Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MLS Cup 2010 will be played in Toronto

Today it was officially announced that BMO Field will be the site for this year's MLS Cup. The date for the championship game is November 21st and I am predicting a cold rain and a lot of wind. What do I base this on? I am old enough to remember what being by the lake late in November was like in outdoor stadiums. Somewhere down my basement is a ticket stub for Grey Cup 1982.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Season Four beckons, somebody wake Mo

Season ticket holder packages have arrived- check
Grass is being installed at BMO as the North Stand goes up - check
The Garber is in town to make the MLS Cup announcement - check

I am officially distracted from the woes of watching this team being assembled (and trying to score), until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Player Activity Update -Edwards out, Conway in and a cast of hundreds

Please indulge me, I am going to take a moment to toot my own horn and wave my own flag.
Entering season 4, I think I have maintained this blog at a decent rate over the years. All games covered. All trades, signings and draft picks mentioned. Lately I have been finding it hard to keep the old blog up to date. So I know this post should have preceded the game in Columbus, but I am throwing it in anyway.
The Mo/Preki roster moves have been popping up in odd ways. I made the mistake of thinking that every time a player left I should wait until I knew who was coming in before I posted. Well, so much for that logic.
In the days leading up to the first game in Columbus TFC signed Martin Saric (midfielder), Dan Gargan (defender), traded Marvell Wynne (defender) for Nick LaBrocca (midfielder), cut Brian Edwards (keeper) and picked up veteran Jon Conway (keeper). Everybody clear on all of that? I have a feeling that there will be more moves in the days/weeks ahead. It is speculated that commish Garber will be making some news on long rumoured changes to the Designated Player rule. I think he will either move up the number of DP's per team and/or reduce the salary cap hit that these players have (presently 400,000).
I am not an expert on TFC's relationship to the salary cap. I can never keep the allocations straight and there is no official source that I know of. I am a roster counter. A MLS team has a maximum roster of 20 senior players, 4 development players and possibly two call-ups from the academy. Toronto's senior roster must contain a number of Canadians, some International players and some International players who must be American. The numbers on these change from year to year, depending on trades with other teams and MLS considerations. Another wild card in all of this is turning International players into Americans or Canadians, depending on how long they have lived here.
The Toronto roster presently has 21 players on it. This number includes 17 year old Zac Herold- the 2010 draft pick listed as a developmental player (but who is not with the team) and Ali Gerba - the Canadian striker who has been told he is not with the team any longer.
You would think that this means there is room (roster wise, not salary cap wise) for one more developmental player and two more senior players. It was suggested that Emmanuel Gomez is being moved to the developmental list, which would create another senior spot. Now, we roster counters know that Mo rarely fills the roster to the max. The salary cap samba almost determines that Toronto plays with less.
All of this roster shifting is what lead to the departure of Brian Edwards. The letting in 5 goals against New York last October might have been a factor too. The fact is that a young keeper is not going to develop as a MLS back-up, so why not give the role to a veteran that Preki is comfortable with?
I think that the larger obstacle that faces TFC is having neither a reserve team nor the ability to loan players out to ensure that they get playing time. The Lynx are still in town and Rochester is just across the lake.
The draft choices, Herold and Joseph are not getting playing time, Gomez and Sanyang could be loaned out and come back stronger players. Has Gabe Gala developed as he should by being the Canadian kid who never plays for Toronto over these past years? Loaning would have given Toronto an alternative to cutting ties with players such as Brian Edwards and the above. I know it is a single entity league, but the growth of academies shows that they have some awareness of the need to nurture. The recent CBA contains a clause for a committee to be formed by the MLS and players to look at rethinking the reserve system. Do you think they have room at the table for a blogger?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Columbus 2 TFC 0 - A defending lapse and a kick to the gut, but recovery possible

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Now who said that? Willie Shakespeare? Al Einstein? John Carver?
Toronto FC visited the Ohio park they have never won in and never put that streak in danger. It was not the disaster that we fans feared, but too many of the same old weaknesses were there for anyone to be comfortable. I don't want to kick and complain and declare the season a dead duck. It is a team that in the midst of a makeover, there are players on the roster who arrived only hours ago. There could be more on the way in the days ahead. I am hoping that a new DP rule expected to be declared by the Garber in the week ahead will mean that TFC spends cash on a striker...
But c'mon what does Nick Garcia have to do to find his place on the bench? That second goal was due to a combination of disasters, the uncalled foul to Frei's gut and Garcia's ability to clear the ball by firing it at his injured keeper. Ty Harden used his size and strength to keep Lenhart off the score sheet and I can see Harden as being the hard nosed big guy in the back four.
The defenders get the brunt of the criticism, but you know old coaches say you win or lose games in the midfield. Toronto is getting better at negating in the midfield, but still lacks in the creating department. This team still depends way too much on the mobility and ball skills of Brennan and Attakora coming out from the back.
Gabe Gala- had a few runs down the wing, but is he the attacking/crossing winger the team needs? Not in my opinion. He was the first player substituted and that seemed right.
Martin Saric+ Sam Cronin - this was Saric's first MLS game, so it might be too early to get a sense of his contribution, but playing the two of them together seemed to be a recipe heavy on the tackling football and light on the passing and ball control.
J DeGuzman has yet to have his breakthrough game for TFC. He has flashes of ball control, but most of the time he looks like a tourist amongst strangers. Cover DeRo and swarm JDG and Toronto had no attack in the first half. Sure you could say that bringing in LaBrocca and Sanyang to the midfield for Gala and Saric sparked the attack, but by then Columbus was pulling back, protecting a lead and playing for the counter-attack. Cripes, if Rogers had been able to pull the trigger at least twice, this game would have been that disaster I mentioned earlier.
DeRo was DeRo. TFC needs another striker to let DeRo exploit the spaces that a second striker would create. O'Brian White would also benefit from another attacker. It is too bad the OBW lost Andy Iro on the first Crew goal. White shows promise, he just can't be the big threat at this stage of his career.
Two weeks to wait until the game in New England. A roster change or two still to come and some time to let the dust settle, though not enough time for anyone to use the word "gel".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Farewell Marvell

Today Toronto FC traded Marvell Wynne to Colorado for midfielder Nick Labrocca.

First off, I must salute Marvell Wynne. He was an entertaining player who was a big part of this club for three years. His counter attack bursts of speed were a sight to behold. Sure, his defending positions were often unique and ill-considered, but he relied on his speed to get back on track and it worked most of the time. I wish him all the best. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing at high altitude.

This trade has inspired a few questions.
Put your hand up all TFC fans who spent anytime last season coveting players on the Colorado roster. Well, the scoring efficiency of Conor Casey and the speed of Cummings perhaps, but trading for those guys would have involved filling needs in the Toronto roster. Trades like that just don't seem part of the plan and someone has mentioned that there is a plan.
Remind me, didn't Colorado miss out on the playoffs through losing their last game just as TFC did?

Am I the only fan wondering why Mr. Preki took the Toronto coaching job when the Colorado job seems more to his liking. I bet he would love the positive press coverage out there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

MLS - Players Agreement reached- Season will start as planned

A 5 year deal has been reached, but very few details are known at this stage.
The season will go ahead as scheduled.
Roster sizes?
Salary caps?
OK, my crack research team ( I asked Luke Wileman on the liveblog of the TFC game today) reports that neither roster size or salary cap is determined by the CBA, it is done every year by the MLS.
What does limited free agency mean?
It means that players of a certain age would be eligible for a re-entry draft. More here

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DC United over TFC in Charleston 1-0

Toronto FC continues to look shaky in South Carolina. TFC played game 2 in the tournament Wednesday evening and DC United beat them 1-0. It is hard to evaluate the shape of the team and the tactics when Amadou Sanyang is being red carded at the 30 minute mark. Toronto has been gathering red cards more than scoring goals in this preseason. Before the sending off Toronto only looked briefly competent at best.
I don't want to let these preseason displays get me down. I understand that TFC 2010 is a work in progress and a new coach (Mr.Preki) will use these Charleston Tournament games to evaluate players. Mr. Preki does not seem to be the type of coach who will fret over preseason results or try to impress the fans back home.
A few nagging questions have to be asked. Why is the team looking more of the Season 1 vintage (remember the goal droughts) than the Season 3 crop that were only one good game short of a playoff spot? Why is the TFC attack still so feeble? Does anyone truly think that some combo of White, Barrett, Ibrahim and "sent packing" Gerba are going to score goals this year?
There are very few players who can claim to have a spot secured on Mr. Preki’s starting squad come Columbus a week from Saturday. I am jumping to a non-MLS strike conclusion when I write that.
DeRosario, DeGuzman Attakora and Frei are the four who have a grip on a spot.
Defenders Harden, Cann and Zamperini all look capable of being on the team, but it is not clear which of them are depth players and which are starters. It is hard to judge Said on the minutes he had tonight.
Shaky describes the team and the fan confidence level with only one preseason game left this Saturday. I was hoping to have a sense of Toronto's starting XI by this point, but I don't think even Mr. Preki knows that tonight.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Charleston 0 - 0 TFC. Forgive and Forget?

Still Kicking is away this weekend, joining the jet set, skiing in Cortina d’ampezzo. Ok, not falling for that one? Would you believe he’s on the ski hill at Centennial Park? Thought as much. So, once again I find myself as a trialist in Stillkicking’s pre-season friendly. Maybe I’ll be signed, maybe not. Really, the best I can hope for is the odd performance off the bench when the main talent needs a rest!

One of the things I’ve noticed about the TFC chatrooms is their tendency to change rapidly. The latest case is the release of Robinson and Serioux. Fans call for blood, hangings, disembowelment and even worse. How could we release these wonderful, loyal players? Of course, the fire was fed by Serioux’s own comments. Wow! I was ready for Preki to be fired by the second or third match of the season. And then, Bang! Ibrahim Said shows up in camp and things change, people are happy again. Players want to come here! Maybe MLSE isn’t so bad after all! Then, we add in Zamperini, who looked composed and confident tonight in his half of central defence. We should be over the moon, right? Said and Zamperini, combined with Kayizzi and Gargan (should they still be in the picture) might just make us forget all about Carl Robinson (and Serioux, Guevara, Vitti, Falinga, and a host of others), right? I’m sure Mo thinks so.

The interesting thing for me tonight was the first half formation. I’m going to call it a 4-1-4-1, even though I heard people call it other things. I think the use of Sanyang as a defensive midfielder with JDG playing ahead of him in a distributing role is inspired, and DeGuzman became more comfortable with it as the game progressed. Sanyang was there to save Nick Garcia’s backside, and he did that at least once. It still seems that Nicky needs the help.

The frustrating thing is the lack of finish. Now, I know that lots of people think Ali Gerba is a ‘fat (insert expletive here)’, but I don’t think so. I just think he is being used wrong. In fact, I think we’re the wrong team for him. I do think he’s a pylon. And what do you do with a pylon in front of the net? You try to deflect the ball off it into the net. And that’s the kind of goals we’ve seen Gerba score for Canada, odd, back heel kind of stuff. TFC doesn’t put near enough pressure on the opposing team’s 18 yard box for Gerba to score goals. How many of our chances came within the penalty area? Very few is my answer. Gerba scores from chaos, and when he’s not supported by anyone creating chaos in the box, forget it. And, why was he taking free kicks from distance? Gerba is certainly not formed in the lone striker mould; White may be, but Gerba, not a chance.

Overall tonight, the passing and possession was good. There seemed to be some thought to the formation. Young guys and trialists were impressive. What happens now?
Well, for a large portion of the game we dominated a lower tier side who are early on in their training camp. Impressive, no. Positive, yes. It looks good for a start. But, it seems as if there might be a lot of low scoring drama in TFC’s future.

There are lots of pieces missing yet, and the puzzle could still fall apart. If Said and Zamperini are just looking for a Dickovesque free trip to gain interest from other clubs things could go downhill rather quickly. Not to mention the rather thin roster, the possibility for injury and the rumoured salary cap issue.

Personally, I think that Preki and Mo will not last long. Even though I try to be positive, I think they will have made a giant, nasty, mean-spirited mess out of our team and be quickly relieved of their duties. If things turn out for the good, we make a few signings, win a few games and fortunes turn around I am willing to forgive and forget. If we go the way I think we’re going to go, I’m just willing to forget. Forget about Mo, forget about Preki and look forward to TFC 2.0.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Adios to Robbo? - Carl Robinson rumoured to be NYRB bound

Although no official word yet from TFC, there are rumblings on the ol’ interweb (read Duane at 24th minute) that Carl Robinson is going to New York for a trial. If he sticks with those Red Bulls, the story goes, a draft pick will be coming back to TFC.

Would I keep Robbo in Toronto? You bet I would, but my dream of ownership would also involve having money to spend on players and having a veteran bench. Even if you are a fan of Carl Robinson, and I consider myself a big one, you have to admit that the writing has been on the wall for months. His salary was large in MLS terms and the signing of JDG and the progress of Sam Cronin were factors too.
Sad to see him go, should this all work out. He has been with TFC since game one and he leaves as a class act with a solid part in our history. He would be welcomed back. It is sad to think that his last game in a TFC uniform was the disaster in Giant’s Stadium. It is sadder still to fear the contribution he may make in a revived NYRB. It will add another element of dread to those future NYRB games.

On a brighter note, the MLS and the players have agreed to a mediator and will resume talking on Monday on a new collective agreement. My hope is that this is a sign of a resolution on the horizon. There is only three weeks until TFC plays in Columbus, it would be great to have an agreement in place long before then.