Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tragic event strikes Chapecoense and wounds us all

Being a fan of this sport puts you into a global village. The joys are understood and embraced, but the sadness must be shared too. Today the global village has sadness indeed.
On a flight to Colombia to play in the final for the Copa Sudamericana (described as the South American club competition similar to the Europe League) the Brazilian club team Chapecoense experienced a fatal crash.
According to the BBC report 81 people were on board the plane and reports state only 6 people have survived.
I join all expressing condolences and deep sorrow at this loss.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TFC stumble early, but leave poised - Impact 3 TFC 2

On the morning after the game in Montreal, I am struggling to get a grip on the Impact -TFC game last night ( leg 1 Eastern final for the Audi MLS Cup, if you need the full title).

I watched it on tv. It was a game that sometimes seemed to be played on an icy parking lot painted green (and only Dominic Oduro had shoes with any grip to them).
I am always hesitant to blame a player based on the narrow vision presented by tv cameras, but I have a hunch that Nick Hagglund wishes he could replay both early Montreal goals. He slipped as the through pass went by to Dominic Oduro and I felt he was caught napping on the cross coming at him that became the second goal. I still had faith, courage and perspective after that second Impact goal. Plenty of time in the game, two goals against early is not insurmountable...

I think every TFC supporter felt an incredible sinking feeling on the third Montreal goal. The Impact defender Oyongo strips the ball (from Giovinco?) and proceeds to push into the Toronto half as if he had been granted diplomatic immunity for the night. Nobody challenges and with all the time in the world he shoots and he scores. Montreal scoring three goals against TFC in the playoffs was a return to nightmare territory.

From those depths came first the Altidore goal (and I was so ready to sub him for Ricketts at halftime) and then the Bradley goal (after I had complained that he had become as predictable as Osorio in the "never take a shot at goal" category).

By the end of the game, I was so rejuvenated by the two goal comeback it was hard to feel that TFC had lost.

I ended the night feeling INCREDIBLY optimistic about TFC at home next Wednesday night. My reasons for optimism include:

1.  The critical leg 2 game will be played on grass, not that substandard green stuff that the Big Owe uses. A playing surface that hopefully (more than fingers crossed) survives the Grey Cup Sunday. I will watch the Grey Cup on tv with a startling new perspective. I will care very little for the humans in helmets and will cheer for every blade of grass. Hold your breath, field of ours, it will soon be Wednesday night!

2. The following players will rebound from their wonky ways in Montreal - first half Altidore, Osorio ( I would start Osorio and give him the first half for his confidence, but sub Will Johnson for him at halftime), Clint Irwin and Nick Hagglund.

3. Sebastian Giovinco is right where we want him, taking the field in Toronto with something to prove and a bit of fire in his belly.

4. The cloud of a second yellow in the playoffs meaning a subsequent suspended game is now lifted. That let's Toronto play a tougher, no goals against style of game.

And the last reason for optimism is more emotional, more spirited, more hope than tactic.

I blogger and fan, we fans, we brave and hardy souls, those who have raised their voices and opened their hearts over the decade to such as Adam Braz, Mista, Nick Garcia, Marco Velez and multitudes lesser and greater, now stand one game, one resounding victory short of playing for the cup. After watching Seattle- Colorado late last night, I have resigned myself to the probability that Colorado will win the second leg and put themselves in position to host the MLS Cup. We will know on Sunday as that is when they play their second leg. Whether we stand in our stadium with the chance to host Seattle on December 10th or knowing that we travel, it could be the greatest ending to TFC's already greatest season.

Until then, TFC!

Salute Montreal for support, but image of painting delay is just too painful/delightful for me to avoid

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Make Montreal Moribund

What a strange gap in the playoffs for TFC. They last played on November 6th., weeks ago. November has snapped from warmth to winter. 

Tonight they play game 1 of the MLS Eastern Finals in Montreal. 

It seemed that Bradley and Altidore had dropped off the Canadian sports radar. I focus on them because they were the only TFC members that have been kicking a ball other than during practice. Now we find out that they were off playing for Jurgen Klinsman .... for the last time (he was fired from his US coach post yesterday).

I fear that the 5-0 thrashing of NYCFC weeks ago might have created a monster of expectations tonight in Montreal.

I think that the game should be looked upon as one of those World Cup games where it is the last of the group stage and playing in the next round is already a lock. The TFC next round is the second game in Toronto.
Victory or a draw would be nice bonuses, but TFC can bounce back from a loss. It might even be a bigger motivation for next week in Toronto if TFC have to come back from a deficit (within reason).
1. An away goal or two should be top priority. 
2. A game free of yellow cards for those TFC already carrying one.
3. A game free of significant injury from the playing surface 

Full backing to those who are travelling... I do not want to dampen your spirits and I salute your dedication. 

So perhaps I am crossing my fingers for a Montreal muted or muddled in game 1. I have little regard for Montreal's ability to weather adversity. Should Toronto continue to play as dominating as they did in Yankee Stadium, the Impact will not tone it down.

But I do look at the second leg as the night where our TFC dreams come true....

Monday, November 7, 2016

Yankee Stadium Ownership NYCFC 0 TFC 5

Toronto FC went into Yankee Stadium Sunday night and played through NYCFC as if those sky blue shirted players were made of swiss cheese. Score early, score often, keep a clean sheet, avoid injury and yellow cards. We TFC fans are just not accustomed to having everything go precisely to plan, but that is exactly what Toronto FC served up.

This morning I find the sun shining and my smile broadening and I confess that it is a strange state to be in. I don't think I was alone in looking towards the Yankee Stadium game with secret fears. It is glorious to be flying when you are so used to crashing.

I had a dream, an anxiety dream the night before TFC played this East Conference semi-final MLS Cup playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
In my dream things were bad and kept getting worse. First Michael Bradley was red carded early in the game. Then a second red card was issued to Aron Gunnarsson (yes, I am aware that he plays for Iceland as captain and Cardiff City, but my dream team TFC has flexibility).
Then for some reason my dream allowed me to be on the TFC bench and I was substituted into the game. Either, I then spent all my time trying to keep players from getting involved in altercations or they spent all of their time preventing me from picking up a red card. Then as dreams do... it faded into something else.

By the time I was sharing my recall of this dream with my family, TFC was already up 3-0 and laughing.

I have supported, faithfully attended games of, loved, blogged and thought about this team for 10 years now and the culture of things going badly must be woven deep into our fandom by now.

The final game of 2009 came to mind last night as Giovinco's hat trick brought the TFC total to 5. Season 2009 was Toronto FC's first chance at a playoff game. New York Red Bulls were the worst team in the East of MLS that year and it happened to be the final soccer game at Giant's Stadium. All Toronto had to do was win in New York and they would qualify for the playoffs.

Instead they lost 5-0. 

So when Giovinco scored late, not for a second did I feel that TFC were running up the score or making NYCFC look bad. It all made sense that a 5-0 score would put at least one aspect of TFC's haunted history to rest.

Now Toronto are to meet Montreal for the two game Eastern Final to qualify for the MLS Cup.

Am I still dreaming?

Michael Bradley played the entire game!?
Shocked that Aron Gunnarsson appeared to not be in uniform last night!?