Saturday, March 28, 2009

Toronto FC shows road tenacity - 1-1 in Columbus

Saturday's game in Columbus was a classic case of getting something from very little as TFC played a few levels lower than their performance the week before in Kansas City. How could such a dull game played under dull Ohio skies somehow lift all of our spirits and have fans talking the night away about dreams and possibilities? The 09 season is humming along and already TFC have something big to brag about, Toronto FC heads back home undefeated!! Four points from the first two games and two road games at that. This is new territory. Next Saturday's home opener should be off the charts when it comes to energy, especially with Seattle challenging TFC for the title of best supported team in the MLS.
But back to Saturday. TFC and luck are seldom in the same place and today's penalty call against Kevin Harmse is our latest indication of that . My angle and distance on that first half moment was horrible. I thought he twisted away and the ball hit his arm, but the ref was a million miles closer. The subsequent penalty kick was put solidly away by our old friend Schelotto, but it did feel against the run of play. Apart from the goal, Frei had some solid saves in the first half and I am still worried about Sutton taking over in the second half. Did Frei injure himself? If not, it just seems dangerous to play two keepers per game. If your second half guy gets injured who takes to the net then?
Greg Sutton played well, but there were some rusty moments when neither Velez nor the keeper seemed 100% on who was going to play a ball with a Crew player breathing down their necks.
Overall I felt that TFC held the edge in effort and intent, by a small margin, throughout the game. Columbus always seemed more efficient with the ball and more packed in the back. Chad Marshall of the Crew was solid in central defense. Whether shadowing Vitti or contesting for airballs with Dichio, Marshall is always a force to be reckoned with. If he has a clone, I want him wearing red.
The second half was frustrating for TFC fans, all offensive build up and no true opportunities. Then Columbus gifted TFC with the own goal and the joy of a deserved draw was ours.
It was a patchwork midfield today. Kevin Harmse and Sam Cronin are defensive types and they clogged the middle of the field as expected. DeRosario played well, but sometimes looked lost without Guevara and Robinson. It makes sense that Columbus was able to give him less room to work with centrally and he was finding more success out on the right wing in the second half. Rohan Ricketts was ineffective and hard to watch. He created little and seemed to be satisfied with forever feeding the ball to his defensive midfielders Cronin and Harmse, not in very promising areas either. I was happy when he was substituted with Johann Smith. Smith used speed to advantage, stretched those defenders out on the flank and seemed more willing to move or pass forward. No doubt, Smith benefits in my mind from lower expectations. While I am talking about players, like Smith, who were freed from Coach Carver’s bench, Marco Velez was a starter and showed his value. I am still dreaming of a signing to pair with Serioux, but it did seem that Kevin Harmse was nursing an injury at game’s end. This spring could be Velez’s time to shine. His positioning was solid. He used his speed and strength well and took no crap from Schelotto, which is one of TFC’s finest traditions. You still cringe when he has the ball, but having Serioux nearby seems to be the cure for fan anxiety.
Pablo Vitti was a starter and he progressed well. He had a tendency to want the ball early in “back to the net –nowhere land”, as if his magic with the ball was so great he could make things happen from anywhere. He can’t. He seems to feed his fellow strikers well, although Chad Barrett needs to start scoring to deserve such service. I thought that Vitti looked more lively when paired with Dichio late in the game. He ran onto Danny’s touches and flick-ons. He also knew to keep moving when feeding the ball to Dichio because Dichio is going to find a way to get it back to him.
So now it is time to pack up and leave Columbus. I do have to say that the Columbus fans that I spoke to were wonderful. They are outgoing, proud of their team and more than a little impressed that so many of us travel the 8 hours. I am sure that the hotheads and drunks on both sides will get the attention, but the solid, decent fans deserve their shout-out too. Thanks for hosting, now boost your attendance so that you are able to host fewer of us.

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