Sunday, May 27, 2012

Victory at last, but skies stay stormy TFC 1 Philly Union 0

I wonder if when you have fallen into a hole that the first stage of your rescue just reminds you how far down you are or can the euphoria of moving up be enough to forget the depths? TFC is still down, close to the bottom of a hole, but Saturday saw the first sign of rescue. The rope up may be in their hands, yet doubts remain about the strength of the rescued, the strategy of the rescuers and the quality of the rope.

It was great to see Toronto score. I celebrated the victory and felt the sigh of relief flow from the crowd. Still, I am left thinking what a mess. TFC managed to score one goal against a team that had little going for it. Philly had a screaming shot hit the crossbar in the second half that would have turned the game had it gone in. Philly was playing their third string goalkeeper, Chris Konopka, thanks to a rash of injuries. He almost held them off as Toronto scored in the 88th minute.  The June schedule ahead offers an international break followed by away games at KC, Houston and Montreal, home games against New England and New York. Based on this struggle against Philadelphia Union, I don’t see many points in June. Away to Montreal and home to New England will be the best chances. TFC ends May with three points in the standings. It is sad to speculate where they will be a month from now.

What else has changed? TFC still has a plan of attack that results in Plata with the ball at his feet, wide with no passing options and a wall of defenders to beat. In the first half we saw it over and over and over again. I might spend all of the Winter years squawking about the 4-3-3, but Plata solo is not producing much beyond pain. It seems that with young Plata, less would be more. I think he needs to be used as a late game substitute more often. I suspect that the scouting report for most MLS teams tells them to wear Plata down physically, his getting knocked around seems to be the defensive scheme used on the Ecuadorian winger team after team.
Frings was solid, but I thought he tired in the second half. Is it possible that he is struggling with his shoulder? In the late going he went forward. It looks ugly when TFC hammers at the door. A better opponent would have exploited the space left open.
Silva’s play in the midfield was of little note. Perhaps it is the defensive nature of his midfield partners or the spread formation of his forward options, but when he has the ball he seems to lack an awareness of where his teammates are.
The best thing to say about deGuzman was that he smothered Freddy Adu for Philly. Oh how sad.  This is what Toronto gets for the 5th highest paid player in MLS. JdG’s ability to have potential shots on target turn into weather balloons has been a steady part of his TFC career.
Eckersley provided a spark and he worked well with Jeremy Hall playing midfield ahead of him. Cann and Henry continue to work as a central pairing, although they seemed to have a game where there was little pressure on them when they had the ball. Was this a shift in TFC tactics or a Philly mistake?

Weeks will go by before the next game at BMO (June 23). I somehow doubt we will see the same roster then.  I know it will take some fancy footwork on a team with three DPs, but the transfer window nears. I am still thinking that Ryan Johnson may be trade bait. He has worked hard and had some bad luck around the net.  We shall see.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

TFC Canadian Champs - getting something right

Despite all the disasters in MLS play in 2012, it was pleasing to see TFC win another Canadian Championship tonight at BMO. Puzzling and pleasing, they seem to follow a game plan and defend their own end better in the Canadian games. The Toronto performance was efficient and their scoring was really taking advantage of Vancouver having to push forward to seek the important goal.
The game had a chippy element to it all night and this boiled over in one stretch that saw a red card for each team. I saw LeToux go in after someone with his foot. I did see deGuz pursuing the ref and surrounded by Whitecaps. Just not sure if he threw an elbow or was set-up by a falling wave.
Too tired, long day, can another victory be possible come Saturday?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whitecaps 1 TFC 1

Just a few points....
What on earth was a  wide-open Hassli doing in front of the net in injury time? He could have ordered a beer and had a tattoo in the time it took the ball to get to him. Sure it was a well taken volley, power and precision all the way. Yet someone should have been in his way.

Johnson's goal for Toronto was a powerful one too. A nice set-up on the TFC goal from deGuzman. I seldom send any praise his way, but JDG was on his game in Vancouver. Toronto played well all night, not negative in their tactics. Too bad they lost the Whitecap they should have been smothering in the final minutes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TFC changes course TFC 2 Impacted 0

TFC showed up last night. I am not going to say it was "Hollywood" to have the team turn around just in time to dominate Montreal. I would have liked this team to have shown itself during the second half down in Mexico and throughout the eight lost MLS games in 2012, but you embrace turnarounds even if they are incredibly overdue.
Even before the first goal TFC played differently when attacking. Smaller intricate passing, many more options for the man with the ball as players worked themselves into great anticipatory positions. Perhaps it was a bit of the Clockwork Orange dutch football or it was a combo of effort and a breakthrough in understanding. I think the central pairing of Cann and Henry worked well. The sending off of Eckersley was a puzzle from my opposite corner of the field. I thought he was trying to pull away from a low rugby tackle. That he was walking away while Montreal had been called on the original foul had us guessing that he had said something? The biggest indication that things had changed was the way that TFC went forward in search of the second goal in that first half.
Who knew that Reggie Lambe is such an excellent right back? He must have held the fort back there for close to an hour..
Plata and Johnson worked well together. Johnson scoring the second goal must have felt like vindication of his complaining of late against defensive tactics. Then, of course playing with ten men, the entire second half became an exercise in defensive tactics. Frings, Dunfield and even DeGuzman were always pressuring, in position and shutting down their midfield. Sad that Winter seems to only have a proper midfield after a player has been sent off. Last night gave me some midfield hopes for the future.
I am always pleased to see DeKlerk losing his cool, it is a smart tactic to both squawk at bad calls and have the second in command in danger of being sent off the bench. He wasn't going to make the big decisions anyway and you can always skype him in his office. 21st century coaching.
I was surprised that no cards were issued from the scuffle just before the half. The ref was too often buying whatever Montreal was selling. It was pathetic late in the game to see the huge Montreal keeper Ricketts act like he had been clobbered from minimal contact.
Now a week and a half before the visit to DC United and here's hoping that last night's performance was a taste of things to come and not a rare celestial event.