that New York and San Jose are two of the final three games of the season, should be 6 guaranteed points there, right?

In other notes, if you follow Stillkicking’s blog regularly you may know that I like to follow the play of certain players on and off the ball during home games. I have been interested to follow Amadou Sanyang’s play, and was looking forward to next week’s game to watch him, I suppose that’s out for now! I can, in my mind, forgive his red card yesterday, as he is young and plays aggressively, both traits which Chris Cummins has been lauding over the last few weeks. This is the kind of thing that happens to players with aggressive streaks. Serioux’s red, on the other hand lacked the professionalism of a veteran player.

Finally, I have to address the Julian de Guzman rumour that Kristian Jack at the Score has brought back into focus. If he has indeed been signed, I have a few questions. Will de Guzman actually make a difference at this late point in the season? And, will he actually make the first team in the next 6 games because his fitness level must not be as high as some of the existing players because of his lack of playing time. I was interested to see that Carl Robinson made the trip, but not the bench. I know there is an injury concern, but will he be the one to make way for JDG?


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Red Spitfires in Seattle, Sounders 0 TFC 0

Who were those guys in red on my television screen Saturday afternoon? They looked like the usual TFC suspects, but somebody decided to add intensity to the luggage on the western road trip this time. It was a thrilling moment to see Toronto look like a team again. Shamefully, I admit, I was not looking forward to watching this game. The poor performance against Chivas USA took the wind out of our sails for a week, it must have stung the players deeply and they did something about it.

Toronto FC came out flying and had more great chances to score in this Q-West Field first half than they have had in a month of games. Guevara hits the woodwork, DeRo just wide, DeRo stumbles on the turn with the net gaping, Chad dives in and attempts a header that just missed and Cronin had his chance too.
No luck on scoring however and later in the game there were a few moments of fear that Seattle would steal something against the run of play. Seattle only had one or two full chances, Frei making the save of the game in the final seconds of the afternoon.
Now the first half was a touch scrappy, just the way I like it. Then the second half was even more scrappy and the TFC display of grit seemed to be a team-building moment.
DeRo was fed up with the treatment that Kennedy Hurtado was supplying. The TFC back four of Attakora, Garcia, Gomez and Brennan held together surprisingly well. Defending is easier when your attack is smoking, but when Seattle climbed back into the second half the D was still there.
The midfield was Sanyang, Wynne, Cronin and Guevara and I honestly would have a hard time putting back in Carl Robinson when he returns for the Colorado game next Saturday (but I wouldn't bet a buck on it).
Playing DeRo as the striker was a great move. If Chad had scored on that header then Cummins would have been a genius.
Wow, TFC have a point from a road game and things are looking up. May the team rise in the standings as quickly as Freddie Ljungberg loses his temper.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Previous Saturday's steam evaporates in Southern California - Chivas 2 TFC 0

Yuck. You stay up late on a Saturday night to watch the team play in Los Angeles and wish you hadn't bothered. I am detecting a trend. I was on vacation for the victory in San Jose, so I admit that my trend is selective. The last time TFC looked this bad to my eyes on a Saturday night was on the road in Utah against Real Salt Lake. The schedule is going to provide a steady diet of west coast Saturday nights. Seattle, Colorado and the Galaxy are the next three road games. If stinking in the Pacific time zone continues, squeaking into the playoffs will turn from a maybe to a longshot. What annoys me is that the GOL TV pregame show had interviews with the likes of Cronin and Robinson talking about aiming for the top two spots in the East, rather than qualifying for the playoffs as a wildcard team. Talking about aiming high is fine, but the performance on the field does not match the words at this point.

Chivas was a team that was riding high when they arrived in Toronto back in the spring. TFC beat them 1-0 and looked strong doing so. Months later Chivas has been in a slump and Toronto, rather than taking advantage, makes them look good. Sacha Kljestan has been a bust for 2009 and proceeds to score two. What playoff prospects...

Amado Guevara has a poor game and TFC has no attack in the midfield worth talking about.

The first Chivas goal was another example of Toronto frozen defending.

Toronto needs to toughen up. The MLS has it's share of cry-baby prima donnas that will feign injury to draw a foul. Carl Robinson seems to encounter them constantly. Trouble is Carl wastes his energy pointing out to the ref that the screaming player down is more Hollywood than injured. The attitude should be "if you think he's hurt now, wait for the miracle recovery and then the next three Toronto players who truly hit him will make you wish you had earplugs".
Dobson and Forrest waste time on this too, "oh Serioux better be careful, if he picks up a yellow he misses the next game, Brennan is already out blah blah". Give me a break, TFC is losing on the road AGAIN. Are the announcers going to go into the dressing room and give out lollipops to all the players who did not pick up a yellow card? Just send the message that simulation against Toronto leads to real pain and let the yellow cards fly. Serioux and Brennan should keep making life miserable for all opposing fancy dans. They should not hold back, instead the question should be why do we never see yellow in the vicinity of Attakora, Wynne, Cronin, Gomez, Vitti, Garcia? Do they tolerate losing more than Serioux, Brennan and Robinson? It is a team sport, you win together and you lose together. Get together in the tough moments and maybe your survival chances will improve. Rant over.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whew, The Reds gather steam, TFC 2 DC United 0

There was a sense of dread going into this game. It was an odd feeling to be slathering on the sunscreen to watch a team on thin ice. Toronto's MLS playoff race prospects look dim this August and too many other contending teams have games in hand (KC and NE have three each and I'm simply afraid to look at the western teams). Toronto FC has not had an iron grip on home results this year and with only three more home games after today, it was a time of now or never. Do or die. Is you is or is you ain't my baby? Last year, we were treated to some exciting matches down to the playoff wire, the victory in New York, the heart-breaking tie in Dallas. We would find out today whether to look forward to an exciting season end ahead or face the reality of falling short.

I was also a little peeved that there was not movement on the player acquisition front. The closing of the MLS transfer window for international players yesterday means that if the TFC roster is going to be filled it will either be through trades or picking up North American players. I know it is a TFC fan weakness to always be dreaming of the foreign signing, the guy from overseas who saunters into town and puts the team on his back and points us to glory. But heck, it is both the curse and joy of modern football. If Man City fans over the pond can welcome the likes of Tevez, Toure and Adebayour today , what are we, chopped liver? I still hold out hope that a few players on trial were accepting contracts but the MLS office will not be making them official until early next week.
It was hot at game time, but the field did not look that bad considering that 8 days ago it was buried in turf and dirt for the Real Madrid visit.
Then the first surprise, Chris Cummins was willing to truly shake up his line-up. It helped that Barrett was suspended and Wynne is injured, but the youth movement was launched and the starting 11 had a new look.
The back four were Attakora, Serioux, Brennan and Gomez
The midfielders were Cronin, Robinson and Sanyang
The forwards were Vitti, White and DeRosario
Toronto started strong. The early highlight was Vitti twisting in the box and sending a cross to Brennan whose header hit the post. DC had some flurries and counter attacks, but it was TFC that was going forward regularly and with more build up than usual. There was little long ball or hit 'n' hope and more control and movement off the ball. Toronto was able to go ahead on a great cross from Sam Cronin and DeRo's ability to beat out two defenders to the ball. DeRo was active all afternoon and was the heart of the team.
Then the second surprise, Cummins was willing to put results first and player egos second. He substituted Amado Guevara for Carl Robinson to start the second half. Robinson had enjoyed a first half filled with his usual strong positional play and hard tackles, but his passing was plain awful. Robbo is at his best when he has the role of countering a strong midfield, but today DC United was underpowered. I found myself wondering if they were holding back and playing possum at some points.
At first the midfield substitution did not seem to gel, Guevara and Vitti struggled to get onto the same page. Then when it finally clicked, it clicked into a thing of beauty. Vitti played well today, no matter who was on the field with him.
Toronto's second goal came out of a Guevara corner kick. I think it was Attakora who controlled it and put the ball into White's path. One step to his right and White launched a solid shot into the net. You may complain that I go too far, but O'Brien White's goal had the calm, cool and efficient manner of a Raul scoring down that end of the field just earlier this month.
One late moment of panic as DC United had everyone scattered on a corner kick, but the ball was headed off the line by Amado Guevara.
The second half substitutions were thoughtful and well timed. The TFC back line had become more fluid in the second half and they played with three in the back most of the time. Jim Brennan was making gains down the leftside as a winger and Sam Cronin was able to play wing down the rightside and still come back to help out with defending. Ali Gerba came on for White and kept the offensive pressure constant . Brennan gave way to Gabe Gala, which shows you what scoring against Real Madrid can do for your playing time. It was Sanyang's first start and his second half was notable for being injured regularly. The second time he went down I was able to spot the impact of DC United cleats to his upper right thigh. He kept on coming back and was an energetic contributor.
Now we prepare as fans to watch three road games. I think the games all take place on Saturdays. Chivas USA, Seattle and Colorado are the locations. When we welcome TFC home in September, even a handful of points from these next three games will make all the difference. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Velez back to PR and final days for International signings

August 14th is the end of the international transfer window for MLS teams. This would be last chance for TFC to sign a player from overseas and they have already made one move. They signed Lesley Fellinga (23 years old), a Haitian international with a Dutch background. He played for SC Heerenveen last year. The news only mentions that he is a defender, but I think he is actually a left back. At 5-8 and 157 lbs, he would be an unlikely central defender.
There are rumours about Marco Velez going out on a loan back to Puerto Rico, but I'm unsure if that would take him off the roster.
Wait, 24th minute has Puerto Rico news that Marco Velez has been released by Toronto FC and is returning to the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Velez was a useful bench strength player and I was never able to understand those fans who were hyper-critical of him. Sure he made some mistakes that cost TFC games...but he was hardly the weak link in an otherwise strong back four. There were times reading forums where I was convinced that Velez was always the goat and Frei could never be at fault was the opinion of too many.
I wish him all the luck and envy him. I remember that TFC posted videos of the players arriving in Toronto for training camp last Feb. 1 and Marco Velez was one of them. He was smiling and wearing a parka. He will be smiling and not wearing a parka next Feb.1.
With the Fellinga signing, there are two vacant roster spots. If Velez is off the roster- there would be three vacant roster spots.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

TFC life after Real Madrid

Ok, today I start with a theory. It has been quite a week.
My theory is that the Puerto Rico Islanders put Toronto FC (players, coaches and front office) in their proper place by eliminating them from CONCACAF Champion's League earlier this week. Improvements in tactics, offensive ability, adapting your game to different conditions are all on TFC's list.
Real Madrid, however, put Toronto's fans in their proper place. It is possible to support your team with a passion and still demand more. Demand a lot more. Real Madrid simply demanded a natural grass field and got it. Then they came to town and displayed talent and talent and more talent. How did they get that talent, you may ask? Why, they paid for it.

Now that I have seen Real Madrid come at TFC in waves, I am inspired to ask the questions.
Why does Toronto not have a designated player?
Why does Toronto not have two designated players?
A striker who is hard to stop would be nice. Did you see Raul rip it into the net last night? A winger who can create opportunities for himself (or set-up DeRo, Cronin, Gerba, Dichio, etc) would be welcome. Sure Ronaldo is beyond MLS for another two decades, but Arlen Robben looked incredible. I know, I know he would break the bank too. A central defender who can command the back could do the trick. A creative attacking midfielder?
I know that progress has been happening over the three years of TFC history. I am not forgetting that superb moves have been made. Bringing in DeRo, Serioux, Garcia and Gerba are all positives. Drafting White, Cronin and Frei was great. Insert cliche about building Rome or throwing bathwater here.
I know MLS is a salary cap system. I know the NASL went bust. Yet, you can't tantalize the home crowd with champagne and then expect us all to go back to swigging from the bargain bin and be happy with it.

Real Madrid played at a speed and skill level last night that was just breathtaking and mind boggling. Toronto's inability to defend when the pressure arrives in the box might have enhanced things a little, but not a lot. The Real Madrid offensive display was more than just Ronaldo's fleet feet. It was everyone in motion and with purpose. When Real Madrid had the ball you were scanning the field for which option they were going to choose. Real Madrid = oh you are going to dribble and then pass to him,him,him, goal! TFC seldom gives us that luxury. It is a diet of "that's never worked before, but what else can we do?"
As TFC tried to get back into the game in the first half, I started to speculate about the quality of Real Madrid's back four. In that part of the field alone, Toronto was encountering talent beyond MLS. Who playing in North America could make that team? When Real Madrid made their triple substitution just past 60 minutes in the second half, you had to chuckle that the subs were Alonso, Robben and Alvaro Negrado. You might see that much talent coming onto the field if you combine every second half substitution made in MLS this month (season?).
I also have my pet theory that Real Madrid is always thinking about Barcelona. It is part of the team culture and recent history (last year's Champions League and La Liga) contributes as well. It is also because Barcelona are touring North America too. So Barcelona scores 4 in Seattle on Thursday I think contributed to Real Madrid scoring 5 in Toronto. I don't think the Toronto goal was part of the plan,

Gabe Gala was not my TFC find of the night, my new find is O'Brian White. If players can change, bloggers can see the light. Earlier this week I was trying to get Mr. White into the next Star Trek movie on his ability to be invisible without anyone needing to say "beam me up."
Well, last night he made me eat my words. Ali Gerba had done little and was running out of gas in the second half. Gerba has shown promise with TFC, he can battle MLS defenders and get to the ball. La Liga defenders? Real Madrid defenders? Then O'Brian White took the field and he was making runs and showing energy like never before. His break and shot forced Dudek to dive and stop it when Gabe Gala scored. Full credit to Gabe Gala for pouncing on the opportunity. I would love to see Gala get some playing time due to his goal, but put him on the field with O'Brian White please or those opportunities are not going to come.

I will post later about my media career.

Scoring Summary:
RMD -- Raul 1 (unassisted) 13
RMD -- Cristiano Ronaldo 1 (Karim Benzema ) 19
RMD -- Raul 2 (Christoph Metzelder 1, Raul Albiol 1) 26
RMD -- Karim Benzema 1 (Alvaro Negrado ) 65
TOR -- Gabe Gala 1 (unassisted) 75
RMD -- Arjen Robben 1 (Karim Benzema ) 86

Friday, August 7, 2009

Been where? Done what? Adventures at Real Madrid's open practice at BMO Thursday night

Well, I survived my first attempt at floating through the media world while retaining my loser/blogger viewpoint. It will take more than accidental access and caviar to prevent me from calling things as I see them. I am joking about the caviar.
Thanks to the wonderful people at, I attended the press conference at BMO Field yesterday. Thanks to my wonderful family, I was able to to cope with the nerves prior to going down to the stadium and going into the media world as the pretender I is. I also saw a little of the open practice, but Thursday night is my coaching night and I had to be back at the field by nine pm, so I was probably leaving BMO by 7:30. I read that time for the whole practice was 20 minutes, so I don't think I missed much.
My biggest moment of the day was when I entered the media room prior to anyone arriving at the podium for the press conference. The place was packed. While waiting outside I had watched an entire bus of Spanish media being delivered to BMO Field. There might have been air conditioning turned on in the media room, but with bright television lights and maybe 100 people in a room designed for 24 it was hot. There was just enough space for me to slide into the room by aiming for the corner just to the left of the door. I reached my goal, carefully turned to face the podium and proceeded to accidentally turn off the lights with my camera backpack. Ok, it was just half of the room lights and the tv lights were not affected, but a fairly suave move nonetheless. I turned the lights back on and was able to smile at those around me who had witnessed my entrance. I was learning to keep quiet, that way nobody knew if you were local or Spanish.
My media tag will be quite the souvenir. It identifies me as being with (go on and read Starting from Scratch to get my thoughts less scrambled on the day). I can just imagine the onslaught of media requests, both local and overseas, that TFC has had to deal with in recent days. I understand that they either lacked the time or information to put much else on the tag. I can assure you that generic01 was not the name chosen for me by my parents.
Other moments that I will cherish I write them down before I forget them

Who are these people? I am waiting outside the stadium because the media room has not opened (which makes sense, you are not going to have the press conference when you are still waiting for Real Madrid to arrive). Those waiting outside the player entrance to BMO hoping to catch a glimpse of Real Madrid are not the fans that you see at the typical TFC game. I salute those of Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian heritages who look upon the arrival of Real Madrid, Christiano Ronaldo and Kaka as a real treat, unexpected on our shores. I fear that they were outnumbered by gawkers, celebrity seekers and pretty boy fans (err, that is fans of pretty boys). If the mega-stars all looked like Eric Cantona, I bet you would thin this crowd by 75%. Not that there is anything wrong with the way Mr. Cantona looks, just he is not pretty boy by any stretch...

Speaking of Christiano Ronaldo (top pic), he comes into view, walking through the gates with fans on one side and media on the other. He turns away from me. I get a wonderful picture of his slick, styled hair. I am no fan of Christiano Ronaldo and only grudgingly acknowledge his skill level and global status. I am now convinced that he shunned me so that I would be stuck with a picture of his horrible hairstyle.

A TFC employee comes down the hallway outside of the press conference room. There might be 2 minutes left in the press conference. There has been no interaction between the media horde and TFC staff that I have witnessed in the previous 25 minutes. I don't know where this guy has been or is coming from, but he seems angry about something. He starts asking for media credentials from a man I had spotted video taping most of the press conference. He seems to have none or the wrong kind, but has another man vouch for him saying he came off of the Real Madrid media bus. Our angry TFC guy, perhaps because he did not want to look like he was zeroing in on one person, turned to me. I had my media badge and my camera around my neck. He told me that my media badge did not allow me to take pictures. "You're not going to take pictures with that camera, are you?" he said oh so firmly. I agreed and put my camera away. I should have said "Si", but then who knows what complications would ensue. could be a Spanish company, couldn't it ? The conference was just about up, whatever damage I caused by taking pics had been done (perhaps stealing footballer's souls}. I know he had a job to do, but just what was he accomplishing? I was tempted to ask the Spanish folks if there was a phrase such as "closing the barn door after the horse is gone" in their language. Just to demonstrate my solidarity and point out that this guy was off base. I kept my thoughts to myself. Mr. TFC Guy went down the hall and started voicing his complaints to a fellow staffer who had just come out of the press conference. It is important to point out that this incident was the only discouraging words encountered from anyone BMO/TFC affiliated. I truly look forward to getting back there tonight. More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stumbling towards the slippery slope

Today I face a day of new challenges. Today is a day that I can honestly say I never saw coming. Today just might be beyond my capabilities. Heck, I'm sure to embarrass myself one way or another.
Real Madrid is in town. They will be holding an open practice tonight and playing Toronto FC in a friendly tomorrow. I will attend both events, not as a ticket buyer or a season seat holder, but as a member of the media. For the next few days anything I write about Toronto FC or Real Madrid will be posted on my blog "Starting from Scratch"and I will use this blog to share the story behind those stories.
There are some who read this blog who know me. There are some readers who do not. Unlike some fine bloggers, I do not have a background in journalism. I am an elementary school teacher. I am not young. I saw the Blizzard play. I saw Liam Brady play at Highbury. (I wonder if he is available to play as a winger for TFC for the rest of the season?)
When TFC was formed I decided to give blogging a try. It was all the rage at the time and I have a background in computers (education), so why not ? I did not know that I would stick with it and enjoy it. The blog has become something that seems a natural part of my sports fan experience. I do not look on at as my grab at fame or feel that I offer anything that unique. I pride myself on neither bashing away at the team constantly nor defending the TFC/MLSE status quo blindly. I am happy to be just a voice from the stands.
How did I get here?
In June there was a response to one of my TFC game posts asking if I would be interested in blogging for They are an international blogging conglomerate, Euro based and their existing EPL bloggers seem to have a good attitude. I am honestly flattered that they wanted me blogging and that they are interested in increasing their role in North American soccer and MLS. I answered them that I would give it a try, but I did not want to give up "Mistake by the Lake" for my game reports and any big news. So I suggested that I write a weekly blog on the Toronto FC season for this and they agreed. I have every intention of promoting this new blog and linking my two blogs, but I did spend most of July in England and Ireland and feel that I have needed a bit of time to get back into the swing of things. Also the fact that Toronto's record since my return to Canada has been two ties and two losses has been a negative motivation.
When the opportunity to buy my season tickets for the Real Madrid friendly came up, we declined. My wife wisely pointed out that due to the costs of our England/Ireland summer jaunt, it would be best to let this big event be one summer treat avoided. I later noticed that the friendly was being presented by I emailed to see if they could help me see the game and they have responded with unexpected generosity. By offering to be their blogging correspondent I have become quasi-media.
On to the slippery slope
I know that journalism requires detachment and being a fan of a team requires devotion and more than a healthy level of obsession. I am curious about media and I am thrilled that I will have short term access beyond my dreams, but I will miss sitting in my seats Friday night. I am not good with meeting people, it takes me time to battle my walls of shyness. I am prone to being starstruck and speechless when meeting celebrities, so don't expect in-depth interviews. I am hoping for a combination of "fly on the wall" and "lost in the shuffle". I hope to avoid being so bad that I start to cry, but don't want things to go so well that I am prevented from returning to Section 220 for the next TFC home game versus DC United. So stay tuned for the journey.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Puerto Rico 0 - TFC 0, PR Islanders go on to group stage CONCACAF CL

That was frustrating. That was maddening. I am sweaty and annoyed. I feel that I just spent an hour trying to will the ball into the net. I will write much more tomorrow. For now I can sum it up.


Here goes the much more tomorrow... and I freely admit that much of this is hindsight, but I will feel better when I have let loose.

I have a few questions. They are mainly about tactics and substitutions. Coach Cummins had to know that going into the game in Puerto Rico that goals had to be scored. So why stick with the same tactics that failed in Toronto the week before? TFC was sailing down the wings with Vitti, Wynne, Brennan and second half Chad. When has this worked? Puerto Rico might as well have chosen Toronto's strategy and tactics.
After Chad Barrett was put in Cummin's doghouse after the New England game, why was he the first player off of the Toronto bench?
Sure Guevara was a flop, but he had to be tried. I was not happy to see Sam Cronin come out or if Robinson is going to hang back and link with the defenders, why not take a defender out?

Am I the only fan that thinks that O'Brian White coming on in the last minutes of a game is a substitution that has resulted in nada (he has an uncanny ability to go invisible - makes me think of Star Trek) and should be saved for another year? Give him a start or save him for games where TFC is winning.
Am I the only fan that thinks that Emmanuel Gomez showed enough energy and hustle against Puerto Rico in Toronto that he deserved to be a second half substitution? Even though he is a defender, I say put him in as a forward and hope his height is an asset.
Am I the only fan who is tired of TFC's lack of depth and the below max roster (TFC should have 20 Senior and 4 Developmental, my latest count has them at 21. If the developmental list is full, and I have Frei, Ibrahim, Gomez and Gala on it, that means that they have room for three more players on their Senior list). Add Attakora, Cronin, Sanyang to that list and you have quite a youth movement. Is there a cagey veteran who can play the wing available? Sign him up.

I am not up to date on the salary cap, but if most of the summer an offer was on the table for DeGuzman, gotta be room for some signings.
As for Mo's rule that his designated player must be under 30 and Canadian, let's hope that he came up with that one to lower the asking price that somebody/anybody out there is demanding.
I think that Trout is so right. If this was what TFC had to offer, our bank accounts have been spared the group stage. But mark my words, storm clouds lie ahead. This home and home format that Toronto just faltered at, is exactly what lies ahead in the first round of MLS playoffs should TFC manage to squeak into a spot.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Earning a point in New England - NE 1 TFC 1

First you toss justice out the window. Toronto had a strong game. Ahead at halftime, they had weathered a rocky start and were showing more attack than one expects from them in New England. Then the TFC momentum was derailed when the ref threw out Chad Barrett on his second yellow early in the second half. Sure Barrett had been warned, but Alston of New England had been making something of nothing all game. Coach Cummins slammed Barrett after the game, but I think that may be more due to his policy of not complaining about refs than anything else.
Toronto defended well for the 40 minutes they were short, except for that one NE Rev goal where Heaps to Joseph to Jankauskas paid off in a goal. I thought Frei should have been coming towards the ball rather than leaning to his near post on that one, but hindsight is all I've got. Frei was up to the challenge other than that and the defending was solid. Sanyang subbed for Gerba was an interesting choice, might have been a birthday present. Gomez in for a tiring Brennan was a brilliant move. But give credit to DeRo for the entire 90 minutes. He scored the Toronto goal on TFC's new goal scoring strategy- Chad slams the ball off of Gerba's head and then DeRo puts it in on the volley. I was wondering if Gerba gets the assist or just a headache. DeRo's energy in the second half was a highlight. He kept pressing forward with faint hope counter attacks that had New England off balance.

It is funny how you can be down on the team and then your hopes bounce back with a surprising effort. Perhaps Puerto Rico will be an entertaining game after all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

TFC 0 Puerto Rico Islanders 1 - home field as a fortress needs work

So that was Toronto’s soccer team playing in Toronto’s soccer stadium last night.
I have just returned from a great holiday and I am finding it hard to fall back into old routines. Perhaps this is a part of a great holiday, you return home and find yourself in a strange state. You start to see many of the old familiar things in a new light. I think I glorify all of Ontario when I am away, which is part of being just a little homesick. Then when I do return home it seems that home can’t compete with this ideal I have created.
So I was out of the country for the victory in San Jose, the tie at home against Houston and the friendly against River Plate. I did manage to see the last minute loss in Columbus and wish I had missed that one too.
Now Puerto Rico Islanders had little to do last night and they knew it. They were successful in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League and having been through the process has to help. They needed to prevent the home team from playing their attacking game. Clog the middle, cover Gerba and DeRo like blankets and hope for something on the counter-attack. They did it and they got it. Unless these Islanders do an incredible Montreal Impact impersonation at home, Toronto’s chances on the return game next week are slim indeed.

My big concern is that TFC, well into the season, appears not to have meshed into an attacking unit. I know that Sam Cronin has been with the US Gold Cup team and that Amado Guevara is injured. Yes, Ali Gerba is a welcome addition, but Gerba will not flourish in a system where the rest of the squad passes him the ball to the exclusion of any other tactic. Guevara was missed last night. His penetrating runs bring another dimension to a Toronto attack that rarely surprises. Last night, notably in the first half, it became the feed Mr. Gerba show. Chad Barrett, learning on the job to play the wing, seemed to look for little else. When even the central defenders, Garcia and Gomez took turns doing it, you began to wonder where this was going. If I knew that booting a long ball to Gerba was the number 1 choice, Puerto Rico was onto it too. Gerba deserves praise for for fighting through crowds and making regular contact with these long balls and crosses. He also showed defensive determination and pressured the Puerto Rico defenders when they had to move the ball around the back.
I am willing to live with Chad Barrett being tried as a winger (he is a better depth player, the more positions he offers). I am not so kind when it comes to Pablo Vitti and his short trips to nowhere. I am of the opinion that Vitti shows flashes of skill but does not see the bigger picture offensively. He seldom creates much with the ball and therefore his contributions as a decoy also suffer. Puerto Rico challenged him when he came forward and were happy to let him dither out of scoring range until he was surrounded with no passing options.
The Dichio for Robinson substitution should have happened as soon as the Islanders scored. Carl Robinson’s ability to hold the midfield was not going to be needed when you knew the visitors were going into a shell.
It was fun to watch Emmanuel Gomez play. He has athletic ability and physical presence and shows some offensive skills as well as a willingness to tangle defensively. A future central pairing of Gomez and Attakora is a wonderful prospect.
Frei was punished on the only mistake he made all night. Here’s hoping that he redeems himself on the return leg.
This was a big loss. I am not sure that Toronto has the squad to challenge for both CONCACAF CL and run for the MLS playoffs, but I was willing to witness the effort. Now it seems that the trip to Puerto Rico will be, although educational, a dead end. It makes you wonder just how Toronto would fare in the USL.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ugly finish in Columbus-Crew 3 TFC 2

I have hesitated for days now when it came to posting this blog. I usually pride myself on timely thoughts on games. Television can give you an altered view of many elements of a game. Things such as tactics, formations, play off the ball and emotional elements such as momentum can be lost in a telecast. So I hold those elements in the forefront of my mind given a few days to cool off. My first reaction, watching Columbus come from behind, was that TFC is going to sink away the summer. That the gutsy elements needed to put opponents away are still lacking for Toronto.
I think that there has been a pattern to TFC and expectations going into a game. When they are a long shot, they can rise to the occasion, but give them an edge and they squander it. Columbus at home is always a tough challenge, but they were missing Chad Marshall, Moreno, Rogers and GBS. Losing this one in injury time has to sting. The question of the week is how does the team respond. Puerto Rico tomorrow will be interesting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I never write previews

Good morning. This will not be a preview of tonight's game vs River Plate. Years ago I decided that my blog would stick to game observations, TFC facts such as trades,signings and draft picks and whatever else grabbed my little brain. I leave the previews to other fine people out there. However this non-preview is a warning that the blog will not be commenting much on tonight's friendly. I will not be at the game and my fine friend Trout, who has filled in for me since the RSL game, will not be at the game either.
I write this blog entry from a small village in Somerset, England. I have spent most of July on the Sheep's Head Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland. If TFCtv has some video online tonight - I will watch and blog from that, but the time difference makes it crazy. It will be Thursday morning before I can access anything. If you feel the need to contribute any thoughts on the game- please use the comment section on this entry as I do not know when the game blog will be written. I am in the final days of my journey. Regular blogging will resume shortly. Thanks

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TFC 1 – Houston 1 - Clouds have silver linings?

“Get a haircut and get a real job. Clean your act up and don’t be a slob. Why don’t you, get a haircut and get a real job.” - George Thorogood

Please, could someone tell Kei Kamara that a shark fin looks good on a BMW, not the top of his head.

My apologies to Stillkicking for the deviation from his usual high standard of journalistic integrity. I will now return to the standard that he has set for us all.

One of the joys of attending a soccer game is the ability to look away from the play surrounding the ball and focus on the actions of a single player. Quite often, when I attend a TFC match I choose one player to focus on, whether he is playing on the ball or off it. After a number of consecutive starts, this past Saturday I finally got around to watching Nana Attakora play in the centre of the defence. As you all know by now, he was voted TFC player of the Month, so what I’m about to say of his performance will come as no surprise. He was fantastic. He marked well and seems to be quickly forming a good partnership with Nick Garcia, his centre back partner in crime.

Back to Kei Kamara. I really don’t mean any disrespect to him (aside from the hair thing, of course) he seems to be at most times a dangerous striker, fast and agile with a nose for goal (and, apparently the mouth to go with it). Attakora made him look like a big whiny baby, with no chance of even getting near the net. He was shadowed consistently, and was constantly being watched for any sign of threatening attack.

On the offensive side for TFC, it was back to the same old same old. Chad Barrett missed a number of chances, and Pablo Vitti looked ordinary, after his best performance in TFC red last week. The glimmer of hope that these two would rise to the challenge of Ali Gerba taking their spot in the starting line-up faded very quickly. Barrett may have a chance of assuming a wide midfield role, as he dropped back to fill in for Jimmy Brennan when Danny Dichio was subbed in for an injured Adrian Serioux. Vitti on the other hand may have finally run out of chances. I’m excited by the prospect of seeing O’brien White and Ali Gerba play against River Plate on Wednesday, but alas, it’s the one game all year I will miss.

Overall both teams played really well, marking on both sides was tight, and the passing was crisp. For me this game falls into the “should of” category. TFC were the better team on the afternoon and should have taken the three points. The defensive lapse that led to Bobby Boswell’s goal should just be taken as a reminder to maintain focus. Really, a disappointing result, but with a lot of positive play and team work. It might not feel like it right now, but I think they’re headed in the right direction.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

TFC 3 - San Jose 1. Hard Luck or Hard Work?

“My baby left me, my mule got lame, lost my money in a poker game. Windstorm came, just the other day, blew the house that I lived in away. I’m havin’ so much trouble, so much trouble, so much trouble, I’m about to lose my mind.” George Thorogood – So much Trouble

There is no Manchester United in the MLS, nor is there a Barcelona, Rangers, Juventus or any other prototype dominant European champion that can be counted on to win week after week. Maybe that’s the centralized league with salary cap at work for you. I think Toronto fans have done a lot of complaining about how poorly TFC play. How poor the defence is, how we can’t finish, how we should invest in any number of fantastic players from far flung places to help our game. Yet, now we sit tied for first place in our conference, despite suffering several disappointing losses both at home and away. Well, at least we’re not San Jose!

I should be excited with this away win, yet I’m not. I think it was the third goal that sealed it for me, I want to be excited for Chad Barrett, he beat a defender and the keeper, kept his cool and slotted it into the net. We’ve been waiting for him to do that all year, whingeing every time he popped the ball off the keeper instead of into the netting. Yet, it just doesn’t feel good for me. I suppose it was because the defender went down helplessly with a pulled groin, I guess these things happen, but it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe we’ve experienced enough of these deflating losses to be able to empathise with the San Jose faithful.

The more you watched San Jose, the more you got the feeling that they were helpless to stop what was going to happen. Now, they don’t always play that way, and the last 15-20 minutes of the first half showed us that. They were downright dangerous, and exploited our sometimes porous defence. My question is, how do you leave Darren Huckerby, their most well known and dangerous attacking player, unmarked on numerous occasions? Right now I’m just trying to rephrase questions that have been asked of the defence for the last three years.

Looking ahead, how will Ali Gerba’s arrival affect the team? He’s been very dangerous for Canada, so much so that he won’t be back for the Houston game on Sunday. The two goals he has scored so far in the tournament have had all of us TFC faithful cheering in anticipation. He seems to score the type of goals that we desperately need to be put into the back of the net. Was last night’s superior striker performance due, in part, to Gerba’s impending arrival? Were Barrett and Vitti both trying to show what they’re capable of so that they can keep their place after the big man arrives? Or have they finally started to feel comfortable in their roles? Keeping on the attacking theme, Jimmy Brennan did a magnificent job as the attacking left sided midfielder, getting down the line and putting in some very dangerous crosses, and creating space for the strikers to do their job. Hopefully this experiment will continue.

At this point in the season, I feel that there is a distinct possibility that we will make the playoffs. Will TFC win? Who knows? I am buoyed by the New York energy drink’s unlikely appearance in the final last year. Could TFC go on a tear and find their way to the final? Yes! Could we play like San Jose did tonight in a playoff series and waste a glorious opportunity? Yes!

Which TFC will we see next week? The hard working team we saw today, or the hard luck bunch of sad sacks we last saw in Utah? Houston will provide a stiff test for the Reds, and I don’t expect to see any of San Jose’s lay down and die attitude from them.

In an aside, hopefully Stillkicking is enjoying his well deserved time away from his computer. Don’t get lost in Arthur J’s facility!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

RSL 3 TFC 0 or how to ruin a cottage Saturday night

I am capable of rattling off the excuses. Playing only four nights since your previous game has to be tough. You have to factor in both jet lag and elevation adjustment when you travel from Toronto to Utah. Playing New York twice in a row must spoil a team for facing teams that have more going for them (example- every other MLS team).
Still watching Toronto on tv Saturday night was a wrenching experience. Of the nine remaining away games this year, five (LA, Chivas, Seattle, Colorado and San Jose) are going to be played in western time zones. So if they don't sort out their road woes, trouble awaits. As for this trend of giving up 3 goals in their last 4 road games now, it has to go. It is not fun when grinding out a tie in Columbus is one of the 09 road highlights. Speaking of grinding things out away from home, I am hopeful that TFC will try some ugly defensive football and get a point out of it in the near future.
I am having a hard time listening to Dobson and Forrest. Gerry Dobson in particular seems to repeat certain nuggets of information as many as 3 times in the broadcast. I am having a hard time listening to Dobson and Forrest. I now know that DeRo leads the MLS in being called offside, although what that actually means was never discussed. Will Johnson of RSL has been called up to play for Canada in the Gold Cup. We were told that over and over again. I am having a hard time ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toronto 2 NYRB 0 - hot night, hot team

Wednesday night Toronto FC reached the halfway mark of MLS 2009 as they played the 15th game of a 30 game season. Toronto 2- NYRB 0 was the final score as Toronto put on a smooth show on a hot night by the lake. There was no doubt that TFC were the same guys who looked awesome in Montreal last week. They were strong with the ball, solid in the back and able to make scoring chances out of the smallest opening. You walked away from BMO with a smile and the feeling that the team was on the rise.

I would argue that Frei was a busier keeper in Montreal than he had to be against New York. I do want to temper my joy, as NY Red Bulls are a team teetering on the edge of a collapse. Could there be a coach firing or a trade or something attempted to turn this team around in the days ahead? You shake your head when you recall this is the same team that had a run last Fall and got to the MLS Cup final. They have now played 17 games and have 10 points to show for it. Toronto has 22 points from two less games.

Pablo Vitti had a superb passing and attacking game, made more memorable by the scoring of his first goal for Toronto on a blooping header. Dwayne DeRosario was powerful and his goal was powerful. He chested down a crossing pass and smashed the volley into the far side of the goal. There was not a bad game played by the men in pink (they wore pink to raise awareness of the fight against breast cancer –buy a TFC pink shirt and 10% of the funds go to this cause).
I don’t think I could point out a bad game from any member of TFC. The great advantage to having Nick Garcia in central defense is the confidence that it provides Carl Robinson. Robbo moves forward in the alignment and this in turn allows Guevara to go further up. This both supports the strikers and allows DeRosario to take advantage.

Remember the last home game was also against New York RB, but that one was a matter of luck making all the difference. Cronin scoring after Guevara missed a penalty, Dichio scoring after Vitti was foiled on the breakaway. This second contest was never in doubt

Now to turn all this promise into results, Toronto has to make something happen on the road. TFC has a front loaded schedule and for the next three months they only have three home games and one of those is against Houston.
What version of TFC is going to appear Saturday night in Utah versus Real Salt Lake?
Grinding out a tie on the road is my usual wish, but somehow I have gained confidence and want more. The team looked strong and there is still Marvell Wynne and Ali Gerba to add to the mix.

Pics in the morning…

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ali Gerba signs with TFC - available after July 15

Yesterday Toronto FC announced that Ali Gerba has signed with the team. Since he cannot be officially registered with TFC until the MLS transfer window opens, he will not be able to play until after July 15th. Playing for Canada in the Gold Cup should keep him busy in the mean time.
I am optimistic that Gerba can bring some strength and scoring touch to the TFC collection of strikers. I am also aware that the number of players who have an instant impact in the MLS are few and far between. Welcome Mr. Gerba and a half dozen timely goals would be just fine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Toronto got what they came for in Montreal - a championship

Wow, final score Montreal 1 Toronto 6. They did it, they won the Voyageurs Cup and have qualified for CONCACAF Champions League.
Dwayne DeRosario scored the first hat trick in TFC history.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rohan Ricketts leaves TFC

The Score's Footy Blog is reporting that Rohan Ricketts has been bought out by Toronto FC. This has been long rumoured or should I say long twittered ? Ricketts began the 2009 season as a starter, but soon lost his place and never seemed to be fully on the road back. Even if the Ricketts departure leads directly to the Ali Gerba arrival, Toronto FC would still have 22 players on a maximum 24 player roster.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Johann Smith released

Toronto FC released Johann Smith today from their roster. A young (22) depth player who has spent less than a year with Toronto, most fans will wish him well. However, he did not seem to build on his scattered appearances. Smith had speed and energy in abundance, but all other categories needed a top-up. Toronto already has three teenagers on their roster, so the "build for the future" element is covered. I expect that Smith will find a spot on a MLS roster sooner or later. He could eventually qualify for the scoring ex-player club that is run by Edson Buddle. TFC now has 2 vacant roster spots and I expect that the next move should include Ali Gerba.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some overdue luck TFC 2 NYRB 1

Saturday night at BMO was a balmy, gorgeous evening. The sunset glow on the city centre was the stuff of picture postcards. June in Toronto is hard to beat.
The play on the field was nowhere near as pretty as the scenery. The job was done, the victory was secured, but it was hardly the beautiful game. I hesitate to use the word karma, after all "My Name is Earl" is a cancelled television show. Yet the idea that over time the good calls and the bad calls will balance out started to make good at last. I did not see the New York handball in the box in the early minutes, from my angle I just saw Pablo Vitti throw up his hand to appeal for the call. Guevara took the penalty and in TFC style was stopped by the NYRB keeper. Sam Cronin buried the rebound and Toronto was ahead while the night was young (Cronin 3). Sam Cronin has been such a solid contributer in every aspect of play this year, it was a bit surprising that it was his first MLS goal.
WIth Jim Brennan out injured and Marvell Wynne's international duty continuing, the back line sported a new look. Nick Garcia, the newest in Toronto red was central, active and effective. Nana Attakora played well (though burned on the New York goal) and seemed to be the student to Garcia's teacher. Attakora's speed saved the day a few times. New York's attack plan seems to be either slip Angel through or use their speed on the wings. Adrian Serioux seemed to be both struggling with their speed and getting the worst of every knock. Late in the game Stephan Frei caught Serioux up high with an arm or an elbow. I was convinced that Serioux was going to substituted in the second half just as a mercy move, but he soldiered on to the end. There were times when the Toronto formation seemed to be five across the back. Cronin, Attakora, Garcia, Serioux and Kevin Harmse. Now Harmse was just a deep midfielder, countering the Red Bull wing play. Harmse had a superb game, covered his zone and was able to get forward and make penetrating runs and contribute some worthwhile crosses. He had a second half shot on net that was a true test of New York keeper Danny Cepero.
But dreaming about the Harmse shot has my thinking out of order. The first half saw New York have a lot of possession after the Cronin goal, but not a lot of threat behind it. Toronto countered with a Pablo Vitti breakaway, but the ball seemed to run away from him as the keeper approached. Cepero cleared the ball and it went directly to Danny Dichio who was trailing on the play and he buried a long shot. I am willing to wager that it was the longest shot that Danny Dichio has taken for TFC, one for the highlight reel (Dichio 43).
The second half began with some New York pressure and with Toronto running around like chickens in the back, the Red Bulls scored (Celades from Angel 54) to make a game of it. They never seemed to be truly scary and yet at the same time Toronto never seemed to be truly out of the woods. Frei made some solid saves and yet his kicks were often sailing off into the night. On at least one huge kick to nowhere Coach Cummins could be seen on the sidelines with his arms out in the classic "now what was that" pose.
It was good to have Amado Guevara back for Toronto, but it was not one of his top ten games. Nick Garcia in the back four seemed to free Carl Robinson from playing a defensive midfield role, but Robinson had more stray passes and giveaways than his usual high standard. Dwayne DeRosario was played hard, but New York seemed to be prepared for him and double coverage was thrown at him regularly. Pablo Vitti showed some flashes, but the breakthrough still awaits.
In the second half Vitti gave way to Chad Barrett, DeRosario was replaced by Rohan Ricketts (who had a great run deep into NYRB territory but then faltered when he should have made his move) and Guevara came off for Marco Velez.
There were player sightings galore in the MLSE box above section 120. Ali Gerba was there as expected. Julian De Guzman was there too
Next stop for Toronto FC is Montreal where the Montreal miracle is scheduled for Wednesday night. Next MLS game is a week from then when New York visits again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Toronto trades for Nick Garcia and MLS rights to Ali Gerba

TFC sent a third round draft pick to San Jose for defender Nick Garcia and the MLS rights to Canadian striker Ali Gerba. I am not convinced that this is the end of the trades or signings and roster moves, which makes it hard to form an opinion. Garcia is a veteran (yet four years younger than Tyrone Marshall) and a defender (with Attakora hurt, Brennan hurt and Velez wonky after a rough game and Serioux playing hurt) and we all know that TFC needed defending help.
As for Ali Gerba, just based on his play for Canada he seems to have a scoring touch. He may not have a world beating touch, but here's hoping that it is a "better than what we've seen lately" touch around the net.