Monday, November 6, 2017

Bad cop and flat tire on the road to MLS Cup - TFC 0 NYRB 1

Have you ever travelled down to BMO Field with a nagging sense of dread? There is something about November that contributes to an unsettled feeling. TFC playoff games are still a new contribution to a lifetime of November chilling rain and the feelings of loss and a need to ward off the dark cold.

I felt that the TFC -NYRB game could go wild in a number of ways. Even with that premonition, it was a horribly unpredictable mud wrestle of a slugfest. Two TFC goals disallowed! A red card to Jozy Altidore (and Snidely Whiplash, I mean Sacha Kljestan of the NYRBs)! A weird long shot deflection goal for NYRBs. Both Bradley and Giovinco get yellow cards for protesting!
Is it possible for the entire fan base and most of the province to be issued yellow cards for protesting? I would wear that one proudly.

Here I am blogging Monday morning. I thought I needed to cool off before pounding the keyboard. Still steamed though.


A Sunday afternoon  that was was plenty ugly. I think that NYRB provided some of the ugly. Their tactics were based on size and grit when defending. However the refs provided most of the ugly, chiefly head ref Chris Penso, with special mention of the VAR Ted Unkel. Clearly a man fully thrown off by the switch back to standard time.

VAR ref Ted Unkel inaction yesterday

The non-call against Giovinco earlier in the first half when he was brought down in the box was the turning point and the start of the ref losing control of the game (imho). NYRB played physical against Seba Giovinco all game. How did NYRB defender Long not get a yellow for persistent fouling in the second half? Giovinco's yellow was a reaction to the third or fourth takedown. It was interesting to me that the MLS highlights did not include the Giovinco being fouled in the box moment. It was shown on the stadium screen at half time - looked from that angle that a NYRB defender knees Giovinco in the left side of his torso to bring him down. Would love to see that again.


TFC go through to the next round, meeting the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference two leg final. To those unclear on TFC losing yesterday but still advancing - the total score after two games with NYRB was 2-2, but TFC had the tie breaker having scored two goals in NY over NY scoring one in Toronto. The away goal tie breaker is a TFC fans' best friend today.
Mark Tuesday November 21st on your calendar. That is the night of the game in Columbus.
Something has to be done about this stupid playoff schedule. The international break is too wide and arrives at the wrong time. The MLS Cup being played on December 9th seems incredible when we already know the final four competing on November 6th.
Stay tuned, keep kicking and check your thermal underwear collection and monitor your blood pressure medication.
Next game at BMO Field Wednesday November 29th vs Columbus Crew.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On the road to MLS Cup - game 1 - NYRB 1 TFC 2

And so we return to playoff footy... with a strategic victory at a stadium where victories have been mighty scarce in TFC history.


get out much, NYRB fans?

This was the first MLS Cup playoff game for TFC since that (shudder, shudder) Cup final disaster versus Seattle last December. When you consider that the recent season was a record breaking Supporter's Shield winning campaign, you could have had a hunch, going into this first leg game at New York Red Bull Arena, that TFC were due for a letdown effort.

Instead Toronto FC had enough attacking skills, enough full team defending and enough top level goalkeeping to defeat NYRB in this first leg game. 
The Red Bulls had opportunities, mostly in the second half, but Alex Bono was more than up to the task. The only Red Bull goal was a penalty kick after a bad moment of defending at the end of the first half. It gave NYRB hope going into the second half. Based on most of the first half play, it might have been hope they did not deserve. You had to expect something from the home team in this arena seldom kind to TFC.

Toronto was up to the task of defending and the rougher play and stronger play of NYRB as they attempted to get into the game. How Felipe did not at least earn a yellow for the hip check of Vazquez, I will never understand. Hagglund in for the injured Drew Moor was a forced substitution that paid off. I know that it is unfair to Osorio (in terms of offensive skills) when he comes on for an ailing Vazquez, but Osorio was a solid contributor. If I am going to highlight the TFC subs, special praise for Cooper. His ball hog antics were perfect for killing off a game to ensure victory. If this means that we can look forward to a return to playoff prominence for midfielder Cooper, all those summer time ball give aways will be forgiven...

This blogger was guilty throughout the second half of thinking that Seba Giovinco was having an off night. Seldom seeing the ball, unable to draw fouls, physically dominated by Long of NYRB. Then it all went Giovinco in a flash. Shielding the ball as he dribbled into the centre of the field, Felipe (the NYRB player I have always loved to hate) made a lunge that went knee to knee in front of the ref. It was an athletic feat of Felipe's to foul with his knee and then in a micro-second raise his arms as a claim to innocence.
Then Giovinco turned on his super powers. His free kick went over the wall, another NYRB defender blocking that side and a diving keeper, and into the net. I would describe the New York crowd as stunned into silence. Too bad the crowd size was minimal. 
Just another day at the office for Seba Giovinco

Speaking of small crowds for a midweek playoff game, you read idle comments that the MLS would desire a NYCFC vs NYRB playoff matchup to highlight the game in the Big Apple. Maybe the small  Red Bull Arena crowd is an indication that soccer in New York needs such a boost. I suspect that the Eastern final will be Toronto vs Columbus, but that is based on season momentum (and Columbus looking blessed vs Atlanta). The NYCFC vs Columbus match up should be interesting. 
Yes, I am guilty of looking towards the next round now. I think that should TFC score the first goal at BMO Field on Sunday afternoon, NYRB is more likely to fold their tent, pick up red cards (Hello Felipe) and leak goals, than mount a mighty comeback.

See you Sunday.



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Season sunset spectacular Atlanta United 2 Toronto FC 2


I was wrong, totally wrong about the last game of the 2017 season for Toronto FC in Atlanta.


I felt that it would be a game perfectly suited for playing the bench.  I figured it wise to save the starters from fatigue and injury. Let Atlanta dominate the B team and give them nothing to work on for possible playoff meetings. Play possum. Throw in the towel and avoid the distraction of playing for the points record. Let that huge Atlanta crowd have their day and possibly contribute to their peaking too early. I thought that the notion that playing the best Toronto 11 to get all in gear for the playoffs was bunk. I figured that they could iron out the kinks in the first leg of any playoff match-up.

Did I mention I was wrong? Thrilled to be wrong actually. Coach Vanney picked his starters (although Beitashour over Hasler was a surprise) and went for it. The record for points in a season, 69, belongs to Toronto FC. 20 wins, 9 ties and 5 losses. You look back over the season and can build a case for at least one tie that should have been a win and one loss that could have been squeezed into a tie.
That's how good this team has been this season.
Their determination today in Atlanta, twice coming back to tie a game, on the road before a record MLS single game crowd (71,874) was incredible. The two leg playoff format is designed for surprises. Remember last year Toronto and Montreal found a way to eliminate the two New York teams. So hold onto your hats. Nothing has been determined, all to play for...



Helping Jozy celebrate and grabbing a cold one

Well struck





Monday, October 16, 2017

Win Ugly TFC 1 Montreal 0

Small (but sweet) mission down, BIG mission ahead
The morning after the last home game of the 2017 season, I (a fan, a blogger, a shrinking old man) must take the time to accentuate the positive.
Toronto FC 2017 hoisted the Supporter's Shield on home field yesterday. They finished their home schedule with a record of 13 wins - 1 loss and 3 ties. That was a powerful performance.

Onto some random observations, in order to stay positive. I will get back to the game in a bit.
I am a huge fan of the 5 pm weekend start time. I could vote for a 4 pm start time too, but with yesterday's weather that would have meant a huge downpour would have hit the start of the game. So 5 pm wins. The best part of the 5 start time is that post game you can meet with friends and family for a rollicking dinner. It makes a good day, a great one.

I love what tuque day (sponsored by KIA) has become. It used to be a wonderful parting gift, a harbinger of the snowy season approaching and the time you were about to spend away from TFC. Now (fingers crossed and touching wood) it is a gateway to playoffs, a reminder that the games ahead will be chilly. The fact that TFC ended their home schedule with TWO hat give aways means everything to the fashion challenged and man I know I'm one.

Back to the game at hand (and sorry I can't stay positive for much longer)

Just what does Alex Bono have to do to be named "Man of the Match"? Score a goal? Sure, Jozy Altidore buried his chance and was the game winner, but most of the night it was Bono (and his goal posts) keeping Montreal from filling the net. Maybe Altidore needs the confidence boost after the Trinidad experience (the US Men's National Team was eliminated from World Cup 2018 participation by a loss in Trinidad), but Bono was the man according to an unscientific random sample of section 220.
Two weeks apart, due to the international break, and Toronto FC looked far too clunky, disconnected and disjointed versus the Montrealers. Sure, credit given for victory when only records and home field pride were at stake. Speaking of home field, sorry but the stadium share with those bloody afterthought Argos remains an issue. That flood of rain just before game time might have been too much for the pitch.

I will always hate the Argo intrusion into the National Soccer Stadium.

Victor Vazquez should be taking all TFC penalties during the playoffs. On a scale of difficulty, hitting two shots off the same post is up there.

Timing and cohesion and playing time are important. Yet, I would still prefer to play only the B squad for the final season game in Atlanta next weekend. Call it fatigue recognition, injury prevention or just giving Atlanta no recent awareness of the form of our starting 11. I say play Irwin in net, defenders Hagglund, Hernandez and somebody else, midfield should be Edwards, Endoh, Osorio, Cooper and Cheyrou, with Ricketts and Hamilton up front. Result far less important than rest. The beauty of the two leg playoff format is that TFC can chase cohesion in the away game and then have the home game to enhance it.

Season 2017 = no worries, MLS Cup playoffs 2017 = all worries. May we worry all the way to December. Still cheering...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Toronto FC Supporters' Shield winners 2017 TFC 4 NYRB 2



Bucket hat designed for September sunsets
A crisp September Saturday night, a huge victory in Toronto to clinch the Supporters' Shield and the recent two game losing streak is easier to forget, if not forgive. The joy of accomplishment banishes the nagging thoughts that this could have been nailed down with points from the Montreal game or the road struggle in New England. Better delayed than never.

Toronto FC looked a level or two better than New York Red Bulls all night long. Still the game had many roller coaster elements. Early going was TFC asserting themselves and taking a two goal lead. Then NYRB had their answering goal and the half arrived with questions.
When NYRB scored their second goal on a penalty kick to tie the game in the second half, I had to dampen down those traditional doubts and worries. Were TFC going to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Are mistakes by the lake just part of the atmosphere in that part of the city?

Full marks to Toronto FC for roaring back in those final fifteen minutes. It did seem that the ref had given the Red Bulls a signal that no yellow cards were going to be shown and they had freedom to play a crunching game. TFC players were forever moving the ball quickly to avoid that crunch. It hurt the flow, but did not 

Vazquez scored from the penalty spot after Altidore was grabbed. Altidore broke later into the box and crossed the ball to a sliding Justin Morrow to earn his hat trick.

And to think that this entire performance was without Seba Giovinco.


When the announcement rang out, Toronto FC are the Supporters' Shield winners for 2017, I had a misty moment. All those lost seasons, all those woeful teams without direction, hope or leadership popped up in the memory cells. It felt sweet to be witness to these better days, but pride in sticking it out through the lean and leaner still years is woven into the cheers of today.

Now onto the Cup.


by the Lake observations
- One of the few pleasures of the home game mess against Montreal in September was discovering a post game radio hosted by Gareth Wheeler and Terry Dunfield on TSN 1050. Very sorely missed last night. 
- When the bench players came out to warm up it was great to see Nick Hagglund and Benoit Cheyrou greeted with warm applause. Both have arrived back from injury, hopefully healed, at just the right time for the season close and playoffs. Cheyrou got into the game late.  His hard nosed tackling and his silky ball skills are 
- I was thinking that last night's TFC bench might have been the most talented ever. Keeper Clint Irwin,  young Canadians Raheem Edwards and Jordan Hamilton, Steven Beitashour, Cheyrou, Hagglund and Jonathan Osorio. Youth, veterans, Canadians, but talent everywhere.
- As much as I felt that NYRB tactics were too far on the rough and tumble side, I am still cheering for them to go out and beat Vancouver next weekend. That would put them into the playoffs, 7 points clear of Montreal with two games to play. It would put Montreal in the position of playing in Toronto with only pride and rivalry on the line on October 15th (which is still a dangerous combination). Something tells me that the October 15th game will be needed for Seba Giovinco to work with a starting squad. 
The final weekend of the season game in Atlanta turns into what I have dreamed about for months, a chance to protect stars from injury and give the subs a chance to play. Last night sealed the Supporters' Shield and first place in the Eastern Conference. What a luxury to go south to Atlanta with nothing on the line.

Keep smiling.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Grrr blah, anger splutter NE Rev 2 TFC 1

Selfie with friends

TFC lose to New England and I am steaming (like seafood in a big pot being prepared for chowder).
Losing to Montreal in Toronto the other night was tough.
Now following that with a loss to New England might even be tougher.
But don't depend on me to have detached analysis on the matter.

Two losses in a row for TFC now, first time in 2017. Late September is not the time for a pre-playoff season stumble. 

I detest the New England Revs. Perhaps I don't require reasons, but will fling about a few. Their "good friend of Trump" owner, Kraft. A multi-billionaire who pinches pennies when it comes to his soccer team. Everyone hates the  cruddy playing surface in Foxboro. Nobody is a fan of the way the stadium screams "soccer is less important than NFL" with that mishmash of lines all over the field.  I used to count Jay Heaps as another reason to be negative about the team, but they fired him as coach just the other day.



So I will search for positives and only think about TFC.

Benoit Cheyrou should be healthy enough to return soon. TFC need his steel, I felt that Raheem Edwards and Marky Delgado were getting bodied. Vazquez stood up for himself and I was proud that he earned a yellow card for comments to the ref. 

TFC did not allow 5 goals.

The Bradley diagonal pass and the Hasler finish on TFC's goal was a quality offensive play. It needed many more like it all night.


The game is over, two home games left and then the possibly meaningless road game in Atlanta to close the season.

Still boiling...







Thursday, September 21, 2017

Schooled (or the no shot blues) TFC 3 Montreal 5

Missing page from TFC practice plans
Stunk and stung.

Stung because TFC proved to be a team that you do not bet $5 on at half time even though they had just scored a "momentum changing goal" going into the break.
Double stung because it was Montreal. Sure you could say that Toronto was overdue for a correction. You could say it was hardly a terrible situation to be walking away from the stadium on September 20th and grasp that you had just witnessed TFC's first home loss of the 2017 season. You could say it was a step too far to sit out Victor Vazquez after he showed in LA that he can run the show without Altidore and Giovinco. Who ran the show without Vazquez? TFC fans knew that Montreal was a team under pressure. Montreal is always to be feared.

Stunk? Every time has tendencies and put pressure on those tendencies and you can extend them into frailties.  Here is what we saw that left the nostrils uncomfortable.

TFC does not handle adversity well. When the other team is on their back heels TFC can continue to play their careful wide passing style and wait for an opportunity to extend the lead. When TFC are on their back heels, this pass, pass, pass frenzy is a defenders' delight.
To my little mind, TFC's greatest fault is a lack of shooters. Seba Giovinco takes shots from everywhere, but he was not in uniform against Montreal. Victor Vazquez and Benoit Cheyrou are the midfielders who can be counted on for a shot or two per game, just to keep the opposing keeper on his toes. Neither were on the field last night.
Marco Donadel's goal for Montreal was both crushing and infuriating because it was the sort of crack from distance that you just knew Toronto would not / could not produce in response. Although Michael Bradley took a shot or two last night, he does not shoot enough. Delgado does not shoot on net enough, neither does Osorio, Cooper might have ONE chance to shoot and found a way to stumble over himself. A game last night needs to turn into a shooting range and TFC either won't do it or can't do it. The Osorio goal late in the first half, was that not a pass that hit a Montreal defender leg and surprised Montreal keeper Bush? My lack of shooting stance is not lessened by the two late goals by Ricketts. Both were headers from crosses, not shots. In fact when Ricketts did have a shot at a hat trick he came up with a feeble one. Don't get me wrong, I was pleased with Ricketts scoring two late. It revealed some comeback spirit and protected the season's goal differential, somewhat.

Ben Spencer? Ben Spencer! The TFC game plan after falling behind by 3 was to put on Ben Spencer? He is TFC's fifth string striker, a project, a maybe. I admit I am not a scout or a coach and he may have gifts aplenty, but I have yet to see them. Jordan Hamilton and Jay Chapman must be steamed this morning. Both were passed over so that TFC could mount a comeback with Ben Spencer.

The schedule ahead does have a gift for TFC fans, Montreal again on October 15th. If I see Cooper and Spencer, even on the bench, I am going to be yelling "Sept. 20th" from the stands like a crazed loon.
Next up is New England at their fancy NFL stadium and their dodgy playing surface. My suspicion is that Zavaletta will have a bounceback game and it will be a defensive tussle. After the implosion against Montreal, we fans will be happy with a dull draw on the road.
Sure I am still kicking, but also still fuming that TFC gave Montreal way too much and made so little demands...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Victor V. toys with L.A. on a Saturday night - L.A. Galaxy 0 TFC 4

If endless summer is what you require, Southern California is the place to be. Toronto FC has enjoyed the soccer summer of all time (Canadian version) and clearly wants to keep that summer success rolling along. They have not lost a game since Canada Day. Saturday night they headed to Los Angeles where September is always included as a summer month. 
However, L.A. has never been the place where Toronto FC go to keep the party rolling. For that matter TFC and keeping parties rolling has rarely gone together anywhere . TFC have only won twice at LA in their existence, so it was hard to tune into the game with high expectations. The decision to leave Altidore and Giovinco back at home seemed to increase that lost cause feeling.

Three factors were involved in the total victory of Toronto 4-0.

#1 Toronto FC are a team on a mission, willing to work and build and improve. Maybe leaving behind Altidore and Giovinco sparked everyone.

#2 LA Galaxy are not the team of yore. Without checking the standings, I think LA has only won twice at home this year. Defending from the Galaxy is sad, not much of a midfield to speak of and an attack that relies on hopeful long shots. To think I once upon a time wanted Sigi Schmid to be given the reins at TFC. Sad.

#3 Somebody forgot to read the chapter of TFC history titled "LA is where TFC go to lose" to Victor Vazquez. He wrote a new chapter instead, provisionally titled "Watch This". He destroyed the pattern of Toronto taking a back seat to LA in any category. If you ever wonder what they mean by soccer I.Q. get yourself to BMO and watch for Vazquez. 
His LA smart contributions included the first goal of the night, where he got permission from the ref to take the free kick quickly, banged the ball off the corner post area while LA were still trying to form a wall and then have an alert Drew Moor pounce on the rebound and head the ball into the net.
Vazquez's goal, TFC's fourth was a matter of Vazquez running onto a drop kick from Alex Bono that had bounced over LA defender Michael Ciani's head. It was comical.

Very little time to bask in the glow of this one. I am late posting and now have less than 48 hours before TFC host Montreal Impact.

Keep cheering and be prepared for battle, Montreal will be tough.

Not Cobi's Galaxy

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thumping San Jose TFC 4 Quakes 0

Toronto FC continues to roll through 2017 with power, style and determination. The Saturday afternoon home game performance had me quickly banishing those TFC fan skills, honed over the never forgotten seasons, of bracing for the negative. It had been two weeks since the win in Montreal and I was imagining that the international break would have disrupted TFC's finesse.

Not a chance. TFC 2017 is a team on cruise control, bordering on total control. Victor Vasquez continues to make things happen, scores a goal, continues to lead the league in assists and looked as dominant without Giovinco and Altidore on the field as he did with them. That might have been misleading towards the end of the game as San Jose seemed to be dreaming of getting back onto the team bus and had lost a player to a video red card. Coach Vanney had also subbed in both Tosaint Ricketts and Armando Cooper, two attacking players who have been gathering dust on the bench in recent weeks. They were keen to show some spark, so Vasquez had willing targets for his creative passes.
It is too easy to overlook the defending effort that is part and parcel of TFC's success. Alex Bono gets a shut out and it is true that he was rarely put under pressure. It seems a MLS truism that high scoring teams have a tendency to be vulnerable to sloppy defending when the game is out of the opponent's reach. TFC has shown a lot of discipline in that area. Their goal difference of 33 is a stat that does not get a lot of attention. Don't get me started on the lack of media attention overall, but the goal difference stat is an incredible one.

This is a team on a mission and the one aspect that I enjoy keeping my eye on is the MLS record for losses in a season. Season 2010 had two teams (FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake) go through a 30 game season with only four losses each. TFC, after 28 games, has three losses. MLS now has a 34 game season, so TFC face 6 more games, 3 home and 3 away. Should they avoid a loss here on in, it would be quite the accomplishment (although my negative fan phobia almost has me almost wanting a loss soon to take the pressure off). 

So a playoff spot is clinched. TFC have the inside track for both first round bye AND Supporter's Shield. Their position is so strong that they have the luxury of a bad night or two in the remaining schedule, but truly no indication that a detour awaits. Ok, I never like seeing TFC play in New England ever, but that is more due to the lack of soccer spectacle in an NFL environment than anything else. Oh and those damn muskets.

But worrying about New England is getting ahead of the schedule. There is LA away next weekend and then Montreal at home in the midweek first.

Keep the ball rolling....

Osorio scores...



Monday, August 28, 2017

Hottest TFC summer closes with sizzle - Montreal 1 TFC 3

It's a long season. First games are played in the cold of March and the MLS Cup Final has had the date set recently as December 9th.
The TFC we have struggled with over the years often have had trouble over the hot summer months. Sure, they had lousy springs and crummy falls, but it always seemed crueler to have rough results when the sun was shining and all seemed right with the weather.

This season has been the summer we always dreamed of. Probably even greater than most of our dreams when you consider how low the bar has been set.

June, July and August 2017 has had TFC hammer out a record of 8 wins, 3 ties and only two losses in MLS play (plus June had a tie and a win in the Canadian Championship vs Montreal). Talk about your summer of love.

So Sunday afternoon TFC went to Montreal. They played against the team that would most like to derail Toronto FC's super season and get into playoff position themselves. Giovinco scored twice, Jozy Altidore scored one and TFC shut them down. It was enough of a canny road victory that I hesitate to use the word "dominating". TFC did what they had to do, showed quality when needed and defended well.

The moment Giovinco sealed the win in Montreal
I have to share a few quibbles about the broadcast on TSN.
1. Luke Wileman seems to have caught the Gerry Dobson broadcast vibe, forever talking about the implications of things instead of describing the moment. All fans know that good things happen when you win and bad things transpire when you lose. Stop talking about what winning will mean to point totals or records being broken.  We are enjoying the season of all time, if somebody has tuned in and is oblivious to TFC's great year, they deserve to stay in the dark.  PLUS Don't talk about Alex Bono's clean sheet when minutes remain in the game.

2. What was the deal on the camera completely missing the Altidore goal ?

3. The insanity of TSN using both graphics and having Wileman talk about the coverage of curling to follow the Montreal - TFC game. Curling in August? Curling In AUGUST! My heavens, maybe neither the nation nor the sports television channels of this nation deserve a team like TFC.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Toronto FC - Top team and cruising TFC 3 Philadelphia 0

TFC destroyed one of the quibbles that has floated around season 2017 last night against the Philadelphia Union. Toronto FC have had trouble (limited trouble though, drawing when they should be winning) playing against teams that should give them no trouble at all. Colorado is the recent home game memory and DC United on the road at the start of August.
Give me a quibble and I will run with it. No killer instinct, no creativity in the attack, can't unlock a bunkered down defending team, something off with the mental approach as they expect weaker teams to just lie down and let them score at will.

Forget all that.

TFC looked strong from the beginning last night. The first half saw Giovinco scoring a curling beauty from a free kick. Then Hasler headed in a corner kick from Victor Vazquez. The second half had Vazquez and Altidore on the give and go to free Altidore in front of the net and score the last goal of the night.
Philly made some noise in the second half. Firing shots from everywhere, they hit a few posts and crossbars and kept a little hope flickering. TFC never let them get beyond that stage.

Speaking of stages, I love the TFC home game during the EX. It is always the date on the schedule that I look forward to. We spent the entire day at the EX.  Yes, we ate too much, bought a few dumb items (slippers for her, a cooling towel for me). We are too old for any rides, but love the sights, the sounds and the smells
The EX (or the CNE, the Canadian National Exhibition) means a lot to our family. It goes beyond the end of summer Toronto tradition aspect, the gathering ritual that we mix in with that "where did the summer go?" feeling.
My late father-in-law was an executive at the CNE for many a year in the 80's and the place holds special memories for us all.










Sunday, August 20, 2017

Make the final.... Chicago Fire 1 Toronto FC 3

seconds from the end


TFC went to Chicago Saturday night.  The Chicago Fire have been Toronto's rival in the standings this season, even sneaking ahead of them recently when TFC had an off night and tied DC United on the road. However Chicago has dropped back since then. They have hit a rough patch and have strung together a few losses.
Still this game had been shaping up for months as the Eastern Conference showdown. A game that would contain playoff position and possibly top of the conference implications.

Toronto emerged with a solid victory, not that it was a solid performance throughout the night.

TFC scored early (Marky Delgado-14th minute). Toronto had enough rough patches (sloppy passing, trying too hard to feed strikers closely marked) to mix in with their long stretches of domination that it was not a terrible, unexpected shock when the Chicago Fire tied the game up (David Accam in the 54th minute, Accam is always a player I fear, although his goal was just converting a rocket of a shot taken by Bastian Schweinsteiger that slammed into the post and bounced into Accam's direction).

Then it was time for a new combo, midfielder and wizard Victor Vazquez and the newest signing Nicolas Hasler. Chicago had just cleared a scoring opportunity and might have relaxed when they needed to press. They gave Vazquez enough time on the ball, Hasler checked his run to stay onside and then went at the right moment. Vazquez's pass was a thing of beauty, Hasler later admitted that it was the first goal he had ever scored with his head. It looked as if Vazquez and Hasler have been playing together for centuries. The delivery of the ball from Vazquez was a wonder, just beyond the defenders, still short of the keeper, Hasler running onto it as it fell. I have watched that replay countless times already. A moment of wizardry.

Chicago had no answer. The Ricketts and Giovinco breakaway goal was the icing on the cake. 

Hear that horrible, loud noise? That is the sound of me kicking myself for not getting to Illinois for this pivotal game. It had been on my wish list all season long.

TFC with the best record in MLS in late August? Pinch me. I must be dreaming.
TFC on a roll as the time to say "Let's go to the Ex" arrives? As a Toronto kid, born and raised, I always circle the home game during the Ex when the schedule comes out. Summer's last hurrah means more to me than my little words can muster today. TFC take on Philadelphia Union Wednesday night. Of course I will be there, with the CNE on I plan to make a day of it...

Why title the blog post "Make the final..."? When you have the legend Vic Rauter call the game, you just have to use his tag line.
-Still Kicking



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Timbers shivered TFC 4 Portland Timbers 1

We had long looks at the two sides of TFC 2017 last night.

The worrying side, the hold the ball side that can't / won't finish off opponents. The team that plays down to the level of weaker, bunker mentality teams. The TFC that passes too much, that shoots too little, gets predictable and static and gives up on motion and surprise. This was the TFC that gave us a first half of frustration. It seemed a continuation of the DC United road game. TFC, the much better team, unable to put the ball into the net.
This is the TFC that haunts us. Echoes of the MLS Cup last December abound. Will TFC 2017 take us to the brink of glory and then flounder again? Destined to be a day late and a dollar short? Bested, not be an equal but by a plucky, lucky denier? Cruelty over victory? Winter dreams of "what if" instead of "well done".

Then we basked in a second half of execution. The "victory over cruelty" TFC showed up, vanquishing Portland and keeping all dreams alive.
How to define the nature of the attacking breakthroughs is a tough challenge.
There is an element of finesse, pinpoint passing and delicious awareness of each other. Example #1 of that would be goal 2 last night. Delgado with the perfect diagonal forward pass to put Giovinco into a threatening spot on the edge of the box, Giovinco relaying that ball quickly into Vazquez's path and Victor Vazquez sliding that ball net ward. Awareness, skill and timing were key. Vazquez had to put more effort into his celebration than he had to put into scoring the goal.
However TFC is not all Barcelona style "tiki taki" of football, both the second Justin Morrow goal and the Marky Delgado goal were opportunistic blasts. As if the scoring player was fed up with all the touches and surprises and twists and applied the brute force to bury the ball deep into the twine.

How's this for a theory? Seba Giovinco is more of a MVP player not scoring but creating for others. Both Justin Morrow's first goal and that Victor Vazquez goal were due to Giovinco's set-up, but more importantly his sense of generosity and awareness. Giovinco, once upon a time, had less faith in others and would try to do it all himself. Not that Seba is perfection, his annoyed tackle AND his kicking the ball away AND sarcastically applauding the ref might have easily resulted in a red card in that second half.

Grab bag - It was tough to see Nick Hagglund go down with another knee injury. Hope it is minor. Jason Hernandez had to be the unsung hero of the night, he filled in the central defender role perfectly. I was impulsively predicting that Nicolas Hasler would get his first goal for TFC last night. A few bright moments on the ball, have yet to decide how Hasler compares to Beitashour.

Next Game - Later in the evening the Columbus Crew (of all teams to benefit TFC) helped Toronto by defeating Chicago Fire 3-1. The next up for Toronto is the long anticipated road trip to Chicago next weekend. The Fire still have a game in hand, but Toronto lead them in both the Eastern Conference and for the overall Supporter's Shield. So bring on the Fire and bring on next Saturday. Stay tuned...



Saturday, August 5, 2017

TFC falters, Trump's fault DC United 1 TFC 1

Nobody can accuse TFC of peaking early. Nor have they truly hit a summer swoon with a July and  August record so far of LWDDWD. That is 9 points of a possible 18. They are not running away with the Eastern Conference, but hold onto first place above Chicago. They are a team in need of a winning streak. Tonight was a candidate for building a streak. Alas.

TFC visiting DC United tonight was an exercise in frustration. A fan should be content with a point from a road game, yet the destruction of NYCFC last weekend easily raised expectations.

DC deserves credit for pressing early. They deserved the early goal. The red card to Lloyd Sam was deserved, but what a crazy time in the game for such a rash tackle. DC defended well, the frustration was that TFC held the ball for eons without finding a way to break DC down. Take more shots maybe? Take on defenders and try to dribble beyond them (instead of multiple long passes to forwards double covered).

TFC has no recent history of taking a man advantage. It is almost a weakness of theirs. I suppose the equalizing goal was scored (an own goal) while TFC had a man advantage, but c'mon.

How do I somehow entangle the bizarro presidency of DJ Trump into TFC's frustrating night? Proximity to the White House alone could do it. Or DC United felt their spirits rise on the day that the Trumper left their city for an extended vacation.

TFC get a true week of rest before meeting Portland in Toronto next weekend.
Wonder which TFC will show up?








He must have shown up for picture day

Monday, July 31, 2017

Number 1 with room for improvement TFC 4 NYCFC 0

Toronto is the first team in the East standings (and first overall) while New York City FC is the third place team (both East and overall). Yet the gulf between these two teams seemed to be yawning and widening Sunday afternoon at BMO Field. I honestly expected this sort of mismatch when TFC met Colorado the weekend before and more of a battle from NYCFC.

TFC dominated and it was a strange state. They never looked in danger and they never looked in top form. Early into the game right wing back rookie Øyvend Alseth went out of the game with a foot injury. It looked like he had swung his foot into the defender's foot and it was serious enough that he was soon limping off to the dressing room. Raheem Edwards came on in his place and left footed rookie Raheem seemed to play the right side under protest. It was not the first time he has played his off wing, but one wonders why the awkwardness. So TFC seems to be only attacking down the left side and centrally and blunders persist. Victor Vazquez played a game far below the standard he has established in Toronto colours this year. So that mucked up the left side and took a lot of magic out of the middle too! You wanted Michael Bradley to take on a stronger attacking role (as I always do), but this was a tough game against a respected opponent. So Bradley sits back and puts out fires. 

It was a moment of brilliance from Giovinco that had TFC ahead by a goal at the half, but I was worried going into the second half. TFC looked off and the slightest comeback from New York could sink this game. Toronto seemed stuck in their recent mire of failing to score and win against teams that were weak and vulnerable.

Those second half fears vanished. Morrow and Bradley grew back into their roles, Edwards was returned to the left side, Giovinco scored another brilliant goal. Jozy Altidore, who I felt was a candidate for a Ricketts replacement, bought a call from the ref and scored the third. Raheem Edwards scored the fourth and TFC ran away with it.
The late game penalty awarded to NYCFC when Delgado blocked a cross with his arm seemed to be just. It was fitting that New York missed the penalty.

Toronto by the lakeshore is a wonderful spot....on a July Sunday afternoon
Daughter and blogger

I am never one to wish my summer away AND one should never count your chickens before they hatch dept.

TFC from here to playoffs looks like this -
Home games (6)
August - Portland and Philly
September - San Jose, Montreal and New York Red Bulls
October - Montreal
Road games (6)
August - DC, Chicago (that's a big game) and Montreal
September - LA Galaxy, New England
October - Atlanta
No matter how rough their season or how little their playoff prospects, Montreal will be tough games as the Impact will gladly take on the spoiler role. It would be very nice to win at home against them in October and win the Supporter's Shield in the process. But I am getting way ahead of myself. Instead think of how a loss free August will take pressure off of September...
Keep kicking.

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.

grrrrrrr....

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.

TFC
- 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 standings...ps 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.
Whew! 
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.