Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chicago Fire 3 Toronto FC 2 OR 2 steps forward, 3 steps back

Wipe Out

I am not hitting the panic button after the four road games that have started TFC season 2015, but I am making sure that I know where that button is located. Perhaps the victory over the Whitecaps gave us the wrong impression, had us believing that the team was farther along the process of team building than they truly are.

Vanney's TFC continues to play with a 4-3-3 formation, but using the two halfbacks as attacking wingbacks constantly puts a lot of pressure on the central pairing. In Chicago that pair were Hagglund and Morrow. Neither gave a performance of dominating defending or dazzling attack from the back. Perhaps the perfect pairing for Vanney, amongst the players currently on the roster, would be Perquis and Simonin. Two defenders who have the offensive skills to make Vanney's "attack from the back". The worrying trend is that when TFC central defenders are not dazzling us with precise passing from the back, Michael Bradley falls back to play that role. Now I concede this was truest in Chicago when TFC were down to 10 men. When Bradley is way back, the Vanney love of three forwards is at it's worst. Scrambling from the back leads to long ball desperation and all those forwards are bound to be lacking service.

Speaking of down to ten men, Warren Creavalle will not play the next game thanks to his red card (two yellows) yesterday. It takes a team to lose, but Creavalle is sticking out for all the wrong reasons. It might be difficult to find a TFC fan concerned about playing without Creavalle next game. The first Fire goal was due to Morrow losing the ball under pressure in a bad spot. Michael Bradley stuck out as watching more than defending, but Creavalle was a witness from behind the play too. The second Fire goal was a combination of Hagglund not closing down the space on the attacker and Creavalle guarding ghosts. When the ball is that close to your goal, if you are not pressing the attacker or marking a man, you are essentially a pylon obscuring your keeper. Then the third Chicago goal took place off of the free kick that followed the Creavalle open field foul that had him sent off. Just awful defending or rather replacing defending with out and out fouling.

Since I'm chattering about three forwards, time to put forth my worries about Robbie Findley. Perhaps he is suffering from poor service, often playing the same side of the field as Warren Creavalle (will his time in the hot seat never end?), but I worry that he has not contributed enough to justify his starting role. We entering chicken/egg territory for Easter here. Is the third forward a fifth wheel because it is Findley or is Findley facing the universal third forward problem?

On a personal note, I may have hurt my arm from excessively patting myself on the back. The blog post last week included my prediction that BOTH Cheyrou and Giovinco would score their first MLS goals against Chicago. The Gio goal was a fluke and he was smart enough to barely celebrate it. The combination of Gio and Cheyrou made the second TFC goal much more of a satisfying treat. As President Bush once said, Mission Accomplished. Now I am hoping that my prediction of Perquis and Simonin as the central pairing becomes my next success.

So far I have been heavy on the criticism. A road loss where moments of TFC skill and buildup were negated by amateur hour will do that to a blogger. I have to give credit to another strong performance from Ashtone Morgan. His cutback to Giovinco for his blooper goal was smart play in deep. Just as very little attack seems to come from the Findley/Creavalle side of the field, Morgan's side seemed well defended. In the first half breakaway by Chicago's Accam, not only did Joe Bendik make a smart save, but Ashtone Morgan kept the pressure on in pursuit. The Morgan of a few years ago would have tried something desperate.

The ongoing road trip is now down to three games ahead. Dallas, Orlando and Philly and something tells me that Toronto will look strongest against Dallas, despite their current strong form. The flip is that the other two games will be the ones where you think points could be had and the frustration level will continue.  Stay tuned.

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