Thursday, September 4, 2014

Curses foiled again - Philly 1 Toronto Football Curses 0

I get upset when people call the team I follow, the team I care and cheer about, a joke. It is the meanest insult to suggest that a layer of comedy falls upon the sincere love that you feel for your team.

However an evil spell is not insulting at all. If anything, it raises the virtue of the fan (and the devoted blogger). Here is someone who throws faith, energy and spirit at the team despite a wicked aura that has plagued it since day one. I am entertaining the notion that the curse is specific to the land by the lake. The CNE grounds have had many stadia, but the teams that play in them are not championship calibre. I think that only the 1983 Argos won the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup while calling the old Exhibition Stadium home and they won the Cup in Vancouver. BMO Field occupies most of the land on which previous stadiums were built.
Could it have been a curse connected to the battle of Fort York? A maritime disaster? I would have to consult some historical maps to see the growing shoreline of Toronto in the CNE area over the years. Standby for some pain staking historical research. Curses have a connotation of evil, but is it not equally possible that a good person wronged can put a curse on people, places and things?

So I have decided that the "C" in Toronto FC stands for Cursed or Curses or Curse. I am willing to go further into the vocabulary and try for cursive and cursory but give me time to extend my foolish head space.

The Cursed were hosted last night by the Philadelphia Union. Philly Union is a team that has qualified for the playoffs some years and has had a middle level of MLS success. They had a rough start to this season, but now find themselves tied with the Cursed for a playoff spot after last night's victory.

I was spared the pleasure of watching Toronto FC vs New England last Saturday, so I am guessing that the Toronto effort was improved from that day which has already passed into TFC legend. It was the first game under new coach Greg Vanney and I did not see much tactical change but these are early days.
The substitution pattern was very non-Nelsen. A change of Gilberto for Osorio (perhaps injury forced) at half time and then Dike for Oduro and Weidemen for Lovitz. The late offensive subs were after Toronto had gone down to ten man and Vanney was clearly going for a late goal. A fine gesture with no result.
It was Ashtone Morgan red carded for pulling down Sebastien Le Toux on a clear breakaway in the second half. I suspect that the Toronto Football Curse hits some players harder than others or builds up as your time with Toronto increases. This was the second year in a row that Morgan has been red carded away to Philadelphia. I think most TFC fans want Ashtone Morgan to be a success. I would want to judge his play last night while looking beyond the second half sending off, but his was not a statement sort of game. Now Morgan can't be selected for Saturday's hosting of Philly.

Watching TFC I was wondering if this was truly a potential playoff team. Injuries to Defoe, Caldwell, Morrow and Creavalle have cut the squad down to size, but bring those players back healthy and I am still less than confident.
Think about the players that were starters last night.
Warner and Oduro have kicked around the MLS for years and despite Oduro's scoring record I think it is fair to call them MLS journeymen now.
Osorio and Morgan are in the category of local talent. We want great things, but progress has been jumpy, slow, sometimes non-existent and less than stellar.
Hagglund and Henry were the central defenders and they might be both just old enough to buy a beer in the USA. If these two were the starting central defenders down on the farm team we would be drooling over their potential. Instead they take their lumps, learn on the job and (of late) eventually are broken down by every team.
Luke Moore kicked the ball into the Delaware River which flows just outside of the stadium. Moore has had some good games for the Curses, but kicking it out of the stadium seems to be the contribution of late.
Lovitz is a rookie winger who is getting a vote of confidence from new coach Vanney. Perhaps I was concerned with a big road game with a starting midfield of Lovitz (0 goals) Warner (0 goals), Bradley (1 goal) and Osorio (2 goals) that has not made much of an offensive contribution in 2014. Perhaps we should be used to it, TFC has long been cursed with a low scoring midfield.
Joe Bendik made some good saves, can hardly be faulted on the Philly goal and might be a playoff team keeper. I think that having another keeper
Mark Bloom played well. I think on the Philly goal he was trying to cover for Ashtone Morgan. When he is on his game Bloom is a thoughtful defender. I think that it is reflection of how little this group has played together that Bloom's overlap runs have dwindled in 2014.
Michael Bradley wants to do more, but he needs help. He was too often, in the late stages of the game, trying to drive the ball forward on his own and the opponents knew it. Warner has had the months after the World Cup return to become Bradley's midfield partner and it is not working.
After all these games and all these years - TFC need dependable defenders that are good on the ball, an attacking central midfielder, wingers who can score and a (post Defoe) striker who can score. So many aspects of the Toronto Football Curse never seem to change.

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