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.