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.