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.