Monday, November 12, 2012

Renewal Of Faith? No, Just My Tickets

Mood: Hey I have tickets again
State of Mind: Oh dear, what have I done?
Location: Surrounded by 6 years of SSH stuff...sigh

So I went ahead and did it. I renewed my season's tickets for 2013. I'll wait while you fall over in shock - you OK? Then I'll continue.

Unlike previous years, renewing my tickets for next season was not an automatic decision. Usually as soon as I get that renewal e-mail I don't even hesitate. But this year...oh this year. The drama that has swirled about our team this year certainly had an impact on my decision; as did the horrific season the team had on the pitch. If you had asked me during any game during the last month of the season I was still on the fence.  A fence built of poor results, a poorly managed team, more drama than most soap operas, anger and apathy in the stands, and the team holding off on even announcing renewal information until just days before the final home game. Not really the recipe to get me pumped up about next season. The end of season presser also wasn't exactly inspiring and well, that cynicism I discovered this year? That was in full force for several days - I was angry at all the time, emotion, energy and money I'd put into supporting this team.

Let me clarify something - I'm known (even now) for my optimism and my belief that things will work out in the end.  I've succumbed to cynicism, anger and have flirted with apathy this year yet even still, deep down there's still this hopeful, excited fan that just wants to cheer for her team - and for that I make no apologies. But this past season has taxed even my sunshiny persona. I know many folk who are far more cynical than I that immediately renewed their tickets and yet still I waited.

The rollback on the ticket prices to 2007 levels was a startling announcement - I had hoped for some kind of reduction but never expected them to actually do the right thing. A reduction of some kind yes, but all the way back to the beginning? That was a surprising move and for that I will give a small nod of approval. Until the price reduction was announced I was likely going to give up one of my tickets, as paying for two seats when one was often going unused at the previous year's rates was not sitting well with me. Then I received a very nice (what? It was nice, in a 'please, please renew your tickets' way) email from my TFC ticket rep reminding me off all the benefits of renewing my tickets, plus the added bonus of free Raptors tix - free Raptors tickets? Sold! What? I like basketball.  This was part of my response:

"...I'd planned on renewing my tickets; well at least once the prices were reduced that is. Up until that point I was somewhat on the fence as I (as well as many of my SSH brethren) have not been well pleased with the way that the club has been run over the past six years and this year in particular....I was glad to see that the club took the first necessary step to stem the tide of anger and apathy"

I then received a very nice (what? It was nice, he was happy I was renewing) email in reply talking about the focus now being on the team and the team's performance - good news everyone! Sorry, cynical side putting in a brief appearance...but I'm reserving judgement (probably) until oh, at least later on this week when the first player cuts are announced. OK, back to ticket talk!

The bottom line is that after many long conversations with myself and pretty much ignoring what anyone else was doing - sorry folks, nothing anyone else said was going to influence me but me - in regards to renewing, I decided that affordable tickets were just enough to keep me on board. I have hope (see, still optimistic!) that over the next few years I'll see my team slowly make it's way back to respectability. Please note I said the next few years - I have zero expectations for a dramatic turnaround for our Reds in the upcoming season - but at the end of the day I want to be there to see it happen; when it happens.  I guess six years plummeting to the depths of MLS aren't enough to completely eradicate that hopeful, excited fan that first walked into BMO back in 2007...hope I get to see her again in 2013 because I kind of miss her.

So; see you next year?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tide Is Turning; On And Off The Pitch

Post-match High Still Going Strong

Mood: Wheeeeeeee!!!
State of Mind: That actually happened, right? Will it happen again?
Location: Jubilant supporter couch - Soon, The Duke

                                         Who doesn't love a good celebratory video!

THEY WON!!!  They won, they won, they won. Did I mention that they won? Were you there? Oh I hope that you were because Saturday night is the sort of night that you remember; not just for a day, or a week, or a year, but forever. Am I overstating things? No, I don't think so - Saturday was a special night at BMO and if you were there you know exactly what I mean. You're still smiling aren't you? Still filled with that sense that hey, maybe the tide is finally turning for Canadian soccer? Yeah, me too. 

Was it the perfect game? No. Was it pretty damn close? Yes, yes it was. They played a great first half - the only thing that marred it were some missed scoring opportunities. But our men (still sounds weird, still going with it) had full control of the game, highlighted by some outstanding defensive work led by Kevin McKenna and a monster game by Atiba Hutchinson and JDG in the midfield.  And then that goal!!  The one that some of us missed so quickly and cleverly did they take it.  The one that we were sure was going to be called back at any moment? That was fantastic. So great to see such intelligent play from our team - this is how you win games. And you know what? That was one of the best games I've see the Canadian team play. They were organized, quick, passed the ball, talked to one another and well, they were better; plain and simple. The best game of football I've seen at BMO in six years. Really, I mean that. This is the turning point 

Don't let the empty seats fool you - this was a good 1/2 hour before kickoff - the stands were packed by 8pm.  

But the best thing? The very best thing about Saturday? Being in the stands surrounded by hyper, excited friends, supporters and fans was like nothing else I've ever experienced at BMO.  While we all lamented every time the Canadian forwards seemed afraid to shoot the ball (Shoooot!!!) and groaned in unison when McKenna's header went the wrong way off the post; we were all together - one voice, one purpose, one group of supporters for one team.  If you were there you know what I mean.  I've never had that much fun, been that stressed or felt that part of something at any sporting event I've been to in my life.  17K + (almost 18K) rowdy fans and the vast majority cheering for Canada - while not the sellout that some were hoping for it was a giant leap in the right direction.  To not be outnumbered by Panamanian supporters - Who to their credit were a lot of fun, they brought it but only added to the great atmosphere. Other away teams could learn from them - to have the stands full of flags and fans chanting "Ca-Na-Da" non-stop? Huge for the game here; huge. An truly unforgettable 90 minutes. 

Spirited support for Panama - boy were they loud! - But we were louder.  :)
Since Friday I've talked to so many people who casually went to the game or were taken by friends and family - every single one has bought tickets for the October 12th match against Cuba. This is where the tide turns folks - if you've been dithering for some reason about supporting your national teams, it's time to come out to a game, or go to a viewing party and join us as we agonize and cheer for our team. It's wonderful; really. If you love the beautiful game then this is what you need to watch.  In fact tonight you have another chance to join in on the agony and ecstasy of watching Canada play.  While not a home game tonight's game against Panama is one of the most widely broadcasted games ever.  Not only is Sportsnet showing it (most people get Sportsnet) but you can watch it on CityTV!  Seriously - no excuses - get thee to the TV or pub or friends house and get set to watch this game! Why? Because it's a HUGE game. So big in fact that the Panamanian supporters spent the last two nights having a street party outside the hotel where the Canadian team is staying. That's called respect folks; it they weren't worried they wouldn't bother.  Also exciting about this game is that the Estadio Rommel Fernandez is from all accounts a beautiful facility with a fantastic pitch.  None of that crab grass & gopher holes that they played on in Cuba. So once again (even being without Olivier Occean and Will Johnson) our team stands a very good chance of not just walking away with a point; but all three. Believe me when I tell you this is not a game you want to miss. It will make that game you're coming to in October (because you are coming, right?) all the more special. 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Time For Some Meaningful Football

Mood: Stressed, Excited, Anxious - all in equal parts
State of Mind: They're going to win. Right? Right?? (oh please let them win)
Location: Soon to be in a sea of Red at BMO
Weather: The Towrads are awake - looks like thunderstorms/rain - whee!

Today the most important football game you will see so far this year (because you ARE going, right? RIGHT??) will be played at BMO Field. Forget that other team in red that so many of us follow and come out to support your Men's National Team in their quest to go to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. This is one of the most nerve wracking things that a fan of the national team can experience - watching in stressed agony, hoping that this time they'll see it through.

As nervous, stressed, anxious and excited as I am, I feel good about this game. The team has performed well so far during this round of qualifiers (hey, 4 points is performing well!); the same core is together; they've been in Toronto together for several days getting acclimated and most importantly many of the team have been in fantastic form plying their trade for their clubs in various parts of the world.

But regardless of all of that what more do you need to know other than that you get to join thousands upon thousands of your fellow fans and cheer on our team - because no matter who you cheer for on any other day - this is OUR team like no other team can be.  Moments like this do not come around all the time - don't pass up on the chance to be a part of what has been a very special year for Canadian soccer. Oh, did I forget to mention that almost every member of the Bronze medal winning Canadian Women's National Team will be at the game? They're going to be (deservedly) honoured before the match - don't you want to be there to celebrate their accomplishments? Of course you do. Can't you feel the excitement, the buzz, the tide turning in Canada's favour? I can; it's palpable. 

Yes they're playing against Panama, the group leader (won against both Honduras away and home to Cuba); possibly the most difficult team in Canada's group and according to coach Stephen Hart the best team in the group. They feature a great deal of speed up front, are unbeaten in this round of WCQ matches and well damn it they're a good team! Tonight's game isn't a slam dunk, hell it's not even a walk in the park; but the points are there for the taking and our men (hmm, that sounds a little odd but I'm going to go with it) are more than capable of taking all three.  

And at the risk of repeating myself - this is the most important game they'll play this year (so far), the most meaningful game of football that you can watch!!  There is nothing to compare to watching your country's team play; it is truly a special experience to be surrounded by your fellow fans as you all focus on willing your team to win. I can't describe it other than it is the best, most exciting, most enthralling experience you can have as a fan of the beautiful game. And no, I don't think I'm overstating it - days like this are special!!  So if you haven't already bought a ticket please get online or get to BMO and get yourself down to the stadium tonight - believe me, you don't want to miss this!


World Class Links: Here are some actual previews for tonight - Waking The Red (Duncan, James), Red Nation Online and Squizz at CSN.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Mood: Can't we all just get along?
State of Mind: Time for a vacation; for everyone
Location: Somewhat subdued supporter couch

                                  Newest BMO Field chant - SKA! SKA! SKA! *clap clap clap*  

September started out with a bang for TFC eh? As in *bang!*, shot to the heart (Bon Jovi earworms for everyone!) for many supporters and fans at around oh the 87th minute of the match in Kansas - I wonder if we can blame Dorothy or some other shoe stealer for our woes against the Wiz? No? Hmm, worth a shot - we've used every other excuse...

As I worked through the long weekend I haven't really had a chance to voice my thoughts on the state of things both on and off the pitch over the past few days. And with no games to discuss for our Reds in the next while due to the International break we've got to find something to talk about...

The Good: It can't all be bad; really.

  1. Our fragile, broken, tired Reds hung with one of the best teams (if not the best) for most of the game on Saturday. Considering my lowered expectations for any TFC match right now I was surprised that it took 87 minutes for the axe to fall. Was actually thinking they might escape with a point - see, I still have hope!
  2. No further injuries to the already sparse team occurred.
  3. Darren O'Dea may just be the real deal back there. I like him more and more each game - especially his highly vocal command of the back line.  Really, this could be the beginning of the pieces for our defense.
  4. RJ's goal. This was actually a pretty nice goal off a lovely ball from Ecks (another huge game from him). Well taken, no hesitation, just great.
  5. Wiedeman - Yes, I realize my putting him in the good list is a shock considering my issues with his play since the very beginning. But the best 'first touch in the modern era' actually looked good out there. Again showing a ton of energy and making some really nice runs. I still have my doubts - could be a one game wonder. But for now? Welcome to the Good list Andy.
  6. Vacation! Hey, this has to be on the good list.  Those TFC players that haven't been called away for international duty are getting some rest and relaxation time. Here's hoping they return refreshed, rested and focused a week from now.

The Bad: Even when playing out the string there must be drama - it's the TFC way!

  1. The inevitable loss in the dying minutes of a match. While not surprising (sadly), this just furthers to break the spirit of every fan and supporter. Not to mention the players.
  2. Torsten Frings' status - After being thrown under the bus by Mariner after the Santos game he was suddenly listed as injured on the MLS injury report. Is it his hip? Or has he been laid low with Dichioitis? Mariner was to have addressed this before the match but instead did a sideline interview during the game and barely explained what the issue was other than yes, he'd injured his hip and hey may not play for the rest of the season - I think that is something we the fans would have preferred to know before the game, don't you think?
  3. Freddy Hall in net. This is not calling into question his play (although that tying goal? Ugh.) This is about the freezing out of Milos in net. There are lots of rumblings about a contract dispute and that he's been nailed to the bench for asking for more money. And with Frei coming back to the No. 1 spot next season it looks as though Hall is being groomed for the second spot if not already a lock. This is another frustrating end to a player's time with TFC. Whether Kocic is asking for this, it's maddening as a supporter to see what has been the No. 1 keeper since Frei went down be treated as though he's not needed. And maybe come training camp he won't be; but this does nothing but leave a bad taste.
  4. Subs. While this could go on the Ugly list I'll leave it up here on the Bad list - once again Mariner chose to well not use his bench; at all. As in not one. Boggles the mind just a bit right? When you have a tired squad one would think that the injection of fresh legs could help turn the tide in your favour.  I've been vocal in my calls for Avi to see more time and today in an interview with Kurt Larson Mariner states that he hasn't shown the proper attitude in training and in games. Fair enough, if that's true then why keep naming him to the subs bench? Bring up one of the Academy kids and give him an opportunity to play. Putting Avi on the subs bench only to leave him there to prove a point serves no one.
The Ugly: And with a thud we come crashing back down.

  1. Anselmi is named President and COO of MLSE. Actually this almost went on the Good list. Teflon Tom was never (never, ever, ever) going to be fired. This falls under Ugly because it underscores that our team isn't a CLUB that has a focused owner or vision (I realize this comes as a shock to no one); it's a tiny, insignificant part of a business that TT has managed to squeeze a great deal of money from for his MLSE overlords. Great deal of money = promotions! Simple as that. As many of us loathe this man, this is a bitter pill to swallow; especially after his interview on TSNRadio (not to mention his smarminess during the Winter is gone, Mariner is king presser back in June) in which he - in true Teflon Tom fashion - tries to distance himself from TFC as much as possible and is already laying everything on PM (feel that Paul, that bus heading for you now?). A more frustrating caretaker (and I use that word loosely) for our Reds would be difficult to find. On the Good note - this hopefully will keep him far, far away from TFC going forward. Oh and you MUST check out this hilarious (yet scarily accurate) faux interview with the Teflon Tom himself by Michael Gardner over at Waking The Red.
  2. Frings is done for the season. Word came today Torsten Frings will have arthroscopic surgery on his hip thus ending his season and likely his time with TFC.  This causes me more anger and sadness than just about anything else. A legend in the world of football chooses to come here to finish his career and this is how it ends?  Frings has had to deal with several injuries, coaching changes, dwindling fan support, and an embarrassing marketing ploy by TFC in which hundreds of commuters basically ignored him over the course of this season.  And now this; a likely career ending injury (because even after surgery and rehab the chances of him coming back are pretty much nil). Depressing to say the least.  
One final thing - this could go on the Ugly list but I chose to just address it separately - what I am on about you ask? Supporter and fan sniping.  Look, I know that this has been a long, frustrating, depressing and difficult season. And I know that we all have very strong opinions and feelings about the team we love, the players, the coaches, the management; hell sometimes the colour of the kits - but when did we all stop talking to one another like we were all part of the same community? Because that's what we're supposed to be; a community united by our love of football and our team. Instead of coming together as a community to try to make things better, it's become all about who is a "real" supporter, what's the right way to support and it's open season on anyone that has dissenting or negative opinion - regardless of what side of the divide you fall on. I'm not talking about the supporter group forums (that's a whole other kettle of fish), but our favourite method of voicing our opinions; Twitter and blog comment fields. 

I disagree with a lot of people (a lot it would seem); and I know there are plenty that don't share my views, but this constant immediate attack on anyone that doesn't share your views on the coach, the players, etc. is getting wearing. I enjoy a spirited discussion as much as the next person and dissecting my team with other fans is something I enjoy. Or at least I did. But it's become less like a discussion and more like a defend yourself or capitulate until you agree sort of shouting match. Some criticism is warranted or we're watching different teams. On the same note being all negative doesn't help either.  However, for the most part (other than this blog) I stay out of 'public' discussions most days and instead use messaging or texting for one on one venting - Because more often than not, that's what it is, venting. Watching TFC is a highly emotional experience, venting is required. - or post on game threads where opinions seem to be respected. Otherwise I spend my time getting more frustrated than when I watched or attended a game - instead of commiserating we're hating - enough!  Feel free to disagree, voice your opinions and support in whatever way suits you; but remember that we're all part of the same community; that we all want to see our team do well and that (to be completely hokey) we're all in this together.  So, see you next week?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hey, There Are Still Games To Play!

Mood: Curiously calm
State of Mind: A lot can happen in 10 games
Location: Not at the Air Show

                         TFC - all of their games are without frontiers - except the fear part

There is something to be said for playing out the string. The only pressure on TFC players for the next 8 weeks is to try to ensure that they have a spot on the squad next season. And you know what? That can make for some highly energetic, driven and yes, entertaining football. There are only eight games in MLS play and two away games in CCL play left for our Reds - not a great deal of time for some - but really, that's almost two months of games to be played and hey, a lot can happen in those two months. Things like a scrappy, upstart little team from Canada coming together in triumph to win back the hearts and minds of their fans....sorry, drifted off into 'feel-good movie' mode there. But umm, they could play some good games - really, it could happen! Wait! Where are you going? I'm not delusional, really...hello?

Tonight our Reds take on that baby blue team the Kansas City Wizards, Sporting KC in an epic battle between first and worst. Yes, I said epic and I meant it!  SKC always seem to be that team that brings out the worst in TFC, not just this season but from the very beginning. Maybe it's the pajama like kits that SKC sport? Some sort of subliminal message that puts our Reds to sleep? Yeah, that's the reason we can never beat them (grasping at straws). And of course let's not forget its compliment of players we love to hate (Jacob "I've blocked half of TFC's fans on twitter" Peterson and that Bunbury fellow) - both of whom are not playing tonight - happy dance! But that doesn't suddenly mean this game is a walk in the park and that our Reds can stroll into Livestrong (or Performance Enhancement Park as some of my rather witty blogging brethren call it) and steal three points.  I will consider it a massive victory if they can eke out a draw.

As has often been the case this season TFC are coming off a run of several games (three in the last week) and SKC is well rested and have the added advantage of playing at home. And while The Wiz are missing Peterson, Bunbury and backline anchor Aurelien Collin (for yellow card accumulation) our Reds still need to find a way to stop Kei Kamara. If only to prevent more (even if all too true) comments about how TFC resembles a lower division English side what with the long balls and kicking it out all the time...but other than that, he's just plain dangerous up front and has an alarming (seriously, every bloody game?) tendency to score against the Reds. Notice that I didn't even mention Zusi or Sapong or Espinoza...OK, I'll stop - starting to depress myself again and I'm trying the "all is well regardless of outcome" method of coping with the game today.

But wouldn't it be great if they won tonight? Just for shiggles? Even though there is little (OK, very little) to no chance of that happening; it'd be an awful lot of fun. We could celebrate like we won something - parade time! *Crickets* No to the parade then? Hmm...OK, after we win two in a row we'll talk. Hopefully we'll all get to watch something good tonight (Psst, the new Doctor Who is on!) and not have to have epic meltdowns on Twitter...what, just me again? OK, hopefully I don't have another epic meltdown on Twitter - so uh, see you all later?


Laborious Links: The usual suspects with actual analysis and stuff - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, John & James) and Red Nation Online.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?

Mood: Sad, angry yet unwilling to let go of some shred of hope
State of Mind: Why? Just why? Because they're my team; sigh
Location: Hiding under SIX years worth of SSH scarves and tickets

                                                                Well? Should we?

It's been a tough few days for anyone that supports TFC - OK, a tough few, well pick whatever measure of time between April of 2007 and present day that works for you. And I'm not even going to really talk about that last minute let-down on Tuesday night, as it would mostly just be angry, depressed ranting.  I think I've figured something out though; I still haven't come to the realization that investing emotion into this team is going to bring frustration, anger and tears more often than joy; for I know that there is joy to be had; just not for us, not yet. This is not a team for the faint of heart; or the expectation of great things, or really any expectations it would seem.  

Which quite frankly sucks. 

Really; what other way is there to put it? As someone (somewhat sadly) pointed out to me after the CCL match - this is the only team that I've to call my own.  I'm not like a number of my friends that have grown up supporting the same team since they were kids, that have had that personal connection to a club for years.  I don't count the teams from the EPL and lower divisions or other international teams that I've picked as "my own" - it's not the same. Those attachments were for me mere warm-ups to having a club that I could call my own. In the past six years I've become more committed, more attached and more involved with my team. I've rarely missed a home game, I've promoted the team to friends and family (dragging them to games as much as  possible), I've blathered on incessantly to co-workers, have spent countless hours talking/discussing/hashing/agonizing over them on twitter and other social media and gotten involved with some of the team initiatives.  And yet just when it (again) seemed like things might be looking up this year and we might get a stable, competitive team; the wheels fell off - more than once.

It isn't even that I expected my team to be uber successful - I didn't think trophies would come right away. Some of those lowered expectations came before I knew much about the MLS and the parity that exists in the league; before I knew how easy it was to go from the basement to the penthouse. And yet I still had faith, I still had hope. 

Instead I've watched for six years as the team I love has been mis-managed, as players have come and gone in record numbers, coaching changes every time I blink and an ownership that has used one of the most rabid and loyal fanbases in the MLS as marketing fodder instead of focusing on the business of football. Innocence never lasts but there are days when I would still like to be the wide eyed and ignorant fan I was back in 2007 - OK, I don't actually mean that. I'd always rather know than not. It's just the knowing in this case is so often soul crushing; I envy the fan I was six years ago, the one with all of the pure joy and hope.

And I've watched the change in others - not just in the dwindling numbers at BMO, the erasure of the vaunted SSH waiting list, the annual ticket price increases - no I'm talking about those same friends that have tirelessly followed a team for years; most often without success - that are now talking about not returning, not following and likely giving up on a team that I know they love.  That is how difficult this team is to follow and support - people who have lasted through decades of supporting the same team are considering walking away from their local team; not because of the product on the pitch (OK, partly because of that), but because of the behaviour of the Front Office. 

We've spent six years faithfully showing up to games (both home and away), buying merch, buying beer and food, attending pub nights, going to end of season parties, going to pancake breakfasts and attending town halls.  And in return? Ticket increase after ticket increase (still one of the most expensive teams in the MLS to support), well over 100 players, 7 coaches, constant assurances that 'this year we've got it right', growing 'Special Event' nights and lots of happy shiny marketing about the 'best fans in the league' in BMO Financial ads. But in the end all that has done is leave a tired, frustrated and dwindling fan base. One that at least in these recent, and oh so very trying weeks, seem more than willing to walk away until some modicum of success is reached, until an executive with actual football knowledge and experience is put in charge (for all of our sanity, please step aside Tom; please) and for Management to demonstrate with their actions some appreciation of we, the exploited. 

Making matters worse was the announcement yesterday from the Montreal Impact  that they will be lowering their ticket prices for next season. That's right; they are in their first season, they're not completely terrible but (and yes, most of it is pure optics) they are lowering their ticket prices! Can you imagine TFC doing that? Instead, for four straight years MLSE and the TFC Front Office rubbed their hands with glee and got to gutting the golden goose.  After that crushing blow to the TFC fan psyche, came word they that (close to) fellow basement dweller the Portland Timbers will be freezing their prices for next season - true they're not lowering their prices, but even with the prices frozen those tickets are still less than TFC's and for a fanbase that is just as rabid, devoted and engaged. 

Which leads me to the staying or going part. The last few days have brought about some fairly intense debate about whether or not SSH will renew for next year, watch games going forward in any manner or even attend games for the rest of the season. My friend Lars Lowther over at Red Nation Online has one solution, John at Waking The Red came up with a musical option (more of a how to deal with the stress) and well, all you have to do is check any TFC follower's twitter timeline to see how divided the supporters are on what they plan to do next season; regardless of whether or not the FO freezes or lowers tickets prices.

I do want things to change; desperately. Nothing would make me happier than to hear the Teflon Tom has stepped aside and someone with actual football knowledge and experience would take the reins and remake the management of the team from top to bottom. But am I holding my breath waiting for it to happen? Not a chance. Will it stop me from mentioning it as much as possible? Not a chance. What about Mariner you ask? If you read the blog you know that I don't like the way he coaches the team or the direction he's taking the team in terms of style of play. Do I think Aron Winter deserved a chance to finish out the season? Yes. Do I want Mariner fired? No. Really, that is not the answer right now. This team needs stability; period. And if another year of low possession, dump and chase football with the same coach and the same core of players helps to bring that stability, then so be it.

As for me? Where will I be come next March? If the prices go up it will be very difficult for me to renew.  I already sacrifice other aspects of my life in order to pay for my seats each year and an increase will likely put them out of reach for me if I want to be realistic about what's in my bank account. However, if at the bare minimum they freeze - although really, this is a lower the damned prices situation if there ever was one - then yes, MLSE will get my money for one more year. Why? Because damn it they're my team. I'm not willing to walk away yet. 

I will continue to speak my mind (hi friends at MLSE); I rarely if ever buy food or drink at games, have only ever bought a couple pieces of merch and yet there I am every home match willing to cheer on my team. And yes I know that MLSE get the vast majority of their money from ticket sales.  Am I not filled with rage at being used to promote the brand of TFC week in, week out? Yes. But what supporters of any team aren't being used? Does the subtle but constant erosion of the supporter/old school football atmosphere not tick me off? Hell yes. But again, it's not done yet - so therefore neither am I. 

Those who know me well, know that I am well used to protests and standing up for the rights of others (as well as myself). I'm certainly not shy and other than voicing my opinion on this blog (and other social media) why do I not take the ultimate step and turn my back until things change?  It's not in me to walk away yet - this season has done a lot to change the way that I look at things in regards to TFC - but there is still this wide-eyed innocent, hopeful fan that just wants to watch her team play every week. So for now, that's where you'll find me, at BMO, anxious, biting my nails, hoping to see something to make me shout with joy, something (anything!) to wipe away the erosion of my optimism over the past six years.  

So what about you? I know a lot of you are on the fence. I know some of you have made your choice. So please let me know whose faces I'll be seeing not just for the rest of the season but next year. Leave your answers in the comments section - and please know that I understand and respect if your choice isn't mine. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Mood: Really quite excited
State of Mind: I'm in a CCL state of mind - which means hyper and optimistic
Location: Fidgety supporter couch
Weather: No towrads in sight

                                         Take that Ashtone! And you take that Quintero!

It's time for the second biggest game of the season for TFC (the first being waaaay back in March) before we have to return to the mundane reality of MLS play. Was it really only a few short weeks ago that we (and by we I mean the 10 or 15 of us that went) got to watch our Reds lay a smackdown on poor CD Aguila. I said it then and I'll keep saying it; CCL games are different. If you've never gone to one I cannot stress enough what you are missing - don't believe me? Come join us!

Besides, this is the one that you want to come to. This is the revenge game. Revenge for what you say? (Seriously, you do follow this team right? Just checking). Revenge for that drubbing that Santos laid on us last spring in Torreon; for that punch that Quintero threw at Ashtone Morgon and for every insufferable word out of Hercules Gomez's mouth. Sorry, got a little worked up there; they are after all our biggest continental rivals outside of MLS and since CCL is what we're playing for these days, they get my ire up like no other.

This game is going to be much different than the CD Aguila one a few weeks ago.  For one thing Santos are a much better team; actually that's pretty much it. They're a much better team - they are the team to beat in our group - win against them and we continue; don't and we're done. And given all that has transpired not just this season but in the past few weeks there isn't much left for our Reds to play for that is meaningful. Yes respect and a stable team are both very meaningful and if they approach the former and show glimmers of the latter by the end of the season I will be well not pleased exactly but much less inclined to let my cynicism run rampant.  But I mean meaningful in the 'hey we're still competing for something, we're not going to lay down this entire season' (OK, not the CCL season anyway) and show the fans that their support hasn't been entirely in vain. Lose and any vestiges of hope that are left from the beginning of the season will be gone and along with it (barring an unlikely winning streak or even a full 90 minute effort streak) more of the already dwindling fanbase.

I'm not saying the entire season hangs in the balance because of tonight's game; but it's close in the minds of many. If TFC don't advance in the CCL will that change my support, will it cause me to not renew my season tickets? Not one bit - I'll still be there for every home game and I'll still be watching every away game, but wouldn't it be great to have some of that hope back again? Remember how it felt when they won in Dallas last fall? And how that feeling carried us through the off season? I want that again. And if we can't have it in MLS play (6 years and counting, I'm not holding my breath) then why not CCL?

Mariner rested several players on Saturday so on paper TFC will have the strongest team possible for their starting XI tonight. Which with this team isn't saying a lot given depth issues and injuries (they'll definitely be missing Reggie Lambe tonight). But with Eric "The Red Card" Hassli back there will be some toughness up front and Torsten back (and hopefully on form) bossing the midfield we'll see our Reds taking the game to Santos. And with new backline boss man Darren O'Dea already showing why he was signed to hold the defense together I have hope that we'll see a strong backline tonight.

More than anything I just want to have some fun tonight; that's all. I realize that's a simple request and may seem odd - whoever said football was fun? I did. Because I know that it can be; both in watching and playing. The game against CDA was one of the best nights I've had at BMO this season and helped remind me why I love my team and what it feels like to be joyful at a match. Why am I so bubbly and optimistic? Something about CCL games bring it out of me; maybe because it's not the oft depressing grind of MLS games; whatever the reason I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and seeing my team - is there a better way to spend a night? Not many; see you there?


Los Links: Your usual pre-game suspects - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, John and James) and Red Nation Online.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Orange You Glad I Didn't Write A Negative Post?

Mood: Opting to laugh instead of whinge
State of Mind: Checking my head for awhile; also I may be sleep deprived
Location: Work now; bar later. After that? Much sleep

                                      See? It could be worse.  We could all be Brian

Party time in Houston! Oh wait, that was the last trip.  I mean milk and cookies for everyone and in bed by 8pm with your teeth brushed and lights off! At least I hope that's what happened. I'm assuming that's what happened as no reports of scandalous - or even saucy - behaviour have surfaced.  Ah the Dynamo - the team that is to TFC what alcohol is to The Simpsons - the cause of and solution to all of life's problems. OK, maybe not the solution; alright definitely not - I just wanted to use the clip OK? Geez. Although that fateful trip did get the ball rolling on the exodus for Aceval and Soolmsa (Suarez forgot to loan him one of his nine lives) so that was a solution of sorts for Mariner & Co. - Yes, made it work!

I've been pretty doom and gloom of late so I'm striving for a more positive tone before tonight's match in Houston - bear with me; it's been awhile since I managed that.  Let's see...Houston - fantastic on set pieces, haven't lost at home in 20 games (3rd longest streak in the MLS), have devastated TFC twice this season, wear orange (what? I like orange), are currently fifth in the league, their keeper has the best name (c'mon Tally Hall? Awesome) and did I mention they were fantastic (seriously, they're deadly) on set pieces? See? Positive!

What? Wrong team? Damn. OK; positive things about TFC...right, right...Umm, they've yet to lose in Houston this season - unless you count respect from the fans, the league, the fans - but otherwise it's an unbeaten streak! Let's see....highest hipster quotient of any MLS team - led by Eric Avila once Demit Omphroy left last season, the #xoxoBoysInTheCity Crew (if you don't follow them on twitter I can't explain it to you) can frequently be found looking fly (wait, no one says that any more do they?), drinking super hip coffee (not made by Jimmy B.; Teflon Tom & the Duke of Earl keep him locked up on off days) and keeping the swag industry (it's not an industry? Damn) alive and well.  Highest Canadian content of any MLS team - lookin' at you Whitecaps and Impact - we are TFC and we are Canadian!!  And they're OUR team; love them or loathe them - and this season it's likely both - they're OURS. Aww...see, I love our team!

I'm going into tonight's game with zero expectations - OK, I'm trying to have zero expectations. This is a very good Houston team and a shaken and stirred TFC side that still has a gazillion more games to play in the next  week (read: 3) that includes the home match against our hated CCL rivals Santos Lagunas. So no pressure or anything. I've no idea what kind of lineup we'll see tonight - I fear that Ecks will be back in the centre with O'Dea after Dicoy's not overly impressive first game back - but I hope not. I'll try to keep my bitching to a minimum when Avi once again doesn't step foot on the pitch; although should Wiedeman start again all bets are off.

This is a close to a happy shiny post as I get on approximately 8 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. I'll be watching and cheering and hoping that our boys at the very least just put in a complete 90 minute effort.  If they do that - even if they get destroyed - if they do that I'll be well, less ticked off than usual. Deal?


Lack of sleep Links: I suggest you read these if you want to know actual details about the match tonight. The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Partially Obstructed View and Red Nation Online.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wake Up!

Mood: Sick and tired of being sick and tired
State of Mind: See above
Location: For some reason; BMO field this coming Tuesday

                      Things to do: Blast this at 11 before every TFC match in the locker room

My final TFC tweet of the evening last night was this: 

I could have ended almost every night with those words over this season. It's confounding as a fan to watch them this year. I struggle with each passing game - wait, TFC doesn't have a passing game - to find the passion and joy I once had when watching the team that I love. I can handle watching my team lose - well that's obvious as I've been watching TFC for six years - as long as they put forth the effort. What I'm having shall we say difficulty with is the unsettling trend of sleepwalking through the first half (and beyond) that has plagued the most recent stretch of games.  Add to that the still oft confusing lineup and substitution choices by Mariner and what you get is our Reds still firmly occupying the MLS basement with little to no hope in sight that they might climb out.

Let's get the negatives out the way first (there will be positives; honest):

  1. Andrew Wiedeman again? Really? Why was he back in the starting XI after that sub par performance on Saturday? Was he being rewarded because it was his birthday or because Mariner is convinced of this mythical "best first touch in the modern era" that he's witnessed - because we certainly haven't. Wiedeman put in another quite frankly terrible effort and should not see the starting XI again anytime soon.
  2. RJ in the midfield. I'm not sure why this experiment continues. It is obvious that he does not perform well that deep - he is not a midfielder, nor a winger and is at his best when playing up top.
  3. Silva up top. Luis is a talented young player with speed, a lovely touch and completely at ease in playing as the attacking midfielder (and played worlds better when he dropped back in the second half). He doesn't need to be up top with Hassli in order to score goals, but putting him there takes away what game RJ has and that in effect puts the entire team down a man.
  4. Sleep-walking through the entire first half (and then some). There's nothing enjoyable about watching the two or three players actually putting forth an effort getting more and more frustrated while their less engaged teammates sleepwalk through the game.
  5. Dicoy Williams. While I was delighted to see a more logical back four, it became apparent fairly quickly that Dicoy is just not ready to be out there. He's been a long time away from regular play and obviously needs to be worked into the starting XI slowly.
  6. The Jeremy Hall (and Aaron Maund) sub.  You know what I'm going to say here; where in the hell was Eric Avila? Other than firmly nailed to the bench; again. In a game where TFC couldn't find it's way past the midfield with a map wouldn't it have been nice to see a creative player out there; being you know, creative? 
  7. The long ball. Boy oh boy isn't that fun to watch? And based on tweets from John Molinaro today we can expect another year or so of watching our Reds tire themselves out running aimlessly after the ball. Exciting!
  8. There's more but I don't want to depress you further.
Positives! You didn't believe me when I said there would be positives did you?

  1. Ecks. MOTM for me and pretty much anyone I've talked to. Back in his rightful place at right back, Ecks was a huge (OK, he's short but you know what I mean) force to be reckoned with throughout the entire match. Not only did he bounce back from a boot to the face and two elbows to the head but he kept going after losing one of his boots - that's right, he kept playing - that's effort. But more than that was the energy he brought to the field; one of the few who played the full 90 as though he was actually hmm, trying to win. Astonishing!
  2. Quincy Amarikwa. I've not had much to say about Dr. Q but last night he was a difference maker (maybe he should have played earlier?) and TFC finally came to life once he came onto the pitch.
  3. Umm...OK I'll give Darren O'Dea a bit of love. Again a solid effort from O'Dea and seeing him be vocal and challenge in the box is great. But he needs a solid partner (not named Eckersley) to truly put the TFC defense back together. 
  4. Yeah - I've got nothing else.
That was fun right? Do you feel better after reading the positives list? Yeah, me either. And believe me that negatives list could have been ever so much longer. It's a (not even complete) illustration of what an uninspiring, underwhelming performance our Reds put in against Columbus. The laundry list of frustrations from the fans continues to grow and for those of you (like myself) that continue to show up at BMO Field each week you can see they're voicing that frustration by just not showing up for games. Unless this team can at the very least show that they can put in a sustained effort for a full 90 minutes - see, I'm not even asking them to win; just bloody well try - the spot the empty seat game will become the spot the empty section game very quickly. So I say again to our boys in red - Wake Up!

You also have to ask (or at least I do) what part the lineup and style of play choices made by Mariner are playing in TFC's taking up permanent residence in that damp, unpleasant MLS basement (they should just call in a decorator and be done with it). I realize that depth is not a word that can really be used around TFC all that much but you can only look at the players being put out there each game so often without thinking maybe, just maybe someone else should be given a run out.  And the less said about the long ball the better. Besides, as I said it's not going away any time soon so we'd all better learn to love it. 

What's sad for me about this season - other than the relentless losing, revolving door and continuing mismanagement - is that I'm slowly losing my optimism. I'm the hopeful one among my blogging brethren (as I was reminded of earlier today) who back in the day was always sure that things were going to work out; that this year was going to be better. In fact I'm the one they tease and poke fun at for my insistence on looking on the bright side. I'm not one of the SSH that will give up my seats next year and I'm not going to stop going to games. But I want that feeling back again; where I was so excited about going to see my team play - every game was an event! Now, I'm still excited but it's a dulled, tarnished excitement - I just want that happiness back - for me and for my fellow fans who's expectations get lower and lower with each passing week. I don't expect playoffs (hell, I never did for this season and I don't for next), I just want them to try, to rise above all the behind the scenes nonsense they've had to deal with; to become more than the sum of their parts.  I want my team back. 

See you on Tuesday?

Low Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Typical TFC, RNO and RNO again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Will It Be A Columbus Comeback, Or Another Comedown?

Mood: Uncertain
State of Mind: Hoping for the best?
Location: My happy place

It's Trillium Cup time! What's that you say? What's the Trillium Cup? Umm, you do watch TFC right? OK, you can be forgiven for already forgetting about the basically manufactured rivalry between our Reds and the Columbus Crew back in 2006. As our closest (at the time) geographic rivals this made a certain amount of sense - after all what is sport without a good rivalry - and thus the Trillium Cup was born. It does rankle a wee bit that in the brief time the two teams have contested for the TC (given for aggregate wins over the course of the season) that TFC have only managed to win it just once; that being accomplished on the strength of the 4-2 victory in Columbus last season - most memorable for TFC fans as the game in which Stefan Frei was injured and lost to the team for the remainder of the season.

And the history between the two teams has not been shall we say, congenial? There has been some bad blood during road trips - I liken it to Crew supporters' jealousy over the at times tremendous travelling support that TFC has been known to put together; especially for games to Columbus. So there is always a heightened atmosphere around these matches regardless of what is happening in the season for either team. In this case of course is the floundering of the good ship TFC with little or nothing left to play for this season except to try to salvage a little pride (and maybe win some CCL matches) and why not with a wee bit of silverware?  It's unlikely but hey, worth a shot right? I mean, what else do we have? Oh that's sad; all of our hopes on the Trillium Cup? Oh dear - hey CCL, how you doin'?

Unlike TFC the Crew are still well in the race for one of the final playoff positions and having something more tangible than pride (and that shiny cup that we stole last year) to play for makes them a somewhat fearsome opponent. Did I just call Columbus fearsome? Why yes, yes I did. And TFC will need to see better from the entire team in order to pull off a result tonight. And of course history has not been kind to TFC in their trips to Columbus with last year's shocking (it was, trust me) win being the only time they've come away with 3 points. Who's nervous? Umm, I am. 

I will be curious to see what Mariner decides to do with the starting XI tonight - does he rest players with games in Houston and against the hated Santos Laguna coming up in the next six days? Or just put them out there and ask them to do their jobs? They are professional athletes, this is what they train for and are paid for; and if you ask any one of them if they'd rather play than sit around or practice - they'll all answer play. I doubt we'll see any change to the CB pairing, but I hope that RJ moves back up top and allows Silva to drop back. I also say give Dunfield a rest - he was invisible on Saturday - put Avi in and give Amerikwa a shot (but please keep Wiedeman on the bench) since Lambe is still unavailable.  

It will fall to Hassli, Johnson and Silva to try to penetrate the Crew defense which is one of the best in the league and for a Danny Koevermans-less TFC, this is not an easy task.  Hell, it wasn't easy with Danny...sigh.  As always set pieces will be a "oh dear god no" area for our Reds with the likes of Crew DP Jairo Arrieta causing all sorts of difficulty for opposition team (so deadly with the ball).  This isn't going to be an easy one kids - hell, they never are with TFC - I'll be watching and hoping that they give us something to cheer about. 


Shiny Trillium Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Dave, James) and Red Nation Online.

Year Six and Still A Few Kinks

Mood: So very tired - hard to maintain a hopeful energy these days
State of Mind: Trying to adjust to the new normal - playing badly is the new normal 
Location: Back from vacationland

                                  The theme song for the past six years for TFC Supporters

Once again into the abyss we go my fellow fans - we really can't have nice things, can we?  There is no turning away from the fact that this incarnation of TFC is just not very good; and they're not going to magically get better by the end of October. There may have been a brief moment when things could have come together but coaching changes, player departures, injuries and six years of fan exploitation and team mismanagement by the front office have taken their toll. If you still attend matches (and I know that a few of you are gluttons for punishment like me) you've been witness to more than a couple of lacklustre, poorly executed attempts at playing football by our Reds in the past weeks. It's been frustratingly, mind numbingly depressing to watch. 

There's little to no joy on the field to be seen from the players, the fan apathy grows more evident each match (hello empty seats) as well as supporter group malaise (hello lack of tifos, empty seats and grimness in the stands). I've spent a fair amount of time in the south stands this year and with each passing week I see resignation that wasn't there before, less engagement and where we used to poke self-deprecating fun at our team and ourselves for our lot in supporting such a team (OK, we still do that - have to laugh or you'll cry) instead you hear anger and frustration - and who can blame them or any other fan that comes to BMO week in and week out? It's wearing and it's tiring and just plain difficult to "get up" every week for a team that always seems to be on a road to nowhere (6 years of confusion and counting).  I go to BMO every week thinking (hoping, wishing) that they're going to win - I really do, regardless of my oft pessimistic tone - but this season has taxed my optimistic soul like no other. Saturday's match did nothing to dispel that and in fact coupled with Wednesday's not so sublime effort it has made it worse. 

The game against SKC pretty much typified what TFC has become: by the end of the game there were a minimum of four players playing out of their normal positions - three of them defenders! - when there didn't need to be. But that's TFC in a nutshell; out of position (out played, out shot, out maneuvered and out done).  The game on Saturday was always going to be difficult; coming up against the league leaders was never going to be an easy task, regardless of having 6 players available that weren't in the previous match. It was the players that got chosen and their ultimate placement that caused numerous problems throughout the game

The starting XI didn't surprise anyone - even those of us who are not (and likely never will be) convinced that Ecks is a CB - yes, he's filled in adequately but with the signing of O'Dea and the availability of three different CBs I had hope that Ecks would finally get to return to his proper place at RB and that Henry or Williams would start next to O'Dea. But no, coach Mariner likes the idea of a short, speedy, somewhat positionally challenged CB as part of his backline instead of utilizing one of the players that actually play that position.  

This was especially frustrating when Doneil Henry (playing at right back of course) was subbed off due to a knee injury in the 37th minute - who came on in his place? Logan Emory. What was the composition of the backline after Emory came on? From L-R: Emory, O'Dea, Ecks, Morgan - yes, that's three defenders all playing out of their natural positions. Three. And you could see the difference; especially in the play of Ashtone Morgan - he is going to be an excellent left back but he is not meant to play on the right. You could see the hesitation in his game, the mistakes due to unfamiliarity (and directly led to the foul, that led to the free kick, that led to the goal; sigh) and the team sorely missed the overlapping runs up the left side at which he has excelled this season.  This was even more noticeable as time and time again Ryan Johnson (also playing out of position) looked for someone, anyone to send him a ball and let him move forward on the attack.

It was a sad state of affairs and one that wasn't necessary. With what is basically a new team (again) why not put the players in their actual positions and see how they fare?  This is yet another lost season and even with CCL to potentially lift the spirits of the team and the supporters, the next two months are essentially an audition for the remaining players, style of play (kick the ball, chase the ball) and quite honestly the coach. 

Although some of those new players should be kept far away from the field unless as a second half sub. I am of course talking about Andrew Wiedeman. I've not been overly impressed Andrew "best touch in the modern era" Wiedeman as of yet. I've referred to him as a puppy; he's eager, he tries hard, has the occasional nice moment and is willing to run, but doesn't quite seem to know what to do with his feet. He was all of that and more on Saturday with errant pass after errant pass and quite frankly just looked aimless. So why (when he was obviously having a terrible game) was he left in for almost the full 90 minutes when there were options (read: Eric Avila) on the bench? With both teams missing chances and an opportunity for points still a remote possibility; why wouldn't you switch things up by taking off an ineffective performer and putting out one that works well with Silva and Johnson?

There were some positives to Saturday's match (I'm not completely doom & gloom; yet): Frings rebounded from a disinterested and lacking effort on Wednesday to going back to bossing things and showing some focus and energy.  Luis Silva (should have been playing where RJ was imo) continues to show flashes of a very talented future player. And what about new backline bossman O'Dea? I have no real issues with how he played - although I do feel like he wandered a bit much; especially with Ecks as his partner - he made some nice challenges in the air and I can see the potential. However, I'm not ready to crown him king just yet.

What I don't want to hear is talk of the moral victory - hey we held the best team in the league to one goal - moral victories do not a team make. I'm not saying I expect my team to win every game (I'm not that silly) and a hard fought loss can sometimes feel like a win; this wasn't that. This was well just meh. That is the only way to describe it. 

The TFC revolving door roller coaster is still firmly in place and we need it to stop. One year of stability; just one year - that is apparently too much to ask for as a supporter of our club. Regardless of your thoughts on Winter, he deserved - hell we deserved - to see him at the helm for a full season to see what could be done. I'll say the same thing for Mariner. Do I like his coaching style? Not really. But for the sake of any kind of stability in this club either turf him at the end of this season and really start anew or leave him at the helm until the end of next season. Give this version (6.2) of TFC a chance. Maybe they'll surprise us; gods know they haven't yet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Olympians, New Back Four and Oh Yeah A Match

Mood: For some reason fairly optimistic
State of Mind: Who needs 1st place? We've got the CDN Women's National Team
Location: Still Vacationland

Can we change it to Wayward Sons? Entire team full of wayward...
It's a beautiful day for football - no I'm not talking about the return of the EPL today (although I know you're all glued to the TV right now) - but the return of some gorgeous weather and six of the seven players that TFC were obviously sorely missing on Wednesday night. There's some sort of hoopla going down near BMO as well - The Ex I believe they call it. No, not the Hex; that's a different thing - and some of our Canadian Women's (Bronze medal winning) National Team will be honoured before the game. So I'll say this for the perpetually late faithful: LEAVE HOME EARLY TODAY!

A quick look back at Wednesday's effort by our Reds - and it doesn't need to be long because there's not much to talk about. This is what stood out for me on Wednesday night:

1. The first half was terrible. I know you're shocked by this but it really was.
2. In the first half the terribleness was highlighted by the frozen midfield. Zero movement, zero energy, zero setting up the attack - I can't call to mind anything positive.
3. Ty Harden...oh Spork, just no. 
4. Frings - could he have looked more disinterested in what was going on? 
5. Second half was marginally better - they scored some goals!
6. Hassli got his first goal but then decided to take shots from wherever he happened to be with the ball. I know that fans yell "shoot" but you don't have to listen to them!
7. That second goal was a thing of beauty - one of the best goals you'll see at BMO ever. See? I can be positive!
8. They let the worst road team (and one of the worst teams in MLS) come back and get a point against them; at home.
9. Fans - what is with you? Why can you not make it to BMO for kickoff. Or for the first 10-20 minutes? By the end the stands were fairly full but I'll resist posting another of my "seats dressed up as supporters" pictures that I took just prior to the first whistle. Maddening.

I know that our Reds were undermanned on Wednesday but the Timbers are not in any way a team to really fear and TFC let them take that game and do with it what they wanted. Have I mentioned how terrible the midfield was? Is Terry Dunfield really that important to this team? And in a game in which he needed to prove himself I'm sad to say that Avi did not have anything resembling a good game (see terrible midfield) and will likely not see the pitch again this season. Hassli put in a good performance in his first starting appearance for the Reds - other than the "shoot the ball from anywhere" aspect, I'll take this version of Eric "The Red Card" Hassli any day. Although why (hello midfield) more balls weren't sent into him was a concern. The cobbled together defense looked like exactly that. Ecks is Ecks and Morgan was pretty solid but well, never again with that combo OK? Otherwise it was typical TFC; poor start, they woke up after the half but couldn't sustain it. Just another dull, depressing day for the fans. Sigh.

Late Links: The usual hilarity from The Yorkies, post-game breakdown from Waking The Red and player ratings from Red Nation Online.

On to today's game. Facing our Reds on this beautiful day are the team that we love to hate, Sporting KC (although I always think of them as the Wizards) with Teal "the traitor" Bunbury and Jacob "Captain America" Petersen - although he's injured and won't be playing; silver lining! - on their roster and their pajama-like kits (seriously, they look like baby blue PJs) what is there to like? Yes I know that they're the number one team in the MLS right now and have a fairly potent attack with Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong joining Bunbury up top. Kamara has been a constant thorn in the side of TFC and will need to be marked closely today. 

TFC will have a much stronger (in theory anyway) lineup today even with Reggie Lambe out with injury. Today will mark the debut (finally) of new CB Darren O'Dea who according to all reports acquitted himself very well in Ireland's game against Serbia on Wednesday and was very vocal at TFC's practice yesterday. Whether he is the answer to righting some of our Reds' defensive woes is something everyone will be watching for today. The new partnership of Silva and Hassli will continue up top and RJ (back from international duty) will drop back to the midfield which should hopefully serve him well. And it would seem that the energy and willingness to hurl himself into games that Dunfield possesses was a missing ingredient on Wednesday; with a couple of new partners in the midfield (likely Wiedeman joining Dunfield, Frings and Johnson) we'll see if that continues to contribute to some sort of success for TFC.

Our Reds are beginning another long stretch of playing every three or four days and are already dealing with injury concerns with both Jeremy Hall and Reggie Lambe out for the next couple of weeks. So not only do they need to come together as a new team (again) but staying healthy will be key; especially with the match against CCL rival Santos Lagunas coming up (MLS success is not even a glimmer) as TFC's only chance at producing a memorable end to the season.  Other than the hopefully rejuvenated lineup our Reds will have some inspiration before the game as members of the Bronze medal winning CDN Women's National Team will be honoured before the match - likely in front of hundreds of fans sadly - hopefully they ask the ladies for some pointers on how to defend and hang tough against a very strong opponent.  It's a gorgeous day out; perfect for watching our team. I hope that for once (and that the lure of the CWNT is strong) that the faithful are out in force before the game to cheer our boys on.  Be there or be a parallelogram!


Link-O-Rama: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, Duncan and James) and Red Nation Online.