Monday, April 30, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

Mood: Sad
State of Mind: Despondant warring with optimism
Location: NOT at a secret defensive training centre for misguided back lines specializing in set pieces

Wow; just wow...this is far more difficult than I thought it would be - I never expected easy, but this? Where do we go from here?

Seems fitting, no? OK, I am perhaps still a wee bit low from Saturday night's last second (literally) loss to RSL.  As is the new 2012 tradition we watched our boys put forth an entertaining and often decent effort (no,I'm not kidding) only to once again lose out in the end. I'm considering just writing up a form blog:  "Once again defensive miscues negated a strong attacking game and good effort by TFC." Actually that is all I would have had to put for just about every post-match write-up this season. 

It's maddening to watch wasted efforts, missed marking, missed penalties and missed goals over and over again. It's even more difficult to see some players stepping up their game (Eric Avila take a bow) when others (Ecks, Frings I'm looking at you) have been less than impressive of late. Please don't misunderstand and think it's their effort I'm questioning; I would never question the effort of the above mentioned players - Ecks leaves it on the pitch every game and Frings doesn't have a first gear - I question their choices on the pitch. It's more frustrating when the errors come from some of your best players...I'd better stop or I'm going to sink back into the well of sadness.

I'm not going to keep repeating what's been said many times in the past few weeks, days, hours...we know this team has talent, that they can play exciting competitive football and that they suffer from a lack of cohesiveness; especially at the back.  It's no longer a question of setting the mark for futility; they've done that. And the depressing thing is that this not the worst team fielded by TFC throughout it's 6 year history; far from it! Even opposing teams are acknowledging that our team deserves some points from their play; I don't know if that's good or bad so I'm going with good. On the flip side is the obvious pity in the eyes of the opposition - it's a little odd to hear what amounts to condolences from your opponents -  but hey, they'll fear us at some point again; really!  The question is how do these players who are obviously gutted at the end of every match react? Every game sees more fire, better play but still with the devastating mistakes that have long plagued this team. So much for me not repeating things eh?  

But the question does remain; what do they do? From what I've seen from this team all season long from my seat in 226 (or my couch, or at the bar) they'll continue to fight; I see no giving up in these guys and as a fan both of the sport and the team that's the least that I ask for. It's that fight that has to be harnassed. Can they, will they focus all that emotion that we see into 90 minutes of consistent play?  I (shockingly) say yes - this team wants to win - for themselves, for the fans, for their coach. It's going to happen and soon. And it has to be the team; no one player will be the hero and save them; that much has been obvious this season and well, that's as it should be - this is a team sport and we're not holding out for a hero.

As for me; all I can do is implore you my fellow fans to NOT give up on our team. You hear me say this a lot (and will continue to do so) but part of supporting is not to only be there during the good cannot expect your team to be on top at all times. I know our team hasn't been there at all but imagine how amazing it's going to be when they turn this around. That will make all of the suffering we feel as fans worth it; or it will for me. I've engaged in a few conversations (and read far more) regarding protests - I support everyone's right to protest - I question who they're choosing to protest and how. Not attending games or dressing in black or staying silent all match certainly sends a message but that message is more visible to the team as opposed to the Owners which is where most of the anger is directed. I'm all for a concessions boycot, protests outside the stadium, angry emails and so on. But protesting or directing your anger to the players? Not the route to take IMO. 

For me it's simple: I support this team; therefore I will be in my seat in the west stand for every game, cheering my heart out for our boys in red. That is all. Come game day my focus is on those XI players for 90 minutes; anything else I may feel or think (regardless of how sarcastic or critical) is kept for before and after, but I will be there (BEFORE KICKOFF) to make my voice heard; not in protest but in support - I hope to see you there.

Where Do We Go From Here? Up.

Les Links: Here's your usual post-game links from The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.  And here's some great pieces about being a supporter from Squizz at CSN and Dave at WTR.  And then read all 3 of James' posts over at Partially Obstructed View for some thoughts on righting the TFC ship.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Please, No Salt For Our Wounds

Mood: Really super cautiously optimistic
State of Mind: Down but not out
Location: Witch doctor that specializes in the removal of football curses

Ok everyone, deep breaths. Just relax.  We've all been rather tense of late and I think we should all do some mild stretching, maybe a little meditation and find our happy places - mine is the win over Dallas last fall - there, that feels better.

Our boys are winging their way out west to take on Real Salt Lake this Saturday night and on paper this is a daunting task. RSL are one of the best teams in the league and Rio Tinto is one of the most difficult stadiums in which to play. Add to that the fact that RSL boasts a team with some of the best depth in the league and well I can feel the tension creeping back (happy place, think of your happy place)...

Let's be realistic about this (words you will rarely hear me say), this match has the potential to see our Reds equal the record for futility set by the Kansas City Wizards back in 1999 by starting the season off 0-7. Our boys do not boast a shall we say glittering or even mildly gleaming road record and the possibility of this being the first step on the road back to respectability? Well, there's always a chance...actually since we've been seemingly living in the TFC Time Machine these days, cast your mind back to 2007 - one of the few road wins ever notched by our boys in red came against RSL - time for a little retro redemption?

Down side: Once again the team will be without Nick Soolsma and Danny Koevermans and yesterday we learned that Luis Silva will not travel with the team due to the flu.  Of course the loss of Soolsma and Koevermans looms much larger as it depletes the team's already anemic attack. For a team that is begging for goals this is well...damn, tension rising - quick, to the happy place!  But wait, there's more: let us not forget the RSL attack spearheaded by the very fleet of foot Fabian Espindola that is put into motion by the dreaded Kyle Beckerman in the midfield and the always pesky Jay Borchers at the back. I repeat - happy place!

But all is not doom and gloom boys and girls; our Reds have a history of playing up in matches like this and in environs that they have no business conquering. Das Kapitan Frings should be back in his rightful place in the midfield, Reggie Lambe was on fire the last match and (to my eyes at least) Eric Avila has been impressive and should see a spot in the starting XI. I am also hoping that we will see four at the back with Adrian Cann holding down the centre, possibly paired with Logan Emory (c'mon folks, give him a chance!).  RSL may also be a bit tired, playing their third game in eight days. If our boys can keep the midfield tight and close down the speedy RSL attack they are more than capable of coming away with at least a point.

This IS possible - I'm not just being starry eyed and optimistic - that all important first win is coming. As I've said before; they are not nearly as bad as the results show.  And while most of us will not be there to cheer them on in person that does not mean that you don't watch, that you don't get geared up and that you stop being there for your team!  So make sure you are at the bar, at home, just in front of the nearest TV or computer ready to send some serious positive vibes to our boys. They can do this - let's make sure that we're all watching so that we can say "I watched the game that they turned it around". 

And while I can't promise any miracles; this has been in my head all day and damn it, it fits:

Everything IS possible - Come On You Reds!!

Links I Like: Yep, you guessed it - time to visit the usual suspects. Great post breaking down the opposition by James, Duncan meets the enemy at Waking The Red, The Yorkies usual hilarity and Ian over at Red Nation Online wraps things up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gone In Sixty Seconds

Mood: Go away
State of Mind: Seriously, go away
Location: Alternate footy universe where my team doesn't make me cry - OK, a bit melodramatic but do you blame me?

Sixty seconds - that's all it took - sixty seconds.  That was the only time that TFC has led in an MLS game this season. The only time. But that sixty seconds looms much larger than a small increment of time - it may be the turning point in what is perhaps becoming a season of futility. Supporter apathy is again growing, the media continues to call out Winter and MLSE for the deficiencies in the team and the casual fan has all but given up. But weren't those sixty seconds wonderful? Didn't it seem as though 5 games (well 5 years plus 5 games) of disappointment and dismay were about to be washed away? Yeah, that was the best 60 seconds ever...and then it all came crashing down; again. It's been days now and I still struggle with what I want to say.

I am a TFC fan; plain and simple. I love my team, I show up for my team and I support them through thick and thin. I have zero intention of giving up my tickets or not showing up to games in protest - I will be there, every game, period.  However, I am not blind; I don't watch every game with a pair of rose coloured glasses and I recognize when my team screws up.  

To watch two of our best players be directly responsible for goals on Saturday was frustrating at best. To watch our very best player make a rookie mistake in the first 30 seconds? Beyond frustrating.  To once again see the midfield overrun, to watch the defense be caught out, to see the confusion - those first 10-20 minutes had me watching in stunned silence. And although Torsten Frings is our best player and I've called for him to be cloned, I didn't mean for him to literally play at every position! And I certainly do not want to ever see him as a Central Defender ever again - just put Doneil in and let Torsten run the midfield as the gods of football intended.

But it wasn't all bad; that gorgeous strike by Reggie Lambe was a wonder to behold and the go ahead goal - wasn't that amazing? Eric Avila continues to play well and well, there was a lot of good on the field.  Seriously, there was - if you PVR'd it watch again, you'll see what I mean. Stop shaking your head pityingly at me; it is not all bad - it really isn't.

However, none of that matters as the 0-6 staring us all in the face is effectively wiping away all the goodwill of the CCL run, the return of Adrian Cann and Torsten Frings and the first goals of the season. There is a lot of impatience among the faithful mixed with anger over the tactics being used on and off the field.

MLSE is not highly regarded as business owners and runners of sport clubs - witness the records for the Leafs and the Raptors and similar behind the scenes confusion and gong shows with the coaches of those teams over the years.  Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? Myself and others have long hoped for some sort of vaguely footy savvy billionaire to buy the club outright so that it is treated like a team and less like a business - otherwise we're likely to keep getting hit with ticket increases and useless, mid-season friendlies. Fun!  

As for coach Aron Winter; he has stated time and time again that he will continue to use the 4-3-3 formation and that he is convinced that this will work; not just for our beloved Reds but that it can be successful here in the MLS. In fact just yesterday he stated (somewhat brazenly) that the team will still qualify for the playoffs!  In the past few days (hell, weeks) I've heard time and time again that Winter & Paul Mariner are at one another's throats over tactics, that Winter has lost the room, that any second now they're going to completely overhaul the management team and start, right?

At this point I choose to push all of that aside. I still believe in what Winter is trying to do; misguided or not. We've seen the team perform at the level he expects and we've seen some beautiful play from our boys. All I ask from Winter is that he puts a consistent XII out on the field - enough of these seemingly haphazard player rotations - yes there have been injuries and players that haven't worked out but there are now enough fit and talented (yes, they're talented!) players to field and execute the 4-3-3. Let's see that over the next two weeks; let's see some positive results. Because he's not wrong when he says that they are one win away from turning this around - I believe that, I really do.

One other thing: a lot of people have been hanging this season and the ongoing employment of Winter on making the playoffs. I for one never expected the team to make the playoffs this year; I expected them to compete in an exciting manner, to actually notch some wins and become a cohesive unit that would see them storm the Eastern Conference - next year. Given my always optimistic outlook this may be a surprising statement; but to me the goal of a three year plan (yes I know we've had many long term plans in play for this team) is that it takes three years. Give it time people; don't be so impatient - our time is coming. 

Even though my optimism has been dulled in these past couple of weeks and the criticisms of the team come more easily I'm not done yet and neither should you be. Being a supporter isn't easy, if it were easy everyone would do it. We sit there week in and week out; usually in the cold and rain and we cheer on our team. Why? Because they're our team; our team - remember that - no matter how terrible it gets.

TFC Til I Die

Links: Here's a couple of great posts that offer some more perspective: Duncan at Waking the Red, Mark at Mistake By The Lake and the usual nonsensical wisdom from The Yorkies.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back Off, Just Back Off

Mood: Anxious
State of Mind: Positive mixed with "they can't possibly go 0-6, can they?"
Location: Behind a Fire retardant shield

I'm finding it hard to concentrate on Saturday's upcoming match against Chicago when all I can think of is Fire related pop-culture references and puns - a chorus of "Firestarter" by Prodigy keeps overlaying Drew Barrymore in the movie "Firestarter" and combining with Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over that lantern; and now it's running its twisted way through my head.  Now that I've passed that wonderful imagery on to you...

Must win game number; oh who cares which number, it's must win alright?  And not must win in the sense that "the season is over, let's have a fire sale" - see what I did there? - it's must win in the sense that "dear gods a win sure would make things at least somewhat better".  It's been tough hasn't it? To watch the team we love come oh so close on so many occasions this season and still have nothing to show for it? *SIGH*

This match is even more difficult for some Reds fans as beloved (to some) former TFC defender Dan Gargan makes his return to (easily stormable) Fortress BMO. Gargan has made no bones about delighting in taking it to his former club, especially with the now infamous "Would like to dedicate that goal to Nana, Gordo, @jacob_peterson @dwaynederosario and El Queso LaBrocca #damnitfeelsgoodtobeagangster #TFC" tweet after scoring against his former club last August still resonating with some of the faithful...let us not release the Gargan tomorrow, OK?

Add to that the unhappy news that Danny Koevermans suffered a groin injury in practice yesterday and would be joining Nick Soolsma on the sidelines for the match; well, it starts to look pretty gloomy doesn't it?

Fear not faithful Reds fans because the flip side of this gloomy set of circumstances is that the Fire seem to be our rebound relationship as it were; twice in our not so storied past have massive (and much needed wins) come against Abe Froman's favourite team. The most memorable and notable being that glorious (yes, it was glorious damn it) game back in 2007 when Danny Dichio scored That Goal and the field was flooded with the commemorative seat cushions that were given out before the game.

Yes I still have mine - what? I had two...
Remember how much fun that was? The joy we all felt as the entire place went mental? Hang on to that feeling; you're going to need it. By the end of the day the pitch had been flooded with cushions over and over again as our Reds won the match 3-1. Ironically the lone Chicago goal was scored by Chris Rolfe who just this week rejoined the Fire after playing the past few years for Danish side Aalbord. However, (luckily for our boys) he will not be playing tomorrow due to an ankle injury suffered in training.  This does not mean our boys have nothing to worry about - at the very least they will have to shut down speedy striker Dominic Oduro and keep the always threatening Marco Pappa in check in the midfield.

On the even brighter side comes the long awaited (has it only been 4 weeks?) return of El Capitan Frings to the starting XII.  Surely Torsten will save the season, right? Right?!  It's not an inconceivable notion as the team is worlds better when he's on the pitch. He's expected to anchor the back line with newly returned Adrian Cann while Ryan (RJ9) Johnson, Platita and Reggie (Leg of) Lambe will be the strike force up front. Personally I'm hoping that Eric Avila gets the start as he's been playing well of late and is obviously aching to do well. To my mind he deserves the minutes.

Even though the season does not hang on this one game it does feel like a potential watershed moment, doesn't it?  With fans wavering in their support; the entire league having a laugh at our team's is not the time to give up boys and girls - now is the time to show up in numbers and show our team that we will be there for them, cheering them on to victory. So make sure that you leave the house in plenty of time, have your TFC gear on and are in full voice - our boys need you as much as we need them to win. See you there - right?


Links A Go-Go: You know the drill - click the links and feel your knowledge grow. The Yorkies, Waking The Red (James, Duncan and Dave) and Red Nation Online.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No New Friendlies

Mood: Irritated bordering on really angry
State of Mind: Resigned with overtones of anger
Location July 21: NOT at the Skydome

It's (almost) official everyone; today Ticketmaster accidentally announced what we already knew - TFC will play Liverpool in a Friendly at the Skydome on July 21.  This is not something to jump up and down about; this is something to get ticked off about.  There is no purpose to having this match other than to line the pockets of the Owners of TFC. It is, plain and simple, a cash grab. 

There's been a lot of mention made of the 0-5 start of our Reds as the reason to be upset about this game. For me that has little to no impact on why this is a bad decision -  I would be upset if the team were top of the league and on their way to winning the CCL trophy. Make no mistake; this was put into motion long before our team fell to Santos Laguna and long before our season started off so poorly. This is a distraction that the team does not need at the midpoint of the season; regardless of current results or what their record is come July. Not to mention that a league match between TFC and the Chicago Fire was moved to September (right in the middle of International play) so that both teams could host one of these ridiculous matches. So short term dazzle for long-term loss as TFC will be missing several key players in the fall (Cann, Morgan, DeGuzman, Henry, Stinson) but hey, who cares about winning league matches?

What's that you say? This will raise the profile of the game here in Toronto? No, quite simply, no it won't. The Skydome will be full - well, half full. I doubt this will sell out -  of local Liverpool fans (and there are a lot of them), a few curious fans and the odd pocket of TFC fans. You will not see a sudden rush of ticket sales for TFC matches after this game. The converted already have their tickets, the EPL fans will still only be EPL fans and the curious will have had their "big club" experience.  As for the rest of us that think this is one of the worst ideas ever? We'll continue to go to matches at BMO to support our team and be displeased with the way the TFC Front Office is running the team.

Have I boycotted every friendly that TFC has played you ask? No, I've attended several; I watched Aston Villa, Pachuca and a few others. Why am I so upset now? I know better now; I've watched our players get hurt in friendlies (Ronnie O'Brien anyone? How did that year turn out?) and I've sat surrounded by supporters for other teams in our stadium. This is not the football experience I want during the season.  And regardless of form, no team needs this kind of distraction mid-season. If they want to have friendlies during pre-season I'm all for it.  Bring up one of the Latin Amercian clubs (you know, one of the clubs we might actually face at some point) and have at.  If Liverpool wants to tour and build their brand, let them tour with another big name club - just don't ask our team to play - it's as simple as that.

From the reaction in the twittersphere I'm not alone in my dismay and anger over this game. I urge you to continue to voice your displeasure in hopes that in the future the Owners (because make no mistake, this is a decision made by the Owners, not Management) will think twice about having another of these ill thought matches. I'm sure it won't but that's the relentlessly optimistic part of me speaking. I also urge you to not attend - let's not make this a "success" for the suits at MLSE to point towards next year. So say it with me; No New Friendlies!

Logical Links: A number of others have said the above and more - it's worth your time to check out their thoughts on this "game". Duncan at Waking The Red, Squizz at CSN, Rudi at and The Yorkies

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chivas Gets Our Goat

Mood: *SIGH*
State of Mind: Footy Gods are having a laugh, right?
Location: Not telling; don't need anymore pitying looks

0 and 5...kind of trips off the tongue doesn't it? It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this point - which emotion do we as supporters give in to? Laughing means the situation gets oh so comically bad that we don't have a choice but to laugh. Bright side of comically bad? Soon those of us that go to every match will have our pick of seats at BMO Field. The flip side is that well, we'll have our pick of seats...

Saturday's match was notable for several things: The moment of silence for Piermario Morosini before the match, the return of Adrian Cann and the lack of rain (seriously, it didn't rain).

Have to give kudos to the club for having the moment of silence for Morosini and to the fans for observing - it was completely silent at BMO for that minute; I had chills.  See this post by Dave at Waking The Red for more details on Morosini's passing and reactions from the football communitiy.

The return of Adrian Cann was a bit of a worrisome prospect for me. I was very concerned about him being rushed back from injury especially as he'd yet to go a full 90 in either of the reserve matches. Even though I thought he played well in the reserve game a few weeks ago I still felt he needed more time. During the first half my fears were being realized; from my view in 226 Adrian looked a step off during every play. Clearances weren't purposeful, his headers went awry and well, he looked like a player that hadn't played in over a year; rusty. However, when (to my surprise) he came back out in the second I noticed a marked difference - I don't think it can all be attributed to the change in field position and no longer playing into the win - he looked much more comfortable and was more active and vocal in keeping the back line organized and his clearances and headers had much better success.  While one match does not speak to the rest of the season, I think that Cann's return to the SXI is a good first step back onto the road to success for the team. And when paired with Doneil Henry later on in the second half a lot of us were wondering if we were seeing the future CB pairing for our Reds. While still quite young, Henry played quite well, again showing some of the form he displayed during the recent U23 tournament. 

The first half overall was not one to inspire confidence - the team looked stagnant, weren't creating chances and with the exception of the battle between Ecks and Ryan Smith and Milos forcefully calling out Dunfield for a missed assignment, it was nothing to write home about. Had the team come out in the second half showing that same lack of effort I would have been ticked off. However in the second they showed life - they looked like a team and one that was pissed off about losing and actually wanted to win.  Terry "Slide Tackle" Dunfield was doing a decent job in the mid but the changes in the back (Henry on for Aceval) and Avila on for Silva in the middle noticeably changed the energy and the attack. I thought Avi had some good touches on the ball and showed some nice moves on the attack - I expect to see more of him in the coming weeks.

Reds fans can be forgiven for thinking the laws of physics are different around the opposing goal or that our strikers are cursed as Ryan (RJ9) Johnson and Danny K. could not buy a goal. Admittedly Dan Kennedy had several amazing saves (and ended up winning POTW honours for his stellar keeping against TFC) that once again kept our boys off the scoresheet.  I actually thought Danny was going to take out the goal itself on his last miss (they're cursed I tell you!).

Did I forget to mention the goal? Oh yeah, Oswaldo Minda of Chivas scored in the first half on a set piece where once again a defensive breakdown (stop me if you've heard this before)... Yet another reason to dislike the entire first half and of course helping to preserve Chivas' perfect road record thus far this season doesn't help - oh Fortress BMO, where are you? The Goats did not play better than our Reds but they scored that goal and our boys once again did not. 

It's been a tough start to the season and I don't blame fans for being frustrated with the lack of wins and goals. Even an eternal optimist like myself finds it tough to be chipper; but as long as my team puts forth an effort I will support them to the end.  And that comes to what actually made me angry on Saturday; not the result but the reaction of the fans. That was NOT a performance that deserved to be booed. Did you even watch the second half? To the guy several rows back of me who declared around the 80th minute that he was going to burn his tickets; please go right ahead - let someone else that will support the team have your seats.  Part of supporting a team is to actually support them through good times and bad. Yes our Reds have had more bad than good so far, but if you only want to support winning teams then well, move to Spain and support Barca.  I've booed our team before; but that was after 90 minutes of lacklustre, nothing effort upon lacklustre nothing effort - Saturday wasn't that and (result aside) our boys put in an effort that should be cheered. It should not be the call for heads to roll and declarations of abandoning the team you purport to love. I'll be in my seats this coming Saturday and for the rest of the season; regardless of what happens. Will you?

Links A Go-Go: If you haven't read these already you should get on that...The hilarious Table 5 report from Mark at The Yorkies, Duncan's breakdown over at Waking The Red and Armen at Red Nation Online.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reds Vs. The Not So Regal

Mood: As always, optimistic
Weather Forecast: If it's game day the answer is always rain
Location: Secret TFC Supporter Couch

Here we go again everyone; today our beloved Reds meet the Goats of Chivas in yet another must win game. This is must win game number two or three (maybe even four?) thus far this season and personally I'd like to retire the phrase for a while.  It's been a tough year so far and it's starting to feel like the TFC Time Machine has indeed deposited us back in 2007.  The revolving door has been oiled and seems primed to go. Defensive breakdowns have plagued the team in each game and our talented (and they are talented) forwards can't seem to put the ball in the net.  However, this is a prime opportunity for our boys to right this floundering ship - they've had a week of rest and lots of time to get refocused on the task at hand.

There was some unsettling news out of training on Friday - due to illness the team will be without the resurgent Nick (Doing it for Suarez) Soolsma and centreback Logan "Chairman of the Board" Emory is also out due to the red card he received last weekend in Montreal. What has some fans excited is that Adrian Cann will likely make his return to the starting lineup this afternoon - my concern is that he hasn't even played a full 90 minutes in a reserve match and yet he's going to be tasked with anchoring the back line?  This is me with my optimism wavering...

Bright side: Chivas is not exactly a powerhouse and is without formidable striker Juan Pablo Angel.  TFC is well rested and from the various interviews given this week hungry for a win and as sick and tired of losing as we are watching them lose.
Not So Bright Side: While not a powerhouse, all of Chivas' wins have come on the road beating both RSL and Portland; not exactly pushovers in the league.  I liken it to TFC's play on the road in CCL (Torreon not included) - suprising to everyone but themselves - an underrated team with confidence? Frightening. And of course returning is former Red Nick LaBrocca who has more than once put the dart into the heart of fans and scored against our boys.

TFC will need to keep their wits about them as crafty midfielder Alejandro Moreno and the aforementioned LaBrocca will be looking to exploit our less than rock solid defense. However our boys can use their (of late) decent form on set pieces to cause confusion in front of Goats keeper Dan Kennedy; lots of bodies in the 18 yard box should prove fruitful. And hopefully Danny K. is about to go on one of his scoring streaks having finally notched his first last weekend in Montreal. 

Chivas should not take our Reds lightly; excellent road form or not.  It's like poking a wounded animal - they are at their most dangerous when perceived down - our team has been down but is definitely not out.  I expect a scrappy affair and smart play from our boys this afternoon. This is THE match of the season; it really is. With fans grumbling and rumblings about behind the scenes issues beginning to make the rounds a win today will help put all of that to rest. 

Having said that, I still expect a decent crowd as the later start should erase all of the "it's so early" excuses from everyone's vocabulary - the 12th man is more important than ever when your team is down - we need to be there to support them now more than ever!  So get your TFC gear on and get your butt to BMO; before kickoff OK? See you there!


Links Ahoy: As always here are your paths to footy wisdom - Waking The Red (awesome post by James, Duncan & Dave), The Yorkies and Red Nation Online

Thursday, April 12, 2012

O Canada - Support Local Football

Country Not Club

If you read my blog then you know that I am passionate about supporting your team week in, week out, no matter the outcome.  I am no less passionate about supporting our country's team in their attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.  The effect of the 12th man is a measurable one for a team whether it be Club or Country.

  I am new to seeing Canada's Men's National Team play, having not attended a match until last year when I went to the matches in October and November. I wish I had not waited so long to see one of the teams that represent our country play; I had no idea what I was missing. What I can tell you is that it was one of the best experiences of my life; not only as a lover of the beautiful game but as a proud Canadian. To stand shoulder to shoulder with a sea of passionate, loud, hopeful Canadians while you cheer not just a team but your country on to victory? It's amazing and exhilarating and well, just plain wonderful.

Today you'll have likely read many posts and pleas from people that I know and respect imploring everyone to buy tickets and come out to support your country. Even having attended only two matches it is frustrating to look out into the stands and see another country's colours filling the seats everywhere other than the South Stands; or worse seeing a sea of empty seats. This isn't just about love for the beautiful game - this is about supporting your country - a chance to spur them on as they try to get to the World Cup. You and I can make a difference; having a stadium full of Canadian supporters can make the difference for our team; the question is will you be there with us?

There are 4 matches taking place at BMO Field between June and October (June 3rd in a friendly against the US, June 12, WCQ vs. Honduras, Sept. 7, WCQ vs. Panama and Oct. 12, WCQ vs. Cuba).  If you live in the GTA and surrounding area there is no excuse for you to not attend at least one of these matches! Bring your friends, your family, your neighbours!  I've already bought a bunch of tickets for all of the matches because I WILL be there and I will bring as many people with me as I possibly can. Just one game; that's all I'm asking. Just One Game, because that is all it will take - after that one game you'll wonder why you never came out to support and watch and scream and wonder before. So please, Get out and Support Local Football!

If you aren't swayed by my arguments please read this post by Squizz over at CSN and then this one by Dave over at Waking The Red.  Now that you're convinced, because you are convince right? (and are planning on convincing others) go to the Voyageurs site for tickets right now or visit Ticketmaster starting tomorrow.  See you on June 3rd!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Road Trip Recap - Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Mood: Whee!
State of Mind: Still a bit tired, but mostly hey that was fun!
Location: Home sweet home (but missing my hotel room bed)

I can not believe that it took me until this year to go on a TFC Road Trip! The merriment, madness and meeting fellow supporter folk made it well worth the investment of both time and money. If you have hemmed and hawed about going on one of these trips, stop dithering and do it! I guarantee you will not regret it. 

The exodus began on Friday as Twitter was abuzz as supporters began making their way to Montreal via a wide variety of methods. Saw tweets from Porter, VIA, megabus and of course cars - it was a party on the highway as a tweet from the North End Elite put it.  We traveled by car and spent the 6 hours singing, car dancing and just generally being silly.  An excellent beginning!  The closer we got to Montreal, the more tweets we saw from the legion of supporters arriving, checking in and heading out to see the city (read: find beer). The impact of twitter, social media and smart phones cannot be discounted for trips like this - if you wanted to know where your friends or fellow supporters were; all you had to do was send out a tweet and in minutes you had a place to gather.

So finally we arrive and check in to our hotel - of course running into fellow TFC supporters doing the same thing; "Hi! How was your trip? So excited for tomorrow!" etc.  And although I don't normally post pics of stuff like this I can't help myself; wish I could have taken this home with me:

Giant bed! I fit sideways across it; seriously. I love this bed.  Yes I know this has nothing to do with TFC, you'll survive.
A little resting, relaxing, refreshing and then a quick check of the twitter machine (seriously; you need this!) to find out where everyone is and we're off!  One of the best (or possibly the best given the results on Saturday) things about going to an away game is meeting and connecting with your fellow supporters; especially if you're on social media - it's a great deal of fun putting faces to avatars and names - but it's the sense of community when you're out or at a game in 'foreign' territory that makes the away trip great. 

Friday & Saturday nights I got to meet several supporters that I had run into at previous events but also several I had only "met" in cyberspace and some I had no prior contact with at all. *Special thanks to Swiss for the drinks at Peel Pub on Friday! And thanks to the great band and the staff at Brutopia for making our Saturday night a little happier after our long day.*  Really all that matters is that we're all fellow TFC supporters - everyone is quick to smile, say hello, introduce themselves and make you feel welcome...truly fantastic.

Saturday was the big day - get up, get geared up and hit the Metro! A huge mob of us emerged at Viau Station and headed for the Big O where we had to wait for our security escort - considering the rancor between the two clubs and cities I didn't mind the wait. What I did find funny was that our escort did not stay with us the entire way; I don't know if that's the norm but it seemed odd. Finally get upstairs and in we go! Loved seeing our huge section of away support with flags, banners - just a loud, excited sea of red!!


The game; oh the game. Let's not dwell shall we? You were there, or watching at home and well, you know what happened. No life to our boys until they were down to 10 men and yes it's starting to feel like the TFC Time Machine has spirited us all back to 2007...Disappointing yes; am I sorry I made the trip? Hell No! Would not have missed being part of that for any reason. I feel that much more a part of the TFC community having gone on this trip.  I would also like to mention that although I wore my TFC red all weekend I did not get attacked or harassed by Impact supporters - well, there was a couple of them on our way to Brutopia on Saturday night but they were pretty harmless. Even at the match itself the vaunted Montreal Ultras weren't very, well Ultra - it all seemed more like ribbing and poking than true animosity. Oh and I may have been chirped by Noel Butler (of Oranges at the Half fame) while we crossed the street that night. All he did was mention we "needed some proper footballers but to never lose our support for our team" - regardless of who he was, it was a pretty classy encounter.

Best moment of the weekend? After the match there was a huge group of us on the same subway car and someone broke into "3 Little Birds" by Bob Marley; soon the entire car was singing along, smiling, laughing and putting our worries to bed. Don't worry, 'bout a thing indeed. 

This trip served to cement my love for my team and my community even more so than before - thanks for the memories everyone - you guys and girls are the best! I know there will be more highs and lows to share as the season progresses and I look forward to each and every one; well, maybe not the lows but hey,  misery loves company!  See you out there!

Allez Les Rouges!

Les Links: For actual recaps of the game itself visit the usual suspects (if you haven't already): The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online

Friday, April 6, 2012

First TFC Road Trip!

Mood: Excited!
State of Mind: Really excited!
Location: Amid a sea of belongings - the maid will not be pleased

After five plus years I am finally going to my first TFC away match! I have been waiting for an opportunity to travel with my fellow fans to cheer our beloved Reds on for years and finally the footy gods smiled and away I go!!  I've watched and heard with envy the tales of road trips; seen the pictures, videos etc and could only hope that a game would come up that went with my work schedule and my wallet. 

I don't know what to expect having never been an away supporter - and being in Montreal? Oh mon dieu, do I remember any of my french?  The animosity between our two cities when it comes to all things sporting (and well, all things) is well known, but I also know that supporter respect will come into play so I'm not (too) worried about things going sideways. Especially as this is a must win match for both teams in a battle to not be the sole occupant of the basement in the East and supporters from both sides will be revved up even more so than usual. I know what it's like to be with my fellow supporters in a sea of red; singing and chanting and passionately cheering on my team - but now to do that surrounded by a larger sea of blue? This should be fun.

I'll be tweeting as always and will likely post pics and maybe even some video.  If you're not one of the lucky ones making the trip you had best be in front of the TV (at home or the pub) tomorrow at noon, decked out in your TFC gear and in full voice cheering our boys on!

Allez Les Rouges!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So Long And Thanks For All The Wins

Mood: Angry yet proud
State of Mind: Frustrated, yet whimsical
Location: Heart of Gold

Looks like the Infinite Improbability Drive failed TFC last night.

Infinite Improbability Drive
Generates a field in which anything, no matter how improbable, can exist
Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

TFC's seemingly improbable run through the CCL tournament came to an end when they hit the proverbial "Restaurant At The End of the Universe", Santos Laguna in Torreon. You know that about 14 minutes into the second half, several players were looking around for a towel to wave in hopes of being picked up by a passing spaceship that would take them anywhere but there. Vogon poetry has to be better than the defensive horrors that we witnessed in the second half...I wonder if Aceval is a Vogon name?

Didn't that second half feel an awful lot like Arthur Dent futilely laying in the muck in front of the bulldozer - helpless to prevent what was going to happen - yet still willing to follow Ford Prefect to the pub for an end of the world pint. It's enough to sympathize with Marvin the paranoid android; "I think you ought to know, I'm feeling very depressed". 

But take heart - our Slartibartfast has appeared, the Mark II edition of of the season has been created from the original blueprints and our team is free to begin again starting this Saturday - somewhere I hear whitecaps, I mean white mice chuckling...

As it says in large, friendly letters on the cover of the Guide (or SSH canister); DON'T PANIC

Learned Links: For slightly less whimsical and more well, down to earth recaps & commentary on last night's match visit the following planets; I mean blogs: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (John, Duncan), Red Nation Online and Mistake By The Lake.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One More Time - Let's Make History

Mood: Nervous, Excited, twitchy, scared
State of Mind: Confused
Location: Work now; later home (sick - *sigh*)

Once again boys and girls we are faced with one of those momentous nights in TFC history; perhaps the most momentous night as our boys in Red take on Santos Laguna in the second leg of the CCL semi-finals.  This is a huge match for our boys against a dangerous opponent and in a seemingly dangerous locale. This one is for (most of) the proverbial marbles and the team itself is fired up and itching for a win.

Then why am I confused you ask?  It hasn't been an easy start to the season for TFC and we the fans and there are those that would rather see the team die with dignity (so to speak) tonight and leave the team free to focus on improving their league form. While others are adamant that this opportunity to be the first MLS team to make the CCL finals is the more important achievement and to hell with the league. Who's right? In a perfect world both would be achievable with little detriment to the team and their form. It's no secret that playing this many matches in this short a period is wearing; but TFC boasts much better depth this year and have several players returning from International play and injury. Not to mention the fact that the team has been playing quite well in CCL matches - overcoming the naysayers in each round with solid home and (to some) astonishing away performances.  I for one just want my team to do well; period. I think that a win (or a non-scoreless draw) tonight will do wonders for the team - if they can do what no other team has done how can that not build confidence and propel them to better results in MLS play? 

Tonight I'll be decked out in my best TFC gear - what I now refer to as my Wednesday (or Rednesday) outfit; prepared to shout, sing, and agonize throughout the entire game. I know that Santos is a difficult team to beat on their home field but TFC is a difficult team to beat in the away legs of CCL matches! Just ask Dallas and LA - they never knew what hit them! Tonight is a night for our boys to make history; to do what no other MLS team has done and head to the CCL Finals!  I'm excited and I know you are too; regardless of what you think the outcome will be. You're just as hopeful of a win and just as hyper and nervous for our boys as I am. We may not be there in person to cheer them on, but we can still be here in red, in full voice, sending our support to the team.

So observe whatever game day ritual gets you pumped; clothes, food, route to work - whatever it takes to get you out of your head pumped for tonight. Our boys are ready to make history - are you?


Links-A-Go-Go: For (much) more technical previews of tonight's match; you know what to do. The Yorkies, Waking The Red (James, Duncan & Dave), Red Nation Online

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Afternoon With The Kids

Mood: Hopeful
Soundtrack: *sigh* Whitney Houston because I do the believe the children are our future
State of Being: still a little sunburned

Following the first team's loss I and 20 or 30 other fans decided to stick around to watch the Reserve match. The sun was shining brightly on the east stands which led to the above mentioned sunburn and also had me wishing I had sunglasses - buy hey, we were nice and warm so that's a win right there. Taking the field were Quillan Roberts, Chris Manella, Aaron Maund, Adrian Cann (Sergio Camargo), Tyler Pasher, Oscar Cordon, Junior Burgos, Eric Avila, Omari Morris, Keith Makubuya and Jordan Hamilton.  

Other than checking out the development of some of the Academy kids the main reason I wanted to watch the Reserve match was because I knew that Adrian Cann would be playing. We've been anxiously awaiting the return of Adrian to the first team and his recent inclusions on the subs bench the past couple of games has been encouraging. Even more encouraging was his play during the Reserve match. He looked strong, had ease of movement, calm and careful ball distribution; but perhaps most importantly he was loudly and confidently controlling and organizing the back line. You could hear him (well, that wasn't difficult being there were so few of us but still) shouting orders and keeping everyone (especially Chris Manella) on track. I noticed an immediate change in the communication and vocalization during the second when Cann was subbed off. 

Also putting in a strong effort was (soon to be first team?) keeper Quillan Roberts.  He had good command of his area and made several strong saves including a beautiful fingertip save in the second to keep the score at 1-0. Oh, did I forget to mention that Ethan Finlay scored in the 58th minute? For me the score was almost incidental as I was just wanting to see how the Reserves and Academy Kids looked regardless of the score.

First team members Junior Burgos, Oscar Cordon, Aaron Maund & Eric Avila all showed good movement, field positioning and presence during the game. Avila in particular made some nice plays setting up his teammates as they continued to press for the equalizer in the second half. 

I am still trying to put names to numbers for some of the Academy Kids but all in all I'd say the kids are alright. If you've never been to a Reserve match I highly recommend it - I liken it to watching NCAA Basketball - energetic, sometimes frenetic and all out effort the entire time.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the sun regardless of the outcome.


Update: I forgot to mention that it was Danny Dichio coaching the kids and that we spotted Paul Mariner and Thomas Rongen observing and scribbling notes during the second half.  Couldn't quite get close enough to hear what they were saying...

A For Effort?

Mood: Sigh
State of Mind: Sigh, yet hopeful
Location: Secret TFC Supporter Couch

It wasn't all for naught, was it? Yes our beloved Reds again failed to secure any points or beat that annoying yellow team. Yes, they once again failed to score and yes many fans will fail to see any improvement or reason to continue supporting the team this season.

I will not say that I am not frustrated that an eminently winnable game fell through the cracks and that I am not even a little despondent that TFC still have zero points on the season.  But what makes it all the more frustrating was that our team played well; hell they played better than that annoying yellow team.

Let's focus on the positives first shall we? 
1. That. Save. You know what I'm talking about - when Milos stonewalled Milovan Mirosevic on that completely bogus Penalty Call. From my seats in 226 it was a loud, raucous, joyous group of fans who screamed and celebrated with Kocic as he punched the air in triumph in front of us. Oh to have preserved that moment and stopped the game right there. Is there any question that Milos deserves that #1 keeper designation? I thought not.
2. Some really decent play by Dunfield and de Guzman in the midfield - no, I'm not having a laugh; I really mean that. They both played quite well - this is what's known as progress and hope for the future. 
3. Soolsma - seriously, where did Nick find this added dimension to his game? Was he hibernating last season? I swear I saw him outrun more than one Crew defender - Soolsma with pace? What alternate universe are we in? 
4. Logan Emory - yes, I know that there are many of you that feel the error he made that contributed to the Columbus goal should erase all of the outstanding work he put in as CB. I obviously disagree - I saw a number of smart decisions, little hesitation at using his mop of hair to head the ball out of danger and decent man marking. I would not be unhappy to see him in the SXI again. 
5. Ty Harden - he actually wasn't terrible; in fact more than once I think I actually praised him - an odd feeling to be sure.
6. Overall good team effort - I mean that. They had some really nice runs, good control, and were attacking and defending well.

The not so positives...
1. The goal - *SIGH* A combination of a mis-handled ball by JDG and a poor clearance by Emory saw the ball fall right at Bernardo Anor's feet and well, you were there, you know what happened next.
2. Failure to score; again. It's becoming a bit of broken record isn't it? This is definitely a team that can score - so why aren't they? Some excellent forward play and still nothing.
3. Continuing to play the aerial game when it obviously wasn't working against a (surprising to me) very solid Crew defense.
4. The ref - from the terrible decision on the penalty call to the non-calls on TFC players every time they got hammered - I could go on, but again you were there, you saw it. I realize this is an uncontrollable variable but difficult to watch and experience nonetheless.
5. Well, they lost - that has to go in the negative column. For all of the positive play they still didn't come out the other side with three points. 

I realize it's difficult as a fan to watch your team succeed on one level (hello CCL) and continue to fail in league play. However it is not time to throw in the towel - do not stop coming out and supporting our team - it is going to turn around, they will right this somewhat foundering ship.

For me the most poignant moment of the match came after the final whistle. I looked out onto the field and saw Ecks kneeling on the pitch, obviously despondent pounding the turf in frustration. A minute later when he was awarded the man of the match he barely stood still long enough for the obligatory picture and then stormed off - it is both heartening and upsetting to see a player that frustrated - you want the players to be affected by a loss but you have to wonder and worry how it affects them long term. Do they fight back or give in?

I say fight back boys; we're there cheering you on and I for one can't wait to see you turn it around.

Links-ahoy: The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online, Mistake By The Lake