Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rumours swirl - Paul Mariner leaves Plymouth and is Toronto bound?

When The Globe and Mail posts a Toronto FC coaching rumour, I pay attention. They are joining the chorus of speculation concerning Paul Mariner. Mariner is the long time assistant to Steve Nicol with the New England Revolution. He left New England for a coaching gig with Plymouth Argyle, but that has not gone well.
There is also news from Sportsnet's Gerry Dobson (his twitter account) that speculates that Steve Nicol is part of the hiring deal. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DeRo on trial with Celtic

 DeRo (and Freddie) show up in Scotland-
                                                                           click here

This is a mess.
First Earl Cochrane denies that DeRo will trial with Celtic.
Then photos of DeRo in Scotland show up.
Then TFC/Cochrane say they had no idea that DeRo was going over for a trial.
How can a player under contract shop himself around like this? How can a player, the captain of your team, go overseas without permission? What happens if he gets injured in a scrimmage? What is going on?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Toronto FC says farewell to three more

The Globe and Mail are reporting that TFC has  not renewed the contracts of  three more players ;
Nick Garcia, Fuad Ibrahim and Amadou Sanyang. The only surprise might be Sanyang, due to his youth and playing experience.  Sanyang was hardly a salary concern, although that might be the case for Ibrahim. We fans have to trust that letting a young player go is based on either draft  or academy prospects.
Garcia's years in the league means that he is eligible for the re-entry draft. Since the two young players have no right to negotiate with any other club besides Toronto, I am not sure what the next step will be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Joseph Nane traded to Colorado Rapids for 2012 third round pick

Toronto FC traded again today. They sent Nane, the rookie midfielder, to Colorado. I don't know what to make of this. I was impressed enough with Nane that I thought he would stay on as a bench player. Clearly Colorado was impressed enough to trade for him. Only 22, so there is potentially room for growth. 

The 2011 roster is increasing to a maximum of 30 players and Toronto seems to be shrinking. My roster memory goes like this...

3 keepers (Frei, Conway, Kocic)
7 defenders (Attakora, Cann, Harden, Gomez, Gargan, Garcia, Henry)
6 midfielders (DeRo, JDG, Sturgis, Labrocca, Peterson, Sanyang
3 strikers (Santos, Chad, Ibrahim)
That seems to be 19 players. There will be 5 players chosen by Toronto in the college draft. I am not sure of how many will be taken in the re-entry draft. How will TFC get to 30?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TFC and Whitecaps trade - Nathan Sturgis for the first round draft pick

Today TFC traded their first round pick in the upcoming college draft (8th pick, I think) for Nathan Sturgis. Sturgis had become a Whitecap through the expansion draft only yesterday, chosen from Seattle's unprotected list. He is listed as both a midfielder and a defender, although his playing time in Seattle this year was as a midfielder.
This move makes some sense, although it would have made less sense had TFC kept Sam Cronin. Sturgis is only 23 , but since he was a Generation Adidas pick (2006) he already has 5 years  in the MLS.  Whether Toronto attends the college draft with 5 or 6 picks is not a big issue.  The first round choice last winter was Zac Herold, the young man whose health ended his pro career before it began.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

6 players gone - OBW in the draft, 5 released with a farewell and a train ticket

Today saw the selection of O'Brien White in the expansion draft. The Vancouver Whitecaps took him in a move that I have been predicting for months. It is an understatement to call him a struggling striker in his time with Toronto. May he rejuvenate his career out in B.C., but not to the extent that he scores against Toronto.
Once the draft was over TFC released five players;  Gabe Gala, Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, Raivis Hscanovics and Mista.
Gabe Gala has been with the team since year one and you knew when the team started adding Academy players to the roster that Gala's opportunity to grab a spot on this team had passed. He is only 21 years of age though, so he may find a pro soccer path one day. He retains his claim to fame, the only Toronto player to have scored against Real Madrid.
Saric, Usanov and Hscanovics' departures are also no surprise. This trio were Mo and Preki's big moves for 2010 and we all know how the season went. Saric was a tough tackler, but you felt that he was just a red card waiting to happen. Usanov showed some flair with bringing the ball forward. Enough flair that in the summer I thought that maybe he should be playing as a winger. That was also due to his habit of getting lost on defensive assignments far too often. Hscanovics had no impact and gave way to Nick Garcia at the left back position. That has to haunt him.
The departure of Mista was the least surprising of all moves today. He did score in the game against Cruz Azul. That might have been both his debut and his one highlight for the season. Economical of him. Economy was seldom a consideration when talking about Mista in Toronto. He was here on designated player money and it was a total waste of time. Adios Mista.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toronto FC exposes a few for the expansion draft

According to SBI (Soccer by Ives) Toronto FC have made the following players available to the two expansion teams, Portland and Vancouver, for the expansion draft this Wednesday.

Toronto FC
Chad Barrett, Julian deGuzman, Gabe Gala, Nick Garcia, Raivis Hscanovics, Fuad Ibrahim, Milos Kocic, Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez, Joseph Nane, Amadou Sanyang, Martin Saric, Maxim Usanov, O'Brian White.
That means that the protected players are ;
Jon Conway
Nana Attakora
Dan Gargan
Adrian Cann
Dwayne De Rosario
Ty Harden
Nick Labrocca
Jacob Peterson
Stefan Frei (I)
Maicon Santos (I)
Emmanuel Gomez (I)
Home Grown:
Nicolas Lindsey
Doniel Henry

A few shockers and a few developments in that information. Protecting Gomez must be an indication that his health outlook is a positive one. Expose Chad and protect Peterson has me scratching my head. Protecting Nick Labrocca and exposing Amadou Sanyang is another puzzle.
 On one hand, perhaps the Designated Player salary of JDG makes him a tough pick for expansion teams, yet I thought he had a no-trade contract. Remember that TFC can have a max of two players taken and once one is picked they can protect another. So lose Chad, you protect JDG or vice versa. 
I think that Chad is tempting for Portland, OBW tempting for Vancouver. I am afraid that Chad Barrett is now the most likely unprotected Toronto player to be selected on Wednesday.

Conway protected and Kocic exposed seems to be a big vote of confidence in the big back-up keeper.
I would say that protecting Ty Harden is a pleasant surprise, he seemed to me to be one of the best salary bargains on the team. Keeping Gargan, Cann, Attakora makes a lot of sense.

Stay tuned, the expansion draft is only one aspect of the changes possible. Already there have been trades made as teams would prefer to get another player in return rather than the one way selection route.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Helping Herr Klinsmann take the TFC pulse or their is no there, there

I watched the press conference on TFCtv of Jurgen Klinsmann's introduction to the Toronto media today. It was a touch short of inspiring, what with Klinsmann being wise enough to promise little at the outset. However, I was a little worried when he talked about finding out what style of play Toronto wants and then hiring the folks that would deliver that brand of play. I think talent drives the style and we have had the hardest time attracting the talent. I think we want Klinsmann to graft on an aura of success more than merely provide feedback and analysis. Welcome to Canada, Jurgen. Do you remember the silky Canadian style of 86 in Mexico? Thought not. We will take whatever style allows the Reds to beat Columbus by four goals.

If you really need a Toronto style, here's my stab at it.
Speed and skill, strategy and depth.
The speed and skill part is a reflection of the gap between MLS and whatever league your average TFC fan has grown up with (EPL, Serie A, etc.,). The players we watch on tv from around the world think fast, move fast and have a silky first touch. We watch Toronto field players who lack speed and skill and seem to be learning on the job.
As for the strategy and depth part, the years have rolled by and the players on the bench seem to offer little. When Toronto FC makes a substitution it always seems that it is due to the starter picking up an injury or running out of gas. It never seems that the player coming in is bringing something specific, never mind something special. We know it is a salary cap team, but it would be nice to see more talent than we can play at one time and a coach who has more to say than "try your best".

Friday, October 29, 2010

Klinsmann - the consultant chosen to steer TFC out of shallow waters??

Superstar German coach and player Jurgen Klinsmann may be hired by Toronto FC as a consultant. This according to a report from The Globe and Mail . The report was written by Stephen Brunt and I am incapable of imagining that Mr. Brunt could ever be wrong.
He writes...

Though Klinsmann will not take on the role of general manager or coach himself, he will be asked to make a recommendation as to Johnston’s replacement.
But it is more than a simple head hunting assignment. Klinsmann and his company will look at the club’s infrastructure, at its academy and scouting system, will suggest a playing style, and then find someone to accomplish the goals they set out.

Klinsmann, who lives in California, brings impeccable credentials to the task.

Never before has "impeccable credentials" been this much of an understatement. When I checked the TFC site moments ago it was down, so I await full confirmation. Meantime, allow me to return to my drooling.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

DC United 2 – TFC 3 Emotions, good and bad

Last night’s game had everything that TFC’s entire season had, except that it ended positively.  Maybe I’m a sucker for all the positive stuff that has happened this week, the Tueseday academy win over  Arabe Unido, the personal nature of the town hall meetings and the victory against DC, but I feel that the my faith is restored in the club.  Corporate damage control has worked, I can’t wait for next season.  I hope the boys in charge don’t screw it up again.

The story of this game is the line-up.  What we saw out there was a squad which represents our hope for next year.  With the exception of Nick Garcia, all the players that stepped on the pitch could feasibly be there next year too.  Yet, there are many of those players who might not be here or will be pine riders.  All indications point to Julian de Guzman staying, as both Earl Cockrane and Jimmy B. both were apologists for his play and role this year.   Also, the play of both Nick Labrocca and Jacob Peterson of late has been wonderful.  The Lindsay to Peterson to DeRo goal was the best we’ve seen all season and had me up and shouting expletives of joy at my tv.

Another line-up story to be considered is the absence of Stephan Frei.  My pet theory suggests that he is being rested so that he won’t pick up a knock before the January transfer window.  But his absence could be that he has a knock, or that Dasovic wants to share the playing time, or that the club wants a look at the reserve keepers with an eye to next year.  It could be for any of a thousand benign reasons that Frei has been out the last several  games, I just prefer the conspiracy theory.

The single player story, and this has been for the past few weeks, has been Nicholas Lindsay.  He seems to be the rapidly maturing winger that we expected Jacob Peterson to be.  Last night he was effective on both ends of the pitch, being involved in the second DeRo goal and saving a goal as well.  He is the pride of the academy, the poster boy for what could happen when things are done right and, at this point, he helps to bring all the warm feelings back.

The game contained all of the things we want to see as fans, and all the things we have come to expect from TFC.  An early goal by the opposition on a horrible defensive play was typical of all the bad we’ve seen over several years.  A penalty score from Jamie Moreno in his last game in the league, gaining him top scorer status again, is typical of TFC’s penchant for giving goals to famous and former players.  But then the good goals arrive, thanks in large part to Maicon Santos, who’s play has been a boon for the team.  His arrival may have been the only good thing Preki did for the club.

Overall the final game of the season, unlike the last few years, has left us with positive things to dream about.  There will be changes for next season, possibly as dramatic as this year.  Hopefully all the changes that come will build on the positive changes that have happened this week.

And, just as a parting shot, by my calculations MLSE could have paid every season seat (that’s seat, not season seat holder) $62 for the salary they paid Mista.  I won’t hold my breath for my $124 refund cheque from him.  Congratulations Mista, you rank with Denilson and Louis Angel Landin as one of the worst designated players in league history.  Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.


Friday, October 22, 2010

It was breath-taking to read the letter to season seat holders from TFC this afternoon. Wow. Unexpected speed. Unexpected news. They listened to a lot of things that were written and said. Forgive me for hurting my elbow while I pat myself on the back here, but I truly feel that they listened to ME!
I think that they understand that praising the passion of the fans came across as patronizing. It made the conversation seem more based on "us and them" than ever before in TFC history.
Sure the content of the letter was fantastic, the price freeze, a gesture of thanks by making the opener next season a freebie, the willingness to continue the town halls in 2011 all have me smiling. But more importantly, the tone was improved. The phrasing of the second paragraph grabbed me.

The Town Hall sessions were passionate, vocal and candid. The meetings were crucial to helping us understand your concerns. Toronto FC fans are unique - you love your club, you feel a part of the club, but your club has let you down on and off-the-pitch. We've now digested your feedback with the goal of identifying actionable items.

I have no evidence, just a feeling, yet I think that these words were a direct answer to my question last night "What makes this a club"? The something magical about loving this club just might be more widespread than I would have thought in that moment when Julius James scored in September. (I am reading that one over wondering if it even qualifies as a sentence. I am rolling with the words today, coherence can mosey along later).

I chided MLSE in this blog in reaction to the apology letter for many things. The apology letter was not signed I said, this one was clearly signed by all four leaders involved in the town hall meetings.

I chided MLSE in this blog in reaction to the apology letter for declaring a new era. I said it was up to others to decide that. Today's letter sure feels like a new dawn (and a new era of dialogue sure seems possible)
So, I take it back, they are not knuckleheads after all. We all have knucklehead phases in life, they get credit for getting out of theirs quickly. Tom Anselmi should not be fired. He and I can be members of the same club, passionate fans of Toronto FC.

Well I will have to postpone my second part of my town hall report until after weekend. If a timely report on the DC United game appears here it will be due to the efforts of my great friend Trout.  I have a weekend away to visit my daughter who is attending Bishop's and my pvr will be holding the TFC at DC game until my return.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

TFC Town Hall report - trying to find the words to reflect how big our dreams are for this club.

It was tough to find the right question to ask tonight at the first (and next to last) TFC Townhall meeting at BMO Field. I have been following the reports from the Red Patch Boys and the U-Sector so I knew the questions that had been asked and could probably recite from memory some of the answers. In case you have not been following the process, TFC has been represented by Paul Beirne, Tom Anselmi, Earl Cochrane and Jim Brennan.
I was a little surprised at the general praise and friendliness that seemed to be in the room and when it was wrapped around the first question, I had to burst forth with the second question. Later, after a few more happy, happy queries, I did call out "Next year, I want to be invited to the "piss and vinegar" town hall meeting".

Let me try to capture my little speech and question.
My name is Mark Kennedy, I have had seats in section 220 since day one. I also write a blog about being a fan of this team called "Mistake by the Lake". So I have been loving this team and blogging about it for four years now.
I do want to complain first off that by having Jim Brennan up there I can't blast away at how you are all suits who don't care, because from Section 220 we know Jim cared from day one, that for him it was a dream come true and for us up in Section 220, the fact that there was a stadium and a team in this city, was a dream come true. So, my question is, when you named this you called it a football club. What makes this a club? Because from up in Section 220, and I have written this in my blog (oh and by the way, I thought the apology letter sucked. You're going to praise me for being a great fan? My dad taught me how to be a great fan. You have profited from me being a great fan, but don't praise me, it does nothing for the situation) so, what makes this a club? From our point of view you look upon it as a product with a price point, we look upon it as our pride, our dream come true, our passion. We have big dreams for this CLUB. It's not a product, it's not part of the "MLSE stable". The suspicion is that if the phone call came some of you would say "Oh sure I'll take the corporate shift and I'll go and run the Marlies now".  Jim excepted.
What makes this a club?

Now my buddy's camera did an awful job of recording Tom Anselmi's answer. If somebody there has a better memory of his reply I will be glad to add it. I think that the emotional tone of my question struck a chord with Tom Anselmi, he responded with passion and fire. He spoke of being a Toronto guy too. He spoke of caring deeply for the team, that there were results this year that he was digusted with. He spoke of a common bond between fans and leadership, a common goal of success. He said that praise toward fans was sincere, that it was the fans that made this club. He made a good solid dig at me and my willingness to fire all the suits - when I replied that I had not gone that far, he reminded me that he has read the blog. (Yikes!! My section 220 Row 6 could be row 166 when I make my renewal call tomorrow).
Yes, I shook his hand afterwards and we talked briefly about the blog. I also reminded him that should things continue to be negative in 2011, I'll hold up my hand high in Section 220 and say "this is the hand that shook Tom Anselmi's hand" and then smack it with the other hand! I am a TFC fan, but bloggers need to stay out of "fanboy' territory.

Glory was the word I forgot to use when  trying to describe what TFC fanatics seek.  We are on a mission, not just in search of victories and championships, but in revealing to ourselves and the world that soccer is a Canadian game. It is not an afterthought or an import. It is a part of us. When Paul Beirne talked about the growing number of Canadian teams meaning greater talent being developed and a Canadian team returning to the World Cup, I felt that he did more to restore my faith than the apology letter did.
So much to blog about and it is getting late. Tomorrow I will try to add another post to give Jim Brennan's answer to my question about improving scouting and Mo's old habit of sticking to one talent agency. I was struck with how much passion and attention the four TFC leaders paid to all fans, especially when you remembered that these were sessions 6 and 7
 I tried to explain later at home the spirit behind my speech and question. If TFC leadership thinks that the unhappy fanbase is some combination of John McCain and Rob Ford, ticked at every penny that is not in their pocket, they may have the pulse of some, but not all. I am proud to be in a different camp, a President Obama if you will. When I express unhappiness it is because I feel that someone stepped on my dream this year. Soccer is not the topic of discussion amongst Torontonians these days and a glorious schedule of upcoming playoff games is not etched into my mind.You want to know why I dread going to the MLS Cup? It will remind me in November of how far short my beloved TFC fell in 2010.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A quick note

Wow, it is very late. I promise a longer blog post tomorrow. I do want to say that it was heartening to watch TFC play tonight. A victory is always something to embrace. It was the quality of the young players that made up most of the roster that was most impressive. Lindsay continues his energetic play. He did not have as many crosses as he did 1st half against Columbus, but he was effective in different ways.
More tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TFC 2 Crew 2 When will we ever learn? Or will there be mistakes as long as there are lakes?

I went to the stadium today expecting very little. It was TFC’s last MLS home game of 2010 and I was there out of loyalty to the ritual that is fandom as much as to the team itself. Anyone who went down to the lake today expecting a lot is either suffering from a dangerous amount of optimism or too little brain cells. There was a fear that Columbus could be on their game and TFC would show little resistance. So it started off as an event where the few positives that appeared were carefully guarded.
This would explain why my pre-game thoughts had a weather and fashion focus. A blue sky and a soft wind made it comfortable to be on the shady side of the stadium. Everyone likes a give away with real purpose and the TFC toque always becomes a part of my winter wardrobe.  I could not distract myself from the game and the quality of the team for long however.
There was a strange atmosphere in the stands prior to the game.  It was another low turnout. The mixture of disgruntled regulars determined to send a message and a noted wave of tourists and first timers made for a dull tone. The south end was showing enough green clothing and green banners to make a difference. The dumb greed of MLSE deserves to be called out. I think it is a sad thing in this city that in the end the corporate juggernaut swamps the Toronto soccernistas of the south end, but nothing wrong with rattling the cage while you can. I noticed that the announcing of the TFC players on the p.a. went away from the usual style of first name only so that the crowd can reply with the second name. The boos rang out when the reminder to renew your season tickets was read out. The day’s potential for ugly kept on rising. During the anthems I had a horrible passing thought- what if the Chilean equivalent of MLSE had been in charge of the miner rescue?

The game started in this sea of tension. Things did not look good when Columbus grabbed the first goal. The TFC defender Hsacanovhj should not have conceded the corner kick and the comedy of errors continued when Columbus had their headed ball hit the cross bar, bounce out and hit keeper Conway in the back and then into the net. Disaster loomed.
Then, lo and behold, Maicon Santos found a shaft of space and sent a twisting shot past the Hesmer in the Columbus net. It was a strike of bright speed and skill. The sort of screamer that has been rarely seen from the team in red this year .

We barely had time to recover from this rare moment of  offensive skill when Toronto came up with another Nicholas Lindsay was playing the left wing. He had displayed some speed down the wing, was willing to take on and beat defenders and had played in a few crosses that had potential. It just seemed there was nothing happening at the business end of these crosses. Then he sent in a beauty and Jacob Peterson anticipated and put it away. TFC had taken the lead and smiles were seen all around.
I dared to think at half time that if Toronto were to score two more the margin of victory would be enough for them to claim the Trillium Cup. Clearly nobody in the dressing room was thinking about adding to the goal total.
The second half played on in a balanced way. As long as Toronto had Maicon Santos in the play there was a threat. Yet he was running out of gas.
Throughout the game I had been noting that Stephen Lenhart of Columbus was up to no good. He was playing a chippy physical game that was getting to Attakora. It was more fun from a Toronto point of view when Ty Harden began to cover Lenhart. If Lenhart wanted to wrestle, grab and  bump, Harden could handle him. Then Lenhart went too far and went in after Conway , seeking to collide with Toronto’s keeper while he was focused on catching the ball. Credit to Conway for not putting up with the garbage play. A crowd soon formed around the action and credit to the ref for seeing the original cheap shot and giving the first red to Lenhart. Then Lenhart started acting all creepy innocent, oh so shocked that anyone would red card him. Conway picked up a red for retaliating and then took the high road and saluted the crowd. Maybe it is memories of Gordie Howe creeping in. but I would have made sure I got value for my red by letting my knuckles dance on the Lenhart curls a little longer.
It was not the last moment that a keeper would be the central focus of the game however. There had been an attacking drop-off when Maicon Santos gave way to OBW. It was not that Columbus had many scoring chances, it was just that they had less to worry about and did not need to keep bodies in the back. They won a late corner and their keeper Hesmer made the long run to get involved, The ball came to him and as Dan Gargan seemed to hesitate on the challenge, Hesmer buried the ball into Toronto’s net.
Stunned. I was stunned.  I was a fool to think that TFC could continue to score. Double foolish me for thinking that TFC could protect a lead and finally beat Columbus in this season of squander. It was a fitting end to MLS season games at BMO. What fun does the meaningless Champions League game on Tuesday night hold for us? See you then.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Too little too late, MLSE tries to patch up their 2011 ticket hike disaster with a feeble letter.

I am sorry.

For the way that MLSE knuckleheads think that they can declare “new eras”. I am sorry that an insulting email from MLSE has ruined my evening. Can I have my quiet night and the 2010 soccer season back?

Don’t suck up by telling me what a great fan I am. My Dad could take credit for teaching me how to be a fan, you have simply profited from it again and again. What a bad time to base your apology letter on feeble praise for your fan base.

What a crappy try on the apology. You say fans are angry and then drop two Champions League games? Not even close. We are angry about your jacking up the price of all tickets, so dropping two overpriced tickets does nothing for the endless prospect of price increases for bad football.

Ongoing two way dialogue? You rockheads did not listen last October when TFC stumbled so badly in New York.  It seems that you have decided to talk to the season ticket buyers when all other strategies went belly up.

The most insulting thing about the TFC to the fans letter was the fact that at the close nobody had the guts to sign it. Tom Anselmi should resign. Why talk about the future with those responsible for the past.

Toronto FC fan //  Fall for One

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Los Angeles Saturday Night- Chivas USA 3- Toronto FC 0

I was thinking of saluting that great song of the 90's by Bran Van 3000- "Drinking in LA". I was going to go with  Sinking in LA, but TFC hit bottom weeks ago.
Los Angeles is a city that is a source of endless fascination for me. I have family there and I have spent more time there than any other corner of America. LA has an incredible span between glamour and grime, sometimes you are in the land of Cary Grant and sometimes you are expecting Tom Waits to come around the corner. Then you mix in the bland, but beautiful suburban sprawl and the bursts of unexpected natural beauty of sea and shore and you are forever entranced.
Last night watching the MLS game in LA I was wishing I was there. Although there was nothing on the field that was enticing, it was the California state of mind that was pulling on my imagination.

Toronto showed more fight and energy than the final score would indicate. It was 1-0 for Chivas until the final minutes of the game. Then the breakdowns came and Chivas put the game away. It is important to point out that TFC was down to 10 men at this point. Adrian Cann was off to the dressing room after Alan Gordon had hit him in the head. All substitutions had been made so Toronto had to suffer. Gordon picked up a yellow on the play, but what a cynical bargain. The ref was offering a yellow for the chance to score two? When has Toronto ever been given that option?
The full points for energy does not obscure the terrible talent and tactics of the Reds. Chivas USA is not much of a team, but Toronto makes them look good. I think DeRo picked up a late yellow and may be suspended for the Columbus game next weekend.
So what can we fans cheer for in the remaining two games? When you calculate how many players will be potentially gone from the team next year, could the games be replaced by resume update sessions for the players?
There will be a day when Toronto sends a better representative team of what Ontario has to offer to the California that I love. This season is over and it is only the ritual of attending games to ward off the winter that remains.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Toronto loses in Seattle 3-2

How much bad news do you want on a cloudy, gloomy day ? Toronto FC lose on the road, again.
Nana Attakora leaves the game hurt.
TFC so close to being mathematically eliminated, you can feel it.
DeRo scored early, Chad scored late.
The end of the season looms. 3 games left.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TFC 1 Salty Lake 1 Feeble effort witnessed by the hardy few

One brief flash of inspiration does not make for an entertaining evening. In the first half keeper Conway caught RSL off guard as he threw the ball  deep into Jacob Peterson's path and Peterson turned his defender and buried his shot. Even as we cheered the goal, we knew that the night required an avalanche of goals. They did not arrive. Other than the first half at home against Cruz Azul more than a month ago, TFC never puts it together. They never look like a team, working together and contributing to a common strategy.
So this is the club that Mo designed. This is the club we will watch stumble through October. Unable to win at home in September, they are out of the CONCACAF Champion League now. It was painful to watch. More tomorrow, if I can take the misery.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tough and smart vanishes TFC 2 San Jose 3

Now if I score, my celebration involves pretending to take cash from my shorts and running it over to the captain.

  I was a hopeful fool going into the Saturday game against the San Jose Earthquakes. The recent games in Houston and Mexico City were positive indicators, I thought. Toronto FC back at BMO would want to come on strong, win back the home crowd, grab points from a playoff spot holder and gather some strength and momentum. It was not to be.
Instead we watched the second home loss in a row and a team that is sinking. The team had moments of fair effort and a never say die element to it. Yet it also showed TFC to be more than a touch ragged under Coach Dasovich. The substitutions seemed to add confusion and a lack of shape. You were wondering who was playing striker and where was the midfield?  Toronto had to chase the game and lacks the firepower for that sort of situation.

The critical difference today was that a single Quake midfielder, Chris Wondolowski scored more goals (3) in this game than Julian DeGuzman, Jacob Peterson, Nick Labrocca, Joseph Nane, Dan Gargan (which is almost all those who has played in the midfield for Toronto, outside of DeRo) have scored combined for the entire season. Hold on, I am cheating a little with that stat. If you throw in Martin Saric, then the TFC midfield has managed 3 goals in 2010 from their non-DeRo players. It was great to see Toronto throw everything, including kitchen sink, Adrian Cann and Tyler Harden, into the attack. Yet it is both desperate and ineffective. San Jose has wingers, TFC does not.

The fact is that Toronto’s attack scares no opposing team, at least no playoff caliber team. Guard DeRo, triple team him and you shut down Toronto.

The more the team needs an attack, the further back DeGuzman plays. If TFC will not bench him, at least let him play left back. Time and time again DeGuzman’s only move was to pass to Nick Garcia. From the San Jose perspective this is happy time. JDG to Garcia to Peterson was a triangle that they were able to contain most of the game
Should you counter that Deguzman is a defensive, holding midfielder and should not be judged by his timid ways with the ball, I would counter that Chris Wondolowski scored 3 goals.

There still remains a mathematical chance for a playoff berth. They could win their remaining 4 games and find a way to squeak in. I will be there to cheer and squirm for the remaining games. Hopeful fools can suffer, but they bounce back and put on the red.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TFC hang tough and smart- Cruz Azul 0 Toronto FC 0

"It's more than a couple of Canadian guys shutting down Cruz Azul in Mexico City. That's all I have to say about that."

Put that fake quote on a DVD and send it to a prickly former coach.

Perhaps Coach Dasovich has been able to find the heart of this team in record time. I would have argued after the loss to DC United earlier this month that there was no heart to find in the first place. I never would have equated Conway in net and Garcia, Hscanovics in the back four with a defensive struggle in Mexico City, but that is what they came up with. 
It was bunker mentality all the way through the second half for Toronto. A smart tactic when you evaluate both Toronto’s striking ability and the demands of playing at altitude in Mexico City.
Conway was a giant and Cann his equal.DeGuzman continued to play well against this team (can he be hypnotised so that he feels that every opponent
Cruz Azul had a player sent off late in the game and at that point our red dreams became probable rather than just possible.
So now the post firing road trip ends with 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss. That's so much better than what we were projecting in the second half of the collapse in Utah.
The home game against San Jose was always going to be big. Recovery from the DC disaster, the need to take points from SJ

Saturday, September 18, 2010

DeRo keeps the TFC playoff fire burning - Dynamo 1 Toronto 2

One of unemployed coach Preki’s favourite Canadians, Dwayne DeRosario was responsible for a TFC comeback tonight in Houston. DeRo scored twice in the second half to lead Toronto FC to victory over his former club the Dynamo. Both goals came off of free kicks, with the game winning goal coming well into injury time. Victory at the last gasp.
Toronto had been awful in the first half and they were lucky to be only one down. Chad Barrett was candid at the half time tv interview, saying that this team did not come to play. Full marks to Chad for letting loose and actually saying what he thought.
There was only a subtle change by Coach Nick Dasovich at the half, Martin Saric came in for Joseph Nane. It worked out well, Saric played a strong second half.
 It was a strange night for a fan. There were moments when I was calculating how to give my remaining tickets away for the home games still to come. DeRo made sure that at the end of the night, we were all scrambling back onto the bandwagon. The goals get the glory, but Stefan Frei deserves praise for keeping Toronto in the game. 
 Toronto FC will not let us off the hook when it comes to making the playoffs. This game against Houston was never going to confirm or eliminate, although TFC can’t handle too many losses or ties. The road win puts a smile on everyone’s face and rekindles hope. Toronto now has five remaining games, two at home (San Jose and Columbus) and three on the road (Seattle, Chivas and DC United). Four wins and a loss just might be enough, but it is not a lock. The only way to ensure playoffs is to win all five.

 Random thoughts.

-Didn’t that ref look like John Cusack’s brother?

- Craig Forrest has joined the club. The “what the hell, bench Deguzman” club. Playoffs or not, his time in Toronto is drawing to a close.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New coach, same misery RSL 4 TFC 1 (CCL game)

"Although we are no longer in charge, could we still offer bizarre excuses?"
Would you or I have stayed up to watch this one with the old leadership still at the helm?  Doubt it.
Toronto FC traveled to play Real Salt Lake in a Champion’s League game Wednesday night. TFC has rarely had success in Utah. I recall Collin Samuel scoring a goal there back in year 1. Nothing else springs to mind.
So the only hope was one of those magical mystery games where a new coach inspires the troops. No such luck.
TFC grabbed an early lead but RSL soon equalized. Then Salt Lake scored a second goal before half-time, a goal that the tv crew figured was offside. Then the second half was a disaster and a drubbing. Mista was a substitute who played 6 minutes before being sent off for a hard to see foul on Kyle Beckerman. Salt Lake scored on a penalty kick when Garcia fouled Will Johnson in the box. Then they put on a late sub, a guy named Paolo Jr who they just picked up from Miami a day ago and he scored too. Toronto fans dream of having a player who scores in his first ten minutes of play. Heck, they would settle for somebody scoring in his first ten hours of play.
So we have banished the wicked pair who were the masterminds of this mess. Now we notice that the ship is leaking and the sailors are still going around in circles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Go, no goodbye, no farewell, just go - Mo and Preki fired

No surprise in this news from the Globe and Mail.
It had to happen, the product was rotting on the shelf. TFC/MLSE bigwigs showed some spine and ambition, at last. Where Toronto FC would be right now had they made this move last November will always be the stuff of dreams.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

DC wins on both effort and talent

I have struggled for hours now on how best to start my report on today’s TFC vs DC United game. I pride myself on not rushing to judgment, I try to present the opinions of a fan, but I also try to stay aware that I am just a fan, not an expert. I know just as much as the next guy when it comes to what playing or coaching talent might be available at any time. So I try to avoid things like the “fire Mo” bandwagon or the sad Toronto tradition of picking on a random player at a lesser level of talent and acting like he is the sole reason for poor performance.

Still, Toronto losing at home to the weakest team in the MLS and dragging to four the streak of games without a goal scored has taken me to the limit. A fan has to have admiration and faith when going out to cheer and care. Today that vanished.
There is a limit to support and belief. I don’t blame the players, they can only contribute with the talents that they have. I blame those who selected them, placed them on the field and tried to sell the result to me as a team worthy of my time, money and support.

This team has a solid keeper, a defending unit that holds up well, a midfield that has no attack other than what DeRo has to offer and forwards that have not produced. But beyond that… goal droughts in season 4?? Give me a break, this team is going nowhere. Why should I go along on the non-journey?

Mo has to go. I think he should be fired today.

Preki has to go. I think he should be fired today.
His post game comments were laughable. He is complaining that 4pm game starts has something to do with his team playing poorly. After Chicago he was worried about a curse. Your team can’t score and at a critical time of the season  its seems to be falling apart rather than coming together.

Julian Deguzman will go. I think he should be benched. I know that he is a defensive midfielder, but his passing is rushed and pathetic. He dishes the ball off constantly as if controlling the tempo of play is somebody else’s job. Do you think after today’s game DC United would be interested in a Deguzman for Julius James trade? No, I didn’t think so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

0-0 in Chicago - TFC sinking without a struggle

TFC have yet to score in September. Their last three games have been scoreless. The same old story was on display in Chicago last evening. No attack down the wings, no danger posed by the strikers, no subs from the bench that bring a spark. Maicon Santos coming back from injury was better than the supposed healthy, but that is not saying much.
Late in the game, Deguzman takes advantage of a giveaway and darts down the right wing. He has two targets in the box and he manages to cross the ball two metres behind them.
Toronto had the ball for a lot of the second half, but then again that might have been the Chicago defending tactic. Let them have it since they do so little with it.
TFC are now 4 points out of the playoffs with 7 games to play.  Saturday's game at home vs DC United will have to be an onslaught before I am willing to give them credit for turning their fortunes around.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

0-0 result against R Salt Lake - August fizzle in place of pop

A Saturday night game during the CNE should have been show time. I know that Real Salt Lake are defending champions and a quality side. Maybe the fact that Toronto will have to play RSL the extra two games in Champs League pushed the game to the cagey side, but it was not inspiring.
Defending was solid. It was good to see Ty Harden smoothly pair with Adrian Cann in the middle in place of the suspended Nana Attakora. The trouble with the back four, notably in the second half, was that too much attacking is relying on them. Nick Garcia and Dan Gargan must have had the lion's share of Toronto ball possesion. They both played well, passing was strong, they both made solid runs forward and each had  at least one good shot at net. This suits the opposition too well. Blanket Toronto's strikers, muffle their midfield and suffer whatever Garcia and Gargan can throw at you from distance seems like a recipe for scoreless results.
Speaking of a muffled midfield,Labrocca looks better weaving through traffic in the middle of the park. Saric is a few things, but an attacking winger is not one of them. A flavour expert in my part of the stadium has branded Jacob Peterson as "Vanilla Peterson". As I am found of the vanilla flavour, I wonder if he also might be described as "unscented". He patrols his wing and gets to the ball from time to time, but nothing dangerous ever seems to happen. I think that this series of failed experiments on both wings has a direct impact on Deguzman in the middle. He is never going to be a dazzling creative force, but if everyone on the planet knows that he must forever find a way to work the ball to DeRo... a stale attack is guaranteed.
O'Brien White played the second half and he continues to be brutal. I just can't recall him taking a shot at net. He makes an effort, but with limited speed and a lack of anticipation it amounts to nothing. When can Chad and Maicon Santos return?
Frei was solid, although in the late going there were two Salt Lake shots that hit the crossbar and the post. A good keeper knows when to be lucky and it saved TFC last night.
The playoff picture has to be fading at this point. The away games in Dallas, Houston and Seattle are going to have a huge impact. It might be mandatory to win all three home games and the three away just mentioned. Plus there would be away games to Chicago, DC United and Chivas USA in the mix. It seems a very tall order this morning.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TFC 2 Cruz Azul 1 - Start strong and finish flimsy?

The mixture of great promise and a touch of dread that this game presented to us tonight has my head reeling. The beauty, the majesty and the power of the first half had every Toronto fan dizzy with delight. The ball movement, the creative touches, the awareness of each other, the ability to drive forward with the ball, using long passes to switch the point of attack were all on display in abundance. I saw more zest and zing in the first half than I have seen in entire months of play this year.
Martin Saric was the scorer of the first goal. It came early and credit should go to Maxim Usanov's hustle into the corner in pursuit of the ball, Dero's quick flick and Mista's ability to make things happen.
Mista scored the second on an excellent cross from Raivis Hscanovics.
The two goal lead at half time should have been more. Toronto was flying. Every player had contributed and they looked like a cohesive team.
The second half was a slow shift into a more defensive mode. Deguzman had been superb in the first half, but his clunky passing and tendency to give the ball away too easily returned for the second. The substitutions took some energy away- Peterson for Saric and Fuad Ibriham for O"Brien White in particular. Joseph Nane for Mista was understandable as Nane brought the physical side that Saric had been providing to the midfield.
Then it went sour. Why on earth did Cruz Azul get permission to take that direct kick that resulted in a goal when Toronto had a player being tended to on the sideline. It seemed that Fuad Ibrahim had brought the injury to the attention of the ref. Shouldn't the ref have made a call on the contact earlier? Did he think the head injury was self inflicted?
The ref seemed lost at sea towards the end. Cruz Azul was going to ground anytime a TFC ankle was within a metre of them. There were elbows thrown and contact made and the ref just let things escalate.
Then in the end DeRo seemed to get a yellow card for receiving an elbow. Even the way the ref came into the corner to consult with the linesman was maddening. The play had been in that corner for minutes, what had the ref been attending to that he needed to find out what the linesman had seen? It was as if he had slipped away for a snack.
Toronto looked great for a long while. We should not be squawking too much about such a potent attack and a victory with a squad that did not include Maicon Santos, Chad Barrett, Stefan Frei and Dan Gargan. Giving out late away goals is not the way to advance from this group stage.
Oh, but before I forget- the unsung hero of the night had to be Adrian Cann. He was strong, swift and confident all night. His ability to shut down their attack , notably when he was using his head, was a joy to watch.
Repeat the first half twice against New York this Saturday and all will be sunny and wonderful. Cut out the flimsy at the end part and my reeling head can rest.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

NYRB 1 Toronto 0 - grasping onto positive signs

On the morning after the night before, I am strangely serene about the TFC game in New York.
Toronto was fortunate to play NYRB with Rafa Marquez off on international duty and Henry still easing into the team. Still Toronto was missing Dan Gargan to suspension, Maicon Santos to injury and they didn’t have Chad Barrett for very long. Perhaps it is in comparison to the last time TFC went to this part of the world (Oct. 09), but I felt that the team was in the game and it is possible to feel somewhat optimistic about the return game on August 21.
Still there are worries ...
Scoring – If you tally up the scoring of White, Peterson, LaBrocca and de Guzman as the team approaches the two thirds mark of the season, you come up with a total of 3 goals. The LaBrocca goal was that wind blown adventure, O’Brien White has scored two and the other two have contributed zero. My “Coach from Hell” tactic would be to gather them together to point out that last night in New York, Nick Garcia came closer to scoring. I can see the benefits of two-way contributors in the midfield, yet two-way implies some offensive results. O’Brien White is just playing his way to a deeper spot on the bench. Mista set him up in the box with a wonderful pass and White squandered it.

Defending- Preki continues to play Nick Garcia ahead of Raivis Hscanovics, the seldom seen International. It must be the advantage of MLS experience. Garcia was okay in New York. Did I mention that he had a shot at net? New York’s net? Hscanovics is 7 years younger than Garcia and he is not the first Toronto International to be more of a future prospect than a 2010 contributor. However, with the 6 CONCACAF games thrown into the mix, the days of Garcia as the only choice at left back can’t go on much longer.
Usanov in place of Gargan was a move that did not punish Toronto too much. Maybe Usanov has an upside, but to use one of your few International roster spots for a somewhat adequate back-up seems shortsighted.

Random thoughts
It was good to see Greg Sutton get a start for New York and the shut out would have been better had it not been against Toronto. Canadian considerations aside, is there a TFC fan who would still prefer Sutton ahead of Frei? Mista has a great touch on the ball, but his running seems to indicate that his role will be a late game substitute for some time to come. Mo was saying that he is about to sign a winger. He said it in July. Looking at the roster on the TFC website, there is no mention of Emmanual Gomez. Does this mean that his season ending injury (he has not played at all in 2010) is now reflected as an open roster spot? I dream of the day when Toronto FC actually communicates to the fans the roster basics. I fear I know more about the strategic considerations behind the war in Afghanistan than I do about the Toronto FC roster, trade deadlines, injury timeframes and signing windows.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

TFC 2 Chivas 1 Toronto looks poised, but not yet potent

Do I believe in this team? Do you believe in this team?
 I feel that TFC fandom has had a strange season. I think the image that sticks with me is one of a ship (maybe those formative Argo years are getting to me). Toronto FC is the ship, but one still being constructed and tied to the dock. Some games you think the ship is ready to sail and some games you think there is still work to do.
 It was encouraging to watch TFC defeat Chivas USA Saturday afternoon. Here it is August and the team is showing plenty of signs of being seaworthy, but at the end Chivas was still threatening to pull a point out of a game that they barely contested.
Maybe we wanted a goal scoring explosion after the efficient success of the 2-2 game in Honduras. It was a timely win, just not a fully convincing one. The first half had me dreaming of the Father's Day 07 thrashing of Colorado. The second half started strong but the energy ebbed away and by the end it was a matter of hanging on and grinding it out.
Encouraging Signs.
Chad Barrett, Dero and Maicon Santos’ rock ‘em, sock em adventure of a first half.
Stefan Frei continues to be the backbone of this team. He makes incredible diving saves seem ordinary. Only the very dubious penalty call got by him.
Maicon Santos and Mista bring attacking quality to the team. Could TFC go to a 4-2-2-2?
Putting Nene and JDG together
Then Dero and Mista
Chad and Maicon Santos up front?

Discouraging Signs
Maicon Santos going out due to injury.
Not converting the first half onslaught into more than 2 goals.
Joseph Nane is a surprise and a huge upgrade to Sanyang, but we are still seeing a midfield that does not generate attack in the middle of the field- except get the ball to Dero and still not much in the winger department. We saw Labrocca, Peterson, JDG and Ibrahim all have time on one wing or the other, but I don't think anyone has grabbed the job.
Dan Gargan's yellow means that he will miss the game in New York Wednesday . Here's hoping that Chicago takes a lot out of the Red Bulls in the Sunday game.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Motagua 2 TFC 2 - Toronto through to the group stage

6 minutes into the game Amado Guevara scored off of a header and things looked very bleak in TFCland.
Yet that was the only score of the first half, so TFC went to the halftime break even on aggregate.

More in the am

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Willing to forgive Saturday (KC 1 TFC 0) if victory returns on Tuesday in Honduras

The ugliest aspect of the evening was the camera angle used for the long view at the KC ballpark. I know that Community America is a baseball stadium and the camera position must be messed up because of it. Still it was ugly, I felt that I was watching a game from the stadium next door. It is wonderful news that with the new KC stadium opening next June, I may never have to watch a broadcast from that ballpark ever again.
Ugly too was the header from Adrian Cann that Teal Bunbury scored from. It is a defensive fundamental to funnel balls away from the middle of the park, Cann has not been prone to making mistakes like that this year. I am hoping that it was a blip.
Ugly continued with the TFC midfield. The offensive spark of Peterson and Labrocca has been underwhelming this year and it was the same old story in KC. When you place Nane and JDG in the middle, you sacrifice attack for defensive strength. Where, O where is the winger signing that Mo mentioned? Dobson mentioned on the broadcast the sad fact that JDG has yet to score for TFC. Will he ever?
An ugly night. I am hoping for beauty this Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A first step against Montagua, but was 1-0 enough?

Toronto FC defeated Montagua of Honduras 1-0 in the first leg of their two game series at BMO tonight. Chad Barrett was the goal scorer in the first half, converting with his left foot a smooth set-up pass from DeRo.
TFC looked the stronger team for most of the night, but the old story of Toronto not converting opportunities into goals was the main theme.
Now TFC has to play on the weekend in KC and then down in Honduras next Tuesday. It will be interesting to see how Preki manages his squad through this.
Joseph Nane looked good in the central midfield last night. He displays more skill and confidence with the ball than what we have been seeing from Sanyang. Has Nane won a starting role or was his play last night part of a midfield rotation?
O'Brian White's performance continues to be underwhelming. The signings of Mista and Maicon Santos have to lead to White becoming a bench player, right?
What happened to Mo's talk that a winger signing was happening soon? I thought that Bas Ent looked ok against Bolton last week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Youth and mystery - Preki plays with Bolton

So, just who were those guys in red? This was a night of squinting, head scratching and wondering if TFC has found some gems or if Bolton was still three weeks from truly caring.
Coach Preki gave the night off to the following - Frei, DeRo, Deguzman, Gargan, Sanyang, Attakora, Cann, Garcia, Labrocca and the Chad. Yet the team did not suffer, mostly due to the play of Mista and Maicon Santos.
The regular players who saw some time were Usanov, Gala, Hscanovics, Ibrahim, Peterson and White, plus the keepers Conway and Kocic. Kocic had the save of the game in the second half, a twisting dive to his right.
I think the Academy players all saw some playing time. I would list them if I could find their names.
Call ups and trialists were Mirko Medic - central defender (he looked solid and capable), Drazen Vukovic - midfield, Miodrag Andjelkovic - forward and Bas Ent - winger.
There were so many players that I may be mistaken on a name or five, but if the player tearing down the right wing all second half was the trialist Bas Ent, then sign him up. He was the controlling the attack and crossing with authority. I want to see what he brings to the first team. Second half also saw some solid play from Miodrag Andjelkovic at striker and left winger Henry also looked good.
The first half play of Mista and Maicon Santos was of excellent quality. Mista was willing to come back and get involved in developing play. He could be the attacking focus of the midfield that has been missing since the departure of Guevara.
Since Saturday has an important game vs Dallas and the CONCACAF home and home starts next Tuesday, resting most of the starters was a wise move for Coach Preki. It was a fun night out, but did not compare to the Aston Villa friendly a few years ago.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Toronto FC brings back bad habits- Philly 2 Toronto 1

Toronto FC were almost able to steal a point from Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. Although TFC barely deserved it from their level of play, Chad Barrett had tied the game late and it looked like a road point was in the bag. Then Maxim Usanov was called on a hand ball in the box and Philly Union's Le Toux beat Frei on the pk.

I suspect that I am suffering from a World Cup hangover. I figure that the hangover started for most footy fans during the WC 2010 final last weekend. The final was a dud as entertainment. We need a dose of the "beautiful game"

Toronto might have made some minor steps forward in the Preki era, but they are not the team you want to see if you want to avoid entertainment duds. Grind it out defending and an attack that sputters and sprays passes around the province is what's on the menu. Those old bad habits of TFC -giving up late goals and losing to expansion teams- were brought back for the game at PPL Park.

There are just too many passengers on the squad judging from the effort against the Union. Fuad Ibriham, Nick Garcia, Maxim Usanov need to spend more time on the bench. I hope that getting Mista into the squad might mean a shuffle- but more help is needed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

TFC 1 Houston 1- Midfield contributes more red cards than goals

Or should the headline be "Midfield contributes more reds cards than shots on target". The scoring woes continue with Toronto FC, although they came from behind to tie the Houston Dynamo at BMO Saturday night. It was a game where Toronto's mess of a midfield continues to annoy.  DeGuzman picked up his red card for throwing a punch in a tussle down by Toronto's goal. The Houston midfielder Ngwenya inspired Attakora's physical response by not stopping at a whistle. DeGuzman expressed his displeasure too. I wish I had seen DeGuzman's punch clearly, it would have been the first time he has hit a target at BMO Field this year. The central midfield of Toronto, whether they use DeGuzman, Sanyang or Saric (who did not play against Houston) is just too defensive. Sanyang continues to struggle with the ball and I suspect that it was his assignment to cover Brian Ching when he scored for the Dynamo on the corner kick. The wings, whether using Peterson, Labrocca or Gala, is unable to carry any sustained attack. The midfield is all hold and no spark.
I am not letting the forwards off the hook for the lack of potency. Chad works and works, O'Brien White chugs and struggles, DeRo holds and looks for someone to respond. The late substitute Fuad Ibrahim provided the only bright spot, it was his corner kick to the far post that Dan Gargan headed for the goal.
TFC needs a few more Dan Gargans. You know that the back four are solid when the excellence of Gargan, Cann and Attakora allow them to carry along Nick Garcia out to the left.
TFC have gained 3 points in their last 3 home games. You can look on the bright side (you know the TFC front office will) and say that a home stretch with only one goal given up is a sign of defensive and goalkeeping strength. The flip side holds my attention, three games with only one goal scored is getting to be offensive.
So this means 6 points that will have to be picked up on the road if this is to be a playoff year. If the attack looks like this after the month of June off, what does the future hold?  There had better be scoring help on the horizon. July 15th, I believe, is the date where MLS summer signings are announced. It is a date circled on my calendar.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inspired by the World Cup, Toronto takes the field with the scoring punch of North Korea

TFC 0- LA 0

It was a soggy return to MLS play Saturday night at BMO. 

It was annoying to see the same puzzles remain exactly where they were.

I can see the reasoning behind having Saric and Sanyang on the roster, vet and youngster playing the defensive midfielder role. Yet it seems foolish to play them both at the same time. It means that there is no attack centrally to go along with the lack of attack on the wings.

More tomorrow...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Toronto 0 KC 0 - Playing outside the final third

As today's game was winding down I found myself grateful for the three week World Cup break which the MLS schedule is about to enter. Toronto FC needs the down time. It is not injury recovery time that they seem to require, but some offensive spark. Well maybe "spark" is being too kind, how about offensive firepower. TFC never looked in much danger of having KC take over the game, even when down to 10 men. They also never looked like they were going to turn being the better team into goal scoring opportunities. That is apart from the stunner in the waning minutes when Julian Deguzman sent a volley flying a mile over the crossbar when everyone in the place had expected him to bury the shot low now that he had the keeper at his mercy.

Now the wet, wimpy TFC performance could have been oddly connected to the weather today. It was the first Toronto game of the year played in hot temperatures and strong sunshine. A summer swoon as Toronto FC find ways to cool off is not what the team should be working on. They worked the ball around the field. They defended well against the counter-attack. Stephan Frei was up to every KC shot. The problem was that Frei was handling more action than Nielson, his KC counterpart. Toronto had the play, just not the shots. It was as if the KC goal area never existed in Toronto's plans for long.
I am happy to avoid finding scapegoats for any aspect of the team's performance. Yet I also am realistic. If I am noting a lack of firepower, the Toronto FC big cheeses have to be noticing this too. O'Brien White is a talent that needs tending, but he does not bring much attack with him of late. I think that a striker has been a Toronto FC need since day one (or at least since the departures of Conor Casey and Edson Buddle). Whether through trade or trial or big money player signing, Toronto has to become stronger up front. We will see.
Random thoughts
Ty Harden played the second half as left back and looked solid.
Nick Garcia's red was from a foul that I did not see, so how can I have an opinion?
Mr. Preki was livid from time to time and was unafraid to be up and about in his technical area.
Attakora and Cann continue to take care of business.
Labrocca played the whole game and Peterson just the first half. Neither have moved into the "plays well with others" category.
Gabe Gala looked like he was going to create something out of nothing a handful of times.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who cares about being soggy when you hoist a cup??

pic by Trout

pic by Trout
The Voyageur's Cup game against Vancouver was not meant to be a contest. Everyone heading to BMO knew that the Cup had already been decided. It was a chance to brave  the elements, get uncomfortable, scout out some Academy youngsters and then partake in a celebration.
Although I enjoyed myself and felt that my attendance was a badge of dedicated fandom, I truly hope that we never have to see such a game again. The teams involved should sit down again and figure out a way to have future cups finish with a deciding cup final.
Since we are talking about the future, I was impressed with Doneil Henry's play in the back four. He looked strong and confident. He spent most of the night paired centrally with Ty Harden and the combo was efficient, seldom beaten and rarely out of place. I am also aware that Vancouver was down to 10 men and had little or nothing to play for, so the potential is hard to gauge.
I also mix my dim view of Nicholas Hunter and Allando Matheson with the fact that we are talking about incredibly young players. One turned 18 in February and the other will turn 18 in September. Therefore the fact that they did not look capable of flying off to the World Cup next week should not be held against them. Patience please, they have some promise.
It is the morning after and my feet have yet to dry. Toronto had the right balance of resting a few regulars, showcasing the very young and controlling play. Too bad the scoring touch eludes too many.
See you Saturday.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SJ 1 Toronto FC 3 Toronto now owns Buck Shaw Stadium

pic from Steve Rubio's Online Life
Here we sit on the brink of June and Toronto FC is on the rise. Saturday night's victory, their first win on the road in MLS play this year, puts them into second place in the East. Prior to the Los Angeles game two weeks ago, they were a team still in search of a point from their road games. Now they are undefeated in two places, north of the border and within the state of California. Suddenly my anticipation of the visit to LA to play Chivas (not until October 9th) has gone up a notch or two.

A lot of the elements of this team's play are coming together. Defending, attacking, midfield control and goalkeeping are all ahead of my expectations.  Hell, even coaching is looking good as the tactic of resting DeRo and JDG for the first half which was a bust against Real Salt Lake worked like a charm in San Jose. 
Before you accuse me of drinking the kool-aid, I still have concerns with O'Brien White's contributions up front. Other negatives were the Sanyang giveaways and the Saric low profile in the midfield and the vulnerability of Toronto's left side (Garcia and Labrocca) as San Jose made a rally in the late second half. For that matter the North American contribution to the team far outweighs the International component. The second half line-up had Amadou Sanyang as the sole International player on the field (Saric, Usanov, Hscanovics were on the bench). Perhaps the rumours of a DP signing or two come July are supported by the shape of the roster. Clearly, I have digressed.
My man of the match, although tempting to name either JDG or DeRo as they came on like forces of nature in the second half, would be Dan Gargan. He was patrolling his wing with crunch to his tackles and never seemed to misplay a ball all night. The continued strong play of Attakora and Cann was also notable, but Gargan seemed to be playing with something extra. The cameras at the end of the game showed him talking to folks in the crowd and it was mentioned that he is local to the San Jose area. 
Stephan Frei was his usual spectacular self in the net. The goal against was off of a corner kick, with a Quake player ending up unmarked in front. Other than that split-second Frei was never a cause for worry. 
Chad Barrett was a force up front and scored his goal on pure hustle. I am with Craig Forrest on the broadcast saying that it was a matter of "chasing lost causes".
We know that the Vancouver game this Wednesday will be a chance to play subs, academy players and hot dog vendors. The June MLS schedule has the utmost respect for the South Africa 2010 WC schedule, so TFC is home to KC on June 5th and then home again to LA June 26th. That is their entire schedule for June. 
So that means plenty of time to rest injuries (Harden and Gomez spring to mind) and prepare for the summer schedule.
Second place!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Toronto 1 New England 0 - Chad, Chad, Chad!

I had to settle for watching the game on tv today. My  role as U14 coach took me to Port Elgin for a 11 am game which made the 1 pm Toronto FC start simply an impossible conflict. This might have been the first time I was 100% in agreement with Mr. Preki. A 7pm start would have suited me perfectly ( and driven the CBC insane)
My right hand man, Trout FC did attend, so I will give preference to the insights of the fan who was there.

-I thought Sanyang played really well, bumping heads with Shalrie Joseph throughout the whole match.  Sure, his passing still isn't good enough, but he really gave Joseph a run for his money.  Joseph didn't really put a mark on the game and I think that's all because of Sangyang.  He's a long way from being JDG, but I think opposition midfielders won't enjoy playing against him.

-Chad Barrett must have a lot of confidence, to try and chip the keeper at speed.  A lot of people down there were moaning and groaning about the miss, I think it shows us a new side of him.  When he puts that one in, we'll all celebrate.  He really drove the team.

-Really, though, the day belonged to the keepers.  Frei and Burpo were excellent.  Glad TFC came out on top.  Frei really seems to be
a) putting his stamp on the team, controlling his defenders and even bossing Garcia around and…
b) is gaining in confidence, just like Barrett.  There's no doubt in my mind he's confident of his own abilities, and is in charge back there.  The thought keeps coming to my mind 'how long will he be here?"

But, the really great thing today was the men's washrooms.  By the way, this would be a higher ranked highlight and butt of more jokes if TFC had lost today.  MLSE, in an effort to get beer drinkers to spend more time in the washroom has installed new mats in all the urinals.  Check out .  Something new and different, and it sure gave me a laugh!  The ball is suspended by a little string or wire, so it moves when you pee on it!  I kept thinking, it's not a goal unless the whole of the ball crosses the line.  Maybe Preki put one of these in Chad Barrett's personal washroom!  How else do you explain the change?
Thanks Trout. 
So the undefeated at home streak continues. We must give credit to TFC for  overcoming the lack of DeRo, JDG and Nana and grabbing a solid win.