Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nelsen and coaching staff said to be out- waiting for Bezbatchenko press conference at 4pm

So, you are a devoted fan and season seat holder, but you are not happy when the MLS schedule gives Toronto home games on the Labour Day weekend. You have a cottage tradition to respect and therefore you give your daughter your tickets and try to follow your Toronto FC soccer over the wi fi...

Bez (pre-game to press, I think Friday??) says that they are a good team and should be playing better (which is partially accurate and partially covering his inactive summer window). They are an experienced team, have had time to gel and should be getting results.
Toronto FC proceeds to flounder on the pitch and loses 3-0 to New England Revolution. My buddy at the game described it as "pathetic".
Coach Nelsen uses his post game press conference to defend his players and complain about GM Bez's comments. States that it increased the pressure and that Saturday should not have been a pressure game.
Sunday afternoon the news comes that Nelsen and his coaching staff have been fired. At this point it has been tweeted by John Molinaro and Paul Attfield and appeared on the Sportsnet website.

I am a blogger and a fan who understands the need for Toronto FC stability, but I will not be lamenting the loss of Ryan Nelsen. I doubted his connection to the team, the city and the country. I thought that he was overly protective of the players and had a disregard for the fans. If he was making progress as a coach as we entered September and October and a MLS playoff push, his players sure had a funny way of showing it.
He always made substitutions seemingly as an afterthought and well after the time that you would have thought a change would have an impact on the game. Tactics and stategy and formation were always basic and did not seem to evolve - ever.
I did not see this coming. I was guessing a Nelsen-Bez meeting and a patch it up process to move into the playoffs. But it makes a lot of sense....

CNE offers you rides, TFC offers you slides TFC 0 New England Revolution 3

Summer is a time when opportunities to get out of town are plentiful and TFC have not been offering a reason to stay around. Labour Day weekend always takes me to a great friend's cottage and therefore I was not at yesterday's home versus New England game. I had hoped to watch the game on my ipad, but putting the game on Sportsnet 360 and leaving the main network for darts (thanks Rogers) meant that I had to listen to the game on the radio.
You did not need the visuals to grasp that it was a disaster. TFC was clobbered by the New England Revolution 3-0, which is no way to handle a team that is competing for your playoff spot. For all of the disasters of TFC over the years, Toronto had never lost to New England when at home prior to this season. In 2014 now, it has happened twice. When was the last time you heard Toronto fans chant "this is our house"? It just isn't anymore. 
I have avoided pouring my exasperation into demanding that Nelsen and Bez be shown the door, but the exasperation is rising. Now it seems that Nelsen and Bez are sniping at each other and I am tempted to say a plague on both of your houses. The big boss Tim Leiweke is on the way out of the MLSE door and you have to wonder how many weeks 
Before the game Bez (Tim Bezbatchenko) had expressed his opinion that the team 
had the talent but it was time to raise their games. On one hand the TFC fan is very likely
to agree with his view that on the brink of September it is time to start grabbing results. It is self serving, Bez essentially saying that the GM has chosen the right players, time for the coach to motivate them.

After yesterday's loss Coach Nelsen was critical of Bez's statement to the media, he felt that it had increased pressure on his players. These two need to schedule a meeting - today. Not that the solution to this tailspin is that simple, didn't the Big Tim Leiweke meet with the team recently and give them a supportive speech about the foundation and the future? 

Nelsen is so protective of his players that I am suspecting it gets in the way of his motivating them. Combine that with his "late to the party" substitution patterns and his troubles with creating either a tactical sense of defending or a creative sense of attacking and you have a coach on thin ice. His survival depends on a playoff berth. Should he fall short of that, I would speculate that firing Nelsen would either be the last action of Tim Leiweke or the first action of the next guy.

The trading and signing deadline for the MLS is just days away. A move is critical, but a big move is not expected. Although Toronto has a few international spots on the roster, I am just not sure that a trade or a free agent signing is going to change the course of this playoff drive. 
Toronto FC has a home and away series with Philadelphia Union this week and the playoff drive could fly or flop within these upcoming days. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Job done, road travelled, crew subdued - Columbus Crew 2 Toronto FC 3

Toronto defeated the Columbus Crew for the third time in the 2014 season. I am not going to head to the TFC archives just now, but I suspect that it is the first time an opponent has been beaten three times by Toronto in a year. It was TFC's ninth victory and it is more than a little satisfying to calculate that a third of those victories were against Columbus. Can we play them every week?

It was not a masterpiece. Gritty efforts on the road are not very often things of beauty. TFC began the game with plenty of attack, but no finish. Columbus would counter from time to time and they just missed scoring off of a header by Bedell.
Late in the first half Luke Moore sent Gilberto in on the Crew keeper and his left foot put the ball into the net. However late in the half a murky penalty was awarded on a hand ball call in the box and Higuain scored the penalty.
The second half was more of a rollercoaster. Toronto had periods of smooth attack followed by sections of clunky defending. Osorio scored the second goal off of a rebound from a Luke Moore shot. Toronto allowed a goal curling in from distance that I thought Joe Bendik should have claimed and handled.
The winning goal was Luke Moore's finest moment in a TFC uniform so far. From a Warner corner kick, Moore sped past his cover and dove to head the ball into the corner behind his progress.
Columbus was done.
This victory puts Toronto into third place, 4 points ahead of 4th place Philly and 5 points behind 2nd place DC (grrrr- even a point from that night would have made a difference).
Next weekend will be the last in the stretch of road games, TFC visits Sporting Kansas City. My hopes are not high, but the pattern of playing only one game a week seems to have settled the team down.
Until then...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

That's more like it!!! Montreal 0 Toronto FC 2

TFC looked like a team today in Montreal. They had had a poor second half in Washington DC this past Wednesday and had recently been frustrating fans (and this blogger) for weeks. We had reached the point in the season when it was reasonable to expect progress and instead we were seeing individual efforts, a lack of scoring finish and often a group of players who looked like they had just met for the first time seconds before the game started.
Today it was Montreal that looked incoherent. Jermaine Defoe is injured (no details yet) and did not start or play today. A constant concern of TFC 2014 is that Defoe is the sole provider of goals. Today that worry was banished from view. Against Montreal both strikers, Gilberto and Luke Moore, scored goals and such was Toronto's dominance it is a surprise that only the two goals were scored.
The TFC central midfield of Bradley and Warner were strong, Montreal had the hardest time keeping up with them in the second half.  Both were controlling the ball well, showing a greater sense of where their teammates were and shutting down Montreal's attack.
Oduro, so often blazing down the wing was instrumental in both goals. Osorio on the left was hardly playing the role of a winger, but his more central role meant more room for left back Justin Morrow. Morrow continues to be the unsung hero of the team.
It was an incredibly young central defending pair of Nick Hagglund and Doneil Henry and both were quality. Late in the game Hagglund was so close to scoring a goal off of a corner he must be still shaking his head in wonder at the opportunity missed (and the combo of Perkins' touch and the crossbar).
Warren Creavalle showed why he was a wise acquisition for Toronto recently in the allocation trade with Houston. His play at rightback was solid. He had some challenges in the first half on the defending end, but his speed and passing confidence going forward has been a contribution that has made the loss of Mark Bloom to injury just a little easier to take.

Is it all sunshine and lollipops? Concerns include the extent of the Defoe injury, the continued late and puzzling substitutions of Coach Nelsen, the ability of MLS refs to slight TFC on a regular basis and get away with it and
Two road games ahead in early August. Next weekend in Columbus and Kansas City the weekend after that. Today's win puts TFC into third place. At the time of blogging it is unclear whether  fellow third place teams at the start of the day, New England and/or Columbus, can keep pace (New England is winning v NYRB and Columbus does not start v Chicago until later). Stay tuned.