Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the brink of a new year

I have difficulty with endings. I am not sure that I would like people who handle endings with detached aplomb. Now that I have used the phrase "detached aplomb', honestly it just popped into my head, I am wondering if this means I would not like James Bond and why do words such as "aplomb" stick in my head when I have trouble remembering the names of people I see every day.
2011 was a great year for me personally. There were people and places that wove through the year that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life (or until the memory goes totally). The TFC season was not one of the things that made the year memorable, but hope for 2012 can only grow through the off-season.
So my best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year. It is only months until we are all  back in Section 220 (by the way, if you are a reader who also knows me from the section, I have moved my seats. I have used my seniority to go down a few rows, but I will still be in talking distance).
May the winter fly and the soccer season come around the corner...and I promise to write a proper farewell to Nathan Sturgis any day now.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bought and sold, but do new owners see beyond hockey?

Well, we don’t have the Teacher’s Pension Plan to kick around anymore.  The big bad media giants, Bell and Rogers have married and bought MLSE. Now what does this mean for our little TFC? I am hoping for either benign neglect or selling off the team, but not holding my breath for either.  Bizarre billionaires are rare in Canada.  I could get enthused about Belinda Stronach becoming owner of TFC, but that is just me. Maybe the increased role of Larry Tanenbaum is the silver lining to the deal?

Face it, this is a hockey thing and TFC is the afterthought to the afterthought (Raptors). I think that the Rogers side of the ownership will be baseball occupied all summer long and the BCE side will be hockey, hockey, hockey all year round. If CBC manages to lose HNIC to TSN can you imagine how hockey obsessed that sports channel will get?  TSN would rather cover zamboni races than anything soccer related.
So perhaps it is a dream that being owned by media giants will lead to better coverage of TFC.  I can have my dreams….

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In another universe...or Chad goes north...

Ok, I am in a strange place mentally today.

Imagine that Toronto FC had instantly become the Barcelona of MLS and everything they had ever done had turned into football gold. Expansion draft day arrives for Montreal and their leadership says we must pick up all the ex-TFC players that we can, since their castoffs might still have some of the Toronto magic to them. Here goes-
Remember Montreal is allowed to pick 10 players in the draft and only one player per team.
Andy Boyens from Chivas USA
Dan Gargan (or Jon Conway) from Chicago
Carl Robinson (or Greg Sutton) from New York
Pat Phelan from New England
Maicon Santos from Dallas
Jeff Cunningham from Columbus
Tyrone Marshall from Colorado (they protected Joseph Nane)
Hunter Freeman from Houston
Chad Barrett from LA Galaxy
Kevin Goldthwaite from Portland
(there would still be Nana Attakora or Jacob Peterson - San Jose, O'Brian White - Seattle,)
There you have it, an all ex TFC expansion draft. The chances that any of these players will be selected by Montreal ? I would have to say slim.

TFC expansion protection list 2011

Avila, Eric -TFC seems high on him, not sure myself 
Dunfield, Terry – on list, JDG off, suspect something 
Eckersley, Richard -young, energetic, potential and skill and fan fave 
Frei, Stefan (GK) - team foundation 
Frings, Torsten -team foundation DP 
Harden, Ty- salary cap bargain 
Iro, Andy- size and left foot? 
Johnson, Ryan- TFC weak in scoring, need his skill 
Kocic, Milos (GK) – too young/experienced to risk 
Koevermans, Danny - team foundation DP 
Plata, Joao - young, energetic, potential and skill and fan fave 

Borman, Danleigh - no surprise, TFC days numbered 
Bouchiba, Elbekay - injury comeback makes him tough to pick 
Cann, Adrian - injury comeback makes him tough pick or MTL=Canadian 
Davies, Kyle - mystery man, never saw him play 
de Guzman, Julian - I thought we had to protect DP? If MTL takes I suspect it is part of a deal… 
Gold, Matt – too much bench player to protect 
Griffit, Leandre mystery man, never saw him play 
Marosevic, Peri he might be a worthy pick 
 Martina, Javier – no surprise, TFC days numbered 
Omphroy, Demitrius - he might be a worthy pick, if only to trade back to TFC 
Soolsma, Nick - he might be a worthy pick, if only to trade back to TFC 
Sturgis, Nathan - he might be a worthy pick 
Viator, Eddy - mystery man, barely saw him play 
Williams, Dicoy - injury comeback makes him tough to pick 
Yourasskowsky, Mikael – no surprise, TFC days numbered 
Zavarise, Gianluca - too much bench player to protect

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MLS Cup 2011 pre game musings

Here I sit watching television and waiting for coverage of the 2011 MLS Cup to start. I am hoping that Americans have a pregame show to watch. TSN2 is showing a heart wrenching documentary about a former basketball player who battles serious addiction problems. A worthy show I am sure, but hardly designed to get your mind into a "big game" mode.... Remember that a year ago we were sitting down at BMO watching Colorado defeat Dallas? I do recall thinking that 2010 would be the last time that the MLS Cup playoffs would be Toronto free. So much for that bright idea. On one hand I am critical of how low profile the MLS Cup is. Playing the game in late November does seem to be pushing the event into a season beyond soccer. On the other hand most North American sports end at an odd time. NHL and NBA collide with summer, Baseball leaves summer far behind at the World Series and then there is the Super Bowl in the dark depths of February.... Mr. Muscle Arms is the ref, I am not a big fan of his. Then again what MLS ref would please me?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Season 2011 ends TFC 2 NE 2

Down we go to BMO Field for season closer number 5. It qualifies, before the first ball is kicked, as bittersweet. The win in Dallas on Tuesday night puts TFC past the group stage of the Champion’s League for the first time next spring. They showed that the team can rise to the occasion and win a big game on the road has to be sweetest point of the year. Slightly sweeter than the Voyageurs Cup win against Vancouver on July 2nd due to toughness of opponent and being away from BMO. The bitter is another meaningless, out of the playoffs by a long shot, home game. Today we face a New England squad that is the only team in the East below Toronto in the standings. Bittersweet is a nicer way of saying there is something schizo about this team. TFC 2011 edition closed with a home performance that was a bit of a mixed bag. I have been trying to figure out if the game could be described as the season as microcosm- but I am still unsure (the game had an equal amount of ups and downs, the season sure didn’t). Toronto looked silky smooth in scoring the first goal. Koevermans goes deep then angles it back to the perfectly trailing Soolsma and the ball is in the net in a flash. Then they lost their momentum and Julian DeGuzman lost his man on the first New England goal. When the visitors scored their second goal it seemed that Toronto was still mentally in the halftime dressing room. Iro did not put pressure on the ball and it looked like TFC was going to collapse. Credit to the team, driven forward by Frings and Koevermans, that they fought back and tied the game. Their was enough determination in the air that you could feel that victory was always the goal… I will save my summary of the team for a future post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Big effort in the big game Dallas 0 TFC 3

They did it. Toronto FC needed to win the game in Dallas to get through to the next round of Champion's League and they did it. Danny Koevermans scored the first half goal and Plata scored 2 in the second half. It shows that real progress has been made in this latter part of the season. They looked flat in August, but now they are in the quarter-finals. Plata was a star. Yet the entire team played a part, they looked like a team.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sometimes I have to go beyond TFC...Steve Jobs died today.

As modern folk, we live our lives in the world of design. The clothing, the car, the furniture, the food and the wine, the house, the suburb, the road, the mall, the way the light falls across your face as I take your picture... I know that we can still go for a walk in the woods and shake it all away, for a while. There are days when I joke about needing to scrape all this design away and go live in a cave for the winter... But when I am not joking, when I am sitting or staring out the window, or wishing I was more able to express myself or finding a way to understand the fragments of knowledge that explode around us or thinking about how to be a better person or figure out a wiser way to wade into the future, I have been using products that were designed by Steve Jobs. I am convinced that his products were more than just aids to me, they also inspired a little faith that great things were still possible and that change could be brilliant. I never met the man, but I think that his thinking played a role in my thinking more than any other thinker that has been on the planet in my lifetime. There are some who minimize him and describe him as a maker of gadgets. They have been the tools of my adult life, so much more the stuff of dreams than gadgets. If I live to see another innovator, designer, inventor that can match him, I will be a lucky man indeed. Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

TFC 1 NYRB 1 Cold thoughts about Winter


It was a night to say goodbye to summery things. Weather wise we had been forced to don gloves and tuques, scarves and hoodies. Funny that around here we enter spring as hardy winter people- thrilled to see a ball on a green pitch and dressed for any weather. Six months later we encounter the first true fall night and we have been transformed into summer people, quietly wondering if we can take anything colder than this. The single digit temperatures we welcomed in April are the same temperatures that stun us in October. Sorry for a climate essay today. I write about the air to delay writing about what is happening on the ground.

New York did not look like a team in desperate need of victory (improving their playoff chances) during the first half. If Toronto proved in the end that they did not have an adequate grip on the game, NYRB sure seemed to be casual about taking hold of it. Kocic had made some top quality saves throughout the game, but Red Bulls were hardly bullish. Perhaps they were confident that Toronto would crack in the end. I suspect that Thierry Henry put more effort into gesturing and taunting the Toronto fans after his goal than he did in his play all night. I am less annoyed at Henry antics than I am at TFC’s lack of reaction. It is not the first time this year that I have wondered where Jim Brennan is. Henry seemed to be posing and posturing for the North Stand fans. Somebody please get in his face. The lack of passion about home turf (or standing up for home fans) amongst TFC players is worrying.

Protecting a late 1-0 lead, Winter chose to pack the back and had 6 defenders on the back line. It was an odd approach because it seemed that TFC still had 3 forwards (Soolsma, Bormann and Avila). At a time when it would be wise to hold the ball and kill time, Toronto either could not or would not do it. Winter’s TFC never seems to own the midfield.
I remain unconvinced that a 4-3-3 formation will work in the MLS and I am even more convinced that this squad does not have the skills needed to make it work. TFC always seemed isolated and outnumbered when it comes to finding avenues of attack. They are a team that rarely plays the overlap, too rarely have a player coming into surprise attack. I think that is due to the formation. They are switching the point of attack regularly, but then they have no other option. There is always a wide player available for a pass, but then the defenders shift, there are no options for the guy with the ball and on it goes. Attacking from the wings is a great tactic, but not when it is the only tactic.

One more home game left. I am afraid that what comes after that is a winter off-season thinking about Winter and the direction that this team needs to go in. TFC asks the fan to have faith, that work with the Academy will produce more Ashtons, Stinsons and Henrys. What if all that means is another wave of solid players capable of playing, passing and defending (but never, ever, ever scoring)? We can hope Toronto’s winter will see some changes in the roster. I see the same problem as this time last year, too many players who never or rarely score. When you add up a handful of attackers, it works with Avila-1, Dunfield-0, Soolsma-2, Yourasskowsky-0, Martina-2, and throw in Eckersley-0 and Morgan-0, and you have less TFC 2011 goals than Maicon Santos-6!

So we say goodbye to summery things. Too bad that means storage and hibernation. I want Winter to start a fire. I hope he is just saving his logs for Dallas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Toronto shows some fight and pride - TFC 1 Pumas 1

It was another beautiful September night at BMO Field Tuesday evening. As a fan, I got much more than I bargained for. The team showed some spine and some sparkle against a Mexican team that had ripped them to shreds in the first half of their south of the border (x2) game in the CONCACAF Champion's League. When you are bracing yourself for a thrashing, 1-1 with a lot of positive play is a pleasant surprise Going in we knew that Torsten Frings was not playing because of yellow card accumulation. If your crystal ball had let you know that Danny Koeverman would be subbed at half time (injury?) and that Richard Eckersley would have to leave the field due to injury, you would have been preparing for whatever lies beyond a thrashing. A waterboarding? Just as a bounce back from the dreadful night in Los Angeles against Chivas USA, tonight was a positive step. Just in time for the town hall meetings too. Julian de Guzman may have played his best game in a TFC uniform since his performance against Cruz Azul in the summer of 2010. He seems to clog and disrupt the midfield attack of visiting Mexican teams much more than he ever shows against MLS teams. He is still a pain in the passing department and shows a reluctance to go forward in a creative manner. TFC will never draw a foul if it was left up to de Guzman... Surprisingly strong contributions from Doneil Henry and Matt Gold. Henry threw himself into quite a few challenges with smart energy. Martina came on for Soolsma, but neither ever seemed to be a danger to Pumas' goal. Andy Iro continues to be an adventure all on his own. He deflected a shot that hit the Toronto post in the largest scare in the late minutes of play. Harden was a solid contributor. Ashtone Morgan was also active all night. If Plata and Eckersley are the top newcomers to the team, Morgan has to be their Canadian equal.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Skunks are skunked in LA Chivas 3 TFC 0

I am thinking that TFC’s lack of a true nickname is a reflection of their lack of success over the years. Dan Dunleavy (announcing the game on GOLTV) was smart not to refer to Toronto as the “Reds” when playing against a team wearing red. It made me think that “Reds” will never take hold, it is just a place holder until something inspired comes along. If you were to name the team based on their characteristics in the first five years what would you have? Playoff missers, revolving doors, underachievers, sinking ships are the phrases that come to mind. If Chivas are the goats, could Toronto become the skunks?

Toronto FC in Los Angeles Saturday night showed very little in the way of entertainment or inspiration. The team may have been physically close to Hollywood, yet they instead displayed the glitz and glamour of Collingwood. No, that is unfair to Collingwood. They might have had a slim glimmer of a playoff chance going into LA, but losing has shut the 2011 playoff door for good.

JP Angel scored a first half goal that showed off his talent for creating a goal out of any half decent chance. Iro one on one against Angel was clearly only a matter of time. The Chivas second half goal was a matter of Toronto relaxing enough in their own gpal area to allow Chivas to find a way through the cracks. Morgan should have marked tighter, Frei could be second guessed for staying on his line, should have been better pressure on the player who crossed the ball to Braun(who scored) and Andy Iro was caught adrift. Then Angel scored again and buried Toronto. That phrase gives the impression that TFC were above ground up until that point.

The town hall meetings loom this week. The Saturday night loss will contribute to a sense of gloom amongst the fans who attend the meetings. I am not hopeful that the Tuesday night CONCACAF game against Pumas will lift the spirits of we long suffering Skunk fans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A win over Tauro and a memorable evening by the lake

Game notes later - atmosphere at BMO first... The weather helped to set the scene last night at BMO Field, it was a perfect Toronto in September evening. The wind never picked up off of the lake, the sky was clear and the temperature was somewhere between balmy and cool. As the sun was setting, I had made sure to pack a hoodie and a fleece vest, yet they were never needed. We were in our seats 30 minutes before game time and the sparse crowd in our section (220) was a surprise. More than half the people that entered the section, looking intently at their tickets, turned out to be lost and were actually seeking 120. The sole usher in our area was very good at sensing the hesitating folks , interceding and sending them on their way. Trout, my sidekick supreme, observed that long ago when we first signed up for Toronto FC, attendance such as last night had to be what we were expecting as the norm, not packed to the gills sell-outs. The stadium, or our corner of it, works so much better with a handful of people in it. There was no worry with a constant stream of people heading to the concourse and obscuring our view of the field. Those who are there, truly want to be watch a game. A quick break for a snack or the men's room is truly a quick break, not a huge trek. Red Patch Boys and the U-Sector must know that these nights were made for them. They must be able to snap up the extra tickets that the season ticket holders drop and bring out more of their members. They brought their "A" game last night with flags, a huge banner, constant singing and a good, rough time for the other team and the ref. I know that next week will bring Pumas north to face TFC and they could be the toughest team faced all year. Yet I want to be there, I expect another great night regardless of the score. On to the game. There was little danger from the Panamanian team Tauro FC, but also little potency from TFC for much of the first half. Johnson and Morgan down the left side, Eckersley and Soosma down the left, but not much through the middle would describe the attack. Peri Marosevic did not have a strong night. He showed flashes of his speed, but seemed to be fighting the ball. DeGuzman, Dunfield and Yourasskowsky all played, but we still watch a team with a hole in the middle of the field. It is from this hole that Pumas, next week, rips our defenders to shreds. Koevermans scored the opportunist goal that gave TFC the victory. I think that he has been a quality signing and has the potential to be a top scorer for years to come. I think that he is a wily player and needs a consistent central attacking threat from those around him to find his chances. I am not sure that this roster can supply that style of attack. Terry Vaughn, the ref, was the most entertaining individual on the field for the second half. I have seen refs buy the dives more than Vaughn did last night, but he was in danger of losing the plot last night. I would love to see the foul/yellow card on Stinson in the final minute of the game. It seemed on the screen replay that Stinson had a clear path to the ball, dove out and cleared the ball and the Tauro player fell over Stinson's outstretched leg after Stinson had already made the play. How that was either a foul or a yellow needs to be explained... I promise another blog post with my thoughts on the roster. Next game - late Saturday night in LA vs Chivas

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lost faith, lost zeal, weak comeback promised

Yes, I have faltered in the blogging TFC world in recent weeks. I was so discouraged by the August home game against San Jose that I stopped thinking and writing TFC for weeks. I had relatives in town, my beloved uncle from Los Angeles. He has been a soccer fan since his childhood back in England. We talk soccer all the time on the phone and get together annually - usually to watch the big games. I had so looked forward to taking him to a TFC match. Show him BMO Field and make a big day of it. The team looked limp. The crowd has lost zip and energy. Yet another year where the playoffs are not going to happen and the team is in flux. I don't blame the crowd for losing zip. It was not a memorable event, it was a downer of huge proportions. This meant that I wrote nothing about the victory in Columbus which gave Toronto the Trillium Cup for the first time and was the first ever TFC victory in Columbus. Some years that win would have sent me dancing (well, hopping), but this year it was worthy of a weak smile. I wrote nothing about the 4-0 loss in Mexico against Pumas. A horrible showing. No wonder I had only a weak smile after the Columbus game. I must have sensed that it is a fragile sense of progress that is being built. I wrote nothing about the trade deadline deal that sent Robinson (a defender picked up from Chicago on the Dan Gargan exchange) to LA Galaxy for a young central defender Kyle Davies. TFC needs defenders. So tonight the Champions League game against Tauro beckons. Next week is a town hall meeting - I just don't know why I feel so down on the team. They sent me a book. I promise to bring it to the town hall - otherwise I don't know what to do with it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blame it on the Ex - TFC 1 San Jose 1

I may take a few days to develop a theory that hit me tonight. The problem with TFC is the CNE. I am of baby boomer vintage and can remember when the CNE was the pinnacle of a Toronto summer. It was not just an amusement park, it was a showcase for the latest and the greatest The world has changed and we know that the old CNE has been left behind by Disney this and Universal Studios that. Amusement parks have themes and parking and a sense of destination. As for the latest and greatest, when we want to gaze at new product we peruse video presentations of them. TFC has been put together in an old CNE carnival style. New players mostly, but there is a jumbled sense to how they look together. Frings is the Horse Palace, strong and functional but nobody thinks of flashy when they are in the Horse Palace. Food Building = Ty Harden, Andy Iro as the human cannonball. Which amusement ride best describes Plata? More to come. PS fleshing out this idea will be more fun than watching the game against San Jose.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lost in Chicago - The Gargan Released

Tonight it was torture by television. Toronto FC lost 2-0 to the Chicago Fire, allowing Chicago to go ahead of Toronto in the standings. It was an odd game, TFC showed a lot of ball control and did manage to hit the post twice, but overall they lacked any finish. It was fitting that Dan Gargan scored against Toronto. It was a combination of sloppy defending and Gargan determination that created the goal.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Toronto wins in Panama - no charm, no style, no ref

The final score was 2-1 in favour of TFC. The word to describe this Champion's League game between Tauro of Panama and Toronto FC would have to be brutal. The play of TFC, the way that Tauro controlled the ball but had no ability to put it away, the way that the ref was calling every challenge a foul, the way that DeGuzman lunged and fouled to give up the penalty kick that resulted in the goal, all of this and so much more - brutal. You can be pleased with the victory and feel that Toronto got away with points against the run of play and the 30 fouls that the ref threw around. You just hope that we don't have to suffer through another spectacle like that for years to come. It will be interesting to see the return match here in Toronto, there should be no excuse for TFC to not tear them apart.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rare win, grab what you can TFC 1 Real Salt Lake 0

 A victory is a victory and each should be valued.  At least that is what I have been trying to tell myself on the drive home. They have been rare enough in 2011, a season where TFC have played 26 games to reach the plateau of 4 victories. Somehow plateau does not seem like the right word. Perhaps it should be 26 games to reach the doorstep of 4 victories.
On top of the joy of a victory should be the double joy of defeating Real Salt Lake, a team that Toronto has not had much success against. Plus the performances of Plata and Kocic were worth the price of admission, so bring on the joy…

 However, I thought there was enough room for concern with Toronto’s performance that the joy is restrained. They seemed to control a lot of the play, yet the lack of finish continues to be a trademark. Koevermans was not firing tonight and could have been taken off the field at half time, says I.

  Let me talk players and positions for a while. I can understand Coach Winter’s thinking in shifting Torsten Frings back into a central defender role. All year we have been witness to the burden the back four plays in Winter’s preferred playing style. There have been games in which it seems that TFC’s back four have the ball at their feet most of the time. Heaven knows that Andy Iro benefits from having Frings nearby and ready. My concern is the midfield hole that shifting him back creates. 

 The midfield tonight was Julian De Guzman, Eric Avila and Matt Stinson. Avila showed some skills, both in tackling and on the attack. His passing to Peri Marosevic was good and seemed to be one of the bright spots of the first half. Stinson seemed to be the odd man out and was eventually subbed by a defender. Which leaves us with JDG. I will give him some credit in defending – he was clogging up the passing lanes, covering and even showed a willingness to take on Kyle Beckerman in a tough tackle later in the game. The trouble is his attacking, or lack of it. Yes, he is accurate when he pushes the ball out to the wings to change to point of attack. He can boot it with ease and it travels to Plata land. But where is the variety? Where is the forward progress? Weaving through the defenders and drawing fouls just never happens. Probing passes, forget about it? Holding the ball up and finding a way to break into space

 We end up watching a sideline game. TFC always has the ball out on the edge. Sure, Plata’s goal was the result of coming in from the wings, but most of the time it just stays stuck out there. JDG seems to think his job on the ball is to take it from being stuck out there to being stuck out the other there.
When you calculate how many times Salt Lake hit the crossbar and how many brilliant saves Kocic had to pull off late in the game, TFC is not going to squeak many more 1-nil victories from this line-up. Cherish the win. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Missed this one - How did DeRo look? DC 3 TFC 3

Missed this one. A Muskoka weekend without cable and I forgot to record. When I heard that DC scored first and then Toronto ended with a tie on the road, I thought it was acceptable.
Then the DeRo hat trick and the Iro blame game took to the air.
Never dull in Toronto FC land, never dull.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Found the group stage, went through the long grass RE 1 TFC 2

Nine banded Armadillo - habitat - the long grasses found within soccer stadia
Late, late last night I watched TFC handle a tame Real Esteli. It was one of those weird media nights. I watched the first half on television and then went onto the TFC chat to see what Asif was saying. Soon discovered that what I had been watching on tv was not live and that I was able to move through time rapidly. Ryan Johnson had scored his second goal and it was just a matter of time. I still watched until the end, but it is a strange tension free viewing experience.
I give Winter credit for a handful of good decisions last night. The playing of Kocic was a supportive gesture to the 2nd keeper. I would not have been big enough to do it. Giving Henry and Morgan playing time was smart and the coaching confidence in Stinson continues.
Earlier the trade of Maicon Santos to Dallas for Eric Avila was announced. I don't know what TFC has obtained, but I know that Santos' went from big cheese to man without a position on the team in a matter of months. There has been a stampede of players in and out and this could be the end of it. However I would not bet on it. The likes of Sturgis, Yourasskowsky, Soolsma could be candidates. Javier Martina was subbed very early last night and look what that did for Santos.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Road point - new guys battle back- Portland Timbers 2 TFC 2

This should read....Timberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I often complain that you won’t capture the essence of a team’s performance when you watch the game on television. Too often you are in the hands of some mystery tv director and strange camera angles. How often have we been sitting at home watching a close up on some player because the announcers want to talk about how his granny bakes cookies for the team? The game and the performance of the players get lost in the “show”.

I am happy to throw that criticism away when talking about the Saturday night broadcast from Portland. It certainly helps that Dan Dunleavy handles the  play by play perfectly. He knows the team, knows the game and you never feel that he is talking down to a mythical audience that has no understanding of the game. I also was happy with  the camera angles. You had a good view of the game, you did not feel that you were watching through a tube.

Portland had gone in front 2-0 and had fully deserved it. The first goal was a matter of taking advantage of Toronto’ sloppy defending and the second was a pk due to a clear cut take down by Andy Iro. I should be careful using a term like clear cut when talking about a game in Oregon.  Toronto fought back all second half and goals from very new guy Marosevic and still new guy Koevermans brought Toronto a draw on the road.

So, not only are the TFC players looking stronger as individuals, but that team “gel” we have been wishing for seems to have arrived. I was also pleased with the substitutions. The tv crew can talk up the contributions of JDG, but all I will concede is that his play is a step up from the “lost at sea and doesn’t really care” JDG and that’s not saying much. He had nowhere to go but up. Replacing him with Dunfield was the second step of the comeback. The first step was replacing Soolsma at half time with Peri Marosevic.  Soolsma is always making an effort, but Marosevic bagged a goal from open play within his first half hour and Soolsma has yet to do that in half of a season.
Koevermans and Frings continue to be the spine of this team. Eckersley and Frei get to be part of this mythical spine too. Plata was a sparkplug all night.
Then when Harden could not continue, the shift of Martina to the front line, Johnson to the midfield and Frings to the back line was the final smart move. I must also mention that Winter’s starting of Ashtone Morgan and his willingness to stick with him despite some shaky moments out on the left. The two streams of TFC development must be bringing in superior talent and developing Canadian youth. I give Winter full marks for this one.

Now  it’s on to Central America!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Plata shines Kocic boots TFC 2 RE 1

What was that? This team just can't get it right. Even when they have a game under control and should be playing out a 2-0 victory, they find a way to mess it up. To be more precise, keeper Kocic found a way to come out for a loose ball and flub it. He left the RE shocked striker with the ball at his feet and nothing but net to hit. I declare that it qualifies as the worst goalkeeping moment in Toronto FC history. In baseball it would be called an unforced error.
 TFC was at home to Real Estelli in the home and home portion of the Champions League competition.
Plata had been a second half substitute and he was on fire. I have observed that Plata might be a better sub than a starter, his energy and speed thrown at defenders who are tiring could be a needed attacking tactic. We all know that this team needs attacking tactics. Toronto had been dominating possession but showing the usual lack of finish.
Frings and Johnson both looked strong, but the left side combo of Stinson and Zavarise was offensively limited. Henry and Morgan both made solid contributions in the back four, Morgan showing some real flair with the ball. DeGuzman made a late appearance
I am torn overall. Part of me says that missing out on CCL would be a good thing as it would allow them to focus on league success. The other part says that MLS success is a lost cause for 2011 and that a good run in the CCL would redeem something for this season.
A week from now we will know.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kansas City scores 4 - days later Gargan released??

I do not know what to make of this team in recent days. Kansas City scoring three in the first half seemed to be part of a continued collapse. I think Luke Wileman shared the stat that Toronto FC had already reached the 2010 goals against level with three months left to play. That is a shaky first half to the season summed up  in one statistic. Koevermans looked smart on his goal, beating the keeper with a downward bouncing header. Johnson played with energy and seems like a solid two way player. Frings continues to find his way, he seems to be evaluating both Toronto and the MLS while the ball is at his feet.

Then Dan Gargan was released. It must have been a roster move, perhaps opening up a spot for another signing or a trade to come. Gargan was not carrying a huge contract and you would think he was versatile enough to be worth having on your bench.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rebuilding pains TFC 0 Dallas 1

I tried to stop myself from expecting too much from tonight's game against Dallas. I suspected that whatever the individual qualities of the players, old and new alike, that developing a coherent smooth squad was a matter of time. Toronto played five new players and three of those were playing their first games in MLS. Iro has only played in a handful of games and Eddy Viator only signed today. The fact that they lost a 1 goal game and were always in the hunt could be the positive spin. The mishmash of dazed newcomers thrown in with the overplaying desperate holdovers (fighting for their jobs) might be the more negative take on the night.

I usually avoid player ratings, figure that they reveal bias and/or ignore criteria and bounce off into popularity contests. Yet since all eyes were on the new players I offer my stab at it.
Frings - except for the missed tackle on Shea seconds before he scored, he looked strong while defending and showed some patience on the ball and was willing to go forward and hang back depending on the situation B
Koevermans - showed flashes in the first half, faded away in the second.  C-
Iro - seemed to be rusty and rough on the ball. He might be a strong foundation in the back, but something tells me that he and Harden will not be the partners of the year. C-
Viator - he might have been the best player wearing red tonight, smart, fast and tough on the ball whether attacking and defending B+
Johnson -  He might have tried to do to much , don't understand why he had to give way to Soolsma. C+

So Saturday night in KC Toronto fans will be cheered when they see the return of Eckersley. I wonder if there will be more new players brought into town by then.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Toronto takes the Voyageurs Cup - Vancouver had them and let them go...

First of all, I was one of those hundreds of people who had to line up and wait to hand in tickets to exchange for new tickets because my printed tickets were destroyed on that stormy night in May. Perhaps I was foolish to think that if I arrived with my original tickets that all would be ok. I missed 40 minutes of the first half because I had to stand in line and prove to TFC/BMO gate staff that I was legit. Yes, I misunderstood emails. Yes, I could have printed again and avoided this. I happen to be in total brain overflow as I am off to the Grand Canyon today for a 10 day adventure on the Colorado river, so my confusion is legit. But yes, TFC, in one swoop you managed to make a day one season ticket subscriber feel more like a potential fraudster than a valued customer.

So I can write about the second half with authority...
Plata and Frei are the two who drive this team. They were the reason Toronto took the cup. Sure Yourasskowsky scored the winning goal, but he was so overdue that had he missed his chance he might as well have just run off the field into the gloom that ex-TFCers go into.
I also think that credit has to go the back four of Gargan, Eckersley, Harden and Borman. Although was it the insertion of Tchani into the back four that led to the moment when Hassli was all alone and fired wide? That was a heart stopper...

So now we have the home and home series against Nicaragua's Real Esteli. Does anyone know if Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans are eligible to play now??

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One anthem, one goal, two new, veteran guys waving to the crowd - TFC 1 Whitecaps 0

TFC attacking strategies of 2011 - not a best-seller

TFC wins have been rare things this year. Tonight Toronto managed to find a way to gain their third of 2011, but it was underwhelming to be charitable. There is no room for gloating tonight, Vancouver must have their eyes on Saturday's Canadian Championship game as priority one. They were always in tonight's game. Frei's steady hands were critical in the late stages
The news of the signing of Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans as designated players was rippling through the crowd prior to the game. Shook my head with wonder to see a fan in section 219 already wearing a white TFC shirt with Frings on the back. This town is hungry for quality football and waiting for July 20th when they can take the field against Dallas is going to be tough. Now the other shoe dropping in the form of a fond farewell to DeGuzman seems even more likely to my eyes. I understand that his contract goes to the end of 2012, so a buyout would be huge.

Good News
Plata was a high energy sparkplug all night.
Eckersley can fill in wherever needed in the back four.
Something feels special about nights where we have only one anthem played.
Soolsma added scoring on pks to his skill set. Prior to that his greatest moments had been twice being brought down in the box.
Nathan Sturgis has had better games, but he remains a viable sub for JDG. Frings seems destined to replace both of them though.
A win is a win, is a win.
Am I the only one hoping that Alan Gordon and Maicon Santos are possibly in the line-up on Saturday?

Bad News
Yourassowsky has yet to display any scoring instincts. His passing instincts are nothing to write home about either. At least he stayed on his feet most of the night and banished the drama.
The crowds are feeling thinner. The atmosphere is suffering as a result.
Zavarise was not a factor in the attack while in there. Stinson replaced him and threw himself around and at least made some noise.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A chore, a bore and unable to score - TFC 0 Seattle 1

The chore aspect.
The sun was shining this afternoon. The weather was pleasant, everything we desire in a June day. I was wishing that this was a Saturday without Toronto FC. A night at home, chips, dips and beverages on the deck. The setting sun and then the stars for a canopy. This last Saturday before summer solstice seemed a night for kicking back and stretching out. The entertainment value of attending a TFC game has been shrinking as the spring has gone on. The road performances have been more heartening than the home games. I dragged myself to the game. I live an hour+ out of town, so it is an effort on a night such as this, but I was there.

The bore aspect.
Coach Winter's tactics. He has some talent on the squad and they show signs of knitting together. Yet he sticks with 4-3-3 no matter what team or midfield he faces. I have been craving some flexibility, but he shows it at the worst time. 2nd half tonight and the Sounders were down to ten men and it sure seemed to me that TFC went to a 4-2-4 formation, Plata, Soolsma, Santos and Martina across the field. Trouble is that too much of the time the ball was at the feet of the back four. Seattle seemed to be content with this status way too much. Yourasskowsky had some exploratory ventures, but he never truly scared Seattle. Oscar Cordon just does not look ready for first team duty to my eyes and I felt he had very little impact. He did have a crack at the ball from distance(I think it had come out to him as a clearance from a corner)and had a deep run with the ball that ended as he held it too long. I give the back four credit for trying to launch some interesting attacks, but when you give up the midfield you end up with a front and a back that have limited connection to each other.

The unable to score aspect.
See above. See Alan Gordon missing from both starting 11 and the bench. See Toronto FC history. See the "watching this team has become a chore" section. See Canada vs Guadalope as a template. See the crying need for a designated player or two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another road battle - New England 0 Toronto 0

Toronto FC showed up in New England and played with some of the fire that was on display late Saturday night in Los Angeles. Not enough fire to score against the Revolution, but I give them credit for some ignition.
There seemed to be signs of cohesion from Toronto. Players seemed to know each other that much more. Passes were completed and plays were made. No finish in the box, but there were positive signs.
The defending was strong too, perhaps the strongest it has been on the road this year. Frei played a superb game, but the back four of Eckersley, Henry, Harden and Borman were his equal. Borman held his own as New England winger Nyassi came at him again and again. Harden and Henry were steady and cool, shutting down the strikers and Shalrie Joseph too.
Now New England has been struggling of late, so I am not declaring anyone in red as world-beaters tonight. A good solid road point is what it was. To get back to back draws on the road has already exceeded my expectation for the month of June.
I am not sure about the two yellows picked up quickly by Zavarise... nor am I convinced that Maicon Santos coming off for Oscar Cordon was a strong move ... I think that Nathan Sturgis has played well enough to hold his starter spot and JDG can sit on the bench and reflect on his Gold Cup glory...Alan Gordon seemed to run out of gas in the second half - which is what you expect after his long injury spell ...
Seattle on Saturday awaits, it would be nice if this road energy shows up amplified at home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Alan Gordon shines in the LA night - LA 2 TFC 2

A different night, but the tune stays the same

I will admit it freely, I was getting tired of hearing about how the injury to Alan Gordon was affecting TFC. It felt like a feeble excuse. I thought he had been a very good player for Toronto, but rather than lament his loss we should be expecting others to raise their game. He was a smart acquisition, but he was not the answer to TFC's scoring woes.
Well, after last night when Alan Gordon scored twice, I have to eat my words. Gordon was the difference and his last second goal made the tie feel like a victory.
It was a game that started badly, LA scored in the second minute and how many times have Toronto crumbled after the poor start?(DC United and Philly spring to mind, to answer my own question).
I always hesitate to dwell on tactics when I have watched the game on tv. You just don't see what you need to see. The runs off the ball, who is tracking back, why the pass went astray and a thousand other things are missed as the camera zeroes in on the ball. Yet I felt that there was a tactical shift. TFC did not seem to spend the night with the ball at the feet of the central defenders stuck in their own half. Henry and Harden were the central pairing and I thought they held up well. Henry may wish that he had caught more of the ball on his attempted clearance seconds before the Angel goal, but he was part of a larger crisis at the time. Borman and Eckersley both played strong games, with Borman making the diagonal cross that resulted in Gordon's first goal.
The injury list grew. Peterson and Tchani could be serious and longer term. I think that Beckham gets away with far too much (eg. the tackle that put out Tchani). Does he have a clause in his contract that says he owns the refs? He seems to make a rash tackle, pick up a deserved yellow and then never settles down. He throws himself about as if he is sure the second yellow cannot be produced.
I thought that Nathan Sturgis continues to look useful and energetic, both on the attack and defending. Mark that down as reason number 78 why DeGuzman is done. JDG is away at the Gold Cup, trying to figure out how to break down 10 man Guadeloupe.

It is too bad that these spirited games have been on the road, but then again a tie on the road can raise your spirit and a tie at home can fall flat. Next game is on the road in New England. It would be nice if some of the sheer joy from the LA game's final seconds carries over to the next game.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

TFC still playing as strangers -Toronto 0 KC 0

I will start off with a collection of positives. This is an effort on my part. I arrived at the stadium feeling grumpy. I stayed grumpy throughout the game and left the place still feeling grumpy. The pounding Philly bestowed upon Toronto is a burden that fans do not shake off easily. I went to BMO Field without my joy, it was a mission to find some rays of hope. I have to give credit to TFC for going from allowing 6 goals to keeping a clean sheet in a week. Yet the talent level and the team cohesion are still blocking those rays of hope. I don't feel that the team had . Perhaps they can claim that they stopped the sinking, but when you are already under water (the TFC record is now 2 wins, 5 losses and 7 ties) holding your position does not seem

Positive 1 -Having Nana Attakora back on the field in Toronto was a welcome sight. He was competent throughout and seemed to grow more confident on the ball as the game wore on. Nothing spectacular, but the back four looked strong and the ball seemed to come out of the back without the easy give-aways that the Philadelphia Union feasted upon last weekend. The Attakora injury at the end of the game seemed to be on the serious side, but it could have been a conditioning question since his level of play has been close to zero

Positive 2 - Stefan Frei was back to his usual high standard of play. It was probably what everyone expected, but it was good to see.

Positive 3 - Eckersley continues to be a strong contributor at right back. Always an excellent individual effort, but there still seems to be a lack of "gel" when it comes to ball control and passing with Tchani and Martina down the right side of the field.

Now onto the questionable aspects of tonight's game. Why does Plata seem so isolated up front? The strategy seems to be to throw longballs in his vicinity as if he were the world's smallest target man. I am not a fan (yet) of the 4-3-3 formation and the isolation of the wingers would be one of the largest reasons. Martina did not fare much better in the first half.

Tony Tchani as the Man of the Match? I suppose that it was tough to select someone from a nil - nil game, but Tchani was a late starter in my books. His second half was much improved over the first. He developed some moves on the ball. His passes were finding Martina and later Soolsma out on the wing and Tchani did turn into the centre of the pitch and feed some through balls. Tchani and Yourasskowsky both had moments in the second half were they displayed a deft touch on the ball and were able to fool defenders with minimal, but deliberate ball movement. However this is a step or two below actually terrifying defenses with marauding, penetrating runs.
Nathan Sturgis and Yourasskowsky were both on the verge of moving into the good news category. Sturgis seemed to draw back into the defending role more in the second half

So what is ahead? Next weekend it's a road game in LA against the Galaxy, followed by a Wednesday game in New England. That seems like a cross continent jaunt designed to kick a team when it is down. Later in June we see Seattle visit BMO, then TFC isoff to Utah to play Real Salt Lake and then home again to host the Whitecaps. I would be thrilled with a point on the road in June, but it is a longshot. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Making mistakes by the lake at new high in goals against- Toronto 2 Philly 6

I guess that an event such as Philadelphia Union coming to Toronto in their second year and scoring a record number of goals against TFC was not a complete shock today. The question that was bouncing around my head on the way home today was a simple one, will TFC get worse before they get better? If you judge the TFC future by the post-game conference with Coach Winter saying these are not my players, my players will start arriving throughout June, you have to lean towards getting worse before it gets better.

There was little new on display for the Toronto FC fan at BMO Field today, just the bad things that we have come to expect arrived in much heavier doses and in surprising combinations. Sloppy defending and poor marking were combined with a new element, the off day of Stefan Frei. The usual inability to move the ball forward through the middle of the field was combined with a swarming Philly team that knew how to press and wait for the inevitable bad passes from the defenders. At least that was the first half tactic for Philly, the second half it was just swoop in on the rare counter-attack and have all the freedom and space you needed to score.
I know I am going to sound like a broken record - I just don't think that the TFC with Dichio, Brennan, Tyrone Marshall and Adrian Serioux on the field (just sampling from the year gone by) would have folded like a cheap suit as we saw today.

Coach Winter gets credit for taking JDG off for the second half, it was a brilliant, overdue move. JDG has been sold to Toronto fans as a skilled holding midfielder. I think the only "holding" I saw was the Philly players holding each other after scoring. I think that JDG has to go, no offense, no defense and no leadership.

I have some patience and understanding for Winter and Mariner. They took over TFC in the MLS off-season, which is the on season for many of the leagues where you would be looking for talent around the globe. So the internationals that TFC have are loans, such as Eckersley and Stevanovic and players who were without a club such as Martina, Soolsma and Yourasskowsky. In other words, if they found some gems amongst the slim pickings, give them some credit for bucking the odds.
The month of June will be interesting because there has to be some players coming out of contract that would be of interest to TFC. Winter was talking about those players in the post game conference today.
Player acquisition will involve some complicated timing. I am not sure about the dates concerning trades within the MLS, but it sure seems that TFC is looking beyond trades. As I understand it, the MLS player agreement says that if you are on a roster on July 1 you will be paid for the year. So if you are going to release a player you would do it in June. I think that players who arrive after July 1 get to count as only half season players for salary cap purposes. It would be funny if the Toronto team that plays Vancouver in late June gets an overhaul before playing Vancouver on July 2nd.
I remain unsold on Winter's 4-3-3 philosophy. I am willing to wait for changes in player talent as Winter should not be judged on a work in progress. I think he has to look at the spirit on the team, the cheap suit folding feeling is not the foundation for success no matter who you plan to bring in.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Point earned in Colorado - Rapids 0 TFC 0

Toronto displayed some teamwork and effort tonight in fighting for a tie on the road.

None of the regular midfielders, JDG, Tchani and Peterson were available tonight, JDG on yellow card accumulation and the others with injuries. It should not be a total surprise to long time Toronto observers that there seemed to be little drop-off by playing Sturgis, Yourasskowsky and Martina instead.

Problems still abound with finish and attack. Toronto's attack seems to be the result of solo effort too often. If there is any passing or trying to set-up another it always breaks down. I suppose they are still strangers to a large extent (or too many lack the killer instinct in the box).
Richard Eckersley and Dicoy Williams were the defensive standouts. The contributions of Frei continue to be the foundation of success. Gargan and Cann had solid contributions, although they made you held your breath a couple of times.
This was the first point taken in Colorado since the game that Chad scored a great goal in 08. Ah memories.
Hopefully this result will be a springboard for the game against Vancouver on Wednesday. See you there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Still sick Toronto 2 Chicago 2

Some nights you wonder about yourself. It was cool and rainy Saturday night and I have been fighting flu or a cold. I should have stayed in bed.

So the fact that TFC blew a 2 goal lead makes it a little personal. It was too easy to walk away from the stadium thinking that it all went south and the attendance effort should have been saved for a sunny day.

I don't connect losing the lead with the back four and Frei. I think Toronto loses steam in the midfield, yet Winter is always tinkering with the strikers. JDG, Tchani and Peterson have to attack. If for defensive purposes you want JDG to hover just in front of the back four, then the onus on the other two midfielders should ramp up.

Still sick.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Too tired and sick to blog in a timely manner - Dallas 1 Toronto 0

I came away from Wed night's fizzle of a game in Dallas more concerned and more convinced that this stage of TFC 2011 had better end soon. The soccer saying goes that you build a team from the back and allowing only one goal on the road is an indication that the keeper and back four can do the job. That the single Dallas goal was from a penalty kick on a phantom foul, further supports my view. I am not saying that there was no foul on the play (Coach DeKlerk felt it was worthy of enough complaint that he was tossed from the sidelines and he was not depending on tv cameras). I also considered it odd that the ref who awarded a penalty kick on what seemed to be a case of a Dallas player falling in the box, twice in the second half gave out yellows for diving in the box. Was he trying to compensate?
Still, adequate Toronto keeping and defending combined with inadequate reffing could not conceal the fact that TFC has an inadequate attack. The question keeps popping into my head, what are we seeing on the screen that the coaching staff don't already know? I suspect that they are way ahead of us, largely because they have input into the road ahead.
Toronto had nothing but fizzle,pop and squeak in the attacking third last night. Winter knows this, his starters Plata, Stevanovic and Soolsma gave way to his subs Martina, Santos and Yourasskowsky and the results were consistently weak. Jacob Peterson, Tony Tchani and JDG were the midfielders all night and their offensive contributions were weak, weaker and weakest.
The home game Saturday against Chicago will see these same names in the line-up and no matter how you shuffle them. Next month the Gold Cup will have an impact on the roster, but I don't think that a scoring talent is waiting in the wings...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Adding sparkle to Saturday night Toronto 2 Houston 1

The next morning’s reflection blog…

I write this on the Sunday morning after a pleasant Saturday evening at BMO Field. I am finding that my thoughts and observations of the game are not coming to me in a smooth narrative flow, but I am developing an understanding for this (replace “understanding” with “hare-brained theory designed to cover for my flaws”).
After all the season, so far, has not had much of a narrative flow. This new TFC with new leadership has been a stop and start, good things and bad things, sort of a jumble of impressions process. Positions shift, Coach Winter rotates players around, only Stephan Frei has been a constant. So I am willing to allow my blogging to be a jumble too. Every blog post should start with Frei = constant, solid foundation of this gelling/frustrating TFC 2011. It is not exactly snappy writing, but it is accurate. Of course with the Winter style of everyone has a green light to play the ball back to the keeper, Frei has to be the foundation. From Section 220 there is plenty of muttering that it is only a matter of time before a team with an effective press and a lucky guess will force a goal out of the steady stream of Toronto passbacks. Enough muttering for now, I did say it was a pleasant evening. Victory #2 of the year had to be more than just Frei…

Toronto began the game with a lively look. Playing Eckersley and Yourassowsky wide at the back and Plata wide in a forward role provided some sparkle. It also stretched Houston and gave Toronto some opportunities for the central players. The best example was JDG’s shot at net in the early going that tested the Dynamo keeper. It was DeGuzman’s best chance of the night (season?) and had it not been for a great fingertip save he would have had his long awaited first Toronto goal. JDG had some energetic moments in the game as did Tony Tchani. They looked slightly more coherent than they did against Edmonton, but they still are more potential than power.

My puzzled state at not seeing Martina in the starting line-up (or subs bench) gave way to joy at the way that Plata has become the energy source for TFC. The first goal was from the penalty spot. Soolsma drew the foul, but Plata took the shot. At first, from the upper deck of the west stand, it looked too steep and seemed to be heading over the bar. It was wonderful to see the netting bulge at the top…

The second goal was a nice low shot across the keeper from Maicon Santos, sent into the clear by a pass from Plata. The fact that Houston was able to score late in the game, that the defending looked shaky in the late going and that Frei saved the win with a few solid saves indicates that this team has a distance to go before the adjustments come down to minimum tweaks. The home record now stands at 2 wins, 1 loss and 3 draws.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TFC 1 Edmonton 0 - Efficient is not always impressive

So what did we learn last night? TFC is a level above Edmonton. That does not seem to be much of an accomplishment, but we will take what we can get this time of the season.
You had to wonder about the potency of the Toronto attack. If TFC can only score once at home versus Edmonton, it makes you wonder how many times we are going to see them score against MLS opposition.
I was surprised at how many first team players were in the starting line up. Really only Plata could be considered a player of sub quality who got the start.
I was not impressed with Tchani and DeGuzman's play. Toronto has a hole in the middle of their team and going forward always seems to be from the wings as a result. Plata and Peterson were ok, but without Tchani and JDG able to go forward and penetrate too many attacks just fizzled.
Saturday night against Houston will be interesting. Can TFC move their game up a dozen levels in a matter of days?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A lesson from Saturday night, Sounders 3 TFC 0

Class, find your seats and start on your essay assignment here on the front board. The gap of quality between Edmonton and Toronto (as demonstrated by Toronto's 3-0 victory the other night) is equal to the gap of quality between Toronto and Seattle (as demonstrated by Seattle's 3-0 victory last night). Discuss.

That was a night to forget, except that it is an indication of how far Toronto has to go in their climb to respectability. To say that Toronto lost the battle for the midfield at Qwest Field would be the understatement of the season. Winter kept on trying new players and combinations, but nothing worked. He even went with 3 defenders at the back to try and gamble for some impact in the midfield and nothing much came of it. There might be multitudes that argue that JDG will never be the impact player that Toronto needs, but I think that last night underlines that JDG without Tchani playing alongside is a lost cause in 2011. Maicon Santos in the midfield attacker role is also a non-event.
Alen Stevanovic contributed the only bright spot in the first half, the through pass that set up Martina's break and shot wide. Stevanovic was otherwise ineffective as a winger, maybe he needs to try a game at the attacking midfielder spot?
It is always so hard to determine positional play off the ball from tv, but I thought I detected Martina playing way back in his own half to lend help to Dan Gargan. Something is wrong with this picture.
Dicoy Williams continues to make his case for a starter's role.
Matt Gold made his MLS debut.
Toronto stayed in the game, despite the Seattle lead. Martina's late chance on a pass from Peterson was tiny consolation, but consolation was welcomed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Toronto FC starts their Canadian adventure in Edmonton - Edmonton 0 TFC 3

It was a night of firsts. Edmonton's first home game. Toronto FC's first game in Edmonton. The first time in 2011 that I listened to Gerry Dobson (he was ok).

As the night wore on you started to feel sorry for Edmonton. They played an attractive style of football, have mainly Canadian players and did not seem to sag when they went down to ten men midway through the first half.

Toronto started a surprisingly strong 11. Winter named Frei,Williams,Harden, Borman,Tchani,Santos and Gordon- all starters recently. The starters who were more drawn from the bench were Cordon,Plata,Yourassowsky and Eckersley. Even though much of the squad are starting to become familiar to the TFC fan, it is easy to forget they are still mostly players new to each other. There are signs of cohesion breaking through the awkwardness. Toronto started well and had most of the early possesion. Although Edmonton had some attacking quality, they
had sections where they already looked like they were playing with ten men and then it came true- Red Card to Edm and the game shifted for good.
Plata, who had looked a little lost out on the wing, found his way into the middle and fed a ball through to Maicon Santos who scored goal 1.
Maicon Santos almost scored again, heading a ball onto the bar and Gordon tried for the bicycle kick on the rebound and only got a yellow card for his efforts.
The second half began with Dan Gargan coming into the back four, replacing Eckersley. Eckersley looked solid, moved well with the ball in the first half. I expect he will see some playing time with Martina, so I would not be too concerned that Eckersley and Plata played like the strangers that they still are.
The second half was Plata's time to shine.
It did not take long for Plata to play a ball into the box to Alan Gordon, it fell to Cordon who should have buried it, but it fell to Alan Gordon to score the second TFC goal.
Plata showed some dazzling flashes of ball control and pinpoint passing. Maicon Santos looked a little disconnected at times.Amazing that he scored two goals on what was an off night. The second was just a gift from Edmonton's keeper.
Down to ten men and three goals behind, Edmonton just struggled through.
A good result and a solid performance, we will see how rested the team looks in Seattle. Clearly Coach Winter is trying to find the balance in using the squad to get through a busy stretch of the season.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tiny signs and baby steps - TFC 1 Columbus 1

There were signs of strength and improvement today at BMO Field. Toronto FC had a sturdy first half. Perhaps sturdy is too strong a description, let's say that sturdy is what they are building towards. Dan Gargan got the job done, but he had his moments. It was sturdy compared to the floundering we had witnessed the Saturday before. Columbus Crew looked much less potent than DC had and the Toronto defenders held together. The chances of another striker dancing in front of the supporter corner seemed remote. I had complained about a lack of grit and spine from TFC last week. I was pleased to see a mini scuffle in front of the Columbus bench when the Toronto players felt that Borman had been mistreated.
Funny that it all fell apart once TFC scored. The ref gave a second yellow card to Tchani for celebrating? I missed it myself due to my own celebrating. It seemed a very ticky-tacky call, and it took the wind out of Toronto's sails. Which was a shame because we had been waiting for that wind to blow since the Portland game

I thought that the pairing of DeGuzman and Tchani was showing signs of growth. Defensively it looked that JDG had been given the assignment of covering Columbus striker Gavin and he was effective. Yet the fans will always want more from JDG than good coverage and he provided a moment of offensive touch. The Tchani goal was the result of an accurate pass from DeGuzman. I am still worried that having both Gordon and Santos in the centre of the pitch is a waste of time, but it is great if Tchani and JDG can provide attacking spark until and it is
Dicoy Williams was a starter and he looked solid throughout the afternoon. Good on the ball, strong presence when shadowing their striker, he seems to have won the job in my eyes.
With TFC down to ten men, Winter’s shifting of players followed a pattern of taking out forwards and replacing with reinforcements in a midfield/winger role. (Martina, Gordon and Santos out, Yourasskowsky, Eckersley and Plata in). Other than the brief lapse which lead to the Columbus goal, the defending plan worked.
Today was the fourth home game of April and all Toronto has to show for it is three points. I suppose it could have been worse.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Recipe for Sunday - steamed Saturday night, still steamed the next day Toronto FC 0 DC United 3

I held off writing my blog on Saturday night’s game until Sunday morning. I thought that I needed time to cool off.   I think we can file that idea as yet another strategy that isn’t working regarding Toronto FC and the fans. I knew there were going to be bad nights going into “Season V – the rebuild”, but I think something snapped last night. A fan to team bond is in doubt and danger.

From the beginning of Toronto FC there seemed to be an attitude, quickly forged, that  I saw totally abandoned last night. Players such as Jim Brennan, Danny Dichio and, starting second year, Tyrone Marshall all had a bit of fire in their belly and attitude to spare. Add Adrian Serioux to that list. I am totally ticked that Charlie Davies (the DC United striker #9) was able to taunt and dance right in front of the supporter section after his goal and no Toronto player responded.  This is Charlies’ house now? Gosh and golly, I am convinced that Jim Brennan would have invented some new swear words on the spot, got into the DC United celebration scrum and earned himself a yellow just to make a statement. Toronto lacks statement makers. If you can’t make a statement in front of your own net, where are you going to find the inspiration to make a statement down the other end?

Here’s my statement: Score more goals, prevent more goals and care, really care. Last night was a cold and rainy one and you, the fan dressed for a session on a fishing trawler,  went to the game feeling special. You knew that the casual fans would not be out. You knew you were making a statement, that the red and grey faithful TFC fan will brave the elements and fly the flag. The reward for our dedication was to watch Charlie Davies dance and laugh at us. Something is truly and deeply wrong with that. Davies may turn out to be the top goal scorer in MLS this year, he has that kind of talent, but no opposing player should be that comfortable in Toronto. Ever, ever, ever.

Alen Stevanovic is indicating to me that he has been loaned to Toronto because he is a fragile headcase. Every game he’s in he suffers a terrible injury and hobbles off. Then the next game he starts and is fresh as a daisy. Last night he spent the last 15 (20?) walking around injured on the field. He essentially took Toronto down to 9 players as Harden had been red carded. Coach Winter had already made his 3 substitutions and therefore Stevanovic walked around. Maybe I am bitter and twisted, but I had an angry reaction. I suggested that since he was borderline injured, hurting but still walking, a fellow Toronto player should foul him just to push him in “agony” off the field. I don’t believe he was seriously injured. MLS is a physical league Stevanovic. Show us you are not here for the health care.

I refuse to complain about Jacob Peterson. Sure, he lost Chris Pontius of DC United and was the goat on the first goal. Yet the fact of the matter is that Winter wants a lot of offensive creation and direction from his two backs and Peterson can supply it. He may not be the long term solution at that position, but he deserves another shot at it. I think Winter's triangle midfield makes Peterson the odd man out of the midfield. If Peterson can provide depth and support for forward, midfield and right back positions, you should be happy with versatility.

I have observed over the years youth soccer coaches who have no tactical sense whatsoever and simply pound away at positional play. The result is often a team of pylons, hard to find open space against when you attack them, but easy to thwart when they attack you. I am not happy that Toronto is showing signs of this robotic pylon play. In the first half Borman passed or attempted to pass to Stevanovic, his forward directly ahead of him on the wing, or passed it back to his fellow defenders. You never see a swirl or a shift or much work from the attacking players to get into space to create options for the left back. When Borman had the ball, Santos and Cordon (the two attacking options to the right from Borman’s point of view) did not seem to exist.  Surprise and overlap, you zig and I will zag does not seem to be in our bag of tricks. Heck, what bag of tricks?  Instead we were treated to an entire half of watching the back four pointlessly pass the ball amongst themselves or Stevanovic getting the ball and going nowhere with it.  It was “The Attack of the Pylons” no surprises and easy to contain.
TFC did show some spark and comeback intent once Ty Harden was sent off, but I was just beyond annoyed that energy and urgency arrived an hour too late. Javier Martina supplied his usual high standard of play, but it takes a team.

Questions that burn….(but only because right now, everything burns)

How many changes to the starting 11 will be made for the Columbus game?

When the transfer window opens again in July, how much do want to bet that Toronto will sign both an attacking midfielder and a striker? They might not be both designated players, but attacking down the wings works best when your opposition is terrified of who you are playing down the middle. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bright signs in the night - TFC 0 LA Galaxy 0

I am one to complain that you can't take the full measure of a game from television coverage. Last Saturday's game in San Jose would be my number 1 example of that. BMO Field was guilty of obscuring a live game, last night was the first night game featuring the new advertising screens alongside the field and someone had better look at the brightness settings. Sometimes thrown ins looked more like vintage U2 videos than soccer games. I have been convinced for months that TFC is going to splash out for a big name to add to the roster, too bad it turned out to be Bono.
It was an entertaining game, both teams were in search of a style and that was a good thing for the home side. LA should be way ahead in the department of knowing each other, although two new strikers (Angel and Barrett) might be the biggest excuse. It was funny to see the post-game reports of Beckham complaining about the ref. Was I the only one that found the LA approach ultra-cynical? They seem to feel that they can drag anyone down, anywhere they choose and then flash the celebrity excuse. Learn to take it in stride guys, sometimes you take the foul and the card to save the greater cause. I did not see a LA player ever raise their hand to the ref/opponent after a foul. You know that universal soccer signal, I fouled for tactical reasons/meant no physical harm? Hell, after Magee blatantly fouled Stevanovic and then Barrett got his best shot at the Toronto net as a result, I was yelling for a Toronto player to be cynical and blatantly foul the Chad. Test the ref I say. LA looked like a team of whiners.
Toronto looked shaky at the start but found some style and looked more and more coherent as the game wore on. I think JDG had one of his better games in a Toronto uniform tonight. The pairing with Tony Tchani seems to be a promising one. Toronto needs a more potent midfielder at the peak of the triangle than Jacob Peterson. Still JDG and Tchani covered a lot of ground and broke up a lot of attacks. Beckham was able to go over them regularly with his passing, but the pair will have more success against a less potent attack.

Beckham was a show all on his own. He runs that team, although he might have stepped up more to that role with Landon Donovan out with an injury.Chad did not score, but he came very close....he is still working hard and I am cheering for him to start scoring. Just not in Toronto.
Toronto's forward trio were interesting. Some fans thought playing Stevanovic down the left in San Jose isolated Martina too much. Stevanovic proved last night that he can ignore Martina from a central position too! He does tend to run himself into positions where he has no support or outlet. Zavarise played well on the left, although his best play was in the first half where he crossed over to Stevanovic's right and was a fed a through ball (that was then dropped back to Martina). The potential seems to be there.

Questions to ponder
Maicon Santos was ill, but I did not hear the reason that Alan Gordon was out. Does he have an injury?

Why is Toronto FC using their International spots for players clearly in a substitute role ? eg Williams and Soolsma.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

San Jose 1 Toronto 1 - improved road performance

I am usually hesitant to comment from a televised match and tonight that hesitation is stronger. The camera locations and angles at Buck Shaw stadium must be the worst in MLS. Tight close-ups and meaningless wide shots, followed by tight, meaningless close-ups.

Toronto tied San Jose Earthquakes on the road and that is reason for cheer. Maybe not as loud a cheer as when DeRo would tear up his old club, but you take road points when you can.

More in the morning, maybe

Questions that linger

Nana Attakora is not playing well, but Winter has substituted him twice in the last two games and that can't be a morale booster. Is Attakora going to respond with positive play or is he headed to the bench?

Peterson at right back, actually seemed to work. Who saw that coming?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

TFC 1 Chivas 1 - the parts are on the floor, did anyone see the instruction manual?

The Hollywood version of today’s game would have had that rag-tag bunch, the guys who had just met, suddenly reach new heights and triumph together. Music rises, credits roll and all that jazz.
Reality at BMO Field was different. TFC looked like a jittery team. They looked like it was the day after something big had happened. It could have been the opposite of the bounce you expect from a team that has just had an unpopular coach fired. It has often been observed that DeRo was a selfish captain, but he was captain nonetheless. Chivas scoring so early just highlighted the confused state TFC seemed to be in. It might have been their only true scoring opportunity of the day. Chivas fired some testing long shots at Frei in the second half, but Frei was up to the test.

You would cover most of the starters and subs if you combined the categories of “new this year” and ‘recovering from injury”. The only players not covered would be Cann, Frei, Harden, Santos and Peterson in the first half. There are moments when it feels that we are watching a sociology experiment, 11 strangers on a green field are introduced to a soccer ball.

Javier Martina continues to provide most of TFC’s offensive excitement. It also seems that opposing defenses are happy to have two players cover him in some situations, notably when Frei has the ball and is looking long.

Both of the new guys acquired in the trade played the full game. Danleigh Borman looked like klutzy trouble in the first half for a while. Passes were sprayed around and his touch seemed unsure. He found a better balance in the second half and a few times he was supplying long balls to the edge of the box or switching the attack by finding Martina out wide.
Tony Tchani looked impressive in the midfield. He is a physical player and covers a lot of ground. If he and JDG can become a smooth partnership, the verdict on the DeRo trade could swing TFC’s way.
Questions that linger

Who can they beat? The Toronto home schedule gets tougher from here on. You could argue that Chivas USA is the cellar dweller of the MLS and Toronto just could not put them away. The next opponents visiting Toronto will be the Galaxy, DC United and Columbus Crew(April), then Houston, Chicago and Philly(May). It will be interesting which, if any, of those teams come into Toronto with worse records than TFC during this stretch.

Is Toronto going to take a break from trades and signings and work with what they have or will the shaking of the roster continue? I have that gut feeling that the trading of DeRo is linked with the acquisition of a designated player, but I guess that such a signing may wait until July. Have you noticed that all of my predictions involve July.

New Feature Still Kicking’s BMO Field intake tally and gourmet review – 1 Nathan’s hotdog and a shared bottle of iced tea. Verdict- tea was fine, I thought that New York style hotdogs should have a bit of “snap” to the weiner. It was ok, but I will be happy to try something else next game.