Monday, March 18, 2019

By the lake again - Victory in 2019 home opener - TFC 3 NE Revs 2

Home opener #TFCLive 
At sunset it seemed super chilly and frostbite was on my mind. Turned out to be an entertaining, warming game. Lack of harsh wind was a positive factor. March nights are still a crazy choice for game starts. The last Sunday night of March Break just seems designed to keep kids and families at home.

The early penalty kick call was clear cut (right below section 220). I am a huge fan of Chris Mavinga. @Chris_Mavinga is fantastic at tackles, but Bunbury had him on the backside. A defending blip, Bono needs to OWN the defending zone. Boss the moment, but Mavinga is going to Mavinga

 I feel that Osorio is the player most missing Seba, Osorio could read the Seba landscape and now seems lost. Fingers crossed that adding Alejandro Pozuelo sparks both #TFCLive  and Osorio in the months ahead.

Ayo Akinola !!! I have been bleating for too long that the Toronto attack lacks players who gleefully take on defenders, create a sliver of space and shoot. Ayo Akinola's goal was all those things. More Akinola please.
1st half Bradley played way back, even seemed a defender at times. Thought that trapped midfield, @OsoJ92 , @jaychappers and @justmorrow worked well together, both goals came from the left side. Expecting a more central attack option when Pozuelo added.
 Good to see @jayhams score with a swift finish. Honestly thought it was going to be called back -offside. So unused to #TFCLive  getting a friendly ref decision at a critical moment. Even a yellow to NE player for complaining (after half time break). New era?

The 2nd NE goal a defender misplay, but I also think that @Alex25Bono needs to be more assertive, stepping towards the shot instead of shot blocking. Might have been caught by the misplay anyway, but he needs to develop his boss style not just athletic skills

Then cue   the Hollywood finish, the emergence of @JozyAltidore from the tunnel, his warm up built anticipation, Bradley to Morrow, then thanks to Akinola's angle, Jozy free in front of the net and it was done. @JozyAltidore 's goal was a triumph, his celebration raised the temperature of a cold night. #TFCLive  2019 is off to a hot start. This is a group with something to prove. Exciting games ahead as Ontario finally warms into Spring.

Keep kicking...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Season start 2019 road game TFC defeats Philly Union

A TFC offseason is seldom dull, but man, we had a roller coaster offseason.
It might be tough to sum up, but here goes.

Surprised to see Tim Bezbatchenko go, just underlines the weakness of MLSE regarding the seeking of Canadian soccer leadership. You ask the right guy to cross the border, his dream job will always be lurking elsewhere.

Surprised to see Victor Vazquez go. He was a pleasure to watch and an education in football guile.

Surprised, but not at all sorry to see Seba Giovinco go. He had a financial offer that one could not be refused, so I don't blame the guy in one sense. However I do feel that his leadership skills and his lack of focus were too much a part of missing playoffs in 2018. He was all about that contract AND was not bringing it on the field anymore. If temper tantrums and beefing with the ref were the route to football fortune, Seba would be a billionaire by now.

But now the new season offers to put the offseason to the history books.

The CCL disaster with Panamanian team CAI hurt at the time, but now that the MLS season has begun, perhaps this TFC in transition is better off just with the MLS schedule to contend with.

Clearly I am using hindsight here and blogging only when the MLS season has bestowed the first TFC game to us. The horrible TFC no-show in Panama and the frigid nonresponse a week later get conveniently filed under "pre-season".
Sure, we tuned in a little worried. As the pre-game show mentioned (sure it was Terry Dunfield who said it) where were the goals going to come from for TFC?

Then Michael Bradley scored two goals. I think my head is hurting from the shaking and my mouth is hurting from the smiling. Michael Bradley scored two goals.
That pk miss by Osorio was a worry. Osorio has to find himself soon, perhaps he needs company in the attack, but his contributions have been lacking. Is he still coming back from injury and needs time? The Ciman clearance off the line was a gift. The third goal from DeLeon was icing on the cake.

TFC actually have me looking forward to seeing them in two weeks at BMO. Never thought I would be saying that after the gloom of CCL.

Keep kicking...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Victory vs Montreal (TFC 3 Montreal 1)

Last season, that glorious season where almost everything went right, the one glaring game that went wrong was the home game hosting Montreal.
TFC 3 Impact 5 was the final.
I can recall consoling myself that it was late season and here I was grumpy about TFC giving up their first home loss. Losing to Montreal is always capable of putting a TFC fan on the road to grumpy.

I approached last night's game with concern. TFC is chasing Montreal for a playoff spot*. Montreal can derail the Toronto playoff drive, hanging by a thread (those phrases cobbled together for mixed metaphor fans). Did Montreal still have a touch of whatever evil magic allowed them to conquer in that 2017 game?

TFC fans were able to exhale from the start. The first 29 minutes were superb. TFC were playing precise short passes, players were finding spaces and goals were scored. Two for Giovinco and one for Osorio.
Then Montreal scored their goal and Toronto lost the attacking sparkle. The Montreal goal shattered more than the attack. Why did Alex Bono set himself up for the shot from Silva giving away so much space on the short side? I also feel that TFC lacks precisely that sort of attack, the player who will and can score off of a shot from distance.

I understand that shutting down your opponent and protecting a lead is very important, especially against Montreal, the first game after squandering a win on the road in San Jose. It was tense throughout the second half though. TFC went from attack as the best form of defending to relying on Montreal's lack of midfield possession game and lack of potent attack to get them through. A couple of goals called back on offside decisions had us holding our breath. I want to say that TFC is a much, much better team than Montreal. The day after finds me grateful for the victory and the three points, but remain concerned about the road ahead.
Not just last night against Montreal but while down to 10 men for most of the game against NYCFC and the game on the road in Atlanta I have felt that TFC retain their championship quality. Can they do that again and again in the last two months of season 2018? Can they do it for 90 minutes during the tough road games such as Portland or DC or Montreal?

Portland is a late game Wednesday night.

Until then...

* Playoff position update - Montreal and New England both losing last night helped Toronto, yet the two teams to worry most about lately are Philly and DC United. The Union have been a hot team and DC are even with Toronto in points, 27, but have played three less games.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Weak point in California San Jose Earthquakes 1 Toronto FC 1

I continue to experiment with writing my blog as a series of tweets. If you follow me on Twitter @stillkickingtfc , you have already read my blog post. The only problem I see with tweeting is that it lends itself to bad Trump instincts - extra comments as the blog bonus.
Trying to keep my blog within tweet confines. Perhaps it will help my focus and my writing? Simply put, TFC had San Jose Earthquakes down and could not put them away. Lack of urgency! Lack of killer instinct!
No matter how cruel the defensive lapse, you can't argue that it was unusual. Toronto FC season 2018 has lapses aplenty. The attitude at 1 goal up should have been TFC is going to have to win this 2-1. We have seen too many stretches of "hang on and hope"
Those who want TFC to have a clean sheet every game are on a witch hunt!
We rightly praise Osorio and his 8 MLS goals, but you have to be worried about Bradley and Marky Delgado and their ZERO MLS goals. Defending vs Toronto is too simple, swamp Seba and watch for Oso.
I know this and many, many friends have called to tell me I am right!
I still hold out hope that a smashing victory over Montreal Impact next weekend and a winning streak to follow still leaves a flicker of hope for MLS playoffs, a tiny flicker in a windstorm.
If Montreal wins that August game, depend on me to assign blame and deny responsibility, Fake News!
My practical side is pushing me to see the benefits of NOT making MLS playoffs. That would give TFC players November and December to rest and recuperate. CONCACAF Champion's League target #1 for a rested squad.
And Mexican teams will have a wall to contend with!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

TFC road point vs hyped 2nd year team - Atlanta United 2 Toronto FC 2

I thought I would write my blog as if it were a series of tweets.

Not sure how well that surface in Atlanta plays, but on tv it looks like something that my parents bought to cover the backyard patio in the 70's #TFCLive

Delightful goal from #TFCLive in the closing minutes (seconds?) of the first half. Atlanta got overconfident and Altidore, Auro Jr. and Giovinco turned on the quality.

I understand that camera angle from behind the net shows that #TFCLive Bono palmed the ball to his left and therefore it should have not been a penalty. I thought VAR allowed for multiple looks. Ref and VAR seemed to be in a hurry to get Atlanta back into the game.

Very happy that #TFCLive kept going. Clearly Ricketts in, Vazquez off worked. Telfer in, Zavaletta out a brave gamble. Giovinco as attacking midfielder worked too. Osorio cool set up to Ricketts another moment in the Osorio 2018 highlight reel.

I am always urging #TFCLive to show more grit and spine, so I am not going to second guess Chris Mavinga lashing out. I honestly love TFC putting Atlanta in their place. Violence is not the answer, but want to know more about provocation.

Okay, that's it. My blog post = five tweets. 

Thanks for reading - until the next time, keep kicking.

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....