Saturday, May 30, 2009

drubbed in Texas- Houston 3 TFC 0

That was beyond awful. It was as if TFC fans and players were united in the worst way. We were having our faces rubbed in it. Dare I say our limitations are greater than our dreams. At least that is true tonight in Texas.
Sure it is possible that the team came out flat. It is also possible that the team saw the Vancouver game coming up on Tuesday as a much more important one and therefore pulled back (rested Dichio, subbed Robinson as a precaution).
It also possible that Houston is truly that much better than TFC. Houston demonstrated a scoring touch and a killer instinct on free kicks that TFC only dreams about. The Dynamo scored three goals in a flurry and were never even slightly worried after that.
If anyone brings up the weather I will start to scream. Sure it was hot, but it's going to get hot and hotter all over the continent. It's called summer. If TFC cannot compete during the hot months you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

One positive I can think of is just a negative in disguise. Adrian Serioux was mistreated in the first half by the ref at both ends of the field. The defensive calls were of the phantom variety and then Serioux had a goal disallowed in the dying seconds of the half. At half time I was betting on a second Serioux yellow ahead of a TFC least Serioux stayed in the game.
Despite allowing three goals, Frei did make that toe save and kept Houston off the scoreboard in the second half. If he had melted it could have been so much worse. I guess that counts as another in the positive as negative in disguise category.

I think giving Vitti and Ricketts the second half was wise. This was their (last?) chance to show some offensive spark. Neither caught fire, but then Wynne and Barrett had already set the bar pretty low. Changes just have to be made.

May the game against the Whitecaps on Tuesday be a completely different story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ola Real Madrid, adios Field Turf??

Big News

Real Madrid to play Toronto FC at BMO Field in August.

Bigger News

A grass field to be placed over the turf for this game (and possibly more games beyond?).

Season ticket holder news

There is speculation that the Real Madrid game will not be the game in your season ticket package. This makes sense financially, the cost of bringing in a big team is huge.

Season ticket holder questions

I have read some of the forums and I am shaking my head at how grumpy some of the fans are about this showcase friendly. I don't know if I am going to this game, but I do not see it as a negative that fans would have to pay for this game.

1 Why express anger at MLSE for needing to charge premium prices for all tickets, it is Real Madrid that is setting the asking price.

2 We all understood that our season tickets included an international friendly, not aware of any claim that the included friendly would be the only one of the year. We can judge the value of the second friendly once we know who TFC is playing.

3 Any publicity is good publicity - playing a big team will be the media highlight of the summer - wonder what the tv situation will we won't know until the tickets have been sold.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Toronto FC 3 NE Revs 1 - So begins the summer of love...

Jay Heaps showing ref Michael Kennedy his bunnies

Perhaps I am the Eeyore of TFC fans, but I did not rush down to today's game with my head and heart bursting with optimism. Last Saturday's loss to the Chicago Fire had stung and some of the bitterness clearly had lingered for the week since. I have been salivating for too long at that "2 International players to be signed" rumour and I felt that the loss to the Fire had only underlined the striker/central defender need.
Then Shalrie Joseph scored on New England's first serious jaunt into Frei's territory and it was as if the Chicago game was still on. I was very hesitant to be critical of Adrian Serioux on the play. It seems that every week he displays more bandages (today it was a hand bandaged in the Jim Brennan style) and I sometimes think that if we had any defending depth at all, Serioux would be given some recuperation time. It sure seemed that Joseph had surprised Serioux and found room in front and Frei at his mercy. Oh, no - another long afternoon of squandered TFC scoring chances and lightning counter strikes from the enemy. It was maddening that Chicago could do in the seconds (score) what TFC couldn't do in hours) and now Shalrie Joseph was doing the same.

Thank you Amado Guevara for shutting down that gloomy storyline in a matter of minutes. He responded as if TFC were playing a road game. Even before Guevara tied the game with his superb goal, it seemed that TFC had taken a big offensive step forward. They were taking shots at net, shots from every angle. Hell, even Carl Robinson had a shot in the early going and you don't see him firing away very often. Chad Barrett had a low corner effort that was not as enticing as some of his open net groaners, but showed promise.
Danny Dichio had played a large part in Guevara's goal and his knock downs and touches were promising. Then things began to bog down. The middle of the game was very much a stalemate. The shot count dropped off and TFC seemed to slide back into the mode where all touches lead to other touches until nothing comes of it offensively.
Then Dichio turned the wrong way at midfield and sent DeRo on a break and a score. That was the first time this year that TFC had come from behind to take a lead at home. Guevara's second goal (or did Dichio get a head to it? I am writing this before checking the official game summary) sealed the victory. The result was just as surprising as the weather. For all of the contributions of Guevara and Dichio (and DeRo and Barrett), I thought the improved play of both Carl Robinson and Jim Brennan were big factors in the win.
Weather Report
After a steady parade of cool, rainy games, it is a treat to bask in the sunshine and warm weather at a TFC home game today. Yes, fans were wearing t-shirts and shorts. A number of days had passed since the last drop of rain had hit the field (but I did have my two rain ponchos in the bottom of my bag, some habits die hard). I don't know if there had been work done on the field, if the lack of rain was the key or someone has discovered that field lacrosse is the secret ingredient, but I don't think Field Turf was the bad guy today.

Ref rant
I will ramble off after I bore you with my take on today's ref, Michael Kennedy. I am proud to be a Kennedy myself and I often bask in the reflected glory of sharing a world famous surname (y'know giants of the arts, politics, blogging). But ref Michael Kennedy drives me around the bend. I can't recall a huge mistake, it is more his demeanour, his way of talking at length with the players. Now I don't know, perhaps the players are quite fond of him and just can't wait to chat away. "How are the kids? What is the hotel like ? Hey ref what was that recipe for muffins again?"
It just seems so pointless. He will talk at length with some players and unleash yellow cards on players he has been ignoring all game. My gut feeling is that all the talking undercuts his authority. It even strikes me that ref Kennedy is a touch lonely, dare I say it, a touch needy ? Now that is just not a Kennedy trait...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Toronto FC 0 Chicago 2 - We are now officially ready for the calls to start balancing out...


or still holes to fill and mountains to climb
This game had a sour sting to it. Perhaps a sobering wake-up call that Chicago (and New England ??) are still teams to beat in the East. I have been hoping that the mythical signings to come in the summer will still arrive. However whatever roster changes are ahead, if TFC continues to be haunted by confounding and mystifying ref calls then how can we dream of glory?
A caller on the post game show on Fan 590 had an interesting stat (and I have not had the time to double-check it). He said that Toronto in their existence have had three penalty kick calls go their way at home. In that same time period, Los Angeles Galaxy have had seventeen.
Now I am willing to be rational, Chicago demonstrated that they were the better team today. Not a dominant team or a deserving team, but the no-call on the Chicago hand-ball in the box rattled Toronto and the Fire instantly took advantage. Then they did it again as all those Toronto chances came to nothing.

Maybe TFC were suffering from the Montreal false confidence boost. Watching the first half of today's game against Chicago, echoes of that recent game against the Impact were still part of the equation. Montreal did TFC no favours, offering such little opposition the other night. The Chicago Fire demanded that Toronto move their level of play up a notch and it was proving difficult for the Reds. It was not that the Fire had much in the way of offense, it was just that they were defending. DeRosario was not having his way down the left as he has at the start of both recent home games. The middle of the field was mighty crowded and Toronto was not getting anywhere.
Although it was 0-0 at half time, their was little to choose from between these teams. Yet, you felt that the advantage had slightly shifted to the Fire. When Toronto does not score early, it is a legitimate concern that they will score at all. The second half brought chances for Guevara, Barrett and many wild scrambles that coulda/shoulda...but Chicago scored two goals

TFC line-up observations and random thoughts
Marvell Wynne, as expected, did not dress due to hamstring injury.
Sam Cronin played the first half as a midfielder and the second half as the right back. Nana Attakora played the first half as right back but came off at the half. Kevin Harmse came into the midfield for the second half. All three players made quality contributions.
Carl Robinson did not have one of his stronger games. Yes, the Fire are potent on the counter-attack, but Toronto needed somebody to break the Fire defensive headlock (or is it a firewall?). I thought that the switch of Danny Dichio on for Marco Velez was a good one, but if Robinson just hangs back with the back three, what have you gained?
I am not understanding the 4-3-3 formation, at least not in the fashion it was displayed today. Back in March we saw Dichio and Vitti first play together in Columbus. They looked potent together, a combo of size and speed in two strikers. Now with three up front, they seem too widespread and there is little intertwined movement and passing. Just wing attacks and crosses to well covered targets.

Stephan Frei is a rookie and we fans, perhaps, have been spoiled by his supply of game saving exploits at home in 2009. Therefore seeing him look ordinary today was a comedown. Maybe an inevitable one, but rough either way. Greg Sutton should get a start soon, maybe in Vancouver and Montreal, so that Frei gets a chance to rest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Victory is important, but Toronto still stuck on the 1-0 kind

Wednesday night Toronto FC demolished the Montreal Impact in every way other than the most important one, scoring. Chad Barrett scored the lone goal, a great shot that fans were hoping would be the start of our long awaited onslaught ...
Instead it was a parade of breakaways that were thwarted, shots that just missed and posts that were hit (and grazed and hit and hit). Chad Barrett in particular should have had a multiple goal night. You give him credit for his work rate, his courage and his talent for breaking away from defenders. If TFC can just get Chad to put the ball in the net on 40% of his chances and Toronto would be cruising for the V Cup. As it stands two home victories has Toronto in the driver's seat, but the door is still open for one of the other teams to respond with two home victories as well. Then again the strong away form of TFC might indicate that they can close that door swiftly.
Montreal was able to muster only a few long shots and half chances. Stephan Frei was steady and active, but he did not have to pull off one of his game saving spectaculars.
Even in the late going, it was more a matter of worrying that Toronto would somehow find a way to mess the result up rather than a fear of Montreal amounting to anything. The Impact were down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes, so there was a minimum of offensive thrust from them. They did have a first half goal called back on an offside call, but that was about it. If that was a close call, what on earth was the yellow card on the Montreal foul well inside

Views from the upper deck
The experiment with Marvell Wynne as a midfielder was interesting but short lived as he came off injured very early in the game. That was Chad Barrett's opportunity, as he came off the bench.

To my mind, if you were not going to give the man of the match nod to the goal scorer, then Nana Attakora at right back was my guy. The above experiment with Wynne on the right wing of the midfield I think has to continue because Attakora has claimed the right back spot on the back line. Attakora worked as a central defender the past two games, but he excels out wide. He shows solid defending combined with speed and skill going forward with the ball. Wow
Pablo Vitti has yet to score and for all his promise, I feel that time is running out on his chance. O'Brian White is waiting in the wings and once healthy he will have to be given some playing time. DeRo is not going to sit and both Barrett and Dichio can take turns providing the muscle up front.
DeRosario played a strong game, a few times putting the ball through 2 Montreal defenders. In the first half he was well supported by Brennan, Cronin and Guevara. Second half it became more of a solo show. Brennan was staying back, Guevara was covering a lot of ground and Cronin had to be feeling the wear and tear of a physical game that seemed mostly aimed at him.
What was that call late in the first half when it appeared that Toronto should have had a penalty call finally go their way ? When will TFC get their fair share of calls?
There has to be a trade or a signing or a combo of the two in the months ahead. A vacant roster spot beckons and neither Rohan Ricketts or Johann Smith are getting playing time. Remember the two international players that Mo mentioned more than once ??

Saturday, May 9, 2009

DC United 3 - Toronto FC 3 DeRo takes the lead, but then the TFC twist

this ultra cool pic of RFK stadium courtesy of Sean R. Baker of Twice Baked Photography
check out his Flickr page and his website

This game is a hard one to capture. Forgive my scrambled brain, I can't decide if I was joyfully entertained or toyed with.

If you want the simple, positive version of what happened Saturday night, Toronto played DC United to a draw and gained a road point from a stadium where none had come before. Toronto showed off the scoring finish that has been missing of late. DeRo scored two and Serioux headed the other. All three TFC goals were models of efficiency. Scoring with lightning force, more the result of determination than patient buildup. This was a performance of spirit and fire, TFC battled all night. Their road record for 2009 is impressive, a win, two ties and a single loss. They have showed more of a scoring touch on the road than at home, scoring nine goals.

Now it is possible to take the same game and twist the perspective (just like a creepy, twisted David Lynch movie).
TFC had this one in the palm of their hand and they let it slip away. Their defending away from BMO has been suspect, they have now allowed nine goals in four road games. Another late game lapse has one thinking that they are fighting a curse. Marvell Wynne getting called on a hand ball in the box for the second time this year is almost incredible. If you had magic powers and could just alter the location of his arm twice you would have a tie against Dallas and a victory in DC.

I must snap out of this, the siren call of the "what ifs" and those alternate universes must be shunned. I must rest and see if I am still baffled in the morning.
In the morning light, I see the positives are outweighing the negatives. TFC is continuing what they started last fall when they had superb road performances in New York and Dallas. If you are crushed by having the victory elude their grasp, you have truly bought in to the high standard that they have created. The notion that they are snake-bitten, fighting a curse that leads to late game lapses involves ignoring too many factors. They are a young team and on the rise, those handball calls are just bumps on the road to better days...
It is great to see Nana Attakora pushing his way onto the team as a starter through solid play.
The strategy of playing one half with Chad Barrett and one half of Vitti is a pleasing one - even though it did not result in a goal against DC.
Frei's twister save in the second half was a highlight
Serioux's goal showed his strength and correct me if I am wrong, I think it was the first TFC goal from a corner this season
Cheers for De Ro's chutzpah, his first goal was pure determination and a timely touch and his second goal was dazzlling.
It was great to see Dichio in as a late game substitute playing as if scoring against DC is his destiny- even though it wasn't to be

Chris Pontius getting in the double kick at DeRo's head- he picked up a yellow card, but DeRo got one too.
It was tough watching Toronto protecting a lead without Carl Robinson, the defending depth is so absent that Ricketts is a late game substitute when Guevara had run out of gas ?? I guess if Robbo had played then either Harmse or Cronin would have been available on the bench.
Television commentary is a tricky subject. I vastly prefer any Toronto on air folks to what shows up in MLS markets. When Craig Forrest is talking about goalkeeping strategies and defending you would be a fool to ignore his experience and insight. When he said that TFC looked tired in the late minutes, it made me fearful because it was a sound observation. I hesitate to slam Gerry Dobson but he needs to be less of a fan and more of a reporter. He should use his words to paint a picture, stay in the moment and bring us into the game. His comment of "It's in???" on DeRo's first goal is an example of sounding more like a fan than a communicator. Late in the game, after the second DeRo he was talking about where a TFC victory would put them in the standing. Besides the superstition, it is not bringing us into the game to talk about implications. Assume that fans are watching and they are capable of either adding one or three to TFC's present point total on their own. We can hope and worry, but we can't see what you are seeing. I am not sure that I am capturing the distinctions and tone that I am hoping for, but I admit that I would be less critical had TFC held onto the lead.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

TFC 1 Whitecaps 0 - Still searching for the finishing touch

"Oh when the Reds
(Oh when the Reds)
score more than one
(score more than one)
Oh when the Reds score more than one
I will need resuscitation
when the Reds score more than one"

I guess it is better to come away from a game humming, rather than steaming. Sure, I was soaked and TFC late minute lapses are becoming a tradition, but there was no steam. Thanks to Stephan Frei.
Against Vancouver at BMO the home side scored (Kevin Harmse!!!) in the opening minutes of the game and I admit I was hopeful. Hopeful that at long last the floodgates were about to open and the long awaited TFC scoring frenzy was about to begin. This was the 6th home game of the 2009 calendar and Toronto has scored five times. They have yet to score twice in a home game. Toronto had shots (many from Chad Barrett) and opportunities galore, but the scoring touch continues to elude this team.
So my scoring frenzy hopes were dashed. I can delude myself that they are saving them all up for next week against Montreal.
DeRo was quoted in the pre-season that it takes time for an offense to gel, for players to get to know each other well enough that moves are anticipated and things fall into place. Toronto has a lot of players that have been added to the mix (DeRo, Vitti, Cronin, last night Harmse back in the midfield) and the need for patience continues. In the second half there was a brilliant ball back and then pass threaded through moment between Guevara and Robinson where you could tell that they have played together and they are on the same page.
Let me run through the players and give you my thoughts.
Vitti -subdued, when Guevara figures him out there will be more, but perhaps not on slick, rainy nights
Barrett -effort and energy, but rewards still escape him
DeRo - a constant threat, owned the left for most of the game
Guevara and Robinson - more themselves than Saturday
Harmse - scored the goal, but second half passing was off, tangling with Whitecap defender Charles was eventful
Attakora and Velez- surprise central pairing, had plenty to handle with Vancouver's big,mobile strikers
Wynne and Brennan- a few forays, Brennan's overlap with DeRo was a highlight, seemed to place priority on defending
Frei - surprised that he got the start over Sutton, his status as No.1 keeper beyond question - Rookie of the Year candidate without a doubt..
Dichio and Ibrahim were late substitutes and both had chances. Everytime Ibrahim takes the field my first impression is that this gangly teenager is going to get hurt. But Fuad me once, and now Fuad me twice (to quote a wise fan), he finds a way to show a burst of speed and some ball control. I am still not sure why Dichio played the ball back to Guevara in the late going when it looked like he had a clear shot. If Guevara had gotten over the ball and made something of the opportunity, Dichio would have been the hero. It was that sort of night and the victory was an important one.
This 8 pm start time for a game is not a favourite of mine, I live an hour out of town so I was home and writing a little blog blurb just past midnight.
There are two items that I need to vent on.
Weather Reports
This city has grown soft and I can blame it on the domed stadium. Somebody inform the weather forecasters that TFC fans will be sitting in the outdoors for a number of game time hours and we want to know the conditions. I was prepared for steady rain. I dressed for those potential conditions, but all the reports I heard were for scattered showers. It was a steady rain, sometimes tapering off to a steady mist, but there was nothing scattered about it. I will be complaining to the Weather Network and if I don't like their response I will be pulling the little weather blurb from this blog. That will teach them a lesson.
Toronto ticket obtainers
You notice I am not calling them fans? There were a lot of faces in my section that I had not seen before. They appeared to be tourists that came out to BMO last night to buy pizza and wear t-shirts. The moment it started to rain, they headed to the concourse. All night there was a steady stream of traffic up and down those stairs. Unless there is play directly at the south end penalty area, traffic in aisles blocks the view of the game for many in the lower part of the section. Either dress properly, eat early, watch the game most of the time and act like a visit to the concourse is a lightning fast rarity or stay home. Don't saunter, this is not a baseball game. I swear that there were two young ladies who arrived at the game around the 60 minute mark. Section 221, single digit row. I know that they could have been in the beer garden until then, but they looked awfully dry. They proceeded to huddle under their umbrella.
The RPB and the USector had one of their finest nights last night. I would be happy to spread their noise throughout the stadium, but I am more interested in spreading the attention and devotion to simply WATCHING THE GAME. I am wondering if it is time to start a supporter's group in the bottom of my section to deter tourist traffic, to somehow let the oblivious casual know that they are not the centre of the universe. They need to know that the game is on and being watched. Below, for your consideration.
1) West Side Gory,"watching games and taking names"
2) Lower Section Psychos "you need pizza, we take blood"
3) X Ray Viewers "obscure the view, it's taboo"

Now, I feel better.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Toronto FC still Columbus victory free- game tied 1-1 in Toronto

Does anyone know the name of a good sports psychologist ?? Toronto looked like a team in need of guidance today.
TFC tied the Columbus Crew 1-1 in a game that was mildly disappointing, notably to those fans who were hoping that the home side could build on their recent two victories. No Toronto player was particularly off their game, but nobody stepped forward and dazzled either. Columbus knew how to frustrate and defend and that was all that was required of them on the road.

Toronto FC has to start avoiding teams that are down on their luck. FC Dallas was off to a rocky start to their 2009 season, but looked strongest in their games against Toronto. Now Columbus Crew have joined the list of teams that shine brightest when facing the Reds. Why does this team rise to play the likes of Chivas USA and fizzle when the visitors have less of a record? Columbus has not won a game yet this year, but TFC has supplied them with two draws (with only one more meeting still ahead in the schedule). The desired psychologist must be an individual that can inspire creativity, flash and a killer instinct.
The heavy rain storm that arrived in time for the game start had the quality of play on the field as soggy as the fans. So you were willing to be patient as all knew the conditions would require an adjustment. The defending unit was more than acceptable and allowing a goal must be understood as something that may have been inevitable after two games without a goal against. The Columbus goal did have some elements of an accident in a pinball factory along with some glaring lapses in defending.
The midfield was out of sorts. Carl Robinson did not have one of his best afternoons. Amado Guevara was also less of a threat on the ball than we have seen of late. Sam Cronin worked out even, his bad pass was at the heart of the Columbus goal, but then the Toronto goal was the result of a Cronin cross.
The forwards were also below standard, neither Vitti, nor Dichio or DeRosario when he came in as a second half sub were able to get TFC to the next level.. Chad Barrett gets a gold star for scoring the Toronto goal and Stephan Frei made some saves that were game savers.

Give me some down time and I will contribute a little more.
At least it was not a defeat.