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??