Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bono big in TFC's continuing victory summer TFC 1 RSL 0

The victory combination was an unlikely one. When we were marking our summer calendars (remember when snow and ice covered the landscape?) the early August midweek game as a showcase for Alex Bono with a timely contribution from Tosaint Ricketts must have been beyond the unknown. 

Perhaps attending three TFC games in seven days (ok, two down, one to go) can find you too lazy in the morning to look up the historical record for games between Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake. My vague feeling is that Toronto FC has always had problems getting points from RSL.

Although the 1-0 scoreline makes it seem like a "squeeker" of a victory, it did not feel close. It's funny to watch the highlights this morning, they would give you the impression that the game was all RSL and TFC stole it with a single goal scoring opportunity. TFC did not quite dominate, but they seldom seemed under any sustained pressure. When Real Salt Lake did threaten Toronto's goal, it was often against the run of play and Alex Bono was aggressively excellent. Bono had a bit of Joe Bendik's daring athleticism of that Joe breakout season from a few years ago on display last night. I think that Alex Bono has much better game management skills, better distribution of the ball to go with his brave shot blocking than Orlando Joe. Joe Bendik is doing well this year, one of the top keepers in minutes played and saves made. Pleased for him, but Irwin and Bono have a lock on the job now.

I have to give credit to Jay Chapman for his Cheyrou moment in the first half. Seba Giovinco had been fouled and brought to ground late in the half and he had lost the plot. Forget the contest between 22 players, Seba decides that his universe revolves around the ref and he must engage in lengthy conversation. On one hand you congratulate him on his English progress (unless he saves these tirades for refs with a knowledge of Italian), yet on the other hand TFC is now playing a man short. Jay Chapman begins playing in Seba's spot defensively, taking away passing lanes from the RSL defenders trying to move the ball. Chapman drifted back into a midfield spot, between Seba and the ref, and gently gave Giovinco a push. Not a push that said "shut up" but a push that pointed him into the defensive channel that needed filling. It was not a confrontation, it had no temper to it all. Chapman was just saying "play". I call it a Cheyrou moment because Benoit Cheyrou, lately, has been playing the veteran role in the midfield. I think it reflects the growing maturity of Jay Chapman. His play is not yet at Cheyrou (or Johnson or Bradley) levels, but he is heading in the right direction. I think that the Chapman of 2015 would have been hesitant to push Giovinco into play.  It was a small moment that said big things in my observation.
Pushing Giovinco away from refs was not the only positive sign on the night in the middle of the field. The young midfield of Chapman, Delgado, Endoh and Osorio continues to play well. Perhaps "well" is too high in the praise department when you consider the lack of finish. Cohesive and aware of creative opportunities going forward and willing to work together when defending is what I witnessed. They move the ball well, whether in tight spaces or changing the point of attack with long lateral passes.
The back four were strong, three of the usual suspects started (Moor, Beitashour, Morrow) with Williams rotating in as a starter for Zavaletta.
I think I need more time to fully absorb what TFC are creating when Altidore and Ricketts are put on the field. Altidore is dropping in behind Seba and Ricketts is mostly left, but sometimes right. 
I do feel bad for Jordan Hamilton. He puts in a solid effort, but Giovinco is always the focus of the attack. Plus the growing health of Jozy Altidore means that Hamilton's playing time is drawing to a close. It must be hard for a young player to shine in such a situation.

The TFC victory moves their record to 9W 6D 7L = 33 points, which is good for second place in the MLS East after 22 games. In first spot is NYCFC with 36 points with 23 games played.
Stay tuned for New England visiting Toronto Saturday night...
Arrived too late for the TFC top hat offer, my regret or reward?

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