Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cup kept Cup raised TFC 2 Montreal Impact 1

A June evening approaching the stadium
Well, the blog is back. Due to a busy life and the pursuit of some other fine things in life (Airstream trailers and travel to Wilco's Solid Sound in Massachusetts) this blogger missed two games. The first leg in Montreal was televised and I missed it. The home game of TFC vs New England was also missed. No blog posts, but I followed along as best I could.
So I walked to BMO Field last night wondering if I had lost ground and worried that TFC would have wrinkled without my gaze upon them.
No worries at all.
The Bradley - Vazquez combination continues to make the TFC midfield a thing of beauty. Mavinga continues to be solid, I thought it was due to Mavinga that Montreal's late addition of Oduro amounted to nothing. In other years Oduro could use his speed to exploit space down the wing. Over and out with Mavinga.
It was a strange game with Montreal getting a first half goal out of a minimum of shots, chances and possession. TFC always looked the better side and just lacked finish on a multitude of chances.
The second half changes of Delgado for Osorio and Altidore for Ricketts made a big difference.

For me, the key action in the run of play leading to the winning goal is not Giovinco's finish, although mighty sweet that was, but his reaction to blatant foul #456 from a Montreal player just seconds before. If you watch the replay you see him grabbed by the shoulder from behind and taken to the ground and he bounces back up in a micro-second to follow the play into the near post channel. At that point in the game all TFC players knew that ref Gantar had lost the plot, that his calls were scattered and without pattern. 

It might only be a case of my being a cranky old man, but I have a theory that TFC lack only one player in their roster. A cranky man. Not a starter, but somebody the opposition knows is taking names and numbers all game long. No intent to injure, just a seeker of justice. For every liberty taken with or hard foul against a TFC player, that MLS refs seem to tolerate to an extreme degree, Cranky Man gives back what TFC has had to take.
I felt that Damien Perquis and Benoit Cheyrou played the role recently.  I am happy with Cheyrou's role this year and it is almost impossible for the team's elder statesman to also be the cranky justice seeker...

So weeks of road games and the Gold Cup national team departures make the first half of July a low profile time for TFC. Some travel plans will make my blogging a mystery. 
Have yourself a Happy Canada Day and remember....

All for One.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dusty victory, a team too subtle? TFC 2 DC United 0

Yes, I am difficult to please.
Yes, TFC scored two second half goals and secured another home victory. They stay top of the Eastern Conference with 32 points (16 games played - 9 W 2 L 5 T) but only one point ahead of surprising Schweinsteigered Chicago.

Still I was a little haunted by TFC being shut out by New England on the road a few weeks ago. Altidore and Bradley missed that one for USA duty. TFC had scoring chances by the bucket in the first half and at the very least should not have been held scoreless in that game.
So this weeks old haunting combined with a scoreless first half last night had me worried. Here was TFC back at home, Altidore and Bradley back on the field, and a touch of rust and dust was to be expected. This starting 11 had not been on the field together for a while.
When the subtle touches, the close passes, the sweeping long passes to move the point of attack and stretch the defending team are moving with a beautiful flow, TFC are a sight to behold. Yet sometimes it feels as if they are one measure short of a goal of the week candidate and that only a work of art will do. Have we fans been spoiled? The five goal demolishment of Columbus setting too high a standard?

TFC were clearly the better team tonight, but DC United 2017 have been struggling. They are currently last in the Eastern standings. It might have been a classic case of playing down to weaker opponents or it might have been that dust and rust from not playing together. I worry that is more a matter of lesser teams defending with bodies in the box and TFC letting their tendency for finesse get the better of them. For all my love of the finesse game, sometimes you have to score ugly.
In the coming summer transfer window, would I trade Armando Cooper, the finesse player deepest on the midfield depth chart and lately not even gathering dust on the bench, for a hulking brute forward? Certainly. Are you reading Mr. Bezbatchenko?

The goals from Altidore and Hamilton, both set-up by Giovinco, were moments of skill and daring. Yet it was also concerning that Altidore, Giovinco and Bradley all picked up yellow cards last night. I was not comfortable with the ref last night and once again worry about our finesse team being roughed up and the ref only seeing the response. Michael Bradley now misses the New England rematch due to card accumulation.
Special mentions - Chris Mavinga was worth the price of admission last night. His bold defending, all timing and laser like feet, was a thrill to watch. He had a better game than Victor Vazquez, I felt. Since they are both the dazzling newcomers to TFC this year, I tend to compare them. Vazquez might only be guilty of establishing a supreme standard with his performance against Columbus. Michael Bradley was strong defending and positioning, but his long passing was falling back into the spraying wildly around the field category. I wore my USA shirt in honour of his superb goal against Mexico last week. Good things happen when you retain the threat of shooting the ball from surprising locations. That is surprising locations on the field of play, not surprising locations in the nation of Mexico.

I will miss the New England game due to being away in, of all places, New England next weekend. It's not soccer related. I am a long time dedicated fan of the band Wilco. Although they are from the Chicago area, they hold a music festival every two years in a small Massachusetts town named North Adams (at an incredible site- the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or MASS MoCA). The festival is called Solid Sound , I have not missed one yet and 2017 is no exception. So I am not sure if I will blog or even be able to follow the game. Maybe I will beg a guest blogger to fill something in for me. Trust me, I want TFC to destroy New England. With their Trump friend owner and their hollow NFL ambiance home field, I put them above Columbus recently on my despised rival list.

Until the next time, All for One.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Muskets amok NE Revs 3 TFC 0

I dislike the New England Revolution.
They have a Trump loving owner.
They play in a stadium designed for NFL football on a surface designed for NFL football.
They have a goal scoring ritual that has a half dozen men dressed as American Revolutionary War chaps fire muskets after the home team scores a goal. I can't quite put my finger on why I find that deeply irksome, but I do. Maybe over glorification of military?
Oh and their head coach, Jay Heaps, often looks like a maniac and I remember him as a stormy player too...

So having NE Revs defeat TFC irks me deeply.
They caught TFC on an off performance night and defeated them 3-0.
Toronto FC had too many goal scoring opportunities elude them in the first half.
A clear header from Vazquez, a goal post hit by Morrow, a screaming shot from Cooper off the crossbar and Edwards not running onto a cross from Vazquez all spring to mind.
Seba Giovinco was Mr. Invisible

I am too deeply irked to write much more. Heavens, even Cheyrou looked slow and wayward in his passing tonight!

TFC do not play next weekend. They next play at home on June 17th. That should give them (and me) some time to get this one out the system.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Capital punishment TFC 4 Ottawa Fury 0

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies -BMO on the brink of June
TFC played the second leg, the home game versus the Ottawa Fury in the Canadian semis last night and had little problem defeating them in a fairly lopsided game. The first half was mostly one of Ottawa frustrating and TFC looking frustrated. Then late in the half Endoh put one in off of a Fury defender (after Jordan Hamilton made a pinpoint cross from a "trapped out on the wing with a defender on his back" spot) and then seconds later it was Vazquez putting in a cross perfectly to Endoh's head and TFC had two goals. After that the Fury had to put all of their efforts into keeping tabs on TFC and the minute prospect of an Ottawa goal just faded throughout the second half.

It was a pleasure watching Vazquez and Cheyrou use the midfield as their canvas. They both find space to operate. They move into positions prior to getting the ball, they welcome pressure once they have the ball and they find ways, subtle and surprising, to move from the pressure and keep their dribbling and passing options open. They seldom seem to hold the ball too long, due to their ability to read the landscape around them.  The Fury had no equivalent. Marky Delgado scored as he went unmarked down the middle of the field. Seba Giovinco scored and you felt that he had spent his second half playing time getting back into shape and taking target practice.

The next MLS season game is this weekend against New England. The Revs have not had a strong start to the season and it is possible that TFC could go into this contest with a case of overconfidence. Thumping Ottawa just might contribute to the attitude problem. Bradley and Altidore have gone off for USMNT duty and will not be playing for TFC this weekend, same as last night. Giovinco might be rested to keep him off the artificial surface and Coach Vanney has done the same with Vazquez this season. No word on the leg injury to Tosaint Ricketts that had him come out of the game late in the first half last night. After the New England game Saturday TFC have a break in the schedule and do not play again until June 17th. The starting line-up for TFC will be interesting.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Toronto in superb form, slew Crew TFC 5 Columbus Crew 0

Anyone who went to the stadium tonight expecting that level of excellence or that many goals has more confidence and insight than I could ever imagine. The game was off to a great start within the first 10 minutes with the Vazquez pass to Ricketts, the foul in the box and the Vazquez goal on the ensuing p.k. Yet feeling comfortable with an early lead is difficult against Columbus. I would not consider myself a fan of Federico Higuaín, but I respect his skill and heaven knows he has destroyed TFC many a time. So I watched him like a hawk. As long as he was on the field I worried. On a night scoring 5 goals it is easy to forget the effort and skill on the defensive side. 

Toronto FC put on a sweet performance tonight at BMO. Long before the goals started TFC had moments of footy poetry in motion out there. It seems that Captain Michael Bradley responds so well to the addition of Victor Vazquez to the midfield. They often moved about as a pair of midfield maestros benefitting from some excellent contributions from Chris Mavinga and Justin Morrow. It's a bit funny that both of Vazquez's goals were scored from dead ball situations, because he was all thoughtful motion and pinpoint passing tonight. I recall a moment in the second half when he was boxed in out on the left and he made a bad pass to the middle of the pitch that was pounced on by Columbus. It stuck out in my memory largely because it was a rare lapse. 

I think that at 3-0 Columbus threw in the towel and subbed off Higuaín. TFC's Delgado was given a red card after a collision with a Crew player. It happened so fast and I admit that because I had been following the path of the ball and first saw Delgado reaching for it, my first instinct was that Delgado had touched the ball and that the Crew player came in late. I have yet to see a replay, but I must be wrong on the sequence. Marky Delgado deserves credit for developing his game. He can still be a day late and a dollar short when the ball is at his feet... but he is covering a lot of ground and positioning himself well when defending. With Vazquez and Bradley running the show down the middle and Morrow and Beitashour on the flanks, Delgado is not going to shine as a star. He needs to shoot from distance more often, but that is a criticism I throw at all TFC midfielders (except Vazquez, he takes at least one long crack at net per game by my primitive stat memory).

It was such a dominant performance by TFC tonight that I felt just a tiny bit sorry for the Crew. A very rare feeling in all my years following the MLS. Usually I would only enjoy thumping Montreal more than downing the Crew.

Coming into tonight's game Columbus had a record of 6 wins, 6 losses and a tie. Not overpowering, but respectable for 5th place in the Eastern MLS standings. They might have figured, considering that they came to Toronto with Giovinco out due to injury and Altidore suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Instead they encountered an onslaught. I would be sensitive to TFC running up the score with goals 4 and 5 if not for the fact that it was Osorio (beautifully set up by Hamilton) and Hamilton (beautifully set up by Edwards) that were doing the scoring. Both came off the bench and both are down the depth chart and fighting for playing time.

A rare night. I am just not used to walking away from the stadium thinking " well that was a work of art". A good feeling, that.

Just another masterpiece...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Road strength NYRB 1 TFC 1

The Granite and Redbrick FC (just me, trying to spruce up the Grey and the Red)  continued to look a rising force in New Jersey tonight. A point on the road is often the target for a game such as this and the cagey veterans of TFC fandom tuned in hoping for just that.

The Red Bull Arena has rarely been a place for TFC to flourish. TFC with an all time great winning streak has one looking for a bubble burster of a game. NYRB have a great home record and they were stung

Without Seba Giovinco and Nick Hagglund due to injuries and Drew Moor playing 60 minutes in his comeback from injury game, TFC managed to raise our expectations all night long.

- came back from being one goal down at the half  with Cheyrou's goal
- had a penalty called in their favour at NYRB Arena (too bad Jozy hit a soft riser too close to the        keeper and had it saved).
- had a near winner as Tosaint Ricketts put one off the crossbar
- and had Ricketts put one in the net only to have it called back on a offside / interfering with play call on Raheem Edwards.

Rare in TFC history to have a draw in NYRB territory feel so much like two points squandered rather than the tie point gained.
The TFC record now stands at 7 wins 1 loss and 5 ties, still #1 in the East although Orlando is only 6 points back with two less games played.

Next game is a Canadian Championship game in Ottawa against the Fury. You can expect to see plenty of regulars rested and Hamilton, Chapman and Osorio be amongst those to give TFC a Canadian shape.
Then next Friday it is a home game versus the Columbus Crew with the Trillium Cup on the line. I like our chances...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ragged power TFC 3 Minnesota 2

A fully entertaining afternoon down by the lake today. Toronto FC looked confident and cohesive in the early part of the game, ragged for a few scattered patches in the second half and then back to full power mode to finish Minnesota off in the end . When Giovinco scored the first goal it was possible to dream of a runaway "run up the score" victory. Clearly that did not happen, just not sure if it was a matter of Minnesota making a game of it or TFC too often letting them back up when they seemed down at last.

I give credit to Minnesota for a few things. They have improved defensively somewhat from their woeful start to the season. They have some quality players and gave a solid effort. They also have the vaguest name lettering I have ever seen (or actually not seen) on a MLS shirt. Soft grey letters on a white background. As a western conference team we would not see them in Toronto again in 2017 (unless TFC hosted them in the Cup). Just be warned and make sure you buy a program when they play in your town.

TFC rode their offensive side to victory. The effort from Jozy Altidore to keep possession down the left and send in the perfect cross for Tosaint Ricketts to head the winning goal from was superb. TFC clearly sacrificed their defensive side in resting Beitashour and Morrow. Those two sitting out might explain how Minnesota were able to twice crawl back into the game. Hopefully a healthy Drew Moor is close to returning, not every opponent will yield three goals in a game no matter how sparkling the TFC attack is right now.

So it was possible to walk away from the stadium in an upbeat mood. Surprising when you consider that Giovinco and Hagglund left the game due to injuries (and is it possible Alex Bono ended the game injured too?). TFC have never, ever won 6 in a row before.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Woke up just in time Crew 1 TFC 2

Now, that was a scintillating finish. A reward for all those who avoided nodding off when Toronto looked hapless in the second half. Yes, they looked confused and aimless. I also felt that the announcing team of Wileman and Caldwell were throwing in the towel way too early. There were 30 minutes left to play at one point and you felt the audio portion of your broadcast was wrapping up the game as a foregone conclusion.
Just my pet peeve in play by play talk, please describe the action as best you can, try to take me into the moment, into the atmosphere (and therefore spend the money to send announcers to the park, not this from the studio miles away crap). DON'T give me the implications of the action (scoring here will give Jozy Altidore seven goals for the season and he will be tied for the league lead was the jist of Luke Wileman's commentary at that point - he had me yelling at the tv screen before Altidore even made contact). To those who missed the game on television, Altidore's penalty kick was stopped by Crew keeper Steffen. At that point the Columbus Crew were ahead 1-0 as Federico Higuain had scored from the penalty spot (Panenka style) earlier when Zavaletta had fouled a Crew player in the box.

The midfield was not working. It was the return of Vazquez who missed the Seattle trip, a reward start for Jay Chapman, who looked excellent in Seattle, a start for Osorio with Morrow and Beitashour back to their usual wingback spots
It was a victory that Coach Greg Vanney can take a lot of the credit for, but it was not a night that I spent singing his praises. He gets slammed for tinkering too much with his lineup here. He has a deep squad and with the Canadian games coming up (opponent confirmed as the Ottawa Fury) you can see he wants to spread playing time around. Yet at the same time he is not making the best moves in terms of players who know each other and play well together. Jay Chapman did not look as good against Columbus as he did on the weekend, but playing him with Victor Vazquez was a huge factor. Is it not possible that Chapman was playing the Vazquez role in his absence against the Sounders?

In the end Vanney more than dug the team out of the hole he might have created. Mavinga was playing well, but he was subbed still in the first half. Morrow could drop back into Mavinga's spot at left back and Tosaint Ricketts came in the game to add fire power. Although Ricketts was on the field for all those meandering minutes, he scored the two goals and saved the night. Vanney's second half changes, Cheyrou and Edwards in, Osorio and Chapman out, were superb. Putting in Cheyrou was solid, it is not just what Benoit Cheyrou does but also the way that his presence on the field frees up Michael Bradley to get forward. Raheem Edwards brought speed and daring and excellent crosses. He and Vazquez had the assists in both goals. Vazquez finding Edwards on the right wing, who then chipped it into the path of Rickett's head for the first Toronto goal. I have gone on and on about the quality of Victor Vazquez and now heap on praise to Raheem Edwards. The quality of that chip/cross on the first goal is not often seen in TFC land. Then the toe tip of Vazquez on the cross from Edwards later on the left was the gift that Ricketts put the finish too.

Almost forgot to mention 5 straight victories, a TFC record. I must admit that has me worried about the Saturday home game. Playing expansion team Minnesota here in Toronto just might have TFC taking it all for granted. Stay hungry and stay tuned.

They have me peeking at Supporter's Shield TFC#1

Saturday, May 6, 2017

1st in the East and memories of December Seattle 0 TFC 1

Frei robbed Jozy Altidore again (but Jozy had already scored the game winner from the penalty spot minutes earlier).
In today's game Seattle Sounders managed to take some shots on net (the stats say only two on target). 
It was a rematch of last year's MLS Cup Final and you felt that TFC had more to prove, having come so spectacularly short last December. 
The new names as starters might have given you a different impression at game start. Giovinco, Beitashour, Vazquez and Zavaletta had all been left in Toronto. The new faces were Hernandez and Mavinga joining Hagglund in the back line. Benoit Cheyrou and Jay Chapman joining Delgado, Bradley, Edwards and Morrow in the midfield. Clint Irwin was back in net and Altidore the lone forward.
It started rough. Seattle put the ball into the net early, but it was called back on the offside call.
TFC bounced back quickly and looking back at the game, the 1-0 final score flatters Seattle. Jozy should have had another or two, Morrow found himself just short of goal too.
To echo Mr. Caldwell on the tv broadcast, it was a team effort. It gives a fan real confidence to watch them win on the road with so many depth players.

TFC are right now first in the East with a record of 5 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties for a total of 19 points. Orlando is only a point behind and two less games played (they play tonight), so they can leap ahead. New York Red Bulls can tie TFC in points should they win tonight.

Onto Columbus Wednesday night.
Devoted Toronto fans make the trip to Seattle

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Varied, but valued victory TFC 2 Orlando City 1

TFC had a sparkling first half against Orlando City last night. They continued the excellent passing and movement that had dominated Houston just days ago. Vazquez was distributing the ball beautifully. Delgado, Edwards, Beitashour on the wings were taking defenders on and making things happen. Giovinco and Altidore were getting the ball in good attacking spaces. Seba Giovinco scored both goals and it was possible to dream of a goal fest.
Then the tide turned.
I have a lot of respect for Orlando, they have built a solid team. You have to respect a team that gets a  very late first half goal from their superstar, Kaka, and then gets stronger in the midfield when they replace him for the second half. Toronto seemed to shrink a little as Orlando played a more muscular style of play and their midfield dominated. When TFC dominate ball possession they have the players to dazzle with. When the opponent takes over the ball, TFC seems smaller, weaker. Dare I say it, they lack a Will Johnson. Subbing Osorio in for Vazquez improved the defending in the midfield, somewhat. Cooper for Edwards was for defending purposes too, one supposes. TFC preserved the lead and grabbed the victory, so they withstood the onslaught. It was always in doubt though and that diving slap save from Alex Bono in net, as the ball looked a sure goal for Orlando, was the most memorable moment from Toronto in that half.
If the night was one part exciting passing and motion and one part experimental rugby, I must give some credit for the grappling rugby portion to ref Baldomero "baffling decisions" Toledo. Jozy Altidore in particular was impeded, grabbed and muscled and somehow Toledo found a way to make calls against him. I am all for ref respect, but I wish I could find a way to have Mr. Toledo impeded as he does his job the way he allows TFC forwards to be impeded. Perhaps a drone buzzing his butt while he makes his mysterious calls.
pre-game Coach Conway warming up game saver Alex Bono

A fan blogger salute to Coach Greg Vanney who coached his 100th TFC game last night, the club record (which might say more about the club than Mr. Vanney, but I quibble). I feel like an old-timer to recall the start of his era, in on the heels of the firing of previous coach Ryan Nelsen (who has gone onto?) back in September 2014. Who thought then Coach Vanney would last this long? Or qualify for playoffs in his first full season? Or take TFC to the MLS Cup final in his second full season?
It is time to clear away those old clouds of doubt and salute the accomplishment. Greg Vanney, longest serving and most successful TFC coach. Long may he reign win.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Efficient with dashes of dazzle TFC 2 Houston 0

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Toronto FC looked strong in victory last night. It was a mixture of elements at play throughout the evening as they handled the Houston Dynamo. TFC did not pursue a goal fest, although they always looked capable of adding to their total, at the expense of protecting their end of the field. After allowing a late goal against Chicago a week ago, you got the sense that shutting down the Houston scorers was a priority all game long. I think that you have to give credit to Coaches Vanney and Fraser for the continued growth in TFC defending quality. The ability to play with three in the back is due to the progress that Hagglund and Zavaletta exhibit in both defending and ball control out of the back. My hunch is that if a team has one young defender rise in ability it could be talent despite neglectful coaching. Two young defenders on the rise and the coaching gets credit. It was so encouraging, on so many levels, to hear that Drew Moor is on his way back to playing in the short term. Only one goal against in two games however is a strong indication that TFC has a deeper squad than we have ever seen.
The midfield was just as strong. It was a pleasure watching the distribution of Victor Vazquez. He is worth the price of admission. He is neither swift nor flashy. You watch him slide into passing angles so that Michael Bradley and the three defenders can easily find him for their outlet passes. Then he is a master at knowing where everyone on the pitch is and could be. Sudden passes launch attacks or he quickly finds space. I was sad to see him come off the field (though another game looms midweek and rest for veteran legs and playing time for Osorio was wise). After last night I could give the inside track to midfield playing time to Marky Delgado. He had a strong game, seems to fill the spaces defensively that Vazquez can't get to and was positive in the attack. Bradley played a strong game, I think having Vazquez around take pressure of off Captain MB. Raheem Edwards was superb. Beitashour too.
Altidore and Giovinco seemed to be a true partnership. The second Altidore goal was due to a pure unselfish moment from Giovinco.
Alex Bono fully deserved his shutout. Made some timely saves, particulary in the second half when defending legs were weariest.

All in all, a good night down by the lake. You never forgot it was April, but mild weather all night and no wind to speak of. Toronto provided effort, style and ball control on every part of the pitch.
The next game is against Orlando.
Stay tuned.
TFC attack finding wide open spaces

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Our home opener TFC 3 Fire 1

We spent our winter south of the border and returned to Ontario for the Easter weekend. So this was our first BMO Field game attended for the year. Keen readers of the blog will know it was not our first TFC game attended as we trekked up to Sandy, Utah to see the season opener versus Real Salt Lake the first week in March.
Snap out of memory lane one must. But first a complaint and a cheerful thought. Ontario this is not spring weather. We know it is coming, we experienced it already in climes such as California, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana. Yes, our route homeward involved going eastward for days to avoid going north for as long as possible. Thanks April in Ontario for reminding this potential perpetual snowbird to plan future returns for May.

It was terrific to see the familiar faces in mighty section 220. Through email, all knew we had been away for months and months, so it was great to be welcomed back. It's a funny contrast that those around me are mostly tech free, while I remain Mr. Social Media (at least through this blog and Facebook, my twitter and instagram could use some boosting). So when I take on the role of fan spokesperson, I do so in a bit of a vacuum. However most are shaking their heads at the pain of Friday night games. My combo of retired and driving in from Guelph means little difference weekday or weekend. Most fans don't have our luxury of choosing an early afternoon travel time. Friday pm rush hour is chaos in this city. Getting from work to game is a pain. I understand that US television contracts means that Friday night games will be a reality. Bradley and Altidore getting to the MLS Cup means that TFC has ratings potential south of the border. It remains a pain.

I admit I was worried about the rising fortunes of Chicago. After the poor game in Columbus last weekend I was fearing the Schweinstieger the same way the Raptors "Fear the Deer". My concern after the Crew was that the stumbling would continue. This April/May TFC homestand needs to be the winning streak or else. Fair to say that Schweinsteiger provided more stumbles than fear striking. It will be interesting to see how dedicated Mr. Schweinsteiger is to conditioning. He looked a little rough in the first half and was less effective in the second. Will he wilt in the long hot Midwest summer or prove a steiger of schweins? I am looking into travelling to Illinois in August to see the rematch game
When that early Chicago Fire goal was called back on an offside call, it just might have been the required jolt to the collective system. From then on Toronto started playing with greater cohesion, notably with their passing throughout the midfield. The midfield was setup with Bradley at the back with Vazquez and Delgado central, Beitashour down the right and Raheem Edwards down the left. I felt that Edwards played a strong two-way game. You can be taken with his dazzle on the ball, but he does the unsung work of getting back and finding his man on the defending end too.
My faith restored in TFC, time for some random observations...
Giovinco went from the sacred (scoring that screamer of a free kick) to the profane (kicking a pylon, storming off to the dressing room at being subbed late in the game) in record time. At what point does admiration for his passion give way to concern for team dynamics? Does Seba really think that he is the one in "All for One"? 

My fandom for Benoit Cheyrou was severely tested last night. He was the late sub for Gio and his only contribution of note was to give the ball away and allow Accam of Chicago to score their consolation goal. I suppose that balances out in the admiration scale, David Accam is the Fire player that always scares me. He is also on my top players Toronto should trade for list...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Discovering Columbus Crew 2 TFC 1

Methinks that Toronto FC are in the midst of a painful awakening. As much as it stings to say it, the Columbus Crew might be the perfect team to administer such an awakening.
2015 ended with Columbus hosting and losing the MLS Cup. Then they followed that with not even making the playoffs in 2016. So the Crew know well that attaining post-season heights does not magically transfer to the next year.
Right now Toronto are playing as if it does. Taking the first half lead, off of a beautifully headed goal by Jozy Altidore, just seemed to open the door to smugness. The Crew scored twice in short order and never looked back.
TFC just can't afford to allow two quick goals when their ability to score seems limited. I have not looked at any stats, but did Giovinco have a shot at all in this game?
I put my bias on the table, I think Benoit Cheyrou is the best thing since sliced baguette. He needs some playing time. I would shift Michael Bradley back to central defender until the (hopeful) return of Drew Moor. TFC depends far too much on the scoring prowess of Gio and Jozy and tries to coast along on a nonscoring midfield (my least fave stat of 2016, Osorio scored one goal, Michael Bradley scored one goal). No wonder teams smother the TFC forwards, Toronto has no offensive plan B.
I worry about this coming homestand. Chicago Fire with Bastian Schweinsteiger, then Houston, then Orlando. Remember that Columbus, Chicago and Orlando did not qualify for the playoffs in 2016, so a rise in their quality, plus the strength of expansion team  Atlanta, means a rougher road for TFC
I worry about May with two games against Columbus and road trips to Seattle and NYRB.
Toronto may know by June if they are the "Beast of the East" that they thought they were or if they are a team that will struggle to make the playoffs.
I know that the first loss of the year should not unleash such a gloomy outlook, but it seems like it is sink or swim time down by the lake.
Still kicking

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A bad case of Mavinga TFC 2 Atlanta 2

Atlanta United lived up to their early season reputation and looked the part of an established team. They are not the usual MLS woeful outfit in their rookie year and have hit the ground running. 
However, they did score their two goals on long ball breakaways and both times I would lean more towards wondering about Mavinga's (that would be Chris Mavinga, I think getting his first start for TFC) positioning and defending than praising Atlanta's skill. 
Toronto had the most of the night, but continue to squander chances or fail to find the net when you think their dominance of play for long stretches deserves a reward. Playing the end of the game with a man advantage just underlined this. I know they proved me wrong in Vancouver, but most of the time when TFC get an opponent sent off, my hopes go nowhere.
Good to see Giovinco get his first goal of the season. He lost the plot late in the game when he felt that a foul had been earned. Bad karma there.
If all goes to plan, tonight was the final Toronto game that I will watch from afar (writing this in my airbnb in San Antonio, Texas). The next home game will see me back in the stands. I relish the opportunity to yell Schweinsteiger at Bastien Schwiensteiger... stay tuned and score goals.

Zavaletta about to be semi-clunked. A semi-clunk that was met with a full red card.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Home Opener 2017 T FC 0 SKC 0

Missed the home opener for the first time ever, but caught the Fox broadcast delayed the next day.

As I always value the eyewitness report over the filtered through TV version, I offer the highlights from our ace reporter Trout.

Freezing at the half. 0-0, wind playing havoc. Edwards has been great. Kc had most of first 20. After, Sebastian and Vasquez dropped back just ahead of Bradley. Good time on the ball and more chances. Seba ranging all over the field. Looks promising for second half. Osorio trying out for Argos kicker, missed the net incredibly high three times. Irwin slipped on a wet pitch coming for a ball, went down awkwardly. Subbed out. Is Bono the first choice keeper forever now?
0-0 final. Lots of chances. No joy. Seba put a free kick off the woodwork. Bono had a great stop. A good game, but they still are lacking finish. Edwards had a great second half too, in for Morrow.

Now that I'm home and warmed up I can tell you it was the same ref from the cup final. Forwards didn't get much in the way of fouls against. In other words, the old rude referee songs still apply.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

West coast road victory Whitecaps 0 Toronto FC 2

Although TFC came back west to my winter time zone, I did not travel to this one. If travelling from Tucson to Salt Lake City put me into the lunatic fringe, travelling from Southern California to Vancouver would have put me under observation. Or at least have bent both travel plans and matrimonial harmony.
So this weekend found me watching the game on my iPhone, from some mystery stream, while in a lawn chair at my camp site in Morro Bay State Park. Just for the weather envy crowd, high today was 19 C, down a bit to 18 C at time of writing. The sun has been making steady afternoon appearances after a mostly cloudy morning.
Now I am usually hesitant to share much when going off of a televised game. Amplify the hesitation when squinting at a phone screen.
It was wonderful to witness Toronto FC take advantage of a player being sent off. 2016 seemed to be the year where other teams laughed about going down in numbers against Toronto. Let's hope we have killed that for the new season.
Jozy Altidore continues to be a scoring star. Both his assist on the Vasquez goal and his own goal where examples of his making the most of the smallest of opportunities. No wonder defenders spend so much of their time wrestling with him.
So the three game road trip prior to the home opener ends with Toronto FC holding onto FIVE points and rolls into the end of March undefeated.

Plus a road victory grabbed while Giovinco recovers and rests up for BMO.

So I end with a shout out to some of the wonderful ladies in my life. To Sadie Tess, daughter extrodinaire, who will be sitting in the Kennedy seats in section 220 come the last Friday night in March (her being there cheers me up when I get gloomy about missing my first home opener) and Hindy, travelling superstar and Jozy fan who understands that devoted fan and blogger is not something I can turn off just because the California sun is shining.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A continent span away - Philadelphia 2 TFC 2

From the blogger/fan perspective, it was a week's journey from the heights to the depths.
Week 1 had me in the stands at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Week 2 found me in greater Los Angeles, fiddling with my ipad and finding wonky streams of the telecast out of Philadelphia. I understand that it was cold in Philadelphia. That might explain why my screen kept freezing.
So my usual hesitation to blog and expound upon a team's or player's performance from watching a televised game is amplified by the technical glitches.
It was good to see TFC score again. I felt that the first Philly goal was a moment of skill from the Union's Simpson. Getting his head onto a low cross was a surprising move. The second goal seemed to be a combo disaster. Not thrilled with Cooper's giveaways, he tries to dribble through impossible scenarios and expects too many calls. In the sequence prior to Philly scoring that second goal I felt that perhaps too many TFC players were expecting the foul call that never came. Then Sapong was allowed to saunter and Irwin came out towards the ball and then hesitated. Better to dive, attempting to get your hands onto the ball and miss, than not dive at all
The Giovinco injury has me thinking the TFC needs an enforcer. Cheyrou and Perquis in recent years have provided that grit. Now you can wipeout Toronto's star and play on with impunity. 

Early days in the season and TFC have a point from both road games. I am not hitting the panic button and the Giovinco injury could have been worse.
Rays of hope, but points to worry about.

Next weekend I am still in California and to make watching the Vancouver game (and blogging) a greater challenge, we are tent camping in a state park. Morro Bay is right on the Pacific Ocean in central California.
Stay tuned, the whitecaps I encounter may not be in uniform.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tiny, first steps on the long road RSL 0 TFC 0

It was great to be basking in the sunshine at a Toronto FC game today. We may have been skipping out on much of Ontario's winter this season with our trek through the southwest, but an offseason is still an offseason and it felt great to see the team take the field.
The stadium was Real Salt Lake's and the sunshine was beaming through the Utah air, but the season was on.

First half corner from Seba

Coach Vanney has been quoted musing about the process the players have to go through, the adjustments that must be made when playing your new season games while your head is still wrapped up in bouncing back from that Cup loss. Might be fair to say that fans and bloggers have their own process.
TFC took a point on the road today against a historically tough western conference opponent. Many a year such a result from the first game on the road would have been embraced as good news. I think instead fans (and players?) want a resounding smash victory. A game that will be the one that we wish had been presented as what TFC could achieve on that December Cup Final night.

Today was not that game.
Jozy Altidore and Seba Giovinco more concerned with pleading for calls that just weren't going to come than combining and creating.
Michael Bradley sitting back as Drew Moor's wall, shutting Toronto's door instead of destroying RSL's. 
Wrestling a point from RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium was efficiency, not banishing the wounds left from December.
I was impressed with Victor Vazquez's 30 minutes of play after coming on as a substitute. Still hard to decide what is TFC's best midfield alignment or starters, but Osorio is going to have a battle for playing time.

Let me sleep. I leave Utah in the morning, heading back to California via Nevada. Not sure if I can blog about the next games as it could be difficult to find them. Stay tuned.

On the brink of a new season and in the shadows of mountains

I'm in Utah!
driving north on Interstate 15,  for hours...

Tomorrow is the first game of Toronto FC's 2017 season and as usual Toronto begins the year with road games. Game 1 vs Real Salt Lake Saturday March 4th at 14:30 Mountain Standard time.
We have tickets and will be in the stands. The East Stands upper deck. Probably not on camera during the broadcast, but what else in new?

This was not part of some master plan. My wonderful wife and I have long been fans of the American Southwest and left Ontario in December to spend our first snowbird winter in Arizona and California.

Then the MLS schedule is released and that TFC season opener in Sandy, Utah looks attainable. We knew that we would be in Tucson, Arizona for the final days of February, so the March 4th date worked. Arizona is the next state south of Utah, so just hop over and see our TFC in action.

Back east, the state next door is a skip and a jump. The western "state onto the next state" drive, the leaving of Tucson on one morning - the Flagstaff to Salt Lake City the following is a scenic wonder (and a butt numbing marathon). Worry not, scenic fans, we took a break day and peeked at the Grand Canyon on our day off of the northern drift.

So here we sit in our hotel the night before Game 1 2017. 
Stay tuned. Will I change overnight from a travel geek and back into a TFC fan deluxe? As I said, stay tuned.