Thursday, May 29, 2014

V Cup, V Cup, we'll give it to thee Cup - TFC 1 MTL 1

The game last night had me wondering just how little TFC management wants the extra games of Champions League on their 2014 schedule.
Joe Bendik was in net. It would not surprise me to see Chris Konopka get the start in Montreal.
The back four was strategic. Play Morgan (rest Morrow- late sub), play Hagglund (rest Bloom), play Caldwell (red card in KC means he can't play MLS game vs Columbus this Saturday) and play Henry in order to rest him Saturday. Orr and Hagglund had success against the Crew earlier this year. I expect to see them playing centrally Saturday, flanked by Morrow and Bloom.

The midfield is a concern. Playing Hall and Orr as your central midfielders sure seems to be giving up on offensive drive. Neither of them will dribble the ball into space much and their passing is often on the shaky side. Lovitz is a promising rookie, but not yet a solid MLS starter. Rey seems to be playing his way out of Toronto. He can't expect to hold onto his international spot on the roster with a total of zero goals. He is a puzzle. He seems to have the skills to create opportunities, but does not seem to create the momentum to turn his chances into shots or crosses.

Up front they went with Gilberto and DeRo. Gilberto deserves a blog post of his own. I am holding off, saving myself for the retrospective. DeRo worked hard and had a chance or two. I felt sorry for him past the 60 minute mark. He needed to sit and make way for fresher legs.

Justin Mapp accomplished Montreal's mission in just seconds. Found some space, weaved and twisted, beat a man, created just enough space to get his shot off and grabbed the Montreal away goal. I would have preferred to see Bendik at least diving in a vain attempt rather than standing frozen. Based on last night's play (and assuming the same TFC line-up, though I suspect that Wiedeman and Richter will find spots) I just don't see TFC scoring in Montreal.

It is funny that Nakajima-Farran tweeted on the day after his trade from TFC to Montreal that maybe he should have hit the post on his penalty kick in Vancouver. At the time I thought it was just a part of the thought process of shifting his loyalty from one team to the other. After seeing TFC look so confused in their finishing against Montreal, maybe he was picking up on TFC's lack of interest in the V Cup this year.

Sure, I will watch the Montreal game on tv. Of course I will be cheering if TFC finds their spark. However if Montreal scores and scores and shuts Toronto down, I will not be surprised.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scrappy win and midfield mess - Toronto FC 2 NYRB 0

It was a game with a TFC pleasing,lightning start and a score settling finish. In between these two peaks was worry, tension, strong defending, missed opportunities and one messy midfield.

The midfield remains under the microscope. Nakajima-Farran is gone but not forgotten. Michael Bradley is with his World Cup USA squad. The new guy from Montreal, Collen Warner has yet to take the field. Bradley Orr provided a brilliant pass to Defoe that create the first goal, but I have a hard time remembering any more offensive production from Orr for the rest of the day
Let's pretend that Warner turns out to be the undiscovered gem of holding midfielders and sits and sweeps and tackles and tidies up and sends our midfield into glorious attack. Without Bradley for the next  4 MLS games and 2 Canadian Championship games, who in the midfield looks poised for glory? Osorio is struggling, Rey is puzzling, Bekker's passing and dribbling never seem to be probing and Jackson has concussion problems. I suspect we face more than a month of muddled, messy midfield.
It was a brighter story up front. Jermaine Defoe's goal was a rocket of a shot. Although I missed the foul that put him to the ground when Bloom tried to send him away later in the second half, it was clear that New York was getting physical with Defoe. I thought his frustration was justified and the playacting of New York was horrible. Luke Moore seemed to be a solid partner for Defoe, I look forward to more of Moore. Gilberto remains scoreless. There are those who say that his skills make him worth supporting and that he will turn it around and start scoring. It is less a personal analysis, rather a hallowed Toronto tradition that mistakes and lakes go together that lead me to say Gilberto is Pablo Vitti returned. Some say we gave up too early on him too.

Joe Bendik was fine, New York Red Bulls never worried him too much. The closest was when somebody collided with Bendik and Wright-Phillips missed the open net. However there still is the problem of Bendik's distribution. Every goal kick is a hard blast. Too many of them became New York possessions within seconds. There needs to be a variety of goal kick lengths and player alignments.
Away to Kansas City is a worry. Home to Montreal should be fun. See you by the lake.

A great day, great company and a great scarf!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

WhiteCaps 2 TFC 1 - tied on aggregate - TFC wins on penalties

     This pic was from the week before. Defoe did not play in Vancouver.

I did not expect this result. Toronto winning in Vancouver after taking the game to penalty kicks?  I felt that if Toronto was unable to pile up an early lead, the Whitecaps would have the home advantage as the game wore on.

However, the late scoring chances seemed to be TFC's. Bendik was a monster in the extra 30 minutes and the WhiteCaps seemed to fade.

Just some jumbled observations.

Luke Moore, playing in his first game for Toronto, looked ok. He was not earth shattering on his own, but I would like to see him paired with Defoe on Saturday to better evaluate him.

Gilberto had two games to score against a 17 year old Canadian keeper. Vancouver has every right to see a bright future for young Marco Carducci. Toronto has every right to think that Gilberto will never score while wearing a TFC uniform and the earlier they end this experiment the better. The Nelsen strategy of playing him until he scores seems to have backfired.

Daniel Lovitz (a second half sub for Kyle Bekker) showed a lot of pace down the wings and was moving the ball into great spaces. He had a shot late in the extra time that forced the Carducci save of the night. Hope they play him on Saturday.
There were times late in the game when you looked at Toronto's players - saw Moore, DeRo, Lovitz, Bradley, Hagglund, Orr, Nakajima-Farran and Osorio- and wondered if they were all on a first name basis yet. Despite that they seemed to be working it out on the fly.

The lapses of Doneil Henry continue to be a worry. It may have been a borderline call, but Henry should not be throwing himself into such challenges when instead he needs to smother.

It was nice to see some playing time for Ashtone Morgan, but he did not play well enough to look like he has won a starting role again.

After watching Montreal back into the finals (Edmonton had them on the ropes) I think the momentum has to be with Toronto. The first leg in Toronto helps, but we can count on strange things happening in Montreal.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

TFC 2 Whitecaps 1 - Much missing from the TFC mix in May

Cool and gloomy, it should have been Toronto scoring weather.

Coach Carl Robinson of the Vancouver Whitecaps must be smiling today. He threw together his youth and his bench players for their game in TO last night. These Robinson irregulars both held TFC to a one goal victory and they scored a goal on the road. Now he has most of his regulars rested for their league game on the weekend and they will have something to play for when they meet Toronto again in the Cup game in Vancouver.

When you consider the Vancouver inexperience, (I read this morning that the Whitecap keeper is 17) TFC's domination of play seemed to be a minimal achievement. It was a cool and windy night but the rain held off and it might have been the best playing conditions so far this year. TFC has had the affliction for years, players move into dangerous positions and then look for somebody else to take the shot. Trouble is that player after player lay the ball off to the next and nobody looks like scoring and the opportunity is lost.

It was Joe Bendik's first start of the season and he played well, came up with some great saves. I felt the goal scored against him was a defensive miscue that left him high and dry.  It was Caldwell, who had been fine until that blooper attempt at clearance resulted in the late Vancouver goal. Caldwell's arrival last year put an end to the run of TFC late game goals allowed. Why is this still a problem? Henry bounced back from the blunders of Saturday and was solid in the back. While thinking about TFC defenders, what has happened with Gale Agbossoumonde? He seems to be amongst the missing, not weak enough to be sent to Wilmington (the farm team) and not strong enough to play a Cup game vs Vancouver?

Issey Nakajima-Farran had a strong on game, not sure why he came off as a late game sub when he had outplayed Rey.  Rey, Bloom and Morrow were all below their usual levels.

Gilberto continues to confound. I think he made contact with Bradley preventing him from scoring in the first half. Toronto's Brazilian million dollar player was unable to score against Vancouver's no-name defenders and teenaged keeper. I am not sure if Designated Player contracts are different, but MLS players lock into a full year contract when they reach July 1st. TFC have three more league games in May, two in June and at least one more cup game. Does Gilberto make it to July in a Toronto uniform if he continues to be scoreless? I suspect that he is more likely traded than cut, perhaps the TFC pipeline to Dallas will be in operation this summer.

Bradley came on strong in the final twenty minutes. Defoe scored the early TFC goal and Bradley scored the late one. Those two goals should have been the bookends to an onslaught. The next Toronto game is the return cup game in Vancouver next Wednesday. I fear that the happiness of Carl Robinson will be displayed on my tv screen that night. Until then....

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Perpetual patience testing underway TFC 1 Revolts 2

Pre-game infestation

"Why can't we be great?" - Tim Leiweke January 2014

TFC need a sports psychologist, from the biggest honcho to the ball retrievers.

They need an intervention.

They need a solid kick in the pants.

Do they not understand that this team has suffered for years under a cloud of despair? That 2014 was the time when a long standing forecast of bad mojo rising was to be overturned? That the wheel of  TFC karma (will have to check to see if karma has a wheel) was to be sent in a new direction and those fans who have cared and suffered were to be rewarded with joy and jubilation? Instead we are treated to an afternoon of same old, same old, same old and same old.

I am defrosting my extremities, but parts of me have been steaming for hours now. This is what the team looks like after a two week rest and a return from injury of a flotilla of players? Just not good enough. Weak passing, no coordination in the midfield and a woefully manhandled pair of strikers.

We just sat through cold, miserable rain and plagues of insects to watch TFC insipid do it again.
TFC is supposed to be the multi-million overspending team. We know that the New England is the no-name squad,  burdened with the cheapskate owner and never respected in their hometown sports universe. The Foxboro Afterthoughts. They just owned our field, had the ref eating out of their hands and waltzed away with 3 points.

The home record is now 2 losses (both against teams who had never won in Toronto before) and a squeaky one goal victory way back in March against DC. Vancouver must be thrilled to be in town this week. What a time to push Toronto out of the Voyageurs Cup.

Bench Gilberto. He needs to be brought along slowly, learn the league, watch the defending schemes. Leave him out there game after game to be the scoreless wonder and he will be moved during the summer transfer window. Toronto needs a hulking brute up front to balance out Defoe.

Trade tomorrow for an attacking midfielder. I am unconvinced that Osorio is a winger (and I hope he is ok, he seemed in pain at the end of the game). Bekker and Bradley just could not make it happen.

Jackson picked an awful time to have a poor game, scoring the deflection goal did not balance out the persistent give-aways for the rest of the game.

I would go into the crap ref crew, but that would only push my tiny cranium into overload.

Are you looking forward to Wednesday night versus Vancouver? Do you think that Carl Robinson and young Laba will make us cry???