Saturday, June 23, 2012

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.

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