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.