Sunday, March 30, 2014

No fight, all fizzle on a Utah Saturday night - RSL 3 TFC o

I am rarely a fan of nostalgia. When it comes to TFC surrendering in a road game, this is the trip down memory lane one hates to take. This is the road show that we fans have had to tolerate for far too long. TFC in Utah last night was pretty much the team in progress that was on display in the preseason games. Disjointed and ugly.

Some concerns.

Gilberto makes too much money, has his face on too many posters for him to turn out to be a sulking prima donna with a delicacy that invites pain. He runs a terrible risk of having Toronto fans take a strong dislike to this attitude and playing style.
When Defoe left the game in the second half, it should have been Gilberto time. Instead he was easily marked and muscled out of the game. Perhaps there is a fitness level still to be obtained and perhaps there was an injury inflicted upon him, but suck it up. Gilberto looked like a boy who wanted ref Bart Toledo to protect him and make him feel better. He needs become more aware of MLS history and the hostility we have come to expect from some MLS refs when they are in full Toledo mode.

Somebody had better hire a more muscular translator too. The Gilberto word for the day is "urgency". You are taking up a designated player spot and an international spot. Stop acting as if you have another ten games to score your first goal, try ten minutes.
After last night's game, if I were in Coach Nelsen's shoes, I would be benching Gilberto for Columbus.  I would play 4-5-1,  giving Bekker and Osorio a chance to work with Bradley in the heart of the pitch and have Jackson and Rey on the wings. 
Jeremy Hall looked lost in Utah. Neither firm in the tackle nor contributing on the ball.
The 2014 version of DeRo is appearing to be a case of less will be enough. He does not seem to have the dominance he once had.

It was hard to give a full evalution of newest signing Nakajima-Farran. He seemed to make a small contribution, but he was on the field when RSL had taken their foot off the gas.

Columbus on the road is the next game. I am hoping for a reversal of last night's fight vs fizzle balance.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Giving us a victory where collapses used to be standard fare TFC 1 - DC United 0

Home game #1 in this "bloody big deal season" of 2014. It was a pleasure to walk into the stadium and see the pitch a healthy shade of green. The winter has dragged and dragged and the darkest season needs a good kick from our football team to start the motion towards spring. It was mentioned somewhere that the heaters have been on at the stadium for the past month. From the warm up you could tell that conditions underfoot were shaky. The grass seemed mushy, bumpy areas were abundant and it was a tough adjustment for both sides.

Also both sides have had huge off season changes of rosters, so it was not as if the field was throwing off finely tuned machines. TFC had the better of the first half, but seemed to grab their chances out of fast breaks rather than slow build-up. DC United seemed to be in a bad temper. Quick to give the ref grief over everything, they also were bickering amongst themselves.

The goal was both a great effort by Gilberto and a reminder that TFC 2014 has a multitude of talent. After Gilberto had two attempts on net, the defender must have thought he had cleared the danger. However he just fed Defoe who buried it instantly.

Overall the team looked solid. Cesar was steady but never overworked. A fave moment was in the first half when Doniel Henry misjudged a cross and headed it out for a corner. Cesar was not happy and let Henry know it. It revealed an attention to detail and a passion from our Brazilian keeper. A well informed fan reminded me later that the Toronto game was being broadcast in Brazil today.

The back four were strong. I never saw Morrow out of place, Bloom is a worker and the Caldwell/Henry partnership continues to grow.

I would describe the midfield as a mixed bag. Osorio was less connected with Bradley than the week before. Rey was dribbling the ball down the middle of the pitch too often in the first half. He seemed more a winger in the second half, although I can't quite recall any decent crosses from him. Jackson has potential, but seems more selfish than needed. It is nice to have an ego, but he has to be willing to draw and beat defenders and deliver to the big guns on the team. Bradley looked strong. The boggy pitch did not help anyone's passing and Bradley might have been a bit shy on tackling in the mess too.

Defoe and Gilberto played like the strangers that they are. You could see progress as the game wore on and the goal was their baby.  DeRo came on as a sub for Gilberto and he had one break, but other than that looked like he was struggling a little.

Next weekend the schedule brings us a tough game in Utah. Until then.
Graciously given, gratefully received

National Soccer Stadium vs the Double Blue

My opinion about transforming our stadium, the National Soccer Stadium into a two sport stadium is irrational and negative. If it is inevitable, that does not make it any better a decision.

I am convinced that even if Tim Leiweke has the perfect plan, one that preserves 100 aspects of the soccer experience at the stadium and adds another 100 improvements, even if he negotiates with we diehard TFC fans in good faith and ensures that his perfect plan becomes perfect reality, in the end the door is being opened to disaster simply because disaster and decline wear a uniform in this town. The Double Blue.

I have been trying to craft a heart warming story about my life as an Argo fan (1957 to 1992) to
prepare for the stadium change meeting today.
I have always said that the first Argo game I can recall from youth was when the Calgary Stampeders came to town and beat us 55-0. It was love at first sight. I think I was ready to suffer as a TFC fan because my youth was dedicated to the Argos.
I was an Argo fan because of my Dad. My father emigrated to Toronto in 1952. It is in the family dna to support ONE team with all of your heart. Dad was born and raised in wartime England. His soccer roots would reappear every four years when the World Cup was on.  Dad's one team became the Toronto Argos. He bled double blue. He died in 1992. I miss him greatly, yet I am happy that he has been spared watching his Argos fade.

Everything that could be done to squander and downgrade Canadian football in Toronto has been done.
Rotating cheap skate owners

Generations raised by American TV and therefore adopting the NFL as their football league

Decades as second fiddle in a crappy stadium for football

University football crowds in this city  shrunk down to parents and the lost.

It has been sad.

So put your stadium plan aside. The Double Blue will find a way to shrink and lose colour in the wash. The Boatmen moving back to a place by the lake will only make it easier for them to sink.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seattle sees Red, we see Reds like never before - Sounders 1 TFC 2

We could get used to this...

Ok, I take it back. My preview blog post was a case of shading my optimism with the bitter reality of memory. Memories built around a team that has always started their season on the road and has never begun with a victory. Memories of always struggling against Seattle. Yes, memories of Torsten Frings going down injured in Seattle and the optimistic start to 2012 sputtering into disaster after disaster.

Bad things have happened to TFC in Seattle, but yesterday proved that good things can happen too. Great things, those jump out of your seat cheering sort of things. We had friends over, from those barely aware of the sport/team, those who have a deep love for the game and have long supported greater teams than TFC and those who have suffered through TFC love as much as we have. I dare say that everyone left happy and optimistic about TFC 2014, a new state of mind.

So Toronto FC began season 2014 with a win on the road in Seattle. They were magnificent at times, shaky a few other times, but overall the impression was one of establishing connections and room for more growth than usual. I stated my fear before the game that we were about to watch a shiny new coat of paint on a rusty car. The contributions of Osorio, Henry and even minutes at the end from Morgan had me thinking that perhaps the structure under the paint had merit.

Y'know by now that Jermain Defoe scored both goals. You don't need me to tell you he is a lightning fast finisher, the sort of player our team has been without for too, too long. If this is what he can produce in his first week, his first game in red, surrounded by guys he probably does not yet know the names of, wow.

If Defoe created the highlights, Michael Bradley was the minute after minute creator and destroyer. Solid enough on the ball, the pinnacle was his swift, merciless tackling. He was everywhere in the first half. For the first time as a Toronto fan I would actually chuckle when we lost the ball in the midfield. Losing possession used to be the gateway to confusion and fear (and then picking the ball out of the back our net). There is such a Bradley confidence, he wins the ball back with swift tackling and a domination of territory. It looked like a huge territory on tv. I just can't wait to see him on home ground next Saturday.

Julio Cesar was strong. The goal against was on a counter attack and too many players down our left side were adrift. It was not Justin Morrow's finest moment.

I am not sure that Jackson and Rey are TFC's pure wingers that the formation seems to require. I think that DeRo takes on central runs that mess up the new guys. Jackson had a rough first touch that I am willing to blame on the cold turf. Rey seemed to slow down in the box and Seattle would have a wall of defenders come at him. Rey having no support in behind him or out on the flank made him look indecisive. I think that a healthy Gilberto should be encouraged to flank his midfielders, given their tendency to move inside.
So now the countdown to the first game in Toronto begins.

Step 1. Look at weather forecasts and shake your head at schedule maker.

Step 2. Look forward to seeing friends and familiar faces that get banished from your life by winter.

Step 3. Smile

See you Saturday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

TFC 2014 - New season, big dreams, reality reminders

 I am counting the hours until Saturday afternoon arrives and we TFC fans/fools gather around our televisions. I am also marking the calendar until the following Saturday. March 22nd means I climb those slippery steps to Section 220. Yes, the mounds of snow in every direction makes me wonder about field conditions for the home opener, but if it turns into a day of snow soccer I will still be so happy to be back for this brave new season.

 However I am worried that in our rush to embrace the new, somehow the old will be forgotten. I chose this bad memory pic for that reason. It was only two years ago when Torsten Frings went down injured on that Seattle field and the unravelling began. We fans should hope for the best, yet prepare for a slow and careful construction of TFC 2014.

 I think Ryan Nelsen has done a solid job of managing expectations for game 1 in Seattle. He has planted plenty seeds of doubt concerning the health and starting potential for a few players. We will be happy with seeing some rather than all of the new faces. A team of players starting to adjust to one another and a complete absence of stretchers will be an excellent starting point. Goals and points will be a bonus.

ps - Getty Images is now allowing the use of their pics in blogs and social media. This is fantastic for all. I won't have to worry about my feeble photos and you will see pics of quality.

Now bring on Saturday afternoon!