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.

Greg Sutton released by TFC

Toronto FC's first ever goalkeeper and the main keeper for their first two seasons, Greg Sutton was released today. I will save the analysis for another post. I just wanted to wish Sutton well. Who knows? At age 32 he has prime years of keeping ahead of him and may one day play for Toronto again. This roster move will take some adjusting to, until Frei took over this spring, cheering for TFC meant cheering for Sutton.
Memories of that first home game will always include Greg Sutton...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

TFC 1 LA Galaxy 2 - yes summer, no love, TFC tailspin continues

There was a sadness in the air at the end of today's game. A few Toronto players took the time to applaud the supporters, but it seemed as if the fans had no energy or awareness of them, never mind return the salute. I have read comments on some fan forums that have complained about players not saluting the supporters no matter the outcome of the game. Today some players did their duty, but the relationship has clearly soured.
The supporter groups are right to be deeply miffed with the lack of firepower, the recent results, the perceived direction of this team and the twisted optics of the friendly against Real Madrid. The banner held up by the supporters prior to the game was perfect, stating the worth of MLSE, the number of teams they own - 4 and the number of cups/titles = 0. This was aimed directly at team management, not the players on the team. This is as it should be.
Yet the south end was the most subdued I have ever seen. Sure, they celebrated the Dichio goal, but I feel that the overall quiet contributed to a sense of inevitability to the afternoon. As if the fans were saying "we're sick of this crap" and the team responded by displaying just the sort of play that has brought the fans to this opinion.
Now I understand that the quality of this crowd could have been suspect to begin with. There is something about LA that would attract that ticket buyer who only wants to attend one game this year. On the flip side, more season ticket holders might skip this one game just because it would be an easy one for a quick sale. I have no hard evidence for any of this, just a feeling.
As for the play on the field, Dichio scored off of a rebound, Vitti and Barrett continued their scoring drought, there were second half signs of DeRo trying to do too much on his own, TFC continued to miss Amado Guevara, both LA goals involved either an Marco Velez misplay or misplace, Ricketts and Smith had second half playing time and RR did supply some crosses of note and late in the game we were treated to an Emmanuel Gomez sighting.
On the LA side, their keeper Ricketts was active and effective, they scored early (was it their first corner?) making Toronto climb uphill almost from the start. It hurts to say that Edson Buddle scored the winner, it hurts to write it and it hurt to watch it. Not that I wish him back in Toronto or lament the trade that sent him on his way, it is just that seeing him score is a reflection of the sour hurt that has invaded the world of TFC fandom. The guy who would be the most perverse opposing player to score the winning goal against Toronto does just that.
So you sit there trying to develop stronger faith. Yes, one of these days I will witness a Toronto goal festival. Yes. they can score repeatedly in Montreal. Yes, team management just needs time to unveil their master plan - a player or two will be signed and Toronto will enter the playoffs as a mighty force.
Yet my fears shake me and rather than a dream, a nightmare develops. That our future will be haunted by many players, who despite effort will always fall short , who will stand on that field and applaud the red and grey loyalists, but nobody will notice...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vancouver Whitecaps 2 Toronto Flaccid Club 0

This is a disaster. Tonight the Whitecaps took control of the Nutrilite Championship by winning at home and joining the growing list of teams that have shut out the Reds this year. It was another Toronto performance that shook your confidence in this team. As the frustration began to build in my little brain, the faint hope that TFC would actually score was flickering and fading. If you can't score, you can't win may be a cliche, but this has gone too far. Throwing Rohan Ricketts and Johann Smith into the attack was pointless. Toronto's not eliminated at this stage, but they are going to have to score a lot of goals in Montreal. Is that going to happen?

I thought that Vancouver did not play all that well. They were in the game for stretches and scored on their chances- just compared to Toronto a team that scores on their chances looks like world beaters.
There were some solid efforts from the TFC side- DeRo, Serioux, Attakora were always plugging away. Vitti hit a post in the first half. Sutton did himself no favours...

The forums are full of fans who are letting loose with justified howls of rage, so I thought I would chime in with my take on sinking ship TFC. I say that Mo and his boss Tom Anselmi have to take the hit on this as I figure it comes down to lack of depth. International duty pulled Wynne and Guevara away, so big holes on this team were revealed. If Sutton keeps a clean sheet, TFC ties and is happy. The moment they give up the Vancouver goal they need to respond and we know that story. Attacking midfield play ? Breaking down the wings? Finish in front? You can't blame the players on Toronto's roster for being who they are, but you can point the finger at management for not filling the needs.
Saturday brings LA to BMO and I wonder what form TFC fan anger will take ?