Sunday, July 29, 2018

Playoff chase is on - TFC 3 Chicago Fire 0

The back to back victories over the Chicago Fire have given TFC fans reason for optimism for the months ahead. TFC looked like formidable defending champions Saturday night (July 28). A great way to end the month of July, considering how ineffective they looked losing 0-1 to NYRB to begin the month and how few the points they gained in July. Put aside the Chicago games (and the Ottawa Fury games in a different competition) and Toronto gained a single point from the 4 earlier July MLS games. Seems that the Chicago Fire were just what the TFC doctor ordered. The quality of the opponent is less than a tenth of the story, the continued return to health of injured players remains factor #1.

The first half was all muscle, tussle and half scoring chances for TFC. Bastien Schweinsteiger, Chicago star and German footballing legend, played way back as a Fire defender in the first half. He was effective, but I don't think he gets full credit for the 0-0 score at half time. You felt that Chicago was still in a game that they did not deserve to be in. Yes, that TFC feeling was washing over me at that point. Damn, one bad bounce, one lucky shot and the Fire could put TFC under pressure.
Credit to Greg Vanney for the halftime change. Ashtone Morgan came out of the game, he was playing ok, but a left foot on the right wing has never been his spot on the field. On came Marky Delgado. TFC shifted to a 4-4-2. Vazquez in a central role, with Bradley in behind him in a diamond midfield. 
The change in alignment might have been a spark to the greater attack spirit of the second half. Not that it was obvious for the first goal, a scramble that could have come from any formation. I thought that you had to also give great credit to van der Wiel, Mavinga and Zavaletta, the ball was always being played well from the back. Your midfield can supply your strikers with better through balls when they themselves are getting quality situations determined by the defenders. Osorio, Vazquez, Bradley and Delgado were all benefitting. I am cheering for Marky Delgado to rebuild his confidence. I still think he retreats and passes back out of situations that would benefit from him taking on defenders. Their does not have to be a clear path, move into space, draw a foul, bounce the ball off a shin to get a throw in. 
I will blog about the month ahead rather than the game ahead this week.
Keep cheering, thanks for reading...

Thursday, July 26, 2018

TFC quell the Fury TFC 3 Ottawa Fury FC (USL) 0

A balmy summer's night at BMO. The evening sky at sunset may have taken our gaze away from the game from time to time.
This part of the world can be a beautiful place.
TFC never looked worried.
It is so difficult to evaluate young players when they are playing against lower level teams, yet I thought that Liam Fraser played a strong game. I was willing to put aside his strengths on the ball as a case of the other team not pressing enough, but his tackling and ball winning in the midfield impressed me.

To those who fail to admire Marky Delgado, last night was an example of his strengths. He was a large part of why TFC was never worried. The angle of his tracking back, always pushing Ottawa wide, always cutting off passing lanes, was excellent. I can't deny that defending and ball winning is made easier when TFC are playing Morrow and Mavinga.

We now know that the Canadian Championship final opponent will be the Vancouver Whitecaps. It will be a step up in intensity from last night's walk in the park.

Bring them on....

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Road victory leads to summer's first flicker of hope - Chicago Fire 1 Toronto FC 2

Apologies for not blogging during these recent weeks.
My excuse is both travel and World Cup 2018 intertwined.
I travelled to Los Angeles to visit my uncle. He and I have a tradition of watching games together that goes way back (even includes attending a USA1994 Netherlands/Brazil classic in Dallas).

Then I travelled to Iceland with my wife, some of her siblings and their spouses in early July. I had warned all that my availability for lava fields and waterfalls was determined by the World Cup schedule. It was my fond hope that I would get to see Iceland play a knockout round game from Iceland. I dared not hope that England would still be on the stage.

Both my LA trip and my Iceland trip will be the subjects of future blog posts. Just for the record.

For now, let's talk TFC.

They have been so hard to watch. I counted myself fortunate to have missed the goal fest loss to Minnesota and even the draw on the road in Kansas City. Between my travels I had witnessed the 0-1 loss to New York on Canada Day at BMO. I knew that the huge injury list was a constant factor, but frustration was always increasing at the lack of players rising to take advantage of their opportunities. I was home from my travels in time to see TFC on tv lose to Orlando City. I did not blog. Just too jet lagged, tired, annoyed, mad and frustrated.

You might be as tired as I am of hearing that a TFC MLS game was a must game for turning the season around. Too, too many times has that label thrown around and I am sure that it has been contributing to this anger and frustration.

Last night in Chicago, I hope, the tide turned.
TFC attacked from the wings, moved the ball well down the middle, controlled the tempo of the game, shut down the Fire often and welcomed back more players from the injury list (notably Jozy Altidore, Chris Mavinga and Gregory van der Wiel, with Victor Vazquez available off the bench). They looked more capable, more cohesive than they have in months. Oso, Delgado and Bradley all had solid games. The Delgado tackle which lead to Bradley's long diagonal pass which put Giovinco into dangerous territory were all ingredients of that great first goal. Osorio scoring the winner was just another chapter of his storybook season. Yes, Altidore makes the attack smarter, better, more creative, more ambitious.

As players shed injury comeback rust and TFC still welcomes back Drew Moor and Auro Jr. AND the possibility that TFC have summer window moves still to make, the months ahead might turn this hope flicker into a flame. I am hopeful for a bonfire come September and October.

thanks for reading....