Thursday, April 29, 2010

TFC 2 Montreal 0, a strong start and continued progress

I must give my head a shake. We Torontonians have yet to see anything other than victory in the flesh at BMO Field so far in 2010. The night never got as chilly as it could have and the team never caught fire as much as they could have either.

Dero scored in a goal mouth scramble early in the first half. Ty Harden must have taken a serious injury at the time, because he was down needing help before the game could be restarted. It was serious enough to require a cart to come on the field and take him away and it subdued the team and the crowd. The second spark of the first half was also injury related, the felling of Nick Garcia. Garcia and Montreal

I think Coach Preki understands the importance of the Canadian games. There might have been a few starters rested (Attakora, Usanov, Saric, Hrscanovic, White), but overall TFC looked full strength.

These late starts mean very late returns home. Since it is after midnight- I will save the rest for tomorrow…

Sunday, April 25, 2010

TFC 2 Seattle Sounders 0- home record as encouraging foundation

For all of the worrying that Toronto FC fans have directed towards those many awful moments on the road this year, there was relief felt after the victory over Seattle. TFC have something to be proud of, a home record of two wins and only one goal against.
The tight game of the first half was something I had expected, I went down to the cold and rainy lakeshore hoping for a tie.
Let me get away with a quick first post-more to come later
JDG- he has not erased the memory of the Colorado leap, but he made real progress today. He was willing to create space- his 180 turns were either drawing fouls or letting him pop clear into territory that he could exploit
The back four
The hardy souls in the crowd
subs- Gabe Gala and Sam Cronin and Dan Gargan

Nick Labrocca - I know it is early, he may still adjust to new team and those around him. I dislike the Toronto instinct to find a weak link player in every squad as much as the next blogger. Yet I find Labrocca compares poorly to Sam Cronin. Labrocca's defending is ok position-wise, I think that he too often seems to be a step or two away from where he should be. His tackling lacks bite, he slid and blocked some passes but I am underwhelmed. He does not hold onto the ball well, his passing lacks snap and too often he is passing team-mates into 50/50 positions. He seems to have the left side of the midfield by default until Peterson heals.
The ref buying everything that Seattle was selling
a lack of tactics

Friday, April 23, 2010

On Fridays my mind drifts back to the lake…

Everyone wants the blog to be up to date with events in the world of TFC, but the reality of my life is such an obstacle. I work, I spend hours commuting, I am wrapping up my online course and practices for one of the two soccer teams that I coach are now twice a week. So I am going to try for Friday posts as both a look back at what caught my attention (or your attention) and a preview for the upcoming weekend game.

The opinion of the devoted is that Toronto FC gets less mainstream media attention than it should. Maybe the soap opera turmoil is part of a ploy to draw that attention. Last week it was Jim Brennan’s surprise retirement. This week it was the Gerba interview on The Score and the fan fury at JDG’s leap out of the wall against Colorado. The stories just get better as the team on the field flounders.

Ali Gerba’s interview with Kristian Jack of The Score was entertaining television. It might not have been the best career move for Gerba, but it was refreshing to hear a player say something negative and try not to burn his bridges at the same time. He says that he would come back for a future manager/coach mainly because of the great fans and the fact that MLSE know how to do things. I have a hard time imagining Ali Gerba’s name coming up in a future job interview, but stranger things have happened.
Gerba at one point quoted Canadian coach Stephen Hart as saying that he had never seen Gerba in better shape. Hmmm, remember that pitting Steven Hart against the management of TFC is a dead end. The Canadian national team has ZERO international spots on their roster, so he must keep his players happy. The Canadian team does not have to worry about day-to day issues such as training and locker room morale. The team gathers and then after the game they are gone again.

I have been hesitant to write about my good luck of late. I fear the words on the blog create a self-imposed jinx, so here goes. I remain one of the five left in the Survivor Pool over at Duane Rollin’s 24th minute. My pick for this weekend is New England Revolution at home versus the Colorado Rapids. It is a tough weekend and each member of the pool has picked a different team. You can only chose a team once and I have used Houston, LA, Philly and Colorado. Win or draw puts you through and I am trying to fashion a strategy that sticks to teams at home and postpones the eventual choices of Toronto, Chivas and DC United
Trout FC mentions that if I am enjoying this period of wise selection and pure luck, perhaps it is time for me to look at a World Cup pool or MLS betting. I am not a gambler but success leads to temptation.
The king of sports betting, counting both volume and media attention, in North America has to be the NFL. The MLS is eons behind, but I think as it grows it has some of the betting friendly aspects of the NFL. It has the weekly schedule, for example, which gives you the chance to ponder recent form. It would be interesting to see if the equivalent of the NFL point spread can be developed for our lower scoring game.

I did not catch the Dallas vs Seattle game (2-2 final)last night, so I am unable to speculate on how tired the Sounders will be when they face Toronto Sunday afternoon. I would bet on Seattle winning at this point, but I think TFCs hopes rest on the shoulders of Julian DeGuzman. He’s had a bad start to the season and clearly hit bottom in the Colorado game. This Seattle game is a test to see whether he is going to bounce back and be at the centre of the team or stay in the puzzled and puzzling category.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Defeated, but glimpses of life by the mountains Rapids 3- TFC 1

TFC deserve some credit for making a game of it today. When the schedule first came out, the Colorado game jumped out as unfortunate. The Rapids are hard to beat at home, Toronto has only done it once and trying to do it three days after playing a game was a challenge. After seeing Toronto play at home, it is tough to watch a game on television and have much in the way of analysis. So I will go with some quick observations
Sam Cronin is back! Sam Cronin played a solid game. The early part of the second half was his time. He was brought down in the box by Mountain Man Perkins, the Colorado keeper (Dero scored on the subsequent pk to tie the game). Even before that play though there were stretches that Cronin and JDG and Sarich were playing with the ball down the left wing where they looked like they knew each other. Short passes and plenty of movement and possession. It was only a blip, but it was nice to see.
A back four of Usanov - Attakora - Cann - Harden. I would not have thought that this would be TFC's backline against Omar Cummings of the Rapids. Yet it worked fairly well. Even if the first penalty was not right, Cann should not be on the ground trying to make plays with his face. That was a rare error.
Chad Barrett! His "no-look" pass that sent Sam Cronin away alone on the Colorado keeper was a pretty play indeed.

Marvell Wynne using his lightning speed recovery moves for the Colorado Rapids. There is a category of ache, the TFC headshake, that involves watching players that were let go by Mo flourish elsewhere. Colorado already had Conor Casey, having Wynne too adds to the pain.

JDG jumping up and out of the way to allow the second Colorado goal go through the wall (wall?, what wall) and into the Toronto net.

Each and every camera glimpse of Mr. Preki. He is livid. He is yelling. He is furious. He needs medication.

Nick Labrocca. I see the advantages of having a Martin Sarich, his crunching tackles and tough play give spine to the midfield. DeRo and Peterson, JDG and Sam Cronin all bring something to the midfield. Yet Nick Labrocca is very low profile. I can't get a handle on what he contributes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Danny Califf's red card greatest gift for Toronto FC's home opener

What a night.I think that Califf's clunk to DeGuzman's head while being the last man back and in clear sight of the ref was the critical moment, but maybe it was overdue karma. It was great to be back by the lake. It was great to be saying hello to those who know the level of suffering required for supporting TFC. It was wonderful to see the grass field and the new North Stand. It was high time that we put this ragged offseason behind us.
This much was clear tonight, TFC will be a hard team to beat at home this year. Let me rephrase that, they will be hard to beat at home when facing expansion teams that are down to ten men fairly early in the game. TFC might be headed in the right direction.
Tonight was neither the disaster that one feared nor was it any confirmation of progress. The three points will be taken and sighs of relief all around, but the questions continue to pile up.
You have to start with the obvious sports fans, the fact that Nick Garcia was not in the starting lineup had to be the defensive highlight of the game. It was the sign that all had been waiting for, the opening of the door that allowed the TFC fan to look Mr. Preki in the eye and not suspect sabotage.
When I started to blog after the game, I found it hard to think of the game as a whole. It was hard to grasp the team as a unit, there is so much tinkering going on that the players and the combinations are what comes to mind. I am tempted to claim that Mr. Preki is lacking in tactics and grand schemes, but the choppy nature of play has to be part of the process of players still strange to one another rather than a coaching goal.
Some parts of this new team are connecting ahead of others. The back four and Stefan Frei show signs of life. I liked the alignment in the first half (Usanov Attakora Cann Hscanovics) even though they were ones caught napping on the Philly goal late in the first half. I thought that both Hsarivoc and Usanov played well in the first half. If you are critical of both picking up yellow cards, you are clearly not prepared for cheering for a Mr. Preki team. He wants a determined, abrasive squad. (Later edit- I saw the replay on GOL TV and I thought the Usanov yellow was overkill on the ref's part) Cann and Attakora were the central pair all night and I am still of the opinion that Attakora is more of a right back than a central back. Yet Usanov has the potential to own the right side spot, so Attakora in the middle seems ok.
Cann was a pleasant surprise, he was decisive when defending most of the time, used his height well and was able to fit in. He had some shaky moments on the ball. It will be an epic adventure should we ever get to see Cann and Gomez as the central pairing. I suspect that it would be a swashbuckling approach to ball control and would be spectacular. The second half move to drop Usanov and move Gargan back to the right spot was not a positive one. It did not help that Gargan ran into injury difficulties after all the subs had been made. Usanov had looked strong attacking down the right side despite having Gargan as his winger ahead of him. I think that a combination of Usanov and Peterson has greater potential and hope to see it soon.
The forwards are the next best aspect of the new team to the defenders, but it is far from a finished product.The strike force of Chad Barrett and O'Brien White in the second half was an improvement over the all midfielder attack force of the first. There is still the need for a crafty and efficient striker on this team. Did you hear "summer signing" whispered somewhere?
It's the midfield that is still a mess. Nick Labrocca mostly played the left wing in the first half and was more central in the second. He did not shine in either role. Jacob Peterson played the right wing in the second half (following the injury to Sanyang) but did not get forward very often. It is unfair to evaluate a player coming back from injury on an emergency substition, so better days must be ahead for Peterson. In the first half Saric and Sanyang were central midfielders and defensive disruption was their contribution. The second half pairing became Labrocca and JDG and the attack improved, but not by much. When your midfield can't attack down the wings and gets nowhere in the middle, you can't blame the defenders for resorting to long ball tactics, what else is available?
I will save my DeGuzman speech for the Colorado game. I am clearly not expecting much on Sunday when this team plays on short rest, away from home, two time zones west and at high altitude. It might be the perfect scenario for Mr. Preki to show off his preference for gritty disruption, but scrapping to avoid defeat is the best we can expect.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

TFC plays the first 45, Revs kick butt the rest of the night

Trout FC, a blogging legend, sending pics from NE tonight

New England Revolution 4 Toronto FC 1
Toronto FC, a team that seems to still require introductions to each other, played with surprising cohesion and took a lead into halftime tonight. DeRo, in his first game as TFC captain, scored with a header from a Garcia cross.
Then reality returned to the universe and Nick Garcia played to his usual standard, a bloody disaster. When TFC defenders were not giving them gift opportunities, the Revs were finding space and time down the wings and attacking at will. It is not sour grapes to observe that New England could have had a few more goals in the second half. It was a total collapse.

-This was ugly. I would honestly question Mr. Preki's sanity if he plays Nick Garcia in the home opener. It will be a security nightmare to keep the disgruntled TFC faithful from physically expressing their disdain for the defender.
- Jason DeVos was the colour commentator on the GOL TV broadcast and his verbal blast on the Garcia giveaway (that created NE goal number 2) was the most honest talk on television heard in eons.
- It is unfair to heap everything onto the heads of the defenders. The second half stinking also had contributions from a midfield that could not mark, could not keep the ball and could not attack. Neither OBW nor Chad Barrett, when he came on late, were displaying potency in attack up front. When you don't pressure down one end, you give the other team time to exploit your weaknesses.
- I think that Mr. Preki is the wrong coach for this team and this city. His post game comments on GOL TV were awful. This is his team and they reflect his decisions. We know the faults of the players who left town and maybe the wisdom of reshaping the team will pay off over time, but don't go on television all puzzled. Don't distance yourself from your team. Demand more of yourself and of your team and say something that the fans can hold onto. Toronto fans sure don't want to hear about how Columbus stumbled last year and then had the best record. The best you can do is tell TFC fans that we are stuck with a team that reminds the coach of Columbus? Stick up for your team, because there is so much turmoil right now, so many cuts and salary dumps and mystery men taking the field that if you don't show some faith, players and fans alike will figure that you are about to throw more players under the bus and grab some more no names.
- The questions that should be answered, because fans are asking them, are
So trading Wynne for Labrocca helps our midfield and our team in what ways again?
That saying goodbye to Robbo and Guevara and benching Cronin to give us a midfield of Sanyang, Labrocca, Joseph Nene was meant to do what for TFC?
Asking Brennan to retire in time to start a Latvian left back who was burned down his wing repeatedly in the second half until substituted in a mercy move (that should have included Garcia) was wise in what ways?
I think that the "Mo must go" movement is both understandable, but short sighted. Tossing aside Mo to get more of Preki scares me at this point. For better or worse, TFC is stuck with these two and we have to see if their moves will pay off in the short term. Somebody give Mr. Preki some positive talking points for the month of April. If he continues to be puzzled, he is going to be finding out just how indignant TFC fans can be with his renovation attempt.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mo cries "Somebody stop me, I can no longer tell if I'm cutting or signing"

TFC management in a candid moment of devotion, worshipping the five year plan
There will be a day this spring when the sun shines and the grass will glisten and the team in red will take the field to the roar of the crowd. They will play with energy, zest and a sense of cohesive teamwork. You will cheer and I will cheer and the chaos will be forgotten. Someone will lean over and explain to me both the genius tinkering of Manager Mo and what all those Lost episodes were about. I will laugh like a loon and pat my pocket to ensure that my winning lottery ticket is still there. Then I will get a text message from Tiger Woods and my wife will hand me the Nobel Prize for blogging. Trust me on all of this.

Can I just go to bed now and figure out the Jim Brennan story tomorrow?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Multiple Designated Player rule - The day the fun started

My head is swirling with the names of players who would look good in TFC red. The day of the MLS Cup 2010 press conference I was also expecting information on changes to the Designated Player rule. Here it comes, I thought, when GOL TV interviewed The Garber. But The Garber ducked the DP question from Lee Godfrey. The commish seemed to be putting any roster moves on the back burner. Clearly, I am not a poker player. So just 48 hours later the DP rule was changed. The details are here. Suddenly TFC fans are agog (that's right, I said agog) with the possibilities of a star player or two.

Maybe, just maybe, Mo saw this coming. It would explain his low key approach to trialists during the pre-season. Why bother with out of contract players who can perhaps make a small splash, when bigger fish can be caught in the summer? I would like to see myself as gliding above both a sea of Mo haters, without ever landing on that small island of Mo apologists. Mistakes will always be made when building a team. A little humility goes a long way in the world of bloggers. I was one of those fans who was convinced that Ali Gerba was a great signing for TFC. Mistakes by the lake existed long before Mo came to town

I think that New York sets the pace for Toronto when it comes to how quickly to pursue players. New York has their new stadium and they need to generate buzz. How do you break through in a market dominated by Knicks, Jets and Giants, Yankees and Mets? You follow the Cosmos model. So a NYRB team that contains Angel, Henry and Raul(?) would need a TFC response. Or do you move first and obtain younger stars that will win the Cup this year and let NYRB bring in the bigger names next year? Stay tuned, this will be fun.