|The golden moments of July sunsets on the Eastern Stand|
Where was my favourite TFC player? Benoit Cheyrou!* Not only has he been the anchor of the injury depleted midfield (Bradley and Will Johnson still out) but it was also his photograph on the ticket. It should have been his night to shine. He was not even on the substitutes bench. I started the game bracing myself for a rough ride. Without Cheyrou to run the show, it was going to be chaos out there.
Instead it was smooth sailing. The midfield held their shape when defending throughout the first half. I thought that there was a moment when Federico Higuain was given too much space and time, but it came to nothing. Only weeks ago I was squawking that TFC's young midfield often played as if they had met for the first time just before the game. Passing with nervous energy, afraid to move the ball into space and draw defenders were two knocks against them. Osorio seemed hypnotized into always looking for Giovinco, no matter how Seba was defended. Delgado looked shaky with the ball, producing more giveaways than connecting passes some nights, and not much better defensively. Chapman and Endoh seemed to be the rising talents of the midfield, but it always seemed to be the support and guidance of Cheyrou that made their opportunities to go forward and create.
Lo and behold! Against Columbus the youthful midfield moved smoothly, as if they had become a unit. Passes crisp, subtle touches, smart movement and defending on top of it all. They turned from breakdowns to buildups and the Crew were left in the dust.
You have to give a lot of the credit to Seba Giovinco. I think his scoring slump was harming both his play and his cohesion with his midfield. With everyone pressing for his breakthrough, he grew more selfish. Now that he is back on track with his scoring, he seems more generous and attuned to players around him. The cooperation was so great, Tsubah Endoh offered the back of his head for Seba to bank his shot off of for the first goal of the night. I am not yet convinced that Endoh did enough to get credit for that goal. Giovinco scored the game's second goal, feeding Chapman in a tight spot and give credit to Jay Chapman for the little move as if to shoot that froze the defenders before sending it back to the onrushing Giovinco for an excellent goal. Giovinco continued his generous ways with his set up of the final goal provided by Jozy Altidore. Goal number 1 for season 2016 for Altidore, may this be an omen of many to come.
I came here to praise TFC, but you have to bring the tumble of Columbus into your calculations of the game. The Crew were the hosts of the MLS Cup last December. Although they lost to Portland in that game, you would not have expected them to be struggling and below the playoff line. There is enough time still to come in the season for a playoff run, but they looked rough last night.
So the struggles of Columbus (worst goal difference in the MLS) , especially on the offensive end , could mute your observations on TFC's defending. Alex Bono was rarely tested, but that does not lessen the value of the clean sheet. I had to check the MLS stat sheet. Clint Irwin, still injured, has a goal against average of 1.07 (based on 15 games played) versus Bono with a GAA of 1.17 (7 games played). I am not going to leap so far as to claim that Bono rivals Irwin. It will be great to have Irwin back from injury, but Bono has filled in better than could have expected.
So the victory over Columbus (Trillium Cup win goes with it) ends the MLS schedule for TFC in July. 6 games - 3 victories (DC, Columbus, Chicago), 2 ties (Seattle and Columbus) and that blasted loss in San Jose. August will contain another 6 games - home to RSL and New England, road trip to Houston, Philly and Orlando and then home to Montreal during the CNE. Is a repeat of July's 11 points out of a possible 18 too much to ask for? The way they looked last night, I think that a point total higher than 11 is within reason.
Oh and a little plug. I have been invited onto The Naz and Wally Sports Hour - Zoomer Radio AM 740 / FM 96.7 as a fill in host for the next three weeks. So stay tuned will be more than an empty promise.
*I have been a fan of Cheyrou since his arrival in winter 2015, but until recent weeks I would have given the "fave TFC player" nod to Damien Perquis. The former TFC defender, (who has been signed by Nottingham Forest) Perquis would have come in second in the talent department, but would win in the overflow of passion category. With the departure of Perquis, Cheyrou takes top spot for me, for now. At age 35, I believe in the second year of a two year contract and a wave of younger midfielders looking good, you have to guess that Cheyrou is not part of TFC's long term plans.