Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time To Down the Drinks From Harrison - Or Beat the New York Red Bulls, Whichever

Mood: Feeling good
State of Mind: Optimistic, tinged by a touch of anxiety
Location: Non air-conditioned splendour; later - BMO

This time let's kill New York

Tonight night our boys face off against that team from New York (well, Harrison, NJ actually) - you know, the Bulls of Red - or the Metros if you're feeling old school - or as we often like to call them, the Energy Drinks.  It's the only weekend night game TFC will play this season (because we like to suffer in the heat) so hopefully that means lots of folks in the stands but considering this is the long weekend and it's you know, TFC...well, you see where I'm headed with that.

As fun as the win on Wednesday was (ooh, alliteration!), it's time to turn our focus to the NYED and acknowledge that this will not be an easy test. These are no bottom feeders coming to visit BMO; the Red Bulls sit second in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the MLS.   In the past NY coming to town meant worrying about Thierry Henry; but this season while still dangerous he is joined by the lethal Kenny Cooper who already has 11 goals on the season and has long been a thorn in TFC's side.  Combine that with a very strong and physical midfield anchored by Dax McCarty and Joel Lindpere (watch out for his delivery into the box!) on the wing and you've got a recipe for potential disaster.

Really the big question is whether or not the boys can build on Wednesday's very positive performance in Montreal and ride that wave of confidence into tonight's game.  Now that Danny has found his form can he and Ashtone Morgan continue to terrorize opposition keepers and defenders?  You know that NY has been watching video on the duo for the past two days looking for ways to stop the hottest foot in MLS. Will the midfield (Frings was HUGE on Wednesday) - which has looked very good - be able to absorb the pressure and break up the very attack minded Red Bulls? Will JDG and Frings be able to go for a full 90 - because if TFC aren't up by a significant number of goals when (if) those two get subbed off? - cover your eyes because it won't be pretty. And will Soolsma see the field again? He looked quite good as a second half sub on Wednesday (assist to RJ!) in his first minutes since the "Escobar Incident". I hope that all is forgiven in TFCland for Nicky as I think they will need him in the coming months to continue to succeed.

I'm looking forward to seeing how our boys respond to playing one of the best teams in the league when they're full of confidence. Having scored 8 goals in the past 3 games, keeping a clean sheet and getting a win on the road - all of this has them feeling pretty good - and maybe, just maybe helping them realize that hey, they actually know how to play this game! I'll be watching for Morgan to continue his exceptional play of late, hope to see Danny continue his scoring streak and for the midfield of Avi, JDG, Frings & Dunfield to keep up their very nice form of late - but it will be a battle as NY plays a more physical game - both JDG & Dunfield will have to cautious of getting cards as (especially for JDG) their reputations precede them.  

This should be (really, it should) a good game to watch.  Our boys seem to be a happier lot and have started to come together (finally) as a team.  Expect goals - I don't see a repeat of Wednesday's clean sheet - and lots of battles in the midfield. And I know it's the long weekend, and there's a ton of stuff going on but come on, it's time for a little revenge against these Red Bulls wouldn't you say? And it's almost Canada Day so why not celebrate our nation's birthday by coming down to BMO and cheering on our Reds? Hope to see you there!


Long Weekend Links: Wake up! Time for some previews! The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

One last thing; a farewell to Joao "Jimmy" Plata who will be returning to his parent club LDU Quito in Ecuador. While a favourite for his personality, salsa goal celebrations and CCL form (thank you for the Dallas win little big man!), Platita was struggling here in the MLS and in my opinion was a good sub, but not a starter. Nonetheless there are some sad fans out there - take heart, in the long run this will likely be better for his career. It is uncertain (and unlikely) if he will return to TFC next season, but for now I leave you with this:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Merci Pour Tout Montreal

Mood: Woot!
State of Mind: Optimism on the rise!
Location: Couch - where else?

Was it the very best game that our boys ever played? No. Are there still questions about the defense? Yes. Does it matter right this second? OK yes; a little - but for now I think we can all take some time to bask in the wonders of that game:

                                                           I could watch this all day

Feels good doesn't it? So much goodness all wrapped up in 90 minutes:

1. Win
2. Away win
3. Away win against Montreal
4. Away win against Montreal at Stade Saputo
5. Clean sheet
6. Clean sheet against Montreal
7. 3 Goals!
8. Frings scored off of a killer free kick
9. RJ scored off of a nice set up by Soolsma (still doin' it for Suarez)
10. Morgan (nastiest of leftbacks) set up Danny; again.
11. Did I mention it was a win?
12. And that it was against Montreal?

Now Wednesday's match does not erase all of this season's woes for our boys in Red. But for those of us that have been despairing at ever seeing not just a win (OK, win #2) but a more complete effort and something approaching consistency, well Wednesday's win was a very nice step in the right direction. I feel my optimism cautiously returning; but I hope our boys don't scare it away - it's easily startled at the moment and without proper care it's likely to scurry away again only to be replaced by some serious cynicism.  But until tomorrow at 7pm this will continue to make me smile.  Oh and maybe some dancing:

Je T'aime Les Rouges!

Les Links: Here's some recaps from folk that actually got to watch the game - The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and Bluenose Red.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mercredi Madness

Mood: Striving for optimism
State of Mind: OK, it's a new week; deep breath
Location: Ou est la bibliotheque?

OK, it's been a rough couple of weeks in TFC land and we've all had our share of disappointment and searching for the positives in the last couple of matches. What could be a better solution than a little game against what is arguably our biggest rival, the Montreal Impact?  Time to once again face the team that our Reds will see the most this season and see if they can continue the tradition (yes, I said tradition - tradition is important!) of never losing at Stade Saputo. 

This game is truly a toss-up as to what will happen at the end of 90 minutes.  Since the opening of the new and improved Stade Saputo - now with more empty seats! - the Impact have beat two very good teams and scored an impressive number of goals. But this is the Impact after all; the team we love to beat (that game at the Big O doesn't count OK?).  They've got several injuries to deal with as defense mainstays Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas are both out and a similar issue up front as Andrew Wenger is also sidelined (and of course Corradi is out for the season). But before we get all razzed up about missing players you have to remember that the Impact still have the always dangerous Felipe Martins and newly minted DP Marco Di Vaio making his debut tonight; not to mention that Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud and Nyassi will there causing all sorts of problems.

But those injuries to the Impact defense could very well help to offset TFC's ongoing defensive woes with what could very well be a goal fest of epic proportions as both teams have recently found their scoring touch.  While the search for a CB "boss" (as per Mariner and well, everyone who's ever watched the team) continues, it looks as though Doneil Henry will not be starting as without an more experienced CB beside him for guidance his learning curve has been showing more in games.  Instead expect to see Logan Emory and Ecks take the centre with Jeremy Hall and Ashtone Morgan completing the back line.

I for one am looking for Avi and JDG to continue their recent strong play in the midfield and prevent the Impact attack from going anywhere near the defense - they have both been doing an excellent job of breaking up any forward momentum.  And if Morgan can replicate the service he gave to Danny and RJ on Saturday?  Add to that the return to form (and fitness) for Danny and RJ finally getting an MLS goal? We could have a very exciting match.

Sadly I can't watch this one (why can't I be independently wealthy?) so will be anxiously checking twitter - keep me informed folks - and hopefully not seeing that our Reds have once again fallen apart in the last 20 minutes and gifted another team with 2 (or even 3!) points. I hope that the defense have been soundly whipped - OK, put through their paces - that Mariner will consider leaving Avi on for longer than 60 minutes (please? just for one game?), as well as leaving JDG on until the end or at the very least bringing on Stinson as his replacement.  And that they finally (please!) close out a game instead of panicking or allowing themselves to be swarmed under by relentless balls into the box. 

This is a winnable game; and one that TFC should be hyped up for - if only to show that they are  moving forward, that they actually can learn from their mistakes and hell that they want to win and will do everything necessary to make it happen. This could also be the last time that this version of TFC suit up together with the transfer window opening - anyone unsure about his status should be playing for that spot for all he's worth.  

Even though my optimism in our boys has been severely damaged of late I'm still hoping for a solid game - hell I'll take a well fought draw; as long as it isn't the Impact coming from behind - but boy wouldn't a win be nice?  Wouldn't it be good?

                                         TFC looking at almost every other team in MLS


Les Links: Knowledge is power so here you go - The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Partially Obstructed View and Red Nation Online.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reds' Revolution ReRun

Mood: Irritated, Disappointed, Baffled
State of Mind: Wondering why I didn't choose another sport to love; like biathalon
Location: TFC proof bunker far from BMO

Deja Vu: 
Dictionary definitionnoun, The illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.
Matrix definition - A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.
TFC definition - Refuse to learn from past mistakes and exhibit the same behaviours on a repeated basis.

Well that was freaking fantastic wasn't it? Another nightmarish defensive breakdown, another 2 points thrown away, another great effort by Milos Kocic, Ashtone Morgan and Danny Koevermans wasted and another failure to close out the match - perhaps they should watch the A.B.C. clip from Glengarry Glen Ross during the half of every game?

This team's inability to close out games and opponents is reaching epic proportions of frightfulness with every passing game. Oh wait, they don't have a passing game anymore...anyway, back to ranting.  Are TFC afraid to win? Perhaps they feel that they don't deserve to win?  Or perhaps they're just incapable of learning and are finally showing their lack of talent, fire and commitment. I'm going out on a limb and say the latter

In an almost carbon copy of the match against Houston our boys came out pressing and looking to take the early advantage. And thanks to some stellar work by Ashtone Morgan (arguably his best game; damn he's going to be good) that's exactly what happened when Danny slotted home a beauty of a cross from Morgan who'd made a great run down the left side to start everything off.  So 4th minute, up 1-0? Fantastic; lots of shouting and celebrating amongst me and my family; and yet as before I was still uneasy.

Our boys by no means had everything locked down and Milos (with a stellar game) had to make  several key saves to keep the Rev off of the score sheet.  Then minutes before the half Morgan again made a fantastic run down the left and sent in yet another beauty of a cross that eluded Danny but found RJ for his first (finally!) goal of the MLS season. 2-0!!  Woot - except I was still worried...sadly with good reason.

Second half brought the coming disaster that we'd all been fearing and as the half went on we could see coming. As the half progressed the Revolution continued to press and swarm the TFC end - and other than some early runs by Morgan (again, great game from him) there was zero forward momentum, no attack build-up, just growing chaos.  Milos was the deciding factor in the second as he again and again kept his team in the game; coming up with several big saves as the defense seemed incapable of protecting their keeper. And of course the inevitable finally occurred when Blake Brettschneider was right there waiting to put in the rebound from a Benny Feilhaber shot. It was all down hill from there as the defense completely fell apart and were seemingly helpless to stop any part of the Rev attack. The final nail came in the dying minutes of the game when Chris Tierney slotted home the equalizer and once again the Reds let 2 points slip from their grasp - fun!

As a fanbase we've put up with a lot from our team and will continue to do so; why? Because TFC are our team and hey, you've got to support your team regardless of outcome, right? Right - but we don't have to be happy about it. We don't have to be happy about watching outstanding performances from Ashtone Morgan, Milos Kocic and (finally) Danny Koevermans go to waste. We don't have to be happy about a team that cannot seem to learn from its mistakes. Those of us that are truly passionate about this team die a little each time we watch our team fall to pieces, every time they again fail to defend against a set piece, every time they punt the ball down the field and give chase aimlessly (welcome to MarinerBall) and every time they fail to close out a game in which they should rightfully come away with three points. It breaks my heart, it truly does. 

Speaking of being incapable of learning; what was Mariner thinking when he again subbed off almost his entire midfield leaving a young and inexperienced backline alone to fend for themselves against what anyone could see was the coming onslaught.  Did he not watch his team's "performance" in the last 20-30 minutes of the Houston match? I get that Frings may still be suffering from the knock he got towards the end of the Houston match and with so many matches coming up you don't want to make a minor injury worse; fine. But the removal of Avi (why oh why do they take him off every game?) and JDG mystifies me - as do their replacements. Not one defensive or experienced midfielder came on. Yes it was heartwarming to see Silva come on in the 59th minute and he did some nice things. And yes, Emory is a CB (see! a defender!) except he hasn't played in weeks and made a young and inexperienced backline even more so...and then bringing on Lambe instead of Stinson? I can't for the life of me figure this out - this team is not even remotely capable of defending a lead - especially with a midfield and back four that undermanned.

I'd like to say that the positives outweigh the negatives in this one - ooh, they're scoring! - but they don't. I never expected this team to set the league on fire this season; but I did expect something resembling progress, not a backward slide into house league levels of play.  I don't even expect them to win (that stopped several matches ago) but I do expect them to compete; and hell when they hold a two goal lead I do expect them to come together and close out the match - because that's what a team does. I haven't abandoned my team, never will and I'll be back on Saturday ready and willing to cheer them on. Just give me something to cheer about; give us all something to cheer about - for longer than 45 minutes this time, OK?

And now for something completely different (or exactly the same):

Lowdown Links: Here's the view from my blogging brethren - Duncan at Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

So You Say You Want A Revolution

Mood: Hopeful
State of Mind: Somewhat optimistic
Location: Not BMO - sitting this one out

So here we go - first game back at BMO for TFC in a month and there's a ready made sports cliche of a storyline to go with it as Paul Mariner's old team the New England Revolution come to town to take on our boys. 

TFC are playing with a bit of momentum having put in a terrific first half in Houston on Wednesday night that saw the return of Danny K's scoring touch and some great work in the midfield by JDG and continuing strong play by Eric Avila. And you can't discount the extra energy that playing at home in front of what is still a decent crowd (we're not to Crew-like levels of attendance just yet) for the first time in weeks. Even though this is their third game in eight days the team should be pumped up and prepped to take 3 points away from the visitors. 

The Rev are not the best team in the MLS, but they come to town well rested and not having had to play more than a game a week this past month. And as BMO hasn't realistically been called "Fortress" in some time they have to be hoping to scoop three points off our Reds, especially after a disappointing scoreless draw at home against the Crew last weekend.  However they are coming to one of the few places they have never managed a win (0-2-3) and will be without the services of Revs captain Shalrie Joseph who is out with an injury.  The loss of Joseph will definitely make things easier for our forwards and attacking mids to move up the field and (hopefully) allow Danny K. & Co. to build off of Wednesday's 3 goal performance.However, JDG will not have a walk in the park as Joseph's usual partner Benny Feilhaber (quick, able to carve up space at will) will give him plenty to deal with; especially if he can partner well with the generally troublesome Lee Nguyen. 

If TFC hope to turn the corner on this season and put all of the drama of the past few weeks behind them then this match is tailor made for this.  What better story can you write than a team triumphing in their home stadium on a gorgeous summer day against their coach's former team? The only thing that would make it better for the scriptwriters is if there were a former Red in the lineup to up the emotional ante; but as the Rev are one of the few teams that don't boast a contingent of ex-TFC players (who have suddenly found their form) we'll have to strike that from the previews.

This game is going to hinge on the same things it always does - defensive play, ability of the midfield to break up the opposition attack and you know that scoring thing.  But our boys do have history on their side when it comes to the Rev, a fanbase aching for some positives to celebrate and hey, no rain! I hope that the defense has been forced to watch the mistakes from the past two matches over and over again - they have to learn sometime, don't they?  Hopefully the shiny distraction of Armed Forces Day does not take away from the performance on the pitch and that everyone that's attending is treated to a full 90 minute, hard fought, intelligent effort from our boys in red.  Let's do this TFC; it's time.


Link It Up Baby: And your regular pre-match breakdowns from the usual suspects - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, James & James again), Red Nation Online.

Houston Hangover

Mood: Disappointed 
State of Mind: Oddly ambivalent
Location: Searching for a boot camp for defenders

If you had asked me before TFC's game against Houston on Wednesday night if I'd be happy with a draw I would have emphatically said yes. Our boys, getting a point on the road against a dangerous opponent in their new stadium? Happiness! Then why am I so disappointed?

Wednesday's match was a confusing one to watch and to process; even now two days later I struggle with my feelings at what transpired. TFC went into the game undermanned (only a four player bench), sporting yet another new back line due to Adrian Cann's injury and many, many questions left unanswered after their performance in Kansas City on Saturday - not to mention dealing with the drama (and reason for the shortened bench) of the TFC3 and the Escobar incident. 

I was worried and was certain of a loss in this match; especially with the new defensive lineup that saw Ecks move into the middle, Jeremy Hall take his spot at RB and Ashtone Morgan get the start at LB. The game started off with our boys bringing all of my worst fears to life as the defense again looked unsure and still appeared to have forgotten how to man mark (seriously, why is this so hard?). TFC was lucky to escape without being down a goal within the first few minutes. 

And then something odd happened - they scored! Seriously, TFC got the opening strike! And not just a fluke; they scored after Houston failed to clear a TFC corner when Eric Avila put the ball back into the area and Jeremy Hall (after hitting if off of two posts - the new TFC specialty) put it into the net!  As happy as I was with Hall scoring his first goal I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And of course it did only minutes later as Bobbly Boswell put one past Kocic on (what else) a set piece. But then it happened again! Another TFC goal!  Only this time it was due to some fantastic work by Ryan Johnson that led to Danny K. slotting it past Tally Hall.  

Suddenly our Reds were playing some really nice football, getting forward, pressing the attack and all being orchestrated by the oft maligned JDG. In fact he was directly responsible for the Reds third (yes third!) goal just before the half when he sent a beauty of a cross into the Dynamo box that Danny perfectly headed into the net.  By this time I was convinced that we were all experiencing a mass hallucination brought on by the heat; but no, they were actually winning!

So there we were, our boys were up 3-1 seemingly in control of the game, Danny had a brace and there I was torn between elation - come on they were winning! - and yet still afraid to hope, this is TFC season 6 after all, home of the lowered expectation and more often than not the dashed hope.

Second half begins and although Houston came out fired up (and wouldn't you if you were losing to TFC on your home turf?) and pressing the boys were able to hold their shape and keep the Dynamo at bay.  The most surprising aspect of this was the exceptional play of JDG - he was a boss in the midfield and kept everything under control and continued to break up any attempt by Houston to get forward. Which is why when Mariner subbed him off I and many others were very confused - why pull off the player that has arguably had the greatest effect on the game for your team?  And sadly that is where the wheels completely fell off.

Houston continued to press and without JDG the Reds were unable to hold them off as they relentlessly came forward and before you could blink the Dynamo (having already got one back by of course Will Bruin, unmarked, in the box - does no one listen to me!) kept getting up, swarming the TFC net and finally in the 90th minute once again Will Bruin (and again unmarked! Aargh!)  put another past Kocic to tie the game and further deflate our last few shreds of hope...5 agonizing minutes of added time mercifully came to an end and what for almost 90 minutes seemed like one of the most amazing moments as a TFC fan ended up with me sitting stunned yet not surprised.

I've read a lot about the progress made during that match. And yes, Danny scoring two goals, Jeremy getting his first and seeing JDG have one of the best games in a TFC kit are all positive developments. Danny finding his scoring touch is a huge thing for a team that has struggled to find the back of the net and the continuing impressive play of JDG can only (hopefully) mean good things to come for the team. But you can't ignore the fact that the defense is still (and apparently will be until the end of time) terrible - yes, they were hindered by an incomplete centre pairing (I love Ecks but he is not a CB) - but the maddening inability to defend against set pieces and properly man mark (Will Bruin unmarked more times than I can count!) then you have issues. And their failure to close out that game speaks volumes that this team is still not ready to compete for a full 90 minutes.  

I love my team, cheer for them, support them without fail yet as I said, this game confuses me. I am ecstatic on one hand that they accomplished so many things in that match and yet so very disappointed with the missed opportunity and the fact that they threw away 2 points. However, heading into the match against the Revolution I'm actually feeling quite positive - in fact I think they'll win. I only wish I could be happier about it. Football is a crazy game and fandom is never easy and being a TFC fan? Oh it'll make your head spin. Come on boys - keep up with the positives; I miss my unrelenting optimism - help bring it back, OK? Cheers.

Get Your Links!: You know the drill - The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Little Team That Could?

Mood: Hot, but not sure I can be bothered
State of Mind: Hoping for the best; really I am
Location: Not in air conditioned splendor

Well it's been a fun few days hasn't it? Terrible first game back after the break, 3 TFC players thrown in jail and now suspended from the team...oh and did I mention that Adrian Cann is hurt?    Add to that the rumour this afternoon that Jaoa Plata may not be with TFC after the end of the season and well the TFC soap opera continues...Good times my friends, good times.

It's just becoming more and more farcical with each passing week. The poor play, the off the field drama, the gales of laughter from around the league....sigh.  OK, enough misery onto tonight.

Our boys are facing another tough test this evening against the Houston Dynamo in their fancy new stadium the BBVA Compass. Not only is this a road game - which our boys do not excel at - but it against a very good team in the Dynamo. What makes this team so dangerous for TFC is their ability to score from set pieces thanks to dead ball wunderkind Brad Davis - and as we all know defending set pieces is not a strength for our boys in Red. And with another new back 4 taking the field tonight for TFC, that will be the weakness that the Dynamo look to exploit.  Joining Davis is striker Will Bruin who already has six goals this season and will be looking to add to his tally against the often not rock solid Toronto defense.

At the other end is the Dynamo defense that while not the best in the league are certainly not the worst. And with Andre Hainault back and likely to be there helping to anchor the Dynamo backline, our still fizzling offense will not have an easy time putting anything past (the awesomely named) Tally Hall.

Our boys face other challenges tonight as well as recent events have left new coach Paul Mariner with a depleted squad that will see him have a very shortened bench. And for a team with not the best depth to boast of, well you see where I'm going.  My biggest fear is what the back line is going to look like tonight - will we see the return of Ty (Try Harder) Harden from bench exile? Or will the rumoured return of Dicoy Williams put some confidence in the defense?  It's a scary prospect and could either see some promise return to the back for TFC or another drubbing that will further erode the already fragile confidence of the team. And should they get well destroyed tonight the countdown clock over Mariner's head will start to become more visible. I'm not saying that we should be ready to run him out of town on a rail (at least not yet) but hopefully 

I think the best that we fans can realistically hope for is that the team puts aside the drama and the changes in personnel, pulls together and actually puts forth an effort tonight.  A solid, paying attention, acting like professional footballers type of effort. Just something to show us that they're on the track back to being a competitive team. I'm as excited as I always am to see our boys play and will be anxiously on my couch for 9pm hoping for well, just hoping to see improvement. Yes, that's what it's come to - while I always hope for a win, I'll settle for positive signs of improvement.  I miss my optimism; hope it comes back one of these days.


Links a Go-Go: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, James & James again) and Red Nation Online

Monday, June 18, 2012

Season Six 2.OH NO...

Mood: Confused/Irritated
State of Mind: Getting sick of the TFC Time Machine & Soap Opera
Location: The land of here we go again

*Apologies for the lack of blogging (for the 4 or 5 of you that have been wondering that is); life interferes so again, sorry!  Although you may not want to read yet more doom and gloom; but if you're still feeling annoyed with the team's performance on Saturday and today's really fun news from Houston then read on...*

Saturday first:

                                            Feeling masochistic? Watch it again...

Well that was shall we say less than fun to watch eh?  It's been three weeks since we'd seen our boys play and I for one was hoping to put aside the drama of the Winter firing (yes, he was fired, deal with it) and the Mariner appointment (winner of TFC Survivor) and focus on the next new beginning for our boys in Red.  Sadly it would appear that the team did not get the new beginning memo and thought they were supposed to emulate the beginning of this season.

Mariner immediately moved the team away from the 4-3-3 of the previous regime to his preferred (pay no attention to his no systems blather) 4-4-2 with Danny and RJ being paired up top. And the back 4 (which had been performing much better) saw a change with Jeremy Hall in the place of Ashtone Morgan who was being rested after travelling with the CMNT (since he didn't play a minute). OK, so some changes - change can be good right?  All I was hoping for was to see the team build off of the positive performances they showed heading into the break and go out and compete. I didn't expect a win - especially not against SKC at home - but I did expect them to fight and show us that they can roll with the punches.

What we got was a horrific defensive performance the likes of which we haven't seen since well 6 or 8 weeks ago. It was an effort (and I hesitate to call it that) that showed zero ability to man mark, clear the ball cleanly and read the play. It was maddening to see the seemingly acres of space being conceded to SKC as they again and again easily got forward into dangerous areas. The TFC defense looking like they'd never playing a minute together, were clearly confused and showed none of the promise from 3 weeks ago. By the time the half was called it was 2-0 for the team in blue. In fact only some nice work from Kocic and a couple TFCesque near misses kept the score that close.

Complementing the defense in a truly comedic way was the ongoing inability of the forwards to score. Yes that two post ping-pong miss by Avila was heartbreaking in its "are you kidding me" aspect; and in fact Avi was one of the few bright spots on the night. However that does nothing to excuse the continuing inability of Danny K. to put the ball in the net. He missed at least two clear chances, not to mention being right there when Avi's ball came off the second post - to me he was operating at half speed (of half motivation) all night. His job is to score goals and he's not doing it; he appears to finally be back at full fitness so when can we expect to see him producing?

All in all it was an uninspiring, underwhelming, amateur performance from our boys. I don't care that Paul Mariner was super animated on the side line all night and that he "coached them for every minute" - the animation level of my team's coach does nothing to convince me that things are moving in the right direction. Especially a coach that thinks his team was sensational with the exception of the first 20 minutes of the game (really Paul? Sensational?). I did not enjoy watching them punt the ball and run around aimlessly for most of the 90 minutes.  But they looked better during the second half you say? I said the same thing until I watched the game again; SKC completely let up in the second - they had done what needed to be done and did just enough to keep our boys off of the score sheet.  

I will give some ground due to the fact that this was their first game back after the break and that they are adjusting to a new coach and yes, a new system.  I'm certainly not ready to write them off - although am I ever? - and think there is an opportunity for the team such as they are to come together.  But watching your team go 1-10 amid (and in part due to) continual drama behind the scenes is frustrating as a fan. Here's a musical thought before moving on to today's episode of "As The TFC Turns"...

Link It Up Baby: Here's the usual suspects for your usual thorough breakdown of the match: The Yorkies, Duncan from WTR at Sportsnet, Red Nation Online and Mistake By The Lake.

Monday Mayhem:

So today after everyone was coming to terms with Saturday night's underwhelming performance and were looking ahead to Wednesday night's match against the Dynamo, came the news that three of TFC's players had been arrested for public drunkenness and thrown in jail. Seriously; I can't make stuff like this up.  The unlikely trio of Miguel Aceval, Nick Soolsma and Luis Silva (check out the mug shots - Aceval's "could care less" to Soolsma & Silva's "what the hell have we done") were out very late at Club Escobar in Houston and ended their night in the custody of the Houston PD. This is not the next step in the team's new beginning that we were looking for. I've heard talk of "boys will be boys" and "hey, who hasn't been drunk in public before" as comments and well I don't agree. 

I have nothing against the guys going out to blow off some steam; hell if you played for TFC wouldn't you want to go out for a drink or two (or five or six)? I completely get that, I do. What I question is the decision making by both the players for tying one on and the team for allowing the players to head out for a night on the town that close to a match; shouldn't they be focusing on getting their heads wrapped around the new system and you know, winning? There are questions about whether or not the TFC3 had permission to be out that late (really boys? 3am?) or if they were breaking curfew or whatnot. What it comes down to is this is yet another depressingly embarrassing moment in the club's not so storied history. Another unnecessary distraction for a team that really needs everyone focused on what's happening on the field.  

I have no idea what happens next for the trio; I have to assume that some combination of fines and game suspensions is coming their way either from the league or from the team or both. I can't imagine that any of them will suit up for Wednesday's match and in a purely speculative look to the future I can see one or two of them being let go in a bid to save salary - if the three did break team or MLS rules then this is a built in out for Mariner & Co. to dump some players they don't want without having to look for a contract loophole - again, this is purely speculative on my part but I would not be surprised were it to happen.  Regardless of the outcome, sadly the TFC soap opera continues and the league continues to laugh at our team; most embarrassing team ever?  Sigh, it's never easy is it TFC fans? So, everyone excited for Wednesday? Sigh.

Lock-up Links: Thoughts from my friends over at The Yorkies and Waking The Red and the latest comic efforts from East Side Stand Up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Biggest Game Ever

Mood: Excitedly stressed and nervous
State of Mind: They're going to win; aren't they?
Location: Nervous twitching at home now, anxious viewing at BMO later

This isn't going to be a long post or even much of a preview (I'll leave that to the experts in the links below) but I couldn't let this day pass without posting something.

In a few short hours we'll be at BMO to watch the most important game any of us will have seen this year. Seriously, there is no game that means more than this one. Our Men's National team is on the cusp of doing something that has not been accomplished for over 25 years - qualifying for the World Cup. Doesn't get any bigger than than this; it just doesn't.

I've said before that I'm new to supporting our National teams, having only gotten really involved in the past couple of years and it is the most nerve wracking, anxiety inducing but wonderful thing ever. It's hard to describe what it was like watching the match against Cuba on Friday in a room surrounded by fans who are completely invested and focused on what is happening on the screen. We were all rapt and only speaking to yell about the terrible (of course) refereeing, comment on the terrible (of course) pitch and mutter hopefully every time it looked like Canada might score.  

And when the goal was scored? Bedlam, pandemonium, joy, ecstasy - all of the above - I didn't stop smiling for hours after that game. Because it's our team - and they did what had to be done. They went into one of the most uncomfortable places they could possibly play; in the heat and humidity, on a terrible pitch with awful refereeing. But none of that matters because they came back with 3 much needed points - something they've never done before - putting them well in control of their fate.

Tonight they face a ticked off opponent that shockingly lost to Panama - this was never going to be the easiest of matches but the Panamanians sure didn't do us any favours. But none of that matters because damn it this year, this time is different. The question is will you be there to witness it?  If you haven't yet (and for the love of footy why the hell not?) bought tickets yet - get to Ticketmaster immediately, go on - if you miss this match, if you miss the chance to cheer on our boys I guarantee you'll regret it.  That's it - let's make sure that our team is playing in front of a home crowd tonight; the twelfth man is huge for matches such as this - let's be there for them.


Links: If you haven't read these already you should - Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and Rudi over at Goal . Com

Friday, June 8, 2012

Canada Libre

Mood: Excitedly nervous
State of Mind: It's going to happen this time
Location: Now - couch, Soon - The Duke

It's here boys and girls; it's the official beginning to our Men's National team's road to Brazil!  This afternoon (at 2pm) our boys take on Cuba in the sweltering heal and humidity of Havana at the Estadio Pedro Marrero.  Not to mention the obligatory dodgy pitch with something only approaching proper grass and Caddyshack-esque holes and of course the always suspect Concacaf refereeing to contend with; otherwise a walk in the park, right?

Actually yes - our boys should actually come home from Cuba the possessors of 3 shiny new points - really. Cuba did not impress (not in the least) at the Gold Cup last year and have done nothing in the past year to change that. Canada is coming off of a very good performance against the US last Sunday and are well positioned to take this game.

I know that Euros start today but please, wherever you are set aside your adopted loyalties and forget your picks in whatever pool you've joined and at 2pm be watching (be it on TV, computer, twitter) and cheering on our boys - this is what we've been waiting for the past four years, this is what we long for - time to steady your nerves and get ready for the most important game you'll watch today.


You Spin Me Round

Mood: Really?
State of Mind: Angry, Frustrated, Resigned
Location: Stuck in the TFC Revolving Door

And it's done - Aron Winter has "stepped down" and Paul Mariner becomes TFC's seventh head coach in six years. I thought that I would sleep on the matter to see if my ire and frustration were lessened come the light of morning before writing anything; nope - still all of the above.

Hands up if you think that Winter voluntarily stepped down - *crickets* - yeah, neither do I. And even with Teflon Tom's assertion that he was offered a position upstairs that he turned down (and if true, then good for him) he's been sacked plain and simple. And why? Because they "owe it to the fans" to get better results according to only constant influence this team has ever had - "the greatest fans deserve more". You know what we deserve? Some damn stability in our club. 

This season (at least in the MLS sense) is a lost one; don't let them fool you with the latest shiny distraction - a new coach will fix everything! - been there, didn't buy the t-shirt. There will be no playoffs this year, but there was an opportunity for growth - witness the modest win streak and rounding into form of our Reds of late - nah, discount that, obviously too little too late for the man who could barely be bothered to pay attention for the past 5 years. I'm not saying that Winter was the best coach ever; obviously he wasn't but again - this team, this club, has been begging for stability since it's inception!

This firing (for that is what this is) hinges on two things: 1. A very MLSE/North American attitude towards sports - after all results must come immediately, forget patience. 2. Teflon Tom's desire to impress his new Bell/Rogers overlords with how tough and in control he is so that he can take over Richard Peddie's job once the takeover is complete.  Make no mistake; this is about Anselmi not about the club or the team or the fans.  Other than watching Paul Mariner (don't buy any houses Paul) toe the party line and help Teflon Tom throw Winter under the bus, the worst part of yesterday's press conference was watching Anselmi dodge any sort of responsibility for the mess that he's created.  But this is my favourite (or most hated, take your pick) of the gems that tripped off of his tongue: "Ultimately the buck stops with job is to put the right people in place at the right time (sounds good so far, right? Just wait)...I don't coach, I don't play, I don't do any of that stuff". So you see it's not his fault! And don't forget that "he answers to an entire organization, not just a soccer club" - well that spells it out right there. He is not even remotely worried about TFC, don't fool yourself into thinking he is.  Hell, just watch his performance at the presser - could he look any more disinterested and could he have been more dismissive to the questions being asked of him?

This is a man without knowledge, foresight or care about our beloved club. What has been the only constant throughout these long futile years? Teflon Tom take a bow. If anyone in the organization is at all serious about someday (because again, this will take forever to recover from) fielding a stable, competitive team then Anselmi needs to go. I know that he will not be fired, that is not the way the corporate world works. What I hope for, long for, dream about is his immediate removal from all things associated with TFC and that a new steward with actual football knowledge is put into his place. Only then will this team thrive; until that happens we are doomed to this shitshow of a circus/soap opera/revolving door drama excuse for a club for the foreseeable future. Because I am sick of watching the team I love get screwed around by the organisation that purports to actually care about it; it makes me ill each and every time one of these changes occurs.

Speak up folks; don't hold back - make your feelings known to the club - don't stop supporting the boys on the field but please don't shy away from speaking out because things are (again) going to get worse before they get better. Welcome to the ongoing reality of your TFC - fun, isn't it? Bah.

Links: For far more intensive thoughts on yesterday's idiocy please read Duncan's piece at Waking The Red, Mike Gardener over at FanFuel, Richard Whittall at The Score and The Yorkies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Friendly Fire

Mood: Content and Happy
State Of Mind: Optimistic for the next two matches
Location: Satisfied Supporter Sofa

Were you there? Did you come join us and your fellow supporters at BMO Field Sunday night? If you didn't you missed a fun night of excited fans, satisfying football, great atmosphere and a gift from the weather gods. 

If you weren't there then hopefully you're already making plans to attend on June 12th for the Honduras match and if you're not - why the hell not? If there is ever a time to come out to BMO it is now as our Men's National team strive to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. As much as I live and die for TFC there is just something different about supporting your country - it's a different feeling, a different vibe and can be some of the best experiences you can have as not just a lover of the beautiful game but as a supporter of Canadian sports.

As is tradition the afternoon began at Maro in Liberty Village for beer, food and getting pumped with friends old and new. It was great to see so many of the new super sharp centenary kits, flags, Voyageurs scarves throughout the excited crowd. And what a crowd it was.

One of the best things about going to the pre-game is to feed off the buzz of your fellow supporters. If you're not excited before you arrive you definitely are by the time you head off to BMO; and no that's not just the beer.

The weather gods did indeed smile upon us Sunday night when the ongoing threat of (and actual) rain dissipated and we were blessed with blue skies and some brilliant sunshine for the beginning of the match.  Most of those around me were excited and looking forward to seeing our boys out on the pitch. Before the game started there was a very nice moment honouring the past of Canadian football with the introduction of Jason DeVos, Alex Bunbury, Bob Iarusci, Paul Saltieri and others - it was great to see the crowd applaud and celebrate some of the men that have helped to pave the way for the current crop of Canadian footballers.

Pleasantries out of the way it was time to turn our attention to the real task at hand; making fun of the US team in their Waldo-esque kits. I can't be 100% certain but I do believe the "Where is Waldo" chant originated somewhere in the general vicinity of where I was standing (not by me of course, honest!) but it was quickly taken up by the rest of the supporters in the south stands - fun! :)

 The first half saw the US controlling the game and getting the first chance at a goal when Edgar Castilo send a shot that Lars Hirschfeld just tipped over the bar and all of us breath a collective sigh of relief.  As the half progressed our boys in Blue (have I mentioned how much I LOVE those centenary kits?) began to take back control mostly due to the excellent work of Tosaint Ricketts and Olivier Ocean up front and Nik Ledgerwood who played a great two-way game in the midfield. In fact it was Ledgerwood that appeared to have put Canada on the score sheet 35 minutes in when he pounced on a loose ball and easily put the ball past Howard only to have it not count due to a mystery foul called on DeRosario. Obviously more Concacaf conspiracy (actually just typical poor Concacaf refereeing) at work. This of course brought a chorus of boos raining down from us, especially as the goal and the "foul" happened almost right in front of the supporters in the south stands. However Canada continued to press and keep possession and the game went into the half with no score.

During the half (and from the outset of the match actually) I and some of the folk I was watching the game with wondered why Coach Hart wouldn't put Simeon Jackson out to start, commented on the excellent play of Ledgerwood as well as David Edgar (and the entire backline) and shockingly very few had anything negative to say about JDG - it felt pretty good to have mostly positive things to say about well any team that we support and watch at BMO.

The second half saw our boys continue to press and neutralize any attempts by the US to put the ball on net; in fact the much vaunted pairing of Dempsey and Donovan was all but invisible for the majority of the match.  The backline of Edgar, McKenna, Hainault and Jazic was excellent and put in a very complete game and were instrumental along with DeGuzman, Johnson and Ledgerwood in keeping the Americans off the scoreboard.  Canada had a few missed chances in the second; both Ricketts and Simeon Jackson (subbed on in the 65th minute) sent shots just wide.  In fact the lack of finishing was really the only off note about Canada's game on Sunday and will need to be much sharper in the upcoming WCQ matches.

All in all it was a very positive performance against a much better team. You could argue that the US team was tired (playing their 3rd game in 8 days) but they never seemed to have any answers or creativity and couldn't handle the midfield presence by our boys.  And again standout performances by Nik Ledgerwood and Tosaint Ricketts who both ranged all over the field and gave the US defense and offense fits deserve another mention. One other note was the first cap (although not official as it was only a friendly) of 17 yr. old Samuel Piette when he was subbed on in the 86th minute. Although he didn't really have much (if anything) to do it was somewhat heartwarming to see the youngster out there.

The match ended and all that I saw were happy (well slightly disappointed that they didn't win) fans all around me. It was a good start to Canada's WCQ campaign and hopefully the strong performance against their rivals from the south will keep their confidence high heading into their first important match in Cuba this Friday at 2pm.  But none of that matters just yet; what matters is that we got to see a solid, positive performance by our boys and other than the disallowed goal (really ref? really?) I can find nothing on the night that I'm really unhappy about. Yes I would have liked a win and some goals but I'll take a solid 0-0 result any time. It was a great night out at BMO with my fellow fans & friends and just a great way to start the year for our Men's National Team.  If this doesn't get you pumped for the match against Honduras on the 12th - well what's wrong with you?  If you haven't bought tickets yet get thee to the Interwebs immediately and get prepared to pack BMO - see you there!

See Thee Rise

Friendly Links: If you haven't already read these (and really, why not) here are you usual suspects with their thoughts on the match: The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.