Thursday, October 29, 2015

Horrors Montreal 3 Toronto O

Woe, muttering, anger and more woe is how I would describe my evening.

I foolishly watched on television TFC collapse in Montreal. Yes, the team I cheer for, the team I support by buying season tickets for since day 1, the team I write this blog about - decided to make their very first MLS playoff game a memorable one. A horror show.

Montreal scored three goals in the first half and it was akin to watching a hot knife go through butter. Hell, Drogba had time and space on the third goal to have sent a text message to his friends " I am about to score" although it probably would have been "Je suis sur le point de marquer" which clearly would have taken more time...

The question that hangs in the air tonight, hangs in the air like a ghoul in the night is "Does this team regroup and come back stronger or does it crumble?"

I was tired of hearing Jason DeVos talk about TFC defending on the broadcast. It is a concern and I am all for shoring up the back.

Trade for or sign a new keeper - nobody has confidence in the Konopka-Bendik combination at this point.

Trade for or sign a new right back - Jackson seemed to be promising, but boy did he fail the audition tonight. 

Justin Morrow deserves a contract and the left back role.

Did Vanney throw Ahmed Kantari under the bus by subbing him at half and therefore ending his TFC days? Or did he end his own TFC days by launching that dumb pass that surprised the slipping Williams and made Montreal goal two the playoff crusher? I think that Perquis and Williams, with a new keeper that they trust behind them, can be the central pairing in Toronto for next year

The trouble with TFC is just as much lack of firepower as it is sloppy defending. If there was a team ever designed to win by surviving shootouts it was this one. 

Allow 3 goals and score 5. 

Trouble is that for September and October, other than Gio, the potential big scorers melted away. Even with a home game heavy schedule and games against lesser teams- Bradley, Altidore, Findley each scored one or two goals for the final two months of the year. Jason DeVos can talk all he wants about defenders and defending - equal time must be given to the feeble attack - shut out in their first playoff game, one goal from Altidore in that critical game in Montreal on the weekend, shut out by Columbus in the last home game. With the startling exception of the NYRB game, unless TFC was playing Col. Chicago, Philly or Orlando they were a team in recent months that could not score....

Those TFC millions spent on goal scorers seemed to be squandered tonight.

Does Vanney survive this? I doubt it. Change the "At Last" making the playoffs song to "Can't Last" or "Let Blast". TFC looked worse in the biggest game of their history, so far, than they did Sunday night. A team that can't adjust, Vanney called Sunday a dress rehearsal, is a team in trouble.  I am just as willing to cut ties with the coach as I am with the Manager (Tim Bezbatchenko) and the captain (Michael Bradley).

I feel like a fool for being eager, days ago when TFC beat Red Bulls, to renew my season tickets and reserve my playoff tickets.

This team has been making us look like fools for a long time now. Makes you wonder if it is the team or the fans who are making the mistakes by the lake....

All that science - all that conditioning and the heart monitors. All the new faces and the time to make the team yours - and the final three games of the year (loss to Columbus- two losses to Montreal) felt like a joke...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

To cheer for TFC is to follow a perilous path Montreal 2 TFC 1


Who allowed Toronto FC to travel to Montreal to determine their playoff ranking?

The loss in Montreal tonight (Sunday) drops Toronto to sixth place and ends their 2015 season. Montreal is now poised and prepared (in third place) to host TFC in a one game knockout playoff mid-week. The winner of the one game will participate in the two game Eastern conference semi-finals over the next two weekends.

Did you see this coming? Do you feel that TFC has managed to uphold a thrilling TFC tradition? Where did the perpetual suffering clause hide when I signed up for season tickets all those years ago? Do you think I can write all night, peppering the page with rhetorical questions?

Caring about this Toronto FC team (an affliction that I once dared to name mistakenbylaken) takes you to dangerous places. The ups and the downs are too cruel. It was some 12 days ago that TFC defeated New York to clinch the playoffs. The joy of that unexpected peak has been followed by a bumpy descent.

I saw something bleak coming... I was so livid when TFC did not show up fully when hosting Columbus last week. In my bred in Ontario bones I knew that putting yourself in the position of needing points (or a point) from a road game in Montreal was foolish and should have been avoided.

I understand the view that the TFC goalkeepers are an area of concern, but I prefer not to dwell on it. TFC are certainly set up to win by outscoring teams. Did anyone truly think that a strategy for road victories was to have Giovinco and Altidore combine for one goal and then let Konopka lock the gate?
I also understand that the back four are a cause for worry, but midfielders tracking back play a large part in defending too. Although Montreal started the second half with energy and confidence, it was two touches by Didier Drogba within a two minute span that brought TFC to the brink. It was the inability to respond with second half goals that pushed TFC over the brink.

I think that the focus on Kantari and Williams does not explain how TFC lost their minds for a five minute spell. I think that handling pressure is a concern for fans looking at both coaching staff and players. After all, the playoff clinch game versus the Red Bulls was not a pressure game, more of an appreciated gift from team to those fans who braved that night (when Texas Rangers game 5 versus Blue Jays held the spotlight). I do think that Coach Vanney holds Robbie Findley in a higher regard than his 2015 results would indicate. I do think that he waits too long into the waning stages of the game before he makes critically needed changes.

The chance at hosting a playoff game here in 2015 was made slimmer today in Montreal
TFC in Montreal is the next game. May it not be the last TFC game of 2015.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Everyone wastes my time - TFC 0 Columbus Crew 2

Momentum? It was as if the thrilling game before never happened. I am ready to rant and rave. This is your warning, run away if you can't stomach bleating...

Have we TFC fans not suffered enough? The churning, rollercoaster nature of supporting this team never fails to amaze me. Ask me Wednesday night which MLS team in the East wants to meet Toronto FC in the playoffs, my answer would have been "nobody". Ask me again after the Saturday loss to Columbus and the answer changes to "everybody".

The  recent Wednesday victory versus New York Red Bulls put Toronto up in second place, their highest spot this late in the season, ever. The first opportunity they had to give second place away, they did.    

To Columbus.

In front of the home crowd to close out the regular season in Toronto.

Sure, it could be just a letdown after the playoff clinching effort of just hours ago. I am still shaking my head at how frustrating this letdown was to watch. I am toying with the idea that SHOULD TFC reach a home and home playoff round they might be better off being the lower seed team and get their home game first and therefore over with.

It is difficult to pinpoint where Toronto went wrong today. The Columbus goals came as lightning surprises, not sustained pressure. Joe Bendik was in net and I think it's fair to observe that TFC is a playoff team despite their keepers as much as because of their keepers.
TFC had a lot of the play. They just lacked finish and true opportunities. Vanney gets a mixed evaluation from me. I was pleased with going to three forward late in the game and putting both Herc Gomez and Luke Moore, but it was too late. At the start of the game I was also liking the pairing of Giovinco and Bradley as the two forwards. I have said before that I think that Bradley is a more potent, creative player when he is forced into a scoring role rather than a support role. Late in the first half though, either Bradley abandoned the role or Vanney coached a different formation. Findley went from winger to forward, Warner from central holding midfielder to winger and Bradley came back to the midfield. Sorry, but that was a huge step in the wrong direction. It has reached the point where I would rather see Cheyrou and Warner as a pair of holding midfielders, with the occasional probing pass than Bradley mucking up the midfield. I think that Bradley has something to prove to the TFC fans at this point. The last two times that Toronto has beaten an Eastern conference team higher than them in the standings was the other night vs. NYRB and way back in the spring vs. DC United. Both games had the absence of Michael Bradley in common. I don't think that one thoughtful Toronto soccer fan is deciding to renew their season tickets for 2016, right now, based on feasting their eyes on Bradley.  A game in Montreal and the playoffs could paint a different picture. I see his skills, his positioning and his effort, but something critical is missing. It may be a coach that pushes and prods
Oh and a word on Marky Delgado. I think that Marky Delgado has potential and will contribute one day. Right now he plays like a junior player, as if his role is to always, ALWAYS defer to any senior player. Y'know "here Mr. Bradley" or "here Mr. Giovinco". He knows his role, we in the stands can predict his role and Columbus defenders sure know not to worry about him. I think he successfully took on a defender only once today. Late in the first half Delgado was wide left at one point and wide open. He was waving for the ball and of course no pass came in his direction.  When the other team won't cover you and your own team won't pass to you, something is wrong. A Vanney rush job?

Random thoughts

Tony Tchani- am I the only one amazed that he continues his career with Columbus as a starter 4 years after TFC traded him? TFC acquired him from NYRB in the DeRo trade. I admit that Tchani is a factor in my Bradley rant. TFC has a million dollar international top quality midfield general and Columbus has Tony Tchani, a player we dumped 4 years ago. And they win!

Kei Kamara - a small consolation, but if the Crew were going to manage to keep Giovinco off the score sheet, at least TFC kept Kamara from scoring.

Federico Higuain - he made sure that every hint of a foul on him was augmented by rolling around and around on the pitch and then scored a cheeky late goal to squash TFC. Have I mentioned before that TFC is too nice for their own good?

Sigh....playoff picture still to be determined. Montreal@NE tonight, tomorrow Chicago@DC, Philly@NYRB....

Friday, October 16, 2015

Giovinco takes TFC to the promised playoff land - TFC 2 NYRB 1

Sorry for the delay in posting, but this was a big one. I spent game night smiling, Thursday morning writing and writing and now find myself Friday p.m. without a blog post on the biggest game of 2015.

Where to start?

They did it. Toronto FC, in the ninth year of their existence, qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs Wednesday night. Sure, it was overshadowed by the most captivating Toronto baseball game in some 22 years, but I am here to tell you that the TFC milestone deserves your attention too.

I had made my way to the game with very low expectations. Many folks attended the game disguised as empty seats. New York Red Bulls (NYRB) had thumped Toronto back in August. TFC victories since then had all come against struggling teams. I could not think of the last time Toronto had bested a team higher than them in the standings. 

Add in the fact that Bradley, Giovinco and Altidore had all played for their national teams over the weekend. Cheering for TFC to gain a point from a draw vs. NYRB felt like a foolish long shot. I kept thinking about the worst case scenario - should TFC lose their final 3 games and both Montreal and Orlando win their final two, TFC could miss the playoffs once again. This is a team that has the negative outcome historically as the default position.

Then two things kicked into gear; TFC played so well* in the first half that the missing star players seemed almost not missed at all and Seba Giovinco. 

Giovinco was bundled up and on the substitute's bench. He played for his national team, Italy, over the weekend and had arrived back in Toronto only hours before the New York game. He came on as a sub, roughly twenty minutes to play. Just by warming up on the sidelines he electrified the place. He ran onto the field to a standing ovation. Everyone knew that he had good reasons to be resting and watching from the stands (or even sleeping at home). This was a level of Hollywood that TFC fans rarely witness. 

You know by now that he scored the goal that turned out to be both the game winner and therefore the playoff berth clincher. 
Giovinco's goal was a masterpiece. It had layers galore. His first burst into the clear, where he seemed to ride the two defending Red Bulls the way a surfer takes a small wave, was worthy of a chuckle. The second move, where he seemed to be ready to shoot and then glided to his left leaving two more Red Bulls sliding off as if they were salt and pepper shakers sliding off a table, was worthy of a gasp. Then he smoothly took his shot and it was both power and beauty as it found the far side of the goal. I think the sound that came out of me was a combo of yelp and cheer. 

I dare say that not since Danny Dichio scoring in the last game of 07, that long range dipper against New England, has this ground witnessed such a moment. You felt elation and wonder mixed together. 
"Did that just happen?", part of your brain is asking. 
"Oh man, you just witnessed something incredible!" another brain segment is chiming in. TFC are about to beat the New York Red Bulls and with Giovinco the possibilities for what lies ahead are mind boggling. 
However, the Dichio goal was a consolation. It put a smile on your face and completed the season of football's fairy tale arrival in Toronto.

Seba's goal is so much more than the old Dichio delight. Seba's was the game winner and the playoff clincher. It was against one of the best teams in the league, it even made the statement that Toronto could be in a position to claim that crown. It was also a personal statement, the crowd had been chanting MVP for Giovinco all evening. How could anyone witness last night's game and not see that Seba Giovinco combined incredible skill with an equally incredible sense of occasion. Toronto FC are in the MLS Cup playoffs and Giovinco put them there.   MVP 2015.

Somebody in the TFC front office had it right on the media side. Minutes into the post game celebrations of this historic victory a video of season highlights was put on the big screen and the song "At Last" boomed around the stadium. It captured the moment in a way that few TFC flourishes do. All those frustrations, all those squandered chances, all those times sitting in my seat and wondering just how much suffering could one team inflict.

Yes, through thin, thin and at last thick, Toronto FC is my team. I was in my section for game one and have seen the players come and go. The managers arrive and fall and the winds blow hard and lonely over the south stand. "At Last" was suitably wistful for the other night, but great things are possible. So put aside wistful and thump Columbus. See you then.

* Sorry. Got so carried up with Giovinco and TFC reach the promised land narrative that I neglected game analysis. 
This was not the first night that I have thought Jackson at right back is a positive move for TFC. He had a superb game. Herculez Gomez was strong, more for his staying positionally aware than scoring threats. His goal was a classic case of taking advantage NYRB deep in their own end. Cheyrou and Warner patrolled the midfield with authority. Ashtone Morgan as a right winger had been tried before. It may have a future, though it does offer more defensive cover than precise attack. I worry about the extent of Perquis' injury. He has put the " reckless mistake" portion of his game away and looked strong before he went down. Osorio continues to show himself as a key aspect of TFC's success.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

One point short of the promised land Toronto FC 3 Philly Union 1

It was a dark and stormy eve down by the lake on a fierce Saturday, the first Saturday of October. Where did the summer go? Only minutes ago I was sitting in my seat and the CNE was swirling around us. The Philadelphia game felt as if it were played in November weather.
The HMS Toronto FC had all hands on deck and Captain Bradley, on every t-shirt, was on patrol.
Forgive the nautical theme, but the strong winds and bouts of rain were enough to tip my account into watery tale territory. Lake Ontario was providing winds that made travelling with poutine across the south end platform an adventure. All the beer booth staff in that area looked like they were going to be dislodged and hurled into the seating. It was perhaps (crossing of fingers inserted here) a sneak preview of playoff weather.

Ok, so the captain of the team is also a midfield general and Bradley was the name of a prominent US general during WW II. But don't ask me about the prominent right digit finger. I am a fan of cartoon images, but don't you feel that the cartoonist hired by TFC has no understanding of the game these athletes play...

 I admit that I was nervous at the start of the game. The consequences for losing this one was just too staggering for my little brain to take. The Seba Giovinco goal (his 21st) came early enough that you could see the confidence  build for the Reds. Toronto always seemed to have the possession advantage and the shot advantage too (off target though they may have been).

 It was satisfying to watch TFC take care of business. Yes, the Union staggered into town, exhausted from their loss in the US Cup and many of their starters resting. Yet, TFC got the job done with room to spare.
Jackson had a solid game. I like the way he uses his speed and anticipation to break up plays. That alone does not ensure you a spot on the TFC roster, Warren Creavalle was quite good at that too. Jackson was paired with Findley in the first half and Delgado in the second. A Delgado cross created the Altidore goal. Jozy Altidore gets credit for a fine finish, but we also have to note the foolish defending by Philadelphia on that series.

I am often griping that Osorio is not a true winger, but he shut me up, especially late into the second half when he was a terror down the left. The Marquez own goal was just the reward for Osorio's determination and skill getting the ball into the box. May this late game strength trend continue.
Cheyrou was his silky smooth self on the ball and sneaky tough in his tackling. Michael Bradley, on General Bradley t-shirt day, gave a spotlight worthy performance. Cheyrou is the secret ingredient in the Bradley success. Cheyrou gives Bradley the confidence to go forward and make a difference.

The Philly Union goal was scored by Steven Vitoria. I know it is a knee-jerk reaction to see every MLS player with a Canadian passport as a future acquisition... but I was impressed. In the first half it seemed that TFC were attempting to get Giovinco away from Vitoria's side of the field.

I don't want to head into the critical last three games of TFC season 2015 with my fan meter twisted far closer to faith over reason. Yet questions, those questions that seem to dance around the cranium of the seasoned TFC supporter, still hang in the air...
Can TFC find the one point needed to best Orlando for a playoff spot?
Can TFC make a true run at finishing 3rd or 4th spot to host their first playoff game?
Can Toronto FC find another gear when faced with teams above them in the standings?

NYRB, Crew and Montreal is a tough trio of opponents to finish off the schedule with. The Red Bulls will have the Supporter's Shield to play for, Columbus could prove to be the qualifying game to determine whether TFC hosts or visits for their historical first playoff game and the Montreal game could be do or die. At least a point from each game would be an accomplishment, nine points from these last games could qualify as a miracle.
If I were an Orlando fan, (facing NYCFC at home and then Philly on the road) I would be betting that six points is theirs for the taking. Toronto has two traditions, being completely out of playoff contention and having a chance but letting it slip through their fingers. Time for a new tradition and the October 14th game vs Red Bulls will be the clearest indication of which way TFC are heading. Until then...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rapid return to pop and bite, can it continue? TFC 3 Colorado 1

A blur at the far end, Perquis just after scoring
First off, apologies for this days later post concerning the Saturday game. I am one of those older guys who still attends music festivals and this past weekend was the third TURF festival at Fort York - Garrison Commons. TFC game started at 2pm - Lucinda Williams on stage at 4:10, I had to be in two places at once. Due to weather concerns I did not have my tablet with me and therefore did not share my TFC thoughts while grooving to tunes.

I am going to be one of those guys - when their team loses it is due to deep flaws on HIS team. When their team wins it is due to deep flaws on the opposing team. The Colorado Rapids looked awful in the first half on Saturday. The first Seba Giovinco goal was the perfect example. He picks up the ball near the midfield stripe and no Rapid is tracking back or defender moves to close him down. This continues as Giovinco strides forward. He actually had the time and space to slow down, look around and consider his options as he approached the box.  Just what were the Rapids thinking? Give the Atomic Ant enough time and space and he will score. Same with goal two. It was nice to see Damien Perquis score his first (non-own) goal of the season. I do think he gets too much criticism. Sure, he is on the hook for some defending mistakes. That is the price you pay for plying your trade in the heart of the battlefield.
So, we fans have to be ultra pleased / relieved with the win. Continuing the losing streak could have been a disaster of playoff struggle, coach questions and player turmoil.
I don't yet trust TFC 2015 to claim that the Colorado victory will act as a springboard for the weeks ahead. I am concerned with the next two games- home against Chicago and Philly. Two victories are required for any shot at hosting the knockout playoff game. They have to be foot to the floor style wins to gather that season end momentum. The Red Bull game on Oct. 14th could be the toughest test of the year. The Columbus Crew game that follows it will be a proto-playoff game. I just don't want to be in the spot of TFC needing some points from the season ender in Montreal.

I had tried to justify the loss to New England by thinking that the Revs and the Red Bulls were rising to the top two spots in the East and were just too tough for Toronto. Then, this weekend, Montreal beat New England 3-0. Sure, it is the Drogba effect and Montreal have a tough schedule ahead of them. Still they worry me.

Until the next game, keep the grey and red flying...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No pop, no bite, no style, no grace, no hope, no bench, no coach, no goals - NYCFC 2 TFC 0

"If future seasons involve increasing games vs TFC, we can play to 50"

TFC just look terrible in Yankee Stadium tonight (mostly in the attacking third). You felt that Altidore and Osorio would never score again this season based on their sloppy play in NYC. Bradley was all wild effort and NYCFC muscle Giovinco again and again.
I thought that last home game Bradley was missing Cheyrou. Cheyrou was back tonight, but it seemed to make no difference. Defending and goal keeping are ok. TFC takes care of business in their own end most of the time. The problem is that the attack does not deliver and that is what they get the big bucks for...
What was the point of putting Gomez and Moore on late in the game? No attacking spark was provided. Was Perquis put out as a late sub to take down a few numbers and crunch a few toes? Will Kantari get into trouble for that smack to the face (of Angelino?)?

I might take the view in the morning that NYCFC have become Toronto's bogey team. The team we just can't beat.

More likely that I will still be stunned that a new expansion team (with a trio of old stars, Villa did not play tonight) has beaten TFC twice and drew them once.

It is hard to be optimistic about playoff spots when you can't imagine winning against anyone. I can imagine that the teams out of the playoff picture see the faltering TFC as vacating a playoff spot to them. A three game losing streak was not what September was supposed to bring.

Tim B. and Vanney had better align their "must win game" comments for Saturday. If the hopeless streak hits 4 - look out.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wondering if lacklustre is a harsh enough term for this sad display? TFC 1 New England Revolution 3

Photo by Evy - from Toronto FC fans Facebook page

TFC managed to match the crappy September weather with a low pressure display against New England.
How could New England make the most of a handful of scoring opportunities while Toronto blustered and blew? It was an afternoon of watching TFC squander scoring chances. They just don't look like a team on the rise (or a team on the steady).
Could they be suffering from a lack of urgency or too much of the stuff?
It is also becoming clear that subs off the bench add zero, TFC never has another gear.
Toronto looked second best all day long.
That was a big game against a New England team only three points ahead of TFC in the standings. Remember all those home games in September and October that were going to help the playoff push?
Today was game 1 of that season end home game bonanza. Forgive me for the rainy day gloom, but today did not look like a home stretch bonanza to me.

A bounce back from this solid loss is possible. They could win the next three and end September on a high. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that New England is very capable of finishing in a top two spot and dust ourselves off. Sleep calls - more tomorrow

Monday, September 7, 2015

Late Night West Coast strange brew Seattle 2 TFC 1

Forgive me. It is days later and I am still trying to wrap my head around the TFC news from the Labour Day weekend. Jozy Altidore scores two goals for the USA in a friendly on the same weekend that Toronto FC lose by one goal to Seattle? Clint Dempsey scores the winning goal for Seattle? Am I crazy to think that somebody needs to be grilling the Garber man on this mess.  The need for MLS to align their schedule to the FIFA international schedule only grows with the years.

I did not watch this game live. Since I am lucky enough to have a Labour Day traditional get away (thanks to great friends and their wonderful Kawartha Highlands cottage) I had updates passed along from the family member with cell phone service. I blame my almost radio silence on my Labour Day memories of 2014. TFC alerts and the Nelsen firing and Tim Bez press conferences had my tech devices buzzing away. Getting away to the cottage 2014 had meant skipping that home game (remember Bez's must win game?), the 3-0 loss to New England that so many described as Toronto's worst. All these jumbled memories contributed to deciding that 2015 cottage weekend was going to be info-tech free. Sun and rocks, swimming and beer, chips and laughter, tequila nights under the Milky Way. You came to this blog expecting soccer talk?

Now back home and with highlights and some pvr time, I can tell you this.
TFC were missing - Altidore (international duty), Giovinco (injury taking away his international duty), Morrow (family), Cheyrou (injury), Perquis (injury), Jackson (injury) and Warner (league suspension).
That's two designated players and a handful of starters wiped off the board. It makes you wonder why did TFC bother to have Michael Bradley skip his US duty? Then you read that Bradley is joining Altidore in Chicago for the Tuesday night US friendly vs Brazil. I suppose Capt. Bradley gone for one game is potentially safer than gone for two.

The TFC starters out in rainy Seattle were...
Gomez       Moore         Findley
Morgan Osorio Bradley Delgado
  Simonin Williams Zavaletta

On the bench Bendik, Chapman (subbed in for Gomez at 74), Kantari(?), Hamilton (subbed in for Simonin at 81), Mannella.

I am not usually one to give credit for a close loss on the road. No points from a game in September is going to be a concern in the crowded playoff picture. Yet, with the long trip west behind them, TFC face a season end of 6 home games, and road trips to New York City and Montreal. If the reasoning for the strange alignment and playing depth players was to ensure a fully rested and healthy lineup for the home game next weekend against New England, we fans are all for it. That next home game is huge for TFC. It could help determine whether Toronto is making an October run for a top Eastern playoff spot or scrambling.
Coach Greg Vanney post-game 
Vanney arrives at the Labour Day weekend I'm sure with unique memories of 2014. His cell phone must have been buzzing with more than just scores and news.  A job offer and a press conference invite. One year under Vanney and you don't want to jinx anything by saying that TFC look a year ahead, but in so many ways they do. Giovinco in the place of awol Jermain Defoe is the largest example. There are plenty more (Cheyrou in place of Bradley Orr is my fave).  This rapidly approaching New England home game is Vanney's chance to fully establish his grip on TFC 2015. It needs to be the reverse of Nelsen's last game as TFC coach. A solid victory in Toronto will have all of us forgetting what the Seattle result was and have Vanney in the driver's seat for the playoff push and beyond. A disaster against the Revolution will have the critics wondering just how far Vanney has taken the team.

I can't wait for this rare Sunday game ahead. Just keep Tim Bezbatchenko away from any "must win" statements to the press this week and keep thinking red and grey...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Let's go to the Ex! Toronto FC 2 Montreal Impact 1

Photo Credit - ZippyR
It was one of those victories that you'll take in a heartbeat. TFC had sections of play were they looked confident and coordinated. They also had a ton of luck on their side. There were too many times when Montreal seemed to be messing up goal scoring opportunites, rather than TFC shutting them down. Recalling 2014 and how many times Oduro could not finish his chances for TFC had us smiling as he continued to mess and miss for Montreal. When he did score late, the thought crossed my mind that the next time Toronto meets Montreal they could be facing Didier Drogba. He could make a huge difference (as would the return of Piatti).
You have to be concerned however that TFC did not finish strong against a Montreal side that was down to ten men AND had lost probably their best defender.

But time to look on the bright side. TFC goal #1 - Osorio to Bradley as they slip a goal by the keeper. TFC goal #2 - This time Bradley to Osorio who thumped one off the cross bar and full marks to Jozy Altidore who turned the rebound into a goal.
Some worrying moments - Cheyrou off with injury, Giovinco off with injury and even Lovitz off for Morgan (injury or tactical?). Then the hanging on at the end - some ghosts of TFC past were hovering in the air.

So that was the final game of August and TFC are in a tie for fourth place with New England. A Red Bulls hosting DC game on Sunday is only going to change the points of teams ahead of Toronto.
Looking back on the months of 2015 so...
March - 3pts from 3 games
April - 3pts from 3 games
May - 10 pts from 5 games
June -  7 pts from 4 games
July - 4pts from 4games
August - 9pts from 6 games

9 games left in the season. To have a better than 50% chance of finishing in 2nd place (and therefore being assured of missing the first round playoff knockout game), TFC would have to finish with 54 points or better (currently 37)
5 games in September (Road Seattle - Home New England - Road NYCFC - Home Colorado Chicago)
4 games in October (Home Philadelphia NYRB Columbus - Road Montreal)
I can see points coming out of September - perhaps even duplicating May and getting 10 points from the 5 games. October looks tough though. If TFC are chasing 2nd place, no better way than actually facing NYRB and Columbus, the two other teams most likely to be battling for that spot.
If I had to predict right now I would say TFC are a playoff team but finishing second seems just a step beyond them. They can really only afford two losses in the rest of the season. On the road in Seattle next weekend may determine expectations. Seba Giovinco will head in the other direction, his callup to the Italian team takes him away for the Labour Day weekend.

I will miss having the EX going on all around the stadium at the next game. The weather was perfect, if winds and temperature were your concern. The skies did become dull as the game wore on, but rain was avoided.
Next home game is New England Sept.13....until then - think red and grey...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

TFC fans given a break from suffering TFC 5 Orlando City 0

TFC supporters have suffered long, hard and deeply. There are too many times when I wouldn't have it any other way. My credentials as a suffering fool/fan are proudly worn. They give my the high ground when observing the bandwagon breezes that buffet our areas sports scene (media and "fans" alike).

If I could I would weave every blog post around my all time favourite Nick Hornby quote.
The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.
It is a fair observation that the bitter disappointment of such summer escapades as those crushing losses in Los Angeles, Foxboro and New Jersey were not forgotten in the euphoria of yesterday's trouncing of Orlando City.

TFC's second half yesterday was terrific, exciting,  yet exploitive (c'mon, Orlando City had problems holding TFC down earlier in August with 11 men in purple and no Bradley or Altidore. OC reduced to ten, then nine AND Altidore coming on as a sub with his offensive slump the number 1 concern of fan and player alike?). The first half may not have been a fully equal battle, but it did stay 0-0 to the half and Orlando sure looked capable of tussling along. A game plan of negating TFC and hoping for a Kaka late flash of brilliance was not farfetched. TFC land was smiling at the end of the game, but at half time the game/season hung in the balance.

An Orlando aside, Kaka on Toronto's field did not look like a happy camper or a captain. His willingness to complain all afternoon to his team mates just looked too much like Jermain Defoe@TFC circa 2014. Yes, Mr. Kaka, you are 77 times more talented than your fellow players. Yet a large part of your job, as it is a team game, is to bring out the best in others while continuing your own top level contributions. Yapping and gesturing at your own team is just going to turn them off and make your own job harder. The easiest stance to take in soccer is to second guess. You can be a demanding brute in practice, but in games you have to spread around some butter if you want your team to make sandwiches. The thought I had, when he was substituted in the second half, was that part of the reason for the move might have been to protect him from the anger of his fellow players.

TFC next plays Montreal next Saturday. A fear of a competitive Impact team WITH the addition of Didier Drogba hangs in the air. I loved hearing that Drogba will make his Montreal debut this Wednesday night in Vancouver in the second and deciding leg of the Canadian Championship. Please tire him out Whitecaps. TFC needs to start against Montreal as if they were still trouncing Orlando. Full fire power required.

Until then, thinking every day about the Red and the Grey...

Last week TFC dominated by NYRB, this week TFC dominate Orlando (ten men, then nine), happy it happened, but perspective maintained...til next Saturday

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A session of suffering NYRB 3 TFC 0

Suffer, suffer, suffer. What a horrible display.

Last week in my report on the home loss to SKC I called the upcoming game against Red Bulls the next session of suffering.

I was right.

I would have some blunt questions for Coach Vanney right now.

Would playing Jozy Altidore for 90 minutes be an example of faith above observational evidence?

Why does Michael Bradley pass away the ball with alarming regularity? (I am afraid to see a calculation of his passing accuracy for this game).

Why is this team such a mess this late into the season?

What are the consequence for this team, this leadership group (Tim L. and Tim B.), this coaching staff, this franchise if they let a playoff spot slip through their fingers ONCE AGAIN...

I should mention that Warner played a better game than last time, Herculez Gomez provided some spark as a late sub and Josh Williams played a positive role in his first game for TFC.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

What gives? TFC 1 SKC 3

That was a mess. A mess of a Saturday afternoon, fighting the snarled traffic to witness an off day for TFC. Serves us right , perhaps, for thinking that all would be smooth sailing after the conquering of Orlando City. Today's defeat should also be a reminder for those who look upon the home game heavy schedule from here on in as a magic wand of victories. TFC will have to earn their way and based on today... that's not a magic wand, it's a straggly stick.
I am sure that I am not the only one puzzled with TFC tonight. Instead of building on the midweek victory, adding Bradley and Altidore seemed to tear things down. Where did Giovinco go today? The man was on fire just the other night. Is it Bradley who turns Gio soggy? Is it playing alongside Jozy Altidore that brings the moisture that thwarts the Atomic Ant?
I understand that Sporting Kansas City is a stronger team than expansion Orlando, but I am also tempted to make an argument that Benoit Cheyrou does more directing of the attack and midfield patrolling than Michael Bradley of late (admittedly - Gold Cup and injury play the largest part in a lesser Bradley).
Which brings me to Collen Warner. He did not have his best game in TFC red today. He struggled on the ball and seemed pedestrian and predictable in his passing. I understand that he has not been playing at the back of the midfield diamond of  late and would be rusty with Bradley. Sometimes rust is not enough of an excuse.
What was up with the horrible inability to put the ball into the back of the net displayed today? We are hoping that Herculez Gomez can put an end to all that nonsense.
And to finish with an item from our "kick me while I'm down" department - that was Jacob Peterson scoring the third KC goal...

Next session of suffering - next weekend in New York vs NYRB.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TFC rides into town on explosive Atomic Ant power TFC 4 Orlando 1

the skill, the hunger, the speed and the atomic ant power - Giovinco
The first half of last night's game went as expected. It was 1-1 at the half and both teams looked shaky at the back and tentative in attack. Orlando lacked Kaka in their midfield, TFC playing without Bradley in theirs. Luke Boden was the Orlando player who impressed the most in the early going. He was confident on the ball and scored when he found some space just outside the box. It was also a huge help Orlando that Collen Warner allowed the cross to go untouched to Boden. Cyle Larin was looking strong in the early going, but I think that as Orlando's midfield faded, Larin was not getting the service that he needed.
 Giovinco scored for TFC, luring Collin to lunge big time while the Atomic Ant touched the ball away. It was said best after the game by Orlando coach Adrian Heath (quoted in the report by Simon Veness in the report on
 “It was a ridiculous decision [to challenge Giovinco],” the head coach fumed. “He was out on the byline. He can't score from there. Why [make the] tackle?”
I am willing to give a nod to karma, Aurelien Collin  has been getting away with crimes against TFC while in a Kansas City shirt for years...

The second half was an unexpected delight. Birthday cake under the Christmas tree time. Seba had a hat trick. Second half goals from a free kick and a late zip down the left wing. Not only was Giovinco hungry, eager and determined to put himself into scoring positions all half long, but he had company. The progress of Delgado and Osorio, with the silky and spiky support of Benoit Cheyrou, is a sight to behold.
The central pairing of Perquis and Kantari worked well, but with a dominant midfield in front of them they were rarely pressured. Jackson at right back was fine, I think TFC have found the spot that he can contribute at. It also helps to have Morrow playing on the left, he has struggled going forward from the right.
Karma continued to be in TFC's favour all night - Warner scoring off of Osorio's twist and cross from the corner kick was an example. Warner had squandered a clear goal earlier in the half. 
Kansas City is in town on Saturday. I am not ready to banish fears of the August collapse that has always dogged TFC, but a victory over Sporting Kansas City would be a huge step. If TFC could be that strong v Orlando without Bradley and Altidore... we meet KC at the right time. See you there and then...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

TFC v Orlando preview from OC Lions Fan tv

I might have tried writing a few game previews for this blog back in the dawn of time (2007). I found that this fan's reaction was always better than this blogging fan's prediction, so I let it slide. I also felt that TFC media people were always better at producing a preview from the inside rather than my guesses from the outside.

But each team has it's own social media sphere and the good guys who do OC Lions Fan tv were kind enough to invite me onto their video blog to talk TFC. It is on youtube and you can go to it here.

They have invited me to participate again as Orlando plays TFC twice this month. They know their team and were great to talk to....

Also since I am linking and praising... I do refer in the show to TFC's history of floundering through the summer. A better job of explaining what August onwards has meant throughout the years was done by Sven87 over at Waking The Red.  A sobering read...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Revolting... Revs 3 TFC 1

How I wish we all could ignore New England owner Kraft
What a revolting mess.

I am trying to pull up enough memory cells to recall a summer where TFC did not stumble and falter. Right now the concern is defending on the road (allow 4 goals or 3 goals is the pattern) and I am sick of hearing about the "wealth" of home games and games in hand ahead. Yes, Bradley and Giovinco back on the pitch will make a difference. It is hard this morning to be optimistic about the missing ingredients when the remainder of the roster looks as bad as last night.


Jozy Altidore gets thrown out of the game in the first half with a petulant kick out.

Joe Bendik had an off night, Revs goal 1 and 3 would have been stopped by Bendik 2012.

Gerry Dobson


TFC goal - Osorio finds great space after Chapman and Delgado combine to work the ball deep down the wing.

Jon Conway gets tossed from the bench for telling the truth about that AWFUL yellow card issued to Joe Bendik.

The game is over and the torture does not resume until Wednesday night. Let's see, Gio with an injury, Bradley with an injury, Altidore out due to red card. It will be hard to make your way to BMO Field with your faith in Robbie Findley turned up high.

Brace yourselves, August is going to be a bumpy ride...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Barely friendly TFCll - 1 (Osorio) Sunderland - 2 (Defoe)

I don't want to give this friendly game with Sutherland more attention than it deserves. I watched the game on youtube and thanks must go to TFC for putting up a stream and having a play by play. I watch, I blog.

 TFC looked competitive for the first 25 minutes with a strong enough starting 11. Sunderland seemed to be in an ill temper. I forget who wiped out Jackson early on, but it was Larson who got a yellow card for a rugby tackle on Lovitz's head. I felt that Lovitz got a yellow for trying to push him off.

Vanney was smart to limit his starter's minutes and had a change of 8 players in the midst of the first half.

So by the time that Jermain Defoe (remember him?) scored his two goals he had been playing against TFCII (plus Osorio, Creavalle and Morgan) for more than 25 minutes.

Bono made some strong saves. Manella and Chapman play well together. Glad it's over and done with.

Hello Columbus on Saturday.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer heat burst TFC 2 Philly Union 1

Is it just me or does the future seem shady?

Put aside that it was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC only matched the temperature with some scorching play for a short stretch of the game. TFC had that first half spell where they scored their two goals and seemed capable of scoring more. Delgado from Giovinco and then Altidore heading it to Giovinco. Gio took the blast of the shot AND beat three defenders to the rebound to tuck it away. The temperature did not cool down much, but TFC did. There were sporadic bursts of attack, but the lack of Bradley had it's affect. Not that Cheyrou and Delgado were not superb in the middle of the middle...but the threat that Bradley poses was missing in the barren second half.

Morgan and Osorio played solid games. I am not always happy that Morgan seems to have a green light to play as a winger and Osorio has to mop up from time to time. The two do connect and combine well. Morrow seems to struggle with the right back spot. Or is the attacking obstacles of Warner and then Jackson at fault? Joe Bendik was back in net. His one goal allowed was a big improvement over the four allowed by Konopka in NYC last Saturday, but his distribution skills never seem to mature.

I don't mean to be too critical of Coach Vanney, he makes some good decisions and presently has the team in second place in the East.
Yet, I do get frustrated at some perceived trends, such as delayed second half subs. You can see that the team is wilting in the heat, but Vanney is always slow (imho) to make changes. He seems to have a schedule for subs that seems too rigid, pre-set and never reacting to the tempo of the game . He needs to take control of the game and the team by trying something different. Two subs at once might be a start.
Walking away from the heat of the stadium I would say the present state of this blogger is cautious optimism. The schedule only gives TFC one home MLS game in July before a deluge in August. 6 road games, 10 home games is the remainder of the year. I had to wonder why neither team seems to have a light coloured third shirt, both teams looked uncomfortable in dark colours. What happened to kit that was mostly white with stripes of red? Now it seems only all red or all onyx.  You wonder why.....
Cautious optimism...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

NYCFC 4 TFC 4 new chapter in Vanney coach textbook "point on the road"

A tie on the road is a result to embraced. When TFC are missing Bradley and Altidore (plus Morgan and Osorio) a tie on the road is wonderful. Or, if you shake your head and recall the drubbing last Saturday in Los Angeles, a tie on the road is a great change of direction. And yet....Giovinco scores a hat-trick, sets up the fourth goal and everything victorious seemed possible. Things seemed bleak indeed around the time that Giovinco caroomed his first penalty kick off the post in the early going. Toronto was already down 2 and nothing was going well in the Toronto end. Chris Konopka got a hand (two?) to the Villa free kick, but it still went in. The penalty kick from Villa was saved by Konopka, but the rebound eventually hit Perquis' hand and went in. A repeat of the Los Angeles experience seemed to be looming. The remainder of this report could all be ravings about Giovinco. He is a brilliant attacker. He now owns the first TFC hat trick in MLS play. Well deserved.
I have to salute a few players who usually raise my ire....Warner, Jackson and Findley are the trio I have in mind. Gio's goal that was set up by a long probing pass from Warner and a classy back heel from Jackson was the moment that TFC fans probably threw their collective despair out the window. The cross from Findley that Gio turned into his third goal was also a great play . I rarely give credit to refs, but Unkel called a fair game, was not afraid to award penalty kicks and allowed the game to be a true contest. The contrast with the foul fest that NYCFC bestowed upon TFC in their visit to TOronto in June was remarkable. Maybe foul fest is not the best description for the previous game, that ref seemed blind to calling anything.

The nail biting section of the game really kicked into gear when Perquis left the game with an injury.
 A back four of Lovitz, Hagglund, Zavaletta and Morrow is not anyone's idea of superstars, but the job was done and the point was gained.  Message was given - greater depth required.....
A mention of Benoit Cheyrou has to be made as well. Cool and calm on the ball, well positioned and tough when defending, he would be worthy of top billing if the team did not have hat trick Gio running the show.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

LA Galaxy 4 TFC 0 or the things we do for love...

That old pop song (by 10cc) popped into my head as I trudged off to bed early Sunday morning. I had watched the entire drubbing of TFC by LA Galaxy. In this multi-media world I had also followed along on Twitter and visited the RPB forum to capture the TFC zeitgeist throughout the night. Wow, you can watch Warren Creavalle make defending mistakes and still wonder why some are so quick to hate him. He's a solid MLS utility player. Perhaps his starts at right back for TFC this year have earned him a spot on the bench, but he has

The things we do for love was both the tune and the sentiment after watching such a one sided game from the pacific time zone. I had missed out on the DC United game (attended Solid Sound Festival - see previous post - passion outside of TFC world begins with Wilco). So I felt that watching the LA game was rather important for getting back onto the blogging track. You can tell I am fully into the boomer category when I write of staying up late on a Saturday night as an effort and a sacrifice. On the soccer side then, I had low expectations. Missing Bradley and Altidore just seemed too big a hurdle to overcome against Los Angeles.
I wish the Vanney brave enough to give starts to Delgado and Chapman was also involved in the playing time decisions for Jordan Hamilton. Why Hamilton was not given 20 minutes is a puzzle.
Seba Giovinco was looking lonelier and lonelier as the game wore on.
The road ahead is away to New York (for an ankle kick fest), home to Philly, away to Columbus to close out July. Stay tuned.

Sub Robbie Findley for Luke Moore for actual starting 11

The trading/transfer window is about to open (July 8th?) and I figure it is a good time to review the squad.
TFC keepers are all keepers in my books (unless a crazy multi-player trade involves Konopka or Bendik).
TFC defenders are a curious mixture of players all very new to one another, so expecting a cohesive approach might have been asking to much in these early months of season 2015. However improvements are required for the tough months ahead. Caldwell and Hagglund and Simonin have all been forgotten of late. I think it is a touch unfair to be critical of the central pairing of Perquis and Zavaletta. One is learning the league and one is learning the position and they have done well considering. I think that trading for a veteran MLS central defender makes more sense than an international signing, but if we have to put up with both, then do it.
Midfield - I have been of the opinion that TFC's greatest need this season has been wingers. The Vanney approach of four central midfields in a diamond and asking the right and left backs to fill the wings stretches the back four way too much. May I point out the back pass from Justin Morrow to Robbie Keane that created the third LA goal last night is the result of forever stretching those backs (and bad decision making).
Forwards - The trio of Altidore, Giovinco and Moore could be the best in the league (yes, Moore has his critics). I am not alone in being unimpressed with Robbie Findley. Bright Dike is a mystery and Jordan Hamilton needs playing time. A reduction in the striker ranks makes more sense than an addition...

TFC 0 DC United 0 - soccer insights nil

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

I did not attend this game. Instead I went on a journey...
I should have been more proactive and asked somebody to share some insights into the match. Sorry TFC fans....

I attended the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts.

This was the fourth Solid Sound Festival
I have attended every one of them.

My fondness for Wilco has (years ago) reached overflow and now covers Solid Sound and MASS MoCa and North Adams and the Berkshires. The music flows. The setting is an incredible jumble of natural beauty, industrial abandonment and artistic expression. If the American Dream is a multi-faceted jewel of entry points, this festival and the music of Wilco is an entry point that I cherish. Every single day we Canadians are exposed to a media barrage of a demented and hurt America. It takes a guitar chord reaching my ears while I stand in Joe's Field to remember that their is a healing and hopeful America too. I am intensely grateful to be a part of it, surrounded by family, friends and fellow Wilco devotees...

All acoustic set Friday night

 I did not take this video...but wish I had...

TFC 3 Montreal 1 or Tim L.'s dream come true

Banish thoughts of last Saturday (where TFC were mauled by NYCFC), TFC looked strong last night.

Bradley scores in the first half and that has always been a recipe for success. Bradley can start setting up others once he has established his goal scoring potential to 10.
Sure the TFC goal came after falling behind to Montreal. I give credit to the ref who established himself well and closed the door firmly on the NYCFC cheap shot strategy of days ago.
Second half was Tim L.'s TFC dream of both Altidore and Giovinco scoring to put the game away.

I am inclined to argue many a matter with Tim Leiweke. I am also inclined to put debating aside. On a night like this I walk away from the stadium thinking - if this is what he is selling, I'm buying.

May this victory establish a pattern that resumes after the Gold Cup. It is easy to imagine that this TFC will grab a top playoff spot. Now, can we play Montreal every week?
One anthem nights = sweeter victory

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Beaten by dirt TFC 0 NYCFC 2

That was not an entertaining evening out. Mistakes by the lake, that old theme, came back to haunt us all and "dam" mistakes were made by Toronto FC all night long. It was frustrating to watch. Perhaps TFC coaches and players alike had prepared for this game by reading their own press clippings. NYCFC came, grabbed, held and conquered. Ugly soccer all night from the visitors. Scored on a penalty and pounced on some sloppy play for their second. Sure, TFC were playing against both a gritty wall of blue AND the ref, but an absolute lack of pounce from the home side had this fan walking away from the game totally annoyed. IF we are better than them, better than that (Perquis and Cheyrou were repeatedly hit in the head) adjustments have to be made.

Toronto FC lost and I put some of the blame on Michael Bradley. He played an ordinary game, his passes were ordinary, his speed was ordinary and his lack of offensive urgency was a gift to New York. Bradley becomes the attacking midfielder with no attack. What works for him in a US shirt hinders him in Toronto red, that is the midfield maestro role. Take your TFC  shots and fill the net. He should have been shredding NYCFC, a MLS expansion team defense. Instead he lays off, does not dominate the midfield and his ordinary passes create zero goal scoring opportunities for others. New York must smile every time Bradley passes the ball to Osorio or Warner. Maybe it is only human after the recent highs of beating both Netherlands and Germany, that a contest against NYCFC would be low on the inspiration chart for Captain Bradley. It is also human as  a fan to feel that some nights Bradley needs either a swat in the head with the chart paper or a seat on the bench. Without Bradley, TFC beat DC United on the road. With Bradley an expansion team waltzed in and beat TFC on the scoreboard and around the ankles.
TFC lost and I put some of the blame on Seba Giovinco. He just gave every MLS team a template for how to put him off of his game and keep him off the scoresheet. Double team and cheap shots were the New York treatment and Giovinco responded with an obvious foul and got a yellow card for his efforts. Giovinco goes down too easily, too often and New York exploited it all night. The second or third time he spent more attention to ref complaining than TFC goal scoring, he needed to be benched. A canny coach could always say he did it to protect his player from ill treatment and injury but behind closed doors insist that scoring goals, not debating bad refs, pays the bills.

Speaking of the coach, TFC lost and I put a lot of the blame on Coach Greg Vanney. It takes more than a lucky shirt to coach. Did TFC adjust in the second half to the NYCFC constant itchy blanket on Giovinco? New York had been getting away with wrestling, holding fouls all game without even the gesture of warnings from the ref and then TFC sub Altidore (trying to get to a ball) is given a yellow card? Sure ref, that is what the game needed, stop those Toronto forwards from manhandling NY defenders to get to the ball. That should have been the final straw. Vanney was seen chewing out the ref around that point, but it had no true impact on the team or on the crowd. If a TFC coach did not go ballistic over the reffing last night, just how bad would it have to get? Vanney did nothing to alter strategy or alter the tone of the match. It seems that Giovinco and Bradley run the team, not Vanney.  Was it a surprise to anyone that subs Findley and Jackson provided no goals, hell, not even a shot at net!

The TFC coach I dream of would have got himself thrown out of the game last night for both the theatrics and the principle. That coach would give the late game midfield spark job to Jay Chapman and save us from the non-play of Jackson. He would be demanding something of Bradley and Giovinco. He would beat expansion teams.
At least we face a midweek game against Montreal, so hopefully we are singing a different tune soon. Right now I fear TFC have no response to a game of grit and grab. Size, muscle and meanness just got put on the top of my TFC player shopping list...
NYCFC at practice

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Giovinco scores and scores DC United 1 TFC 2

Toronto FC grabbed a road victory Saturday night, their fourth of 2015, by defeating DC United in Washington. DC United still leads the Eastern Conference, but the Toronto win moves them into third spot and Toronto have played 4 less games. TFC have been on this cliff before. Promise and potential and games in hand seems to be the way June always arrives for TFC. There are a many signs that this year they turn from the cliff and begin to fly.

Top Ten Reasons that TFC are playoff bound in 2015 (ok, I miss Letterman)

10. The road victory in DC was without Michael Bradley.
9. Seba Giovinco.
8. Coach Vanney had the confidence in his team to go for a road victory - subbing on Jay Chapman and Jozy Altidore in the late minutes of the game.
7. Defensive strengths continue - a summer signing and a return for Caldwell would not hurt, but Morgan, Morrow, Zavaletta and Perquis held DC scoreless for more than half a game (ignoring the offside goal disallowed).
6. Konopka continues to play as #1 keeper, Joe Bendik has recovered from injury, but it is a positive sign to have two quality keepers battling for the #1 job.
5. Canadian content is brewing nicely - Osorio, Morgan and Chapman all contributing.
4. Jozy Altidore is back from injury
3. Seba Giovinco
2. Seba Giovinco
1. Seba Giovinco

Yesterday is/was quite a football day. The Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus was an entertaining spectacle. The Canada Women's World Cup opener was a nail biter. The Lady Canucks played tense and tight, clumsy and sloppy, but the penalty kick winner gave us all reason to hope. Then cap the day off with a TFC win in DC - quite a day...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

#Blatterout resigns, football fans ashamed of deep corruption rejoice

You would not have to read many of my blog posts, sit with me at a game for long or watch me coach my local adult team to see just how much I love this game of football. I love it and have been hurt, as millions of others have been hurt, by the avalanche of FIFA corruption under Sepp Blatter.

Today he resigned.

Overdue, but better late than never.

Going, going, gone

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A hard (goal scoring) rain is going to fall - TFC 3 San Jose 1

Cloudy day, bright performance

It was difficult to walk away from the Saturday TFC game not thinking about rainstorms. The game's time slot began with a storm and  later driving away from BMO you felt seconds away from the next storm front. I may qualify as a hopeless optimist, but just as a storm brewing in the air gives you the sense of forces about to be unleashed, TFC 2015 gives you the feeling that heavy goal scoring victories are about to rain all summer long. This starts with Giovinco and his ability to create scoring opportunities all game long (the game ending with his free kick off the post). Jozy Altidore is still injured and therefore Morrow and Moore scored from in front of the net on set-ups from Giovinco. Creavalle's goal was also assisted by Giovinco, although I give greater credit to Creavalle sending a long range beauty
I think that Michael Bradley should be coached to take a shot on net within the first fifteen minutes of every game. Going cross-sport here - you know how a pass happy point guard in basketball sets up the passing option by taking some early shots? Too many teams are going to be defending against the pass from Bradley to Gio, so Bradley should shoot early to set up the later Gio passes.

TFC's present position in the standings makes a summer storm of goals a tempting treat. 11 games into a 34 game schedule is close enough to a third through for my clumsy math. Peeking at the 2014 final standings Sporting KC grabbed the final (5th) playoff spot with 49 points (14W 13L 7ties). Something tells me that more points will be needed to qualify in 2015 when you figure in the two Eastern expansion teams

If Toronto is aiming higher than squeaking into lower playoff spots (and I hope they are), then the month of June is a huge opportunity. They are 9 points behind DC United and have 3 games in hand. The June schedule has TFC and DC United in a home and home series. This June could launch TFC into uncharted territory.
This has been a blog of positives, so let me scatter a few negatives.
#1 Three goals scored, yet Jozy Altidore is still missed. I read a report quoting Coach Vanney as saying that Altidore is ahead of schedule.
#2 Good games from Osorio, Creavalle and Jackson, but TFC should be shopping still for a winger.
#3 Thin bench concern - TFC had a bench dominated by rookies (Hamilton, Manella, Chapman). Injuries to Warner and Findley have meant a chance for the young generation, but the summer signing window has to bring somebody onto the TFC bench.

Next game @ DC United next Saturday

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Starting with the sounds of supporter silence TFC 1 Portland Timbers 0

top left of picture - the fine folks who travelled from OREGON to be banished at BMO
The south end supporter groups wore black, had banners about the 2016 stadium share with the CFL and made no noise until the Dichio song. I salute them (wore black myself) and understand that although the decision may have been inevitable, that does not make it right and the potential for things to go wrong remains strong. A Toronto soccer fan has no obligation to save the CFL in this market (especially when you can argue that the Toronto baseball fan has done lasting damage and that CFL fans have enjoyed 26 years of self inflicted damage). The Argos have been a sinking boat for decades and if you think that being the afterthought tenant at BMO and the ownership of Larry Tanenbaum (who buys the team for a toonie one day and then the next day talks about NFL in Toronto as inevitable) is going to change the buoyancy of that boat, you are hoping to hard. Sorry to say it, but kill TFC and a soccer in Canada dream dies, kill the Argos and most are going to watch and attend Bills games anyway...

Back to the TFC game. It was a frustrating victory. You felt TFC had the potential for a handful of goals in the game. Some credit has to go to Portland keeper Kwaraesey who made some solid saves to keep his team in the game. It was frustrating, in a twisted way, to see the improvements in just a few weeks. They played in yesterday's game in the manner you had hoped for in the opener against Houston. Benoit Cheyrou played the part of midfield maestro throughout the day. He makes everyone around him better, frees Bradley from having to track back too deep and picked out Giovinco on an incredible long pass in the first half. I was going to describe Giovinco as the high profile star of the day and Cheyrou as the stealth star of the day...but then some online sources had Cheyrou as man of the match...

Vanney move #1 TFC fans moved to the edge of their seats with ten minutes to go - anticipating the TFC defending letdown that would gift Portland a point. One of the reasons that TFC did not give up that expected late goal was Coach Vanney's substitution of Nick Hagglund to play with five defenders in the back. It means that the team sits back and goes into a shell, but it worked. We will take ugly over deflating any day.

Vanney move #2 It seems that the TFC wingers are a rotating squad, Osorio, Warner, Creavalle and Jackson all had some playing time. Warner was subbed at halftime and it must have been injury related because he was a solid presence. Warren Creavalle played well, he was regularly intercepting Portland passes and had a sizzling shot at net.

Idle trade talk MLS has wisely changed their rules so that the trading window aligns with the summer signing window. So TFC can't trade again until July. So I am speculating weeks ahead, but does the solid play of Chris Konopka in net put Joe Bendik in trade jeopardy?

Portland's fans banished?
It used to be that visiting supporters were kept together and made secure in the top north east corner of the stadium. Now that a new section has been built above the old one and the top north east seems to be a mile further up. Why put Portland fans that far up? It actually looked funny at the end of the game when Timber's players were saluting their fans. It looked as if they were clapping for fans above them in the clouds. It think that part of the problem is the pricing of the new eastern upper deck tickets. TFC needs to make it a better bargain. Forget about distance from the field. Fans will soon learn that for most game times you spend the game staring into the setting sun. Nice for tanning, not so nice for viewing.

Final utterings
Where was Osorio going when he blocked Gio's shot that had already passed the Portland keeper? Osorio played a good game, but being in the way of a sure goal ends up being the lowlight of the game. Ashtone Morgan continues to play well. He was given a plaque before the game to honour his new status as TFC player with the most games played.

Next game - the friendly vs Man City

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New England Rev 1 Toronto FC 1 - A big step to gain a single point

Why does a draw against New England feel better than a victory over Montreal? TFC had the potential with any loss to stumble in the standings. Instead gaining a point against the Revs and now a week's rest gives them an opportunity to treat the next home game (vs Portland) as a fresh start...

It was a big step to get a point from New England.....on the road.
It was a big step to scramble and defend and not give up a late goal on the road (how we wish that had been learned back in Toronto eg Montreal and Houston).
It was a big step to survive the injury to Jozy Altidore early in the game.
It was fun watching Chris Konopka save the day and dodge bullets.
It was a big step to watch Coach Vanney make the late defensive substitutions of Jackson and Creavalle and have it pay off. I felt sorry that Coach Vanney has to look at those two as defensive subs... but it worked.
Ok, I have to squawk. How can you call taking advantage of being in an offside position when a shot has been made on net, the keeper has lost the ball after the save and THEN the advantage is cashed in?  Should have been a win...we will get them next time.

Is this the place to ponder the New Englanders glorification of armed uprisings?