Monday, May 11, 2015

Squander (the sequel) Toronto FC 1 - Houston 2

A fan can have a difficult time seeing a game as a singular event. A season becomes a tangle of plot lines, character development or clashes, thrills, chills and surprises. You hope for the "ups" and cope with the "downs". TFC under Tim Leiweke has compounded the plot lines by making offseasons as gripping as seasons. Trouble is when you banish dull off seasons, having a dull game such as Sunday's new BMO Field opener seems a greater betrayal. All that buildup just to end with a feeling of having squandered an opportunity to change the TFC culture...again.
If TFC v Houston, the home opener, could be a singular event it was because we felt that the stage was set yesterday for a Hollywood ending to the Tim Leiweke in Toronto story.
His new stadium.
His new players.
His swan song.
He is leaving his leadership role with MLSE next month and what better way to bow out than with a TFC domination at the fancy expanded stadium? I was joking that if the day went according to script I was expecting news of a Tim Leiweke statue...
Instead it was flop and flounder time, a crappy performance from a collection of athletes that have yet to reach the status of a team. It was only weeks ago that Paul Pierce described the Toronto Raptors as a team lacking "it", the element within a team that makes them winners and makes other teams fear them. Keep Paul Pierce away from the soccer highlights, his analysis applies to TFC too.

I felt that it was an echo of too many other Toronto FC games, too many other chances to establish a home field advantage over the years seemed to be swirling in the breeze. Instead of  the dominating approach that the situation seems to call for, Toronto lays an egg. Part of the problem is a puzzle, home field Toronto has not yet become Michael Bradley's stomping grounds. Entering year two of buying tickets to watch Michael Bradley be frustrated is not how this plot line is supposed to run. It was not heartening to see Bradley and Altidore too often play as if they had just met recently. On a team that has so many players new to each other, the extended time that these two have shared on the US team is supposed to be the bedrock of Toronto success.

The trouble with TFC too often is that a weakness in one part of the formation helps to reveal a greater disaster in another. So the poor game of Bradley and Cheyrou in the middle of the midfield just seemed to make it easier for Houston to shut down Findley and Jackson on the wings. Now I accept that TFC is hoping that Robbie Findley is both a renovation project and at a new position, but call the experiment off. I think that Robbie Findley and Luke Moore play the same role for TFC, cagey vet with offensive skills. Great player to have off the bench late in the game, whether you are chasing a game or need offensive counter punching to protect a lead. If two vets on the bench can fit under the budget, great. TFC needs players who can truly attack from wide positions, not constant crosses that have no strategy behind them, no intended target. Both Jackson and Findley were subbed in the second half yesterday and it was a decision that could have been made at halftime (pre-game?). I am convinced that the second Houston goal, the winner, started with a cheap giveaway of the ball by Jackson inside the Houston penalty area. Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio contributed some energy and attack down the left wing in the latter stages of the second half, but we know that Osorio is not the attacking winger we seek. I would chose the GM Bezbatchenko solution (summer signings or trades) over the Coach Vanney solution (if he could teach wing attack skills- wouldn't players have them by now?).

The picture below seems destined for the textbook "How to beat TFC". Clog the middle, there is nothing to fear out on the flanks.

I hope for a different approach against Montreal. Go back to Lovitz and Delgado on the wings. Yet the true test are the MLS home games through May and June. Squander no more.

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