Saturday, September 27, 2014

Passing the biggest test of 2014 Toronto FC 3 Portland Timbers 2

I bought a bootleg scarf to show that I am back on the Defoe bandwagon...
This one snuck up on me.

The week prior to this game was packed with distractions.
Distraction #1 -the invite to season seat holders to see the expansion plans for the stadium
(So pleased to have missed it. Accounts of the evening indicated that posters were up, information was scarce and a lot of cheese was offered.).
Distraction #2 - the ceremony the same day for the groundbreaking for stadium expansion (shovels hit the ground, sad to report that none were swung at politician Mark "Argos get in for free" Grimes).
Distraction #2 The return of the Jermain Defoe show.
On one hand he is telling stories to protect his pay cheque. On the other, his credence goes up in my eyes when I focus on one of his main claims "How seriously do you take Harry Redknapp"?

So I was letting the week slip by me. I did not think about the proximity of the Saturday game until I had to face the transportation horror. The Gardiner Expressway is closed for the weekend.

Forget travel tales, I took the GO and arrived early...
Game time
Within seconds of start a sliding collision at the centre line between Mark Bloom and Will Johnson halted play. Johnson was stretchered off and reports after the game indicated that he had suffered a broken leg.
It lifted Portland and shook Toronto. Nick Hagglund gave the ball away. Timbers score.. In Portland they salute the scoring of a goal with the slicing of a huge log. Here "by the lake" we salute  Toronto falling behind early with the slightest of sighs. Okay, maybe the deepest of sighs.
Then Portland scored again. Our defenders were floundering a little and a swift pass and poke made it two goals Portland.
It was stunning. A young fan nearby (a grade school kid)  shouted out "Wake up you Reds". He had the right idea. A goal from Toronto FC was called back on an offside. I would have to see it again. I did not think that the goal scorer was offside, but Osorio was in an offside position and blocked a defender from getting back into the play. So the call could have been that the team had benefitted from a player in an offside position.
Halftime arrives with Toronto down by two and rallies have not been part of TFC this year (or any year?). You felt that the season was slipping away. Toronto could bounce back from a home defeat, win the last 5 games in a row, and land a playoff spot

Nick Hagglund scored twice, erasing his error in the early going and making him a hero by the lake. Then the soccer gods, those heavenly bodies who have been toying with us for years, intervened. Michael Bradley had a direct free kick a good distance out. He hammered it into the box, flying it into the prime spot for a glancing header. Ricketts, the Portland keeper of great size, moved to his right in seeming anticipation of that glancing change in direction. Then it did not happen. Nobody got their head to the ball. No change in flight. Ricketts out of position. The ball bounced into the net. Toronto had gone ahead. Joy erupted.
First half = despair and resignation, Second half = determination and victory.

A big win. Even bigger when it loomed as a big loss for much of the afternoon.

With only October remaining in the MLS schedule, we will soon know if it was part of the glorious end of the season or a false hope. 5 games remain, two in Toronto (Houston and Montreal) and three on the road (LA, NY and New England). 

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