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.