Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oh Canada! See Thee Rise

Mood: Excited!
State of Mind: Really, really, really excited!

With TFC off until the middle of June all of our attention should now be turned to the Canadian Men's National Team as they begin their journey towards qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.  We here in the GTA are very fortunate in that we can easily go to see all of the home games at BMO Field. Seriously, we are incredibly lucky that all of these games are being played here - we should be leaping at the chance to take advantage of such important opportunities as this. How often do you get to be there at the beginning of something this exciting?

Sadly it seems that not enough folk are taking advantage of the chance to see our National Men's team play; with word that only around12,000 or so tickets have been sold thus far for this Sunday's friendly against the US - I beg you, no I implore you to please, please buy a ticket! We need to pack the stands with Canada supporters; home field advantage means nothing without the home support! It's fairly inexpensive, you get to watch our Men's National team square off against our most frequent (and well hated is an awfully strong word, but we're not very fond of them) rivals the US and you get to stand with thousands of your fellow fans cheering your heart out - it's a truly wonderful experience and one not to be missed. 

If you need more encouragement check out my post from April and then join us in the stands this Sunday and again on June 12th. Our boys need you!  So, see you Sunday?

                                                              Support Local Football

Allez Les Rouges!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Special Events? Results on the Pitch Are Pretty Special

Mood: Irritated
State of Mind: Wishing for the "good old days"
Location: Suspicious supporter's couch

I don't like this ongoing war between my two selves - the positive, optimistic one that loves my team and enjoys nothing more than cheering them on each and every game day and the cynical, unhappy one that gets more and more disenchanted with each new shiny distraction that MLSE hauls out of it's ill thought bag of tricks.

I've touched on this a bit recently in regards to the "special events" that are becoming more and more prevalent at BMO field and my dislike for them. You hear talk of how this will draw in new fans and help build the eroding fan base. Guess what - it won't - no matter what your research from other sports markets around North America tells you, this will not fix things for MLSE. For one this is not your typical sports market and should not be treated as such. This is supposed to be something different; not the same old watered down, if I closed my eyes I wouldn't know what sport I'm watching experience.  

If Anselmi (the Teflon Tom) & Co. want to boost ticket sales and bring back the fans, then they should consider respecting the long suffering yet loyal existing fans by a) ceasing with the ticket price gouging (TFC fans pay some of the highest prices in the entire league; sound familiar?) and b) focus on the product on the field. Amazing how the number of fans renewing their tickets and sitting in the stands each week started to drop as prices continued to go up at outrageous rates and the rotating door for coaches, players and the behind the scenes drama increased. When has a fan base been so casually tossed aside as the dollar signs loomed larger & larger? Give us tickets we can afford and a stable team that can perform and you'll see full stands. Give us thundersticks and a mascot? Dream on.

As for attracting new fans; I'm a new fan - not a new fan to the sport (everyone knows how much I love football) but new to having a team to truly call my own - one that I get to support each week. I haven't spent years growing up supporting a team so I have no other true football experiences to compare it to other than years of watching footy from around the world. However, one of the things that I have loved about watching and supporting TFC in person (from the very beginning) is that it was free of all the extra "stuff" that I had witnessed at other sporting venues. No scoreboards imploring everyone to make noise, no music being played as the team brings the ball up the court (or the field), no sirens and whistles as "Free Stuff" is blared all over the place while peppy, attractive folk pelt the crowd with shirts and souvenirs (oh wait...) - just the noise of the fans and the players on the field - bliss. In fact MLS touted TFC and its fans as the new wave of football experience; want authentic? Go to BMO. 

But things are slowly changing at BMO and not for the better to my eyes. We'd already had Cinco de Mayo night, which elicited a lot of "why are there Mexican flags up there" comments from those around me - I could not find one person who either knew they were celebrating Cinco de Mayo or had come out to the match especially because of that. Now included in the latest email from TorontoFC (ostensibly celebrating the Cup win) is what's upcoming on the event schedule (it's no longer just a games schedule); Canadian Armed Forces Night, Caribbean Carnival Night and most exciting of all, Oktoberfest. Aside from the obvious pandering that is the Armed Forces Night (look at how we care!) what exactly is the point of these theme nights? How do they in any way add to the experience? Does it change the product on the field if there's a steel drum band on the patio; would a polka band somehow get the fans pumped up?  What's next? The dreaded cheerleaders (sorry, dancers) on the sidelines or performing during the half? Exhortations to do the wave, a pipe organ? Anything to provide an "experience" (read: distraction) for these mythical folk who are just waiting for the right event to draw them down to BMO and hey suddenly they're fans!

It angers me that the owners of the team I love are increasingly turning to gimmicks and theme nights to fill the empty seats and "add value" to the experience. I love my team and I'm there each and every game day cheering them on and that's all that I want to do. I want to watch the game, with my fellow fans, period. I don't need theme events and giveaways. Want to ensure my ongoing attendance? Bring ticket prices back down (or at the very least stop raising them) and give us a stable, competitive club on the pitch. It's simple - I wonder why no one has thought of it.

For another take on this please read Duncan's piece at Waking The Red (required reading as far as I'm concerned) and The Yorkies take on it in their game preview.

Point(s) And Match

Mood: Whee!
State of Mind: Relief combined with whee!
Location: Mildly jubilant supporter couch

1 and 9 is the new black.

Feel that weight being lifted from your shoulders TFC fans? The one marked "pointless" that's been pressing down and getting heavier each week? It's gone! No really, stand up a little straighter, stretch and there - feels good doesn't it? Was it all that we could have asked for? No. But going into the international break with two wins (and two clean sheets) can't be viewed as anything other than a good thing for the team, the fans and the players.

But oh boy it wasn't pretty was it? Danny Koevermans wanted the team to win ugly and well, he certainly got his wish. That was an ugly win (and an ugly goal) against a terrible team that almost managed to eke out a draw against our Reds. But in the end they got their point across (or put the ball into the net if you like) and finally gave us the victory that we've been patiently (well, most of the time) waiting for the entire season.

It was a hot, humid day at BMO yesterday which had me kicking myself for still not owning a proper pair of sunglasses and for not bringing a hat - that's what I get for abandoning my shady West Stand seats for the lure of the cynics circle in the South End - the sacrifices I make to get new material for the blog.  Even with the sunshine and the actual possibility of a win, the south stands were not nearly as full (read: lots of empty seats) as I expected as the game began - I don't know why this shocks me every game but it does *grumble*. The mood by those around me could be described as subdued hope mixed with "0-10 here we come". Most of my companions were optimistic enough to predict a win with only a couple dissenters in the ranks (foolish dissenters) but really, can you blame them? The same starting XI as Wednesday were on the field with the exception of Luis Silva who took the place of the injured Eric Avila. And in what must have been the most expensive bench in all of MLS (perhaps it's gold plated?) saw Koevermans, Soolsma and Eckersley get the call to chill out on the sidelines.

Let's break the game down shall we? 

First Half:

TFC started out pressing but looking just a touch disorganized and certainly not as crisp as they were on Wednesday night - were they tired, hot, bored or just playing at their usual level? However some sort of focus and attacking play was taking place which led to this: 

1. Zzzzzzzzzzz
2. Johnson just misses
3. Johnson just misses
4. Johnson just misses (sensing the beginning of a theme here)
5. Zzzzzzzzzzzz
6. Lambe just misses
7. Plata just misses

And somehow we go into half time with no score when in reality if this team (read: Johnson) had any sort of finishing ability the score would have easily been 2-0 at the least. Yes, we've made many jokes about the invisible force field around the opposition goal but when you let chances like that go begging? No wonder we're 1 and 9...

Second Half:

TFC must have had milk and cookies at the half instead of water and orange slices as they come out flat. The suddenly scrappy Union take advantage of the momentary lull to prove that they too are capable of missing what seem like guaranteed goals when Union midfielder Michael Farfan with a shot that beat Kocic but fortunately hit the cross bar. The hilarity continued as Henry takes his turn at missing - seriously it was comical how many times they almost scored, honestly - if you can't laugh you'll end up crying and we've had enough of that supporting this team.  

With Philly continuing to press Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma were (finally) brought on several minutes apart and in the 88th minute the dynamic Dutch Duo teamed up when Soolsma (still doin' it for Suarez) did some very nice work to keep the ball in and fed to Danny who eventually (amazingly) managed to get it into the net! Pandemonium!! Seriously it felt like we had just won the league title so happy was everyone around me. Hugging, jumping, yelling, grinning, joyous supporters everywhere. Danny K leaping into the south stands in jubilation - what a great moment.  Then came those nervous minutes as we waited with dread for the patented TFC last minute goal concession; only it never came! 3 long blasts of the whistle and Pandemonium again!!  One of the best moments I have had at BMO in a long time; Voyageurs Cup notwithstanding of course. It was just so wonderful to be surrounded by happy (and yes relieved) fans; to see the same looks on the faces of the players as the long, pointless drought had finally come to an end. 

There are still many questions to be asked about our Reds: Why can't anyone finish? When will Danny K. actually reach match fitness? Why is Joao still starting matches - seriously he a sub, a good sub but a sub - he injects such energy into games, save him for the second half! How injured is Torsten Frings?  Can the backline actually become a consistent, cohesive unit?  And of course, will Aron Winter still be coach after the international break is over? But those are all questions to be answered next week (or the week after, or the one after that) - for now my fellow fans let's just bask in back to back wins, remember the joy we felt yesterday and just enjoy the moment.  And now I think this calls for a dance break:

TFC Til I Die

Link It Up Baby: And for the second time this week some positive post-game posts for your reading pleasure - The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Can Cup Glory Finally Lead to League Success?

Mood: Cautiously optimistic
State of Mind: They have to win eventually, right?
Location: Steamy supporter's couch (I miss air conditioning)

OK, here we go again. Our Reds are coming off of a strong performance (OK yes they bloody well won) in a cup competition and now must once again face the MLS monkey on their back. But before that a look back at Wednesday night's win.


1. JDG - It was dumb. Plain and simple. I can appreciate his passion and yes Davidson went down like he had been shot from that little tap on the cheek but it shouldn't have happened and was a deserved red.
2. Petrescu - He's not a good ref, we know this. And Wednesday night he again showed his inability to keep control of a match.
3. Avila's injury - Avi has been playing well of late and Wednesday night was one of his best performances on the season in the midfield. TFC will miss him today.
4. Joao - Strong showing from him - possibly the most intelligent I've seen him play this season - still no left foot though.


1. They won. 'Nuff said.
2. Ryan Johnson - Deserved winner of Tournament MVP. Lays it out there each and every match.
3. Style of play - We got to see some great ball movement, lots of attacking and pushing the ball up the field (Milos didn't have a lot to do) and some very nice defending from the back line - Hassli who?
4. Entire backline - Not perfect, but much better communication, marking and closing down of the Vancouver attack.
5. Reggie Lambe - He's getting better in every match and you know, scored the winning goal.
6. Ecks - Best performance of the season for him. Obviously not wanting to be stuck to the bench any longer he was massive for TFC when he came on in the second half.

So that's more or less where we've been - to refresh yourself just visit the usual suspects over at Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and The Yorkies.

Game Day:

Today our boys in Red have to refocus and try to once again translate a very strong performance in the Voyageurs Cup to league play. And what better opponent than the beleaguered and battered ship that is the Philadelphia Union? Make no mistake this is likely the most winnable game that TFC have had in MLS play this season. The Union (much like TFC) are a team in disarray - they traded forward Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver in the off season and just recently sent centreback staltwart Danny (anywhere but Toronto!) Califf to Chivas and have little in the way of solid performers to replace either of them. They've lost 3 of their last 4 matches and are definitely not playing with momentum. And wouldn't it be fantastic to go into the international break on a high - Voyageurs Cup champs and some MLS points? Yes please!

Having said that they do have actual points and such thus far this season having won 2 (yes 2 wins is something to be envious of right now) games and tied 2 - sad that being able to say the same thing about our Reds would make me happy - sigh.  And as TFC have shown countless times this season the match following a strong cup competition performance is usually a nightmare.  The Reds will need to be alert right from the opening whistle and not let the Union take control of the match.

While Eric Avila is unavailable to play, the rest of the recently walking wounded should be available for Winter today and he could field a very strong starting XI in this last match before the international break. I expect to see Nick (doin' it for Suarez) Soolsma get the start and perhaps Johnson get a breather to start the match (give this man a rest!), especially as he will be off playing for Jamaica - let's not push him harder than needed.  One of the questions is will Ecks be back at rightback and will Danny K. get the start or be saved for the second half should TFC fall upon old habits. Either way I hope to see more of what we saw Wednesday night; play like that and the points are there for the taking.

This is a winnable game folks, it's a beautiful day and our boys are Voyageurs Cup Champs for the 4th straight year - let's pack the stands, be loud, sing, chant, cheer and be there for our boys. Let's send them off in style today. Be there or be a parallelogram.

                                   Saturday Morning Dance Break - Better Days indeed.

Link It Up: You know the drill, click and learn - Waking the Red, James via WTR, The Yorkies and Red Nation Online.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Mood: Wheee!!!  :D
State of Mind: Hyper, happy
Location: Stylin' Supporter Sofa

Tomorrow I will write something longer and more interesting/in depth; but tonight I just want to celebrate with my fellow fans. What a fantastic night!!  Not only did our beloved Reds win their FOURTH CONSECUTIVE VOYAGEURS CUP, but they did it well! 90 minutes of sustained energy, attack and focus by our boys. And did I mention that they again denied the Whitecaps the Cup? :D  Best. Troll. Ever.

Thank you boys for putting it all out there and for being the best "worst team in the world" ever. 

Here's a few pics from the post Cup presentation celebration from the south end.

Thank you boys for reminding us, if only for a little while why we continue to follow you week in, week out.  Well done - all of you!  See you Saturday.

TFC Til I Die

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One More Time

Mood: Agitated
State of Mind: Worried about the impending TFC apocalypse 
Location: TFC proof fallout shelter

I think it's time for another team meeting. Whoever hid the talking stick, Aron's guitar and the words to Kumbaya had better come clean as multiple reports and tweets today speak loudly of a disintegrating locker room over at BMO Field. With reactions to Danny K's stark statement after the DC loss on Saturday from Adrian Cann and Milos Kocic sounding anything but agreeable, the dread that has been building these past weeks is reaching fever pitch. If there was ever a team in dire need of a group hug this is it.
Not exactly the focused, together, confident well oiled football machine that TFC needs heading into tomorrow night's final leg of the Voyageurs Cup against the Whitecaps. Instead it feels like I should be taking bets on whether or not the on the pitch battle will be between various Reds instead of between Morgan and Hassli.  I've been fearful, worried, angry and stressed out over our beloved Reds these past few weeks but this public sniping at one another has taken it to another level. Amidst all of this Coach Winter seems to think that all is well (somewhere Jim Brennan is steepling his hands a la Mr. Burns). Does he think that putting a brave face on the situation will somehow mold the team into a cohesive unit? 

Up until this afternoon I was still quite confident of a TFC victory tomorrow night; if only because they excel at these cup matches and having nothing else to play for should almost guarantee a win. Add to the fact that Vancouver is the team that TFC loves to, right?  And hey Torsten should be back in the lineup; that has to be a good thing - right? Right?  Conspiracy theories, recent form and soap opera-esque meltdowns aside this is still a game that our Reds can and should (quiet, having an optimistic sentence) win. If the same team from last Wednesday (minus the goal in added time goal of course) shows up, then TFC should have no trouble once again finishing off the Whitecaps.  They've got an away goal, will be playing in front of well attendance is hard to peg these days but it will be arguably more than they played in front of last week and like I said what else do they have? 

Hell, what else do we as supporters have? I know that winning the Cup is only going to be a very temporary bandage over our obviously wounded team. And that MLSE will use it to show how everything is OK - nothing to see here, move along - and tout the historic win.  I'll say this (and 2 weeks ago I NEVER would have said this) - I would gladly give up the Voyageurs Cup (although HATE the thought of the Whitecaps having it) to see a cohesive, competitive winning team in MLS. When I say winning I don't mean playoffs - just win some of those games where they "were the better team" - show us the heart, emotion and fire that you show in post game interview after post game interview and put it out on the pitch. Give us something to cheer for, to show up for; remind us why we love you - Our Team.  

Having said that; do I want them to win tomorrow night? Hell yes! I will be at BMO ready to cheer on our boys - I really hope that you'll join me - at least one more time.

TFC Til I Die 

Lowdown Links: Here's the usual suspects with the breakdowns on tomorrow's match - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (James & Duncan), Red Nation Online, Ian at RNO and Dave from WTR - are TFC really the worst team in the world?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stop The MLS Season, I Want To Get Off

Mood: Sad, angry, numb
State of Mind: Moving through the 5 stages of grief - look out dark side, here I come
Location: Doesn't matter.

"We're setting a record for the worst team in the world".  That's from Danny Koevermans' post-game interview; one of the bleakest ones I've ever watched but he describes the entire season perfectly. 

What is it about league play that strikes fear into the hearts of TFC players, shakes their focus and causes them to forget the most basic aspects of the game? It is mystifying, (frustrating, maddening), to watch this team play solid football over the past two weeks (score goals, not lose, post a clean sheet) against MLS opponents and then turn around and promptly forget how to play the sport for long stretches of time once they actually get to league play.  

Last night was yet another example of what has become the patented 2012 version of TFC play - they played well for stretches, let multiple chances go begging, again started off slow - seriously, have a coffee or something before the match, wake the hell up when that whistle blows - and let defensive miscues carry the day.

I had high hopes when the starting XI was announced; back to back games with the same players? Consistency, what a concept! They were coming off a couple of decent performances, had to be filled with confidence and fired up for their first points; right? Right? But less than 60 seconds into the game who else but DeRo (and it was always going to be him) headed in the ball off of an early DC free kick. You could see that the defense was not comfortable in those first 10 minutes or so. On the positive (?) side was the attacking side of our Reds; they were continually pressing and easily getting up into the DC end but an amazing lack of finishing kept them at zero. 

But as they continued to keep it within a goal and press the attack I still had hope; until that second goal with minutes to spare in the first half. Again scored by DeRo (of course), but the way that he scored! Argh; was that not the easiest goal anyone has ever scored against TFC? He was completely unmarked; completely! How do you leave one of the best players in the game, one who loves to score against his former team and one who has already scored in the game unmarked. That was when it became apparent that nothing good was going to come of this game. 

The second half saw an immediate change in the lineup with Koevermans coming on for Dunfield. A good sub in my opinion as Dunfield had been less than stellar. But even with the big man up top the Reds still couldn't find the back of the net.  Finally Plata (another subpar performance - why is he still a starter?) was subbed off in favour of Nick Soolsma (who when fit should always start imo). And although TFC continued to find holes in the easily exploitable DC defense nothing was working until finally Koevermans was on the receiving end of a perfect ball by JDG and easily put it past Hamid. Happiness, right? Short lived as almost immediately DC charged up the field catching TFC napping (I'd say I was shocked but alas) as Andy Najar set up Salihi and that was it; a new record was set!

I keep wavering between angry and sad when I think about this match. I am sick of watching them make rookie mistakes every single match, of watching the abundance of missed chances and the inability to transfer their form in Cup play to league play. And I'm tired of watching good performances from players like Lambe, Johnson, Avi & Soolsma go to waste.  This was a winnable match - the DC defense was all too easy to penetrate throughout most of the match - they should have had points from this one, period. Then you watch the post game is disheartening at best to see the frustration and sadness from these players game after game.  I feel terrible for them; it hurts to see them so broken down. It would be easier if they didn't give a damn, if they weren't trying; then we could just be angry and say sack them all. So what is the solution? 

The knee jerk reaction is to fire Winter; and this may no longer be a choice if points don't start to materialize.  But who gets the big chair? The most horrifying (yet still possible) answer is Jimmy Brennan - it's tailor made for the PR hacks - "Former captain and home town boy fulfills his lifelong dream of coaching in the MLS" reality it's a 2 year dream and the worst thing possible that could happen to this team.  I'm not saying that things don't need to change and maybe it is time for Winter to move on (either entirely or elsewhere in the organization) and changes need to happen but not just at the lower levels. Sadly those changes are not likely to come now or in the near future.  Instead we'll continue to get "Support Our Troops" day and certainly more bland, corporate "family friendly" (read: fan killing) activities and events to come. 

It's a bit of a scary time for us my fellow fans - if things don't change for the better soon we had all better get used to empty seats (or cheerleaders *shudder*, or worse); you will literally be able to sit anywhere you like at BMO Field. Those other teams that we make fun of for poor attendance and invisible supporters will soon be looking down at us.  Let's see if we can't stave that off a bit longer OK? Don't stop going and supporting. Be angry, protest what Anselmi and Co. are doing to our team but be there for the boys on the field. Let's hope they have another team meeting and are back to playing end-to-end football for 90 minutes, with confidence and fire. I haven't given up yet and I hope you haven't either.  See you Wednesday?

Lacklustre Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and East Side Stand Up Podcast.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

District 0-9?

Mood: Pessimistically positive
State of Mind: Wishing league games were played on Wednesdays
Location: Sunny supporter's sofa

Here we go again - time to see if TFC can stop the bleeding in MLS play and not get that woeful 0-9 tag permanently affixed next to their name in the record books. Maybe if we tell them that it's really a two leg cup competition against DCU? Hey, something has to help.

Yes, it's the Return of the Former Captains II: The Recaptaining - feels a little deja vu-ish doesn't it? Didn't we just do this - have a good game in the Voyageurs Cup and then have to face the very good DC United and deal with all the drama that encompasses?  Admittedly the drama is lessened when it's not here in Toronto but any game that involves DeRo and Santos will always have some off the pitch elements added.

However this game has some subtle differences than the depressing, soul sucking one we witnessed two weeks ago. Most notably is the current form of our boys - while not storming the barricades they are undefeated in the last two weeks, have scored 3 goals and kept a clean sheet for over 180 minutes - these are accomplishments that shouldn't be ignored.  Yes all of this happened in non-league play but an improvement in play is to be applauded and built upon.

One of the most important aspects of this has been the play of Adrian Cann and Doneil Henry as the CB pairing for the last two matches (amazing what happens when players get some time together isn't it?). Yes I know it's only two matches but what a difference, the defense has looked a lot less uncertain and sieve-like over those two games, I expect we'll see this as the permanent CB tandem for the rest of the season.  Also finding his form of late is the ever present Ryan Johnson having scored a goal in each of the last two games. With TFC going with a more attack minded game plan Johnson has looked less tired and noticeably less frustrated out on the pitch. Other potential bright spots for night is the return of Danny Koevermans (although unlikely to start) and Nick Soolsma to the lineup. Both have seen sub minutes in the last two matches and Soolsma has looked very sharp; DCU will need to keep their eye on him if they hope to have Bill Hamid notch another clean sheet.

DC United faces some challenges in this game other than a newly confident (ish) TFC.  Santos and Red killer Chris Pontius both picked up knocks in their previous game against Colorado and are not a lock to play tonight.  There's also some possible defensive issues for DCU as usual backline starters Emiliano Dudar and Dejan Jakovic have been injured and again are not a certainty for tonight's match.  With TFC finally playing a more energetic and forward minded game the DCU defense may be surprised by the change in tactics allowing our Reds to exploit some potential misconceptions.

All of that being said our boys are not in for an easy night at the office. They are playing one of the better teams in the league, on the road and without still injured captain Torsten Frings. Cann, Henry and Kocic will need to be near perfect at the back and the midfield and the fullbacks will need to be on their A game to deal with the speedy Hamdi Salihi and the always dangerous DeRo. Add to that the pressure of the upcoming Voyageurs Cup final leg match this Wednesday at BMO (as well as the recent coaching change drama) and you have to worry just a little that their focus may not be 100% on this game.  

I'm not sure what I expect for the outcome of the this match - the optimistic side of me knows that they can steal some points tonight and begin to truly play as the team that we expected from the beginning of the season. The cynical side says they're going to get that terrible 0-9 record to sport. Regardless of the outcome I just want to see them take the game to United. Keep it up with the attacking, ball moving game we've seen these past two weeks - let the boys play and let the chips fall where they may.


Let's blow them up, again. 
Late Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, James & Duncan again) and Ian at Red Nation Online.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Cup Runneth Over, Well Almost

Mood: Tired but happy
State of Mind: Enjoying the moment before cynicism Saturday
Location: Not in hiding, happy to sport my TFC colours today

*With apologies to the Ramones* 'Ninety, ninety, ninety more minutes to go...I'll need to be sedated."  

That's all, just ninety more minutes until the Voyageurs Cup will once again reside in Toronto. After a close to perfect road game Wednesday night in Vancouver, including an all important away goal, our beloved Reds have the nominal upper hand in the 2012 edition of the Voyageurs Cup over their west coast rivals the Whitecaps. I say close to perfect because well they didn't win, right?  Instead they once again conceded a goal in added time erasing a solid offensive and defensive effort on the night.

Wednesday night our boys surprised a number of people including myself and Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie by playing an energetic attacking game and taking it to the opposing team instead of sitting back and grinding out a non-result like they did two weeks ago in Montreal. This is how they should play every game; none of that stultifying, agonizing anti-football we saw in Montreal. It's much more enjoyable to watch and to play. This combined with the solid (most of the time) defensive efforts of the backline - yes, even Jeremy Hall once he settled down - should serve to see our boys actually, oh I don't know get some points this season in something other than a cup competition.

The Reds put together a pretty complete end to end effort. The defense started off looking shaky and nervous and if not for the forwards continually pressing the attack and some nice saves by Kocic our boys may have easily found themselves in a hole. Camilo Sanvezzo was particularly troublesome and caused several moments of "oh no, here we go" but the CB pairing of Cann and Henry were solid in the centre allowing Ashtone Morgan to work on keeping the wily Camilo contained. However the work done by the midfield (Dunfield's Ecks impression notwithstanding) & Ryan Johnson and Reggie Lambe up front kept the pressure on the Whitecaps defense and created a number of solid chances throughout the game.

After both teams escaped without having been scored upon in the first again the expectation was that the good old TFC Bus would make an appearance and yet again they surprised by continuing to push the advantage and were rewarded when a beautiful cross by JDG found Ryan Johnson (who was everywhere), who easily put it past Joe Cannon - this resulted in bedlam in my living room - well, as much as one person can create bedlam that is. I should probably apologize to the neighbours though...

After that it was a stressful, almost didn't want to watch 25 minutes of continuing competitive and attacking football by both teams. It had us cringing at every close chance, yelling in frustration at every odd and/or missed call by the newbie ref (how many handballs did he miss?) and finally swear in exasperation when in the 92nd minute Eric Hassli was given time and space to fire that rocket of a shot into the net past a frozen Kocic; who couldn't have stopped it if he had tried.  Really? Again with the late defensive breakdown; it's stopped being comical - now it's just rage inducing. Don't get me wrong; a draw (with an away goal) is the best I had hoped for in that game.  But to come that close to stealing the win and coming back to Toronto with all of the momentum and then watch it get blasted away? Frustrating...

I look upon it (as Aron Winter would say) as progress (or progresh) and am very confident of a win next Wednesday and our boys winning their fourth straight Voyageurs Cup!  It should be a fantastic night so see you there OK?

              In honour of the bus that didn't get parked here's your throwback tune of the week:

Link it up: Here you go! The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Partially Obstructed View and Red Nation Online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Go West; Let's Make Life Less Peaceful There

Mood: Trying for zen
State of Mind: Trying to avoid drama and find my happy place
Location: Secret supporter's couch

Seriously. This belongs to us. Hands off Vancouver.

So yesterday was eventful wasn't it? If you have no idea what I'm talking about then read here and then hurry back. Done? OK excellent. Time to put the drama aside and focus on the task at hand; denying Vancouver the Voyageurs Cup. Because isn't that really what it's all about? Don't you secretly thrill at the thought of the Whitecaps again leaving empty-handed next Wednesday?

Make no mistake - this is going to be a hard fought, heated series. We are the team that the Whitecaps love to hate. After all, a combination of a weak Montreal Impact side and the weather gods (or Towrads if you like) have teamed up to previously deny that team from the coast what they view as their rightful place as the lone Canadian representative to the CCL. Gets tiresome doesn't it? That's why it is imperative for our boys to win this one the old-fashioned way; no monsoons, no unlikely 6-1 wins, just win - plain and simple.

And this is no easy task. As you know our team has been performing less than spectacularly thus far this year and Vancouver has well, been better. They currently sit fourth in the west and TFC...moving on, nothing to see here...seriously, nothing to see here (remember 0-8?). And let's not forget that the Whitecaps suffered a somewhat humiliating loss on Saturday to the NE Revolution and will be looking to rebound from said trouncing. While there are several key Vancouver players who will be playing on less than complete rest, Martin Rennie craftily left captain Jay DeMerit at home and also sat his CB partner Martin Bonjour, ensuring a well rested back line.  Add to that the fact that TFC captain Torsten Frings did not travel with the team and that they will be without fiery RB Richard Eckersley due to last week's controversial red card, thereby limiting the bench that Winter can draw upon. Oh and don't forget the delightful surface that is to be played on - isn't turf great? Getting stressed yet? 

However none of that matters because this is the Voyageurs Cup, hell it's a Cup competition and no one plays better in Cup competitions than our Reds. Our boys are well rested having had the weekend off. They're riding a wave (OK, a small ripple from the wake of a boat) of confidence from their 2-0, 10 men win over the Impact last week and Danny Koevermans is likely to play if not start - having the hulking target man back in the starting XI has to be a good thing - right? So what game will our boys play? Will they again play to not lose and keep the bus firmly parked in front of Kocic or will they take a chance and try to get a crucial away goal? I'm guessing a lot from column A and a little from column B. Both teams have MLS games this weekend so I definitely expect a more conservative game than we'll likely see next Wednesday here at BMO; then all bets will be off. But that's another story...

Tomorrow night I'll be in my gear, hyper, fidgety and pacing about the living room all evening until kickoff and then likely more of the same during the match. Wherever or however you choose to watch let's put the drama aside and focus on our boys because they're the ones that matter. 


                      Your mid-week dance break. Yes I'm on a Pet Shop Boys kick, just enjoy.

Links A Go-Go: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (James, Duncan) and  Ian at Red Nation Online.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Like Players Through A TFC Roster...So Go The Coaches of Our Boys

Mood: BAH
State of Mind: Stop the TFC merry-go-round, I want to get off
Location: Firmly entrenched on the dark side; the cynics' circle is so cozy

                                      A little melodramatic perhaps, but not by much

Earlier this afternoon came the news of a coaching shake-up at TFC. No, not the one that many have been expecting; Aron Winter is still (apparently) firmly in charge of the first team. I say apparently because the changes are puzzling to say the least. Bob de Klerk will no longer be the First Team Assistant Coach, instead he has been "promoted" to Technical Manager and in his place? Jimmy Brennan. You read that right, I can't make this stuff up. The coach for just over the past year of the U-17 Academy team (yep, his sole experience is with the kids) has been gifted with a meteoric rise in position to the First Team.

Here's the direct quote from Aron Winter: "We believe these decisions will benefit our club from top to bottom. Bob's new position will allow the team to benefit more from his technical expertise and have play a more active role in the day-today operations of the club off the pitch," said Winter. "Our U-17 Academy program has done well under Jimmy's direction. The goal of our Academy is provide growth and development for our players and coaches. This promotion is a well deserved opportunity for Jimmy."

Perhaps I have misunderstood all this time; I thought the goal of the Academy was to grow and develop players and help grow the game here. Not promote "legends" that were decent defenders but due to their "scrappy" attitudes and Canadian passports are somehow eminently qualified to help coach our beloved Reds. How does Brennan get the jump over Danny Dichio?  If you're going to go the promote from within route why not Danny? And spare me the "he's been with the team from the beginning" rhetoric; I've heard it and it's tired. Seriously, someone explain this to me because I am baffled, perplexed, mystified....pick your adjective and I am it.

I think one of the most telling statements on the day was from Bob de Klerk; when asked why the changes were made his response was "Why? I think that's a question for Aron Winter, isn't it?". Hardly sounds like a man that is excited about his new role, does it? Oh sure he mouths all the right platitudes throughout the rest of the interview but is hardly convincing.  Some have made mention of the de Klerk's temper on the sideline as a reason for moving him away from the first team. Ridiculous I say; his passion and knowledge are invaluable and sorely needed during games and training. Besides, is there are more entertaining aspect to most TFC games? 

And why now? Why upset the balance of things right before heading into the final legs of the Voyageurs Cup? This is a time for stability if there ever was one. If Cochrane & Co. want to change things so badly why not before the Cup competition even started? Regardless of anything Aron Winter had to say - as though it was all his idea - this smacks of politics of the worse kind from upstairs. Hands up if you honestly think that Winter woke up yesterday morning and thought "Hey! Jimmy Brennan will make a fine assistant coach - look at all of his years of experience!". 

As you know I can usually find a silver lining in most TFC situations but this, this just hurts and angers me. I literally feel betrayed by the team that I love. How do you have faith in a team and a system that is being imploded?  Maybe I'm wrong and this is exactly what the team needs, but I highly doubt it. Just one more spin on the TFC merry-go-round - whee.... This won't keep me away from BMO and it won't stop me from cheering my team on regardless of who's organizing them from the sideline; still love my team and can't not watch.  But it will further diminish the way I regard those that run this team from on high. 

Prove me wrong Jimmy, prove me wrong.

Less than amused Links: Here are some thoughts from my blogging brethren - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (earlier today) and later.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Was It All A Dream? TFC Wins!

Mood: Wheee!!
State of Mind: Happy Confusion
Location: Happy supporters couch

So did that really happen? Did our boys not only win, win convincingly and win with only 10 men on the pitch? Hell yes they did! What a night for our boys in red and for us the fans. 
We really like this - it's shiny - we want to keep it
Even before the match started there was a different vibe down at BMO; even though the stadium was (not surprisingly) sparsely filled there seemed to be a lot of positive buzz. I once again decided to take in the game from the South Stands (no I'm not changing the blog name) with the Cynics' Circle and what a difference from Saturday. People were actually smiling and laughing and excited about this game. The supporter groups were loud, raucous, the section was full of flags  - although as usual was still not full at kick-off (grumble) - and everyone seemed oddly positive. I say oddly because well, you know not much to be positive about this year and all that.  Also bringing the positive vibe was the surprising addition of Frings to the starting XI and Nick Soolsma on the bench! Surely everything was about to go our way, right?

The team started off attacking and much to everyone's surprise Reggie Lambe had the ball pretty much land on his foot after Plata's shot was deflected and suddenly TFC were up 1-0 with only 2 minutes having been played! What alternate universe were we in? So this is what attacking the opposite net looks like!

However the road is never easy for TFC and in the 15th minute Ecks was sent off on a bit of a baffling (couldn't clearly see what happened) *red card that at first seemed to be a foul against Montreal and then suddenly that flash of that point we all figured the footy gods were against us and started checking the heavens for lightning and hail as that seemed the only way we'd escape with a win on the night. *It would seem it was for a stomp on Sinisa Ubiparipovic although upon watching the replay still seems harsh to me* But our Reds proved us (happily) wrong - they continued to play a a very nice game of attacking football, constantly pressing the attack, winning corners and moving the ball very well.

And hey, what do you know - it happened again! After a corner kick by Frings bounced around a bit it landed on Ryan Johnson's foot who (finally for him!) slotted it in. TFC were actually up 2-0! So confusing this positive play - much speculation by the Cynics' Circle as to who these guys actually were. My vote was clones, robots were the choice of the other two and post-match someone threw out aliens. I think alien robots calls for this:

The second half saw the team play a tighter defensive game but they by no means just sat back and continued to press the attack when the opportunity presented itself. The most surprising thing about this match (yes, other than the win) was that they did it primarily with only 10 men on the pitch.  Like the game in Montreal they seem to come to life and stretch the play when undermanned. Perhaps this should be their game plan going forward? They could draw lots for who gets to take the red card each game...

All in all our boys played like we've been wishing and hoping for the past two months - we saw a good defensive effort, Frings was everywhere (because he should be, not because he had to be), Reggie Lambe was fantastic (really loving this kid), Kocic made some very nice saves to keep the clean sheet and no major mishaps (red card notwithstanding) occurred. Joy and happiness! Obviously more team meetings are needed - pass the talking stick around, sing songs - seriously, if that's going to be the outcome then please have a team meeting before every match!  This win will (for now at least) stave off the calls for Aron Winter's head on a platter; this win buys him some goodwill until after the Voyageurs Cup is over IMO. If an MLS win figures into that time frame he's not going anywhere this season.

But it was a great night wasn't it? It didn't rain, no lightning or locusts (even the Towrads deserve a day off) and the 10,000 or so fans that came out were rewarded with not only a win by our Reds but an entertaining, well-played, hard fought win - I'm still smiling and expect I will do so until oh next Wednesday when they head to Vancouver for the away leg of the final. But for now I fully intend to enjoy this feeling of happiness and enjoyment.  It's never easy to be a TFC supporter but this is our reward - enjoy everyone!

TFC Til I Die

Laughing Links: Lots of happy post-game posts to read - enjoy! The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and Mistake By The Lake.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Victoire Coupe des Voyageurs?

Mood: Considering extending my temporary work visa to the dark side
State of Mind: Optimistic - really, honest...
Location: Dark side of the couch - hey, it's a thing

Now is the Winter of our discontent
Made less than glorious spring by this son of Ajax
And all the goals that lowered upon our house
In the deep basement of the MLS buried

That pretty much sums up the 2012 season thus far - not one to inspire a lot of enthusiasm or confidence right? Ever changing line-ups, injuries, fan apathy - I could go on but then you'd be too down to keep reading. Wait, did I mention the 0-8 record? OK, OK, I'll relent - for the moment.

Tomorrow night is the home leg for our boys in red in this round of the Voyageurs Cup against their rivals the Montreal Impact. Last week's match was successful (if you call successful not losing, which I do) if less than stylish. A similar performance tomorrow evening will not do if TFC hope to advance and win their fourth straight Voyageur's Cup. Do you really want to see our Reds go to penalties against well, anyone? Let alone an Impact that is still high from their win over SKC on the road Saturday night? Yeah, me either.

With no away goal to give them an edge the Reds will not be able to just sit back; they will need to play attacking, high pressure football. If they just sit back as they did last week and in recent matches, then quite frankly they will lose. Unfortunately the team will still be without much needed target man Danny Koevermans, as well as Das Kapitan Frings, as both are still recovering from injuries.  However there is a possibility that Nick Soolsma could see time tomorrow and that could be the spark that the team needs.  Also likely to make an appearance is defender Jeremy Hall who saw his first minutes after returning from injury in Saturday's loss. While he played in the midfield on Saturday, he is a rightback and could push Ecks for a spot in the starting XI going forward.

The bright side (and there is one) is that this is a team with pretty much nothing left to lose. They know that they are in danger of seeing this season end with nothing to show for it. After training today Eric Avila spoke about a number of team meetings that have been held this week to clear the air and get the team refocused. While some may view that sort of thing as worrisome, I take heart that they may have indeed put aside the last two months and are ready to play the way we've been waiting for.  I fully expect a win tomorrow night and for our beloved Reds to move on to the final of the Voyageurs Cup.  

I know it's a mid-week game and that it's an 8pm start and hey it's probably going to rain; but this is the chance to see our boys win the chance to keep competing for the only piece of silverware they have any hope at this season. Don't you want to say you were there when they did? So see you tomorrow night, in your gear and ready to cheer our boys on to victory! Be there or be a parallelogram!

Les Links: Don't you have these memorized yet? Click and learn folks - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Dave, Duncan) and Red Nation Online.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Optimism Takes A Holiday

Mood: ...
State of Mind: ...
Location: On the dark side on a temporary cynic work visa

Yes I know the blog is supposed to be about relentless optimism but everyone needs a holiday, right? Yesterday instead of watching from my usual optimistic seats up in 226, I relocated over to the South Stands for a change of perspective.  What better game to spend my afternoon in the sun and in the company of funny, die-hard, yet cynical fans (forever known as the Cynics' Circle), than the one for setting the record for futility?  This game was tailor made for a trip to the dark side.   
Cynics' Circle - We can't be bothered to watch

It all began with yet another change in the starting XI as Adrian Cann was relegated to the bench in an effort to "manage his minutes" - really, put what has been your best (yes I know that's not saying much) CB on the bench in a game where the defense has to be perfect - and let the descent into the darkness begin!  I am fully aware that he (and Terry Dunfield) were both being rested for Wednesday night's match against Montreal in the home leg of their Voyageur's Cup series but...just once (seriously just once!) I would like to see the same eleven players in back to back games.  Let the players actually get to know one another for longer than 60 or so minutes and perhaps we'll see some positive results.  

The first half saw our boys actually play some decent football from time to time (can't be negative for the entire post). JDG  was able to contain DeRo and the back line were holding it together; even Aceval didn't make any serious errors. Except of course that Frings was once again playing back instead of up in the midfield where he belongs. And it was hard to focus on the good on the field in those first 45 minutes when all I could see was the lack of spark or creativity from the attack.  OK yes, Avi and Morgan had a couple of nice moments with some good overlapping runs but again, nothing came of it. Not helping was watching a visibly frustrated Ryan Johnson time and time again look for any sort of support. You want heartbreaking? Watch his post-match interview - hurts your soul a little, doesn't it?

All of that aside the first half ended and while there wasn't much to cheer about hey, they weren't losing and had earned 4 gold stars on my scale of one gold star per 10 minutes without being scored's a sad chart on the fridge let me tell you, they have not earned many gold stars; I never should have bought in bulk...

The inevitable of course happened 10 minutes into the second half when Chris Pontius (I'm not happy about calling it but I did; both in the previous post and pre-game as well) scored a beauty of a goal and then Hamdi Salihi's goal 20 minutes later sealed their fate. There was no coming back for the team on this day. You could see what fight there was pretty much drain out of the players. 

The mood in the south stands (cynicism central notwithstanding) was to me curiously quiet. No flags, no banners, no tifos and for the first half it seemed that there were no capos either. It was a much quieter experience than I had expected and speaks to the growing unrest amongst the supporters. I am not suggesting that anyone has abandoned their team (although what is so difficult about before kickoff?  What?!) but you can feel the change in the stands - this is not BMO 2007 - this is the new normal for 2012.

But other than the depressing post-game interviews for me the low point was when Torsten Frings was injured - obviously in pain he went to the sidelines, got some sort of treatment and then went back out but did not want to be there - finally in frustration he kicked the ball out, ripped off the captain's armband, flung it to the ground and then stormed off down the tunnel.  All of us just looked at one another in stunned amazement - did that just happen? Did we just watch this version of TFC come to an end? Afterwards Frings stated he meant nothing by the gesture, that he was just in pain, but in the moment that was the worst thing I've ever seen on the pitch at a TFC match - that armband hitting the turf.

                    Seriously; what do you want? Time to blow it all up again? Or stay the course?

Obviously something needs to change - if our boys do not win on Wednesday I think you can put the countdown clock above Winter's head and set it to 9 days.  I don't actually think it's the right choice; only because this team has been dying for stability for it's entire existence - but do you honestly think MLSE will let this go? Who knows, we'll find out fairly soon. 

As for me; my optimism has obviously been a little battered and I'm a little lower than usual. Does that mean I'll stop going to games? Never - I will always be there because that is what I do. Regardless of the drama I will continue to support the boys on the field.  We were never promised easy and honestly that's not why we follow them is it? We follow and support because they're our team and that's what we do. It would be easier to turn our backs (Cynics Circle was an anomaly, honest!) if we didn't see the emotion from our players - if they really just didn't care it would be easier to just chuck it all - but they do, and so do I.  Let's not kick them while they're down - let's be there for them. See you Wednesday? 

Low Links: Here you go - not a lot to laugh about in these wrap-ups but there's a chuckle or two to be had. The Yorkies - post-game & Armbandaggedon, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and Always Next Year.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

United We Stand

Mood: Hopeful, yet nervous
State of Mind: La la la, I can't hear you...not going la la...
Location: Currently - secret supporter couch. Later - West Stands of BMO

Out of all the games our Reds have had to play this season this one makes me the most nervous. It's not even the prospect of going 0-8 that has me all twitchy; it's the team that will quite possibly take them to that ignominious record.  Yes it's the return of not one but two former TFC captains in DeRo & Maicon Santos with DC United.  Bad enough is the hoopla (I choose not to get into that futher) that always surrounds any match that sees DeRosario return to BMO Field; joining the show this weekend is Mike Sanders Maicon Santos who like so many former Reds has suddenly found his ability to score and has been tearing up the league. 

Coming off a non-loss (looking for the positives here folks) on Wednesday night in Montreal, TFC are looking to continue to build on what has to be counted as success; at least this season.  We have to hope (pray, hope again) that the game plan for today is markedly different than Wednesday.  Yes there is cause to worry (as always) about our defensive line attempting to deal with the aggressive, speedy and oft deadly DCU attack. It's not just DeRo and Santos they have to contend with - joining them are Danny Cruz, DeLeon and the always dangerous Chris Pontius. To my eyes it's Pontius that needs to be watched the most closely; his experience and ability to move between the midfield and the forward line cannot be underestimated. But in reality the Reds will have a tough time of marking and the defense will have to play like we've not seen thus far this year.

All is not lost boys and girls - there's a possibility that Danny K. will be back today (although still no Soolsma) - and the DCU defense is potentially exploitable - Avi, Lambe and Johnson (and hopefully Koev) will need to be quick, decisive and pressing.  I know that this is yet again another "they must win" or these days "please don't let them lose" type of games for our boys.  And I know that everyone is frustrated - but the sun is shining, there is a ton of energy from everyone coming into this game and hey, maybe the super moon will work some cosmic mojo (no not THAT MoJo) - the forces of nature are fond of TFC (up the Towrads anyone?). 

As always I implore you to show up, show up early, in full voice, in your best TFC gear and NOT in a paper bag (as has been bandied about on some of the boards). Our role as the 12th man is more important than ever and in a game like today's that is filled with emotions and demons of the past our boys will need all the positive energy we can surround them with to succeed. Well that and really, really excellent play.  So see you there right? BEFORE kickoff - ready to cheer - remember; "shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased".


And while having nothing to do with this post I have to include this:

                                                 Thanks for 25 years of great music...

Link It Up Baby: Tear yourself away from the FA Cup and do some reading - The Yorkies, Red Nation Online and James, Duncan & Dave at Waking The Red.