Saturday, April 11, 2009
Giving up late goals still a Toronto FC bad habit - TFC 1 FC Dallas 1
I'm back at my home laptop, more than two hours since the end of today's game, and I am still chilled to the bone. Whether this is due to that delightful lakeside climate or the frozen style of the team has yet to be determined. The personal mistake by the lake today was the lack of long underwear on my non-Calvin Klein frame. The next home game is scheduled for a Wednesday night later in April. If spring has not arrived with some permanence by then, I am attending the game as the Michelin man.
So Coach Carver had promised changes to the starting line-up and he delivered. Vitti sat and Barrett was the lone striker with DeRo tucked in behind. The heart of the midfield was Guevara and Robinson, with the wings going to Ibrahim and Cronin.
No change in defenders, the standard Brennan, Harmse, Serioux and Wynne across the back and Frei starting in net.
Judging from the number of times he has been given the start this spring, I think that Carver has given Frei the number one keeper spot. Today he played a solid game, made both standard and challenging saves and I expect he will start next weekend in Dallas. The late equalizing goal from FCD could hardly be blamed on the keeper. It was not the first time that an attacking player had room to operate directly in front of the TFC net and Frei could not have been expected to bail the team out of sloppy defending permanently. He still has room for improvement in the distribution of his goal kicks (although wind conditions were not balmy today by a long shot), but he shows growth in confidence and is starting to boss his defenders around. Heaven knows they deserve it. I am less sure that Kevin Harmse will be a starter in Dallas. He continues to have lapses where he seem to come unmoored in the midst of the action. He hesitates when it is time to move forward to set the offside trap and appears unclear for flashes as to which attacker he needs to stick close to.
I think that it is unfair to Pablo Vitti that he was on the bench in favour of Chad Barrett today. Vitti played in Columbus when TFC was without Guevara and Robinson and you could argue that both of those midfielders were missing last week too. If I had control over the next starting line-up, I would be using a double V approach. Vitti in place of Barrett and Velez in place of Harmse. They are not the solution to all problems, but they could do the job until the real thing came along. Clearly I am giving up hope on the signing of either a central defender or a striker in the near future.
The Rohan Ricketts saga continues. He was left out as a starter today and from his foggy play of late, it was a deserved state to be in. Yet why did Coach Carver put Ricketts in as a second half substitute? Ricketts showed better ball skills and made some optimistic crosses in his stint. Yet is this the end of the message from Coach Carver? It seems to me that by ending the benching of Ricketts so soon, Carver undercut his own stance and made Rickett's return to the starting 11 seem inevitable without the player having earned anything. That's the way it looked to me at least.
Both teams had plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the game. Yet there was something inevitable about the Dallas goal. They seemed able to hold the ball longer and pass with more menace than TFC. Toronto worked more on the counter-attack. Toronto's passing was often counter productive, the more passes made the less danger they presented.
A flood of memories came over me when FC Dallas put out Jeff Cunningham as a second half substitute. None of them good memories. His slide tackle/challenge on Stephan Frei resulted in a deserved yellow card. Jim Brennan crunched him later to gain a yellow of his own.
So where does this put the good ship TFC ? After 4 games they have overachieved on the road and underachieved at home. It is still early days in a 30 game schedule, so recovery time could be ahead. The turnaround is not going to appear magically. Some basics have yet to be displayed regularly. Apart from the Kansas City game, there has been a sputtering, weak attack. The ability to protect a lead, grind out a win and make things difficult for the other team when it's crunch time is not there. I think it is time to send some TFC starters to the iceberg where my toes still reside.