Friday, June 27, 2014

Gilberto Scores !!!!! Toronto FC takes a road point in New Jersey

NYRB 2 Toronto FC 2

It was a Friday night of delightful conflict. It was an inspired touch of scheduling that had Toronto FC visit New York Red Bulls on the night of the Brasil 2014 break. Tomorrow we have the round of 16, yesterday we had the end of group play and the MLS schedule around here pops up in the break.

I had conflicts of the delightful kind because I had family social obligations. I wanted to watch the game in peace, but a cottage invite to Muskoka from family is highly valued.

Who ever thought that I would end up witnessing the first Gilberto Toronto FC goal in a cottage driveway while smacking mosquitoes?

I always fear attempting analysis of a game on tv. I missed the first half completely. The Toronto goals were watched, but then live music and social obligations pulled me away. So I missed the NYRB late goal.

From my limited vantage, getting a point on the road is always a good thing.

Stay tuned for better blog coverage next Saturday.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

World Cup feast during Toronto FC break - Naz and Wally AM740 Zoomer Radio

I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Naz and Wally Show, a Sunday morning sports radio show on AM740 Zoomer Radio this morning (June 22).
They are aware of my TFC blog (and love) but we spoke only about Brasil 2014.

Who can blame them??

What a feast this World Cup has turned out to be. It seems that every team (ok, exceptions might include Portugal, Honduras) has decided to play with an attacking zest. Yesterday's games included Iran vs Argentina that went scoreless for 99% of the contest. Yet there was no defensive dullness. Argentina was trying to go forward, but seemed to be a talented bunch that have yet to "click". Iran defended with determination and focus, they were not about to let Argentina run riot, but those Iran counter-attacks were thrilling. They came so close and had attacking skills that had Argentina worried. Messi scored in injury time with a brilliant curving, powerful shot that eluded all.
Germany - Ghana was a thriller too. It ended 2-2, but Ghana was up 2-1 and things looked bleak for Germany. They then had the intelligence to put on my favourite International player, because I think his name sounds great at top volume, Schweinsteiger. Sorry, that should be SCHWEINSTEIGER!!!

Today is USA Portugal and the German tie means that USA has a chance, with a victory today, at taking the group!

So thanks again to Naz and Wally...they have invited me back to blab about Brasil 2014...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

TFC 1 San Jose 0 - A win with no frills

This might have been Nick Hagglund's "could have been, should have been" moment

So TFC leaves Montreal. TFC fans are miffed that Toronto was unable to score a goal and that Montreal took advantage of won the V-Cup mid-week.

TFC traded Alvaro Rey to the Crew for Dominic Oduro on Friday. I thought that Rey was on thin ice as he was not creating scoring opportunities and defending was not a big part of his game.

Walking to BMO Field the question on my mind was could we expect a greater offensive display? Points in MLS play seemed a greater priority and adding Oduro seemed a move to benefit the team right away.

Declaring that TFC "squeaked" a 1-0 win might be a touch too harsh, there were a lot of positives on display Saturday. Putting the ball into the net repeatedly from a number of sources was not one of them. This was the first time that TFC had ever defeated San Jose here in Toronto, so I give them credit for both the timely three points and the historical aspect of the result.

San Jose is not a cuddly team. Former TFC players starting for them were Gordon, Cronin and Harden. Certainly Cronin and Harden are considered good citizen types, but I think that the presence of Lenhart makes them a pain. He was poking, probing, grabbing, shoving and always complaining to the ref. Late in the game he capped it off with runs at Bendik. How does this Lenhart guy survive? It's pleasing to scan down the schedule and see that a visit to San Jose is not part of 2014. One and done suit me fine.

Jermaine Defoe scored the Toronto goal on a penalty kick. There were some scoring opportunities for Defoe and Moore in the run of play, but not much overall. Hagglund, with two cracks at net in the first half and a header that should have been in the second, might have been the biggest TFC scoring threat. Oduro came on later and paired with Defoe up front. Oduro's speed and opportunism just might create space for Defoe.
The back four of Hagglund, Henry, Caldwell and Bloom were solid all afternoon. Bendik only scared the fans once with a mishandled ball in the box. His goal kicks are improving too.

The messy midfield had some signs of improvement. The second time watching Warner in Toronto and he just might be what Tim Bez. promised when we fans were all grumbling about the Issey trade. He defends well, goes forward with the ball with skill and his passing is ok. Even when his passes go astray, you can see what he was attempting. Osorio looked a lot like Osorio 2013. Perhaps it is a matter of getting over injuries and regaining confidence. Bekker was less impressive than Osorio, but he contributed a solid game.
Jackson is coming back from concussion problems, so it was tough to see him fouled regularly in the second half. It was always late, hard tackles that followed his passing the ball well. Still Jackson seems to be unable to feed the ball to Defoe or Moore with any success, as if he remains on a different page from the strikers. This is a problem, especially since he does not seem to be creating shots for himself either. I thought before the game that trading Rey gave both Jackson and Gilberto some time to prove themselves to TFC. Now I am not so sure.
Injury concerns were part of the game. Besides Jackson having a rough ride, Lovitz suffered a head injury in the first seconds of his arrival as a substitute and Gilberto was announced as a starter but neither started nor was on the bench.
So TFC now faces a three week World Cup break. The next game is June 27 at New York. Let the global footy feast begin.

Friday, June 6, 2014

TFC send Rey to Columbus for Dominic Oduro

Oduro in Fire days
Rey leaves for Crew

TFC Twitter confirms that Alvaro Rey has been traded to the Columbus Crew for Dominic Oduro. Forgive the older pic of Oduro above, I just wanted to minimize the Crew yellow on the page.

I had the feeling that the lack of success from the midfield was putting some players on thin ice in Toronto. Cheers to Rey for his efforts in TFC red, but he never seemed to break from the potential stage to the producing stage that TFC needs from their international spots.

Oduro was born in Ghana. He has played in the MLS long enough to qualify for the US green card and therefore he does not take up an international spot. He scored 13 goals for Columbus last year, but has yet to score this year. Prior years in Chicago had goal totals of 6 and 12.

TFC history always has the burden of reminding us of what once went wrong. The last trade with Columbus that pops into my head is Tony Tchani for Andy Iro. I had been convinced for years prior to that trade that Andy Iro was an undiscovered gem and that TFC should grab him. I both apologize for such bad blogging/scouting and refrain from speculating about what Oduro brings to TFC. Even if Oduro remains a firm member of the "Can't score TFC midfield",  his arrival and Rey's departure frees up an international spot on the roster in time for the transfer window this summer.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mess in Montreal Impact 1 TFC 0

It was my view that TFC leadership seemed less than committed to winning the V- Cup and could live without the Champions League involvement that would add games to the crowded summer schedule. Therefore, I was prepared to see a limited starting 11 and could see Montreal being the better team in the second leg last night. Instead we saw plenty of starters and Montreal not being the better team. The Montreal strategy seemed to be a simple expectation that TFC was bound to be the lesser team. TFC had to score and Montreal did not think they could. Case closed. Montreal scored a goal in the very late going just for laughs (a cheap Montreal reference).

So it is not the loss that bugs me, it is the offensive ineptitude. It is troubling that we TFC fans have been promised a new meal (MLS playoffs) while being presented the same old menu. Toronto having a midfield of no style, no guile, no vision and no hope has become a tradition. Here we go again.
Nelsen sends out the TFC midfield in Montreal consisting of Bekker (0), Hall (0), Rey (0) and Lovitz (0). The stat following each player is their 2014 goal total in all competitions. As the second half wore on and the need for TFC to score a goal increased Nelsen was able to put on Osorio (0), Gilberto (0) and DeRo (0). Are we shocked that none of the above scored in Montreal? Was Jermaine Defoe swarmed by the Montreal defenders all night long? Was Defoe getting possession of the ball further and further from the net all second half? Has my fave player Gilberto developed two main challenges in his game, keeping on his feet and not giving the ball away to the opposition?

Yes, the post World Cup TFC midfield could be Bradley (1), Warner (0), Orr (1) and Jackson (1). Is that enough? The central combo of Bradley and Warner could have potential, yet beyond that lies little. I suspect that Rey and Jackson are on thin ice. You can't take up an International spot on the roster and contribute so little in Toronto for any length of time (unless your name is Reggie Lambe). Orr, DeRo and Bekker will provide bench strength for the midfield. I think Osorio should spend time in Wilmington. He has been pushing himself back from injuries too often this year and playing time will be an issue for him. Of course, he was one section of goal post away from being the hero last night.

Now San Jose here at BMO Field Saturday and then we can relax and watch Bradley and Cesar in the World Cup for the rest of June.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Strong finish, stumbling until Defoe's strike TFC 3 Columbus Crew 2

More to come JD
A beautiful day down by the lake, but you could not describe much of Toronto's play as beautiful. Could it have been that plentiful sunshine and perfectly mild temperatures were the conditions to lull fans and players alike? This was a big game against Columbus. May was supposed to be a month of TFC working their way into contention based on success at home.

For too much of the game TFC looked like a lost cause. In general the passing was terrible and the awareness of each other was poor. The strategy seemed to be simply "get it to Defoe" and he was being covered and bumped and throttled by Columbus. The Crew opened the scoring and they made it look easy. TFC/Defoe were able to reach halftime tied thanks to a too rare penalty call (that was the first penalty kick Toronto has had all year).

Bradley Orr had gone off injured early and that muddled the midfield. Lovitz came in and took the wing, the middle was then Osorio and Bekker and the other winger was Jackson. Osorio and Bekker have their strengths, but they never seem to be on the same page.  TFC spent most of the day passing very badly and although all were guilty, it seems that the central midfield pairing are the root of the problem. Since no attack is generated from the middle of the park, the opposition can pay more attention to closing down the wings. Jackson did not have a strong game. You are inclined to give him a break as he is coming back from a concussion injury, but he and Rey(who did not play) have to contribute more to have a TFC future.
The first portion of the second half was a case of Toronto spinning their wheels and Nelsen waiting a bit too long to make his substitutions.
Gilberto was on the sideline waiting to go into the game when Columbus scored their second goal from a corner kick. Bendik picked up a yellow card for complaining on that goal, but I did not see any merit in his argument. Things looked bleak at that point.
Nelsen could be praised for adding Gilberto (for Jackson) and then DeRo (for Osorio) and going all out in the attack. Looking at the subs and the roster, he may have had no other choice. Jeremy Hall was the only defensive sub on the bench. DeRo's determination, I think, makes him the perfect late game sub.
I won't go as far as to say that Gilberto turned the game around, but the game turned and TFC's effort and success increased. It was Gilberto heading the ball to Defoe that gave TFC their second goal. It was a fantastic shot of power off the volley for Defoe. It was an "aha" moment - aha the simple strategy of get the ball to Defoe will pay off. Ok, a small "aha", his quality is incredible.
Then we end with Doneil Henry's winning goal. Yes, it was one of those games where the celebration and joy, the sheer energy at the end could erase the doldrums. All those bad passes and the feeling that Columbus was getting a visitor's special (applies to Montreal, New England and Colorado) of getting maximum benefit from minimum effort at BMO field, vanished in a roar. Henry wanted that goal. We wanted that goal. The game was won and the month of May was saved.

You could argue that the return of Bradley from the World Cup and combining him with Warner could solve the middle midfield muddle. I am not sure that any combo of Jackson, Rey, Lovitz and Osorio solves Toronto's winger worries (although the return of Bradley could raise the winger game too). Online chatter mentioned that Toronto could have a chance at DaMarcus Beasley returning to MLS post World Cup, but he is more of a left back than a left winger.

Hmmm, looking ahead - TFC had best rest up in June (World Cup break and therefore only two games- one home v San Jose and one away v NYRB). The schedule after Canada Day turns hectic. July has 7 games plus the Tottenham friendly. August, September and October each have 5 games. TFC presently sits in the last playoff spot, tied with Columbus. Something as dreamy as ties on the road and wins at home would give Toronto 15 points for July. That would be a powerful playoff position....