Monday, July 30, 2012

Sixth Verse, Same As The First (And Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth), Little Bit Louder, Little Bit Worse

Mood: Meh with a side of Disappointed
State of Mind: Round and round
Location: On the TFC Rollercoaster like everyone else

Another beautiful day at BMO; another disappointing, uninspired performance from our Reds. Stop me if you've heard this before. Actually as you have heard it before (oh so many times this season) stopping me would leave me with nothing left to write, but as that's not my way I'll continue.

It would seem that over the course of their 10 days off that instead of continuing to come together and build upon some flashes of solid play over their previous three games, they all took a collective step back to become the TFC that we all sadly love (or hate) but mostly are resigned over.  This was one of the least inspired efforts put forth by our Reds this season; made to look all the more so as they were playing a good team as opposed to one of the basement dwellers or teams in free fall.  It's, well not really all that astonishing how poor they look stacked up against a team with quality - wouldn't it be nice if they played up to an opponent? Remember when they used to do that? Sigh.

I took to my seats in the West Stands for the first half in hopes of seeing some decent play and some incremental signs of progress. My first thought - other than my exasperation at the again row upon row of empty seats at kickoff - was surprise at the starting XI.  Instead of keeping what seemed to have been the beginning of a potentially successful partnership between RJ and Silva; new signing (Dr.) Quincy Amarikwa was slotted up top and Silva was shifted to the midfield.  The only reason I can think of for this is that he was being rewarded for scoring a goal in that game against that English team; otherwise I don't get it. Amarikwa doesn't yet have a proven track record and while I'd gladly see him on the bench to be brought in as a sub to inject some energy when needed; I don't get why in such an important game he'd get the start. Colour me completely baffled. Mariner said after the game that RJ and Quincy had played together before hence the pairing; but I didn't see any signs of familiarity in their performance on the field. Not to mention that Dr. Q's inclusion in the lineup meant that Avila was relegated to the bench. This was a game that begged for creativity and ball movement through the midfield in order to help the forwards; especially as they were playing a very good Houston team.

The first half was pretty much a snoozefest as neither team did much to acquit themselves. Yes, the Dynamo had a few shots and Ecks did some nice work to snuff out a couple of attacks. And TFC did get up the field but the best chance - a header from Doneil off a ball from Frings - went straight to the keeper. The lack of energy and focus was apparent in our Reds and they showed a frustrating lack of creativity. The highlight of the first half actually came before the game even started when during the player introductions the crowd (OK, all 337 of us) saw Nick Soolsma's face and name flashed onto the screen when Amarikwa was being introduced - I suspect Suarez had snuck into the control room. The other "highlight" of sorts was the poorly timed and attempted bicycle kick from Dr. Quincy - it was not even close to being on net - but hey, kudos for the attempt?  And in true TFC fashion they closed out the half by poorly defending a set piece (shocking, I know) and leaving Calen Carr completely unmarked to head the ball past Kocic. Fun!  

For the second half I once again relocated to the South Stands to hang with my friends from The Yorkies; @ignirtoq and @rohankoomar and the rest of our sarcastically merry crew.  The half progressed much in the same way as the first. Not much happening on the attack from our Reds and the Dynamo controlling most of the run of play.  Andrew Wiedeman came on for Amarikwa in hopes of creating some scoring chances but he never really clicked. I kept waiting for Eric Avila to come on but instead late in the half two basically defensive subs were made when Aaron Maund and Jeremy Hall were brought on for Doneil Henry and Logan Emory. At that point I remarked that we were basically playing for the loss.  There was still time to get back a goal and get a draw at the time of the first sub - why not bring on Avi? - instead another defensive miscue led to the killer goal by who else but Brian Ching. Awesome.  

What was apparent throughout the entire match - other than the lack of energy by the Reds - is that regardless of the strong work from Ecks (MOTM easily) he is not a backline general. This team needs a veteran CB to organize the defense if they are to pull themselves out of this basement abyss they seem destined to occupy. A cobbled together defense with two players playing out of their natural position is just not going to withstand the pressure for much longer.  While I appreciate that the FO wants to 'find the right fit' and that the Mellberg situation is wreathed in smoke and half truths it doesn't change the fact that this team has been lacking a proper backline anchor pretty much since it's inception.  Instead we get converted leftbacks and barely able substitutes (although Ty hasn't played in ages so hey, a positive!) and we sign a striker or two to try and replace Danny. Even ones that still aren't able to play and won't play until this coming weekend at the earliest. Of course I'm talking about Hassli (sorry Quincy, not much left to say) - time will tell if this is a good move for TFC - but at the moment all I see is his propensity for red cards and the fact that he's well, injured. If he can get healthy fairly quickly, keep a level head and score more than the occasional goal then I'll consider this a positive and let the chips fall where they may next year. But I'd still rather have a proper CB (sorry Eric!). And with the only rumoured help coming being Irish international Darren O'Dea (nicknamed O'Dear) not filling anyone with confidence we can only wait and hope.

Really the only highlight of the second half (and the highlight of the game) was the again epic rendition of the soon to be classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" (it is ridiculous how much fun we have singing it! Seriously, join in!) that is now being requested at each match.  It spread throughout most of 113 and 112 and not only could it be heard over at the other end of BMO, (as per @wakingthered) but could also be heard on the Gol TV broadcast. I look forward to hearing the entire South Stands and beyond belting it out - start learning those lyrics folks! Coming soon the dubstep version!  And the adaption of the YSA chant to YSG (You Suck Garber) as a response to MLS Commissioner Don Garber taking supporter groups to task for vulgarity at matches. Please read The Yorkies post-match for @ignirtoq's fantastic letter to Don in response to this latest bit of anti-fan rhetoric.  

Not an easy day at BMO Field for anyone - chin up folks it's not going to get any easier - although those of you that left when Ching scored that goal; what the hell? As much as it was a shite performance this is still your team is it not? There was four minutes of added time in which anything could have (although likely wasn't) happened. Be ticked off, voice your opinion but stay until the bloody end would you? Even at my angriest I've not left early - besides, staying gives me more time to vent with the other members of the blogger cartel - seriously, it's post-game therapy! Regardless of my issues with the team (and as you know, I have a few) they're still my team and I'll stay until the bitter end. Anyway, on to the next one right? CCL match and on a Wednesday? Guaranteed win? Here's hoping.

Link It Up: Waking The Red, Duncan at Sportsnet, Michael Gardner and Red Nation Online.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

They're Baaack!

Mood: Tired but sort of optimistic
State of Mind: 10 days without TFC is too long
Location: Sleepy supporter's couch

Am I dreaming? Did our Reds actually win 3 games in a row for the first time in FOUR years? You're sure I'm not dreaming? Yes! It's a bona fide streak!  Say it with me; "winning streak"...sounds odd doesn't it?  But it sure is fun to say. Seriously, cast your mind back all those days ago...

The weather gods smiled upon the crowd (well, it seemed a bit more crowded than the week before) at BMO as the wind (winds of change? Ok, that's a bit much) blew in and brought us a gift - a fairly decisive win by our Reds. Actually, the only suffering the fans had to do was endure 50-odd minutes of RJ9's stunning inability to finish.

Other than the stunning weather the game started off in typical TFC fashion; no they didn't immediately go down a goal and in fact came out strong. But after Luis Silva was fouled in the box who should step up to take the PK? None other than Ryan Johnson...everyone around me was in agreement - there was no way he was going to make this and he didn't let us down managing to not even put it on net...sigh.

But that second half? That was a hell of a lot of fun wasn't it?  RJ scored! Seriously, I'm not kidding - he put one past the keeper and woot! It's a tie (oh yeah, the other team scored in the first).  And then right in the middle of what is becoming a regular thing (hell it was requested) which is our epic performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" - OK epic is overstating as we're still forgetting some of the words but it's still awesome - Andrew Wiederman (He da man!) deflected a Silva shot into the net. Jubilation! And that's how it would end. Our Reds with a 2-1 win and a three game win streak to call their own! 

The second half of that game really was a good performance by our Reds.  The continuing strong play of Ashtone Morgan with his ability to send in crosses and the movement and lovely runs of Luis Silva were on display. As was the excellent play of Ecks who put in one of his best performances as a converted CB (hand on Ecks, help is not coming anytime soon). It was a very complete team performance and for me was the first actual sign that things may be turning around for this team. 

This is not to knock the team's performance leading up to that game (or the goals scored) but consistency is key and our boys are seemingly finding a way to consistently score goals and win or fight back in games. Having two different goal scorers two games in a row (neither named Danny) is a huge positive and a hope that this team will not completely fall apart without the our main target man for the rest of the season.

If for some reason you didn't watch that game and/or haven't read any recaps here are your usual suspects: The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Time to turn our gaze to this afternoon's match. This match will be a telling one in terms of seeing how far our Reds have actually come. They've had 10 days off, said goodbye to some players (so long Miguel), said hello to some new ones - Quincy (or Dr. Quincy as I'm calling him) Amarikwa, Eric "The Red Card" Hassli and Freddy Hall (maybe) - come on down! You're the next contestants on the TFC roster! And played some sort of game against some players from England or something in between. *sorry for all those links but I've had a rough stretch and well, these fine folks have written some excellent stuff.*

Coming to town this sunny (and still not rainy) afternoon are the now and forever infamous Houston Dynamo.  Infamous for the "Escobar 3" incident and that awful come from behind draw that they laid on our boys the last time.  Both teams are on a three game win streak and Houston does not have the most amazing record against TFC at BMO. However (always with the however) this game is much different than the Colorado game.  While the Rapids are a team in a steep decline the Dynamo are anything but. They've got Will Bruin (remember him?), Brad Davis and newish DP, midfielder Boniek Garcia; all incredibly dangerous and the first two have long been thorns in TFC's side.  And while TFC have managed to eke themselves out of the MLS basement (thanks to the spectacularly free-falling Timbers - so many jokes, so little time) the Dynamo sit third in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the MLS. Not too shabby and just a bit worrisome for our team as they look to win Four In A Row and put the stamp of respectability on this season.

With two fairly untested new forwards in Wiederman and Amarikwa and Hassli unlikely to see action today, as well as the still injured Jeremy Hall unable to play, we'll likely see the same lineup we did all those days ago against Colorado. I see no reason why Mariner would make any changes unless Adrian Cann did enough in that match against that English team and in training to come back and resume his place as CB. I find it unlikely though and expect to see Ecks and Logan doing their best imitation of a CB pairing yet again.  What you ask? We didn't sign a CB during the transfer window? Sadly no; all kinds of shenanigans appear to have occurred and I will touch base on that tomorrow.  But for now this is what we've got. We've waited 6 years, what's a little longer, right? Sigh.

While this game doesn't fill me with dread neither do I have an overwhelming "they're going to do it" feeling. Do I think they'll compete and not put on a nightmare performance? Absolutely. I expect that this will be a hard fought game and that our boys will show some resilience and consistency of play. But this is a very good team that our Reds are facing and they do not always rise to the occasion when faced with better opponents. This is one of those games that you look at as a watershed moment. Not that a three game win streak for the first time in four years isn't saying something but if this team wants to actually progress, now would be the time to show it.

I of course hope that they prove me wrong and soundly trounce the Dynamo because well, that would be fantastic. I'm also hoping that (Beer Festival notwithstanding) to see a packed house today.  Although the number of tweeps offering up their tickets in the past couple of days seems to say otherwise. As for me, I'll be there as always; anxious, excited and hopeful. Let's do this boys.


Late Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan & James) and Red Nation Online.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Still Not Friendly

Mood: Meh
State of Mind: Still don't like this friendly
Location: No where near the Skydome tomorrow

I said I wasn't going to discuss the "game" tomorrow yet here I am. But I promise to keep it brief, really.  Back in April I wrote this and I haven't changed my mind or softened my stance on this type of friendly. 

I know a number of LFC fans that have been crazily excited about this game and I get that, I do.  Although a number of them are less happy this evening having learned that none (or very few) of LFC's stars have traveled with team and will not be playing. However (as always) my main concern in all of this at this very moment is the health of our still fragile team. With the team finally starting to perform decently the last thing they need is to lose more players to injury.  The schedule going forward is as unforgiving as the past month and TFC will need their players to be healthy if they hope to endure the rigors of both the MLS and CCL schedule. 

And above all else our boys need a rest - especially Kocic, Frings, Dunfield and RJ - there is no need to send them out there against what is essentially the Liverpool reserve team.  That's really it for me; not going to rehash anything else and am looking forward to next Saturday for our Reds' next actual game. But what's a post without some links? Check out The YorkiesWaking The Red and Mike Gardner's post over at WTR for some final thoughts. See you next week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Look Out, Rapids Ahead!

Mood: Resigned
State of Mind: Tired; oh so tired
Location: The Magic Shop from Buffy
Weather: Hot, hot, heat - truly end of days

Coming soon to BMO Field's Events Calendar: "Talisman Night"!  That's right, bring your favourite good luck charm to BMO to help ward off the evil spirits, ghosts of strikers past and those unappeased spirits from Poltergeist, The Shining and The Amnityville Horror (well they're all obviously living under the pitch at BMO) in the biggest talisman throwdown Toronto has ever seen!  If you do not have a favourite lucky charm one will be provided for you!  Choose from one of the following exciting Lucky Talismans:

1. Four Leaf Clover: Do you really need an explanation for this one?
2. Cat's Eye (no not Suarez's sicko!): It protects one from unforeseen losses in business or profession, and ensures financial stability by guarding the owner's wealth...Hmm, maybe this one will stay in Tom's office.
3. Mini Buddha statues: A Buddha charm or statue is thought of as being lucky, especially if you rub the Buddha's belly...or Terry Dunfield's, or Colin Samuel's, or Ali Gerba's...
4. Scarabs (Ooh, who doesn't want a scarab?): As a symbol of the rising sun and protector from evil, the Scarab is also a symbol of rebirth, regeneration and transformation...we should probably give one to anyone that suits up for TFC.

If this doesn't work we'll have to turn to some sort of animal sacrifice (fly Bitchy, fly!) in order to appease the rather pissed off footy gods. Hands up if you wouldn't love to have just one nondescript, mediocre, no major injury, non-rebuilding, defensive crisis free year with TFC.  Just one. Is that really too much to ask? Seriously, I don't care if they make the playoffs; I'll settle for boring yet stable - I won't even bitch about it - just some nice, bland football for a few months...hey, I can dream.

Coming to town to take on our beleaguered Reds tomorrow night are the floundering Colorado Rapids - they of the one win, four losses in their last five and three straight losses heading into tomorrow's match - but any team regardless of form has to be salivating just a little at the thought of facing a Danny Koevermans-less TFC; even with those back to back wins. Any coach just has to look at the weak bench (made weaker by departing and injured players and lack of foresight in team building and player signing) and the even weaker attack (notice I'm not even mentioning the defense?) and think hey, we can take 'em.  Because do not doubt the impact Danny has up front even when he's not scoring goals. An in form Koef changes the focus of the defense and allows others to find time and space to score (not you RJ, but thanks for trying...sigh). 

It's obviously too soon for help to be arriving - in fact don't expect any before the Houston match on the 28th - so the main question is who will feature up top with RJ?  Based on recent game performances I'd expect to see Luis Silva partner with Johnson with the option of Andrew (Andy the eye candy) Weiderman on the bench.  Frings will have to be at the top of his game and will likely be joined by Dunfield, Reggie Lambe and (assuming Silva starts up top) Avi getting his first start in a couple of games.  I think that with the mobility of Silva and Avi our Reds stand a chance to break down the not rock solid Rapids defense while Frings & Dunfield should be able to counter Conor Casey and Omar Cummings going forward.

Buoyed by the "Do It For Danny" spirit, facing a team that is falling to pieces in true TFC fashion and fueled by back to back wins and the home crowd (well it's sort of crowded, after the first half anyway), this is actually the best possible scenario that TFC could face considering the circumstances. Did I mention that the Rapids have never won at BMO? Seriously, this game is tailor made for some kind of positive result. A win or a draw and then 10 days (we're still not talking about that game on Saturday) off to rest, practice and (hopefully) get to know some new teammates.  

All in all this team needs to find a way to come together and become the sum of more than just their parts. Too much reliance on one (or two - remember what happened when Frings was out) players has had disastrous results.  This is the moment when playing for pride and the badge and the fans has to truly be on display - they need to put on one of their best efforts if they hope to go into this break (remember they're going back to a match every 3-4 days after the break) with something to build upon.  This is a very winnable match for our boys and I hope that they will not react in somewhat patented TFC fashion (self destruct on the easy ones) and put in a great performance. I'll be there as usual; anxious, hopeful and ready to scream my head off when they win. See you there?

                                  We'll miss you Danny, but the show indeed must go on.


Lot of Links: Tons of other reading to do - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, James, James (again) & John), Red Nation Online and Typical TFC

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rockin' The Revs

Mood: Ecstatic mixed with disbelief
State of Mind: Did that really happen?
Location: Super hot supporter's couch
Anxiety Level: High - have we lost Danny?

                                                          Let them concede goals!

What a game. It's hard to believe that so much happened in just 90 minutes - OK, 102 minutes thanks to the insane amount of added time. Goal, shambolic defending, Danny hurt, Milos standing on his head, shambolic defending, 12 minutes (yes 12) of added time, RJ can't finish and THEY FREAKING WON!!

This game had a lot of underlying stories heading into kickoff - Mariner's return to his old stomping grounds, JDG being traded, the Rev's AJ Soares pretty much guaranteeing a win and the little matter of TFC never having won in Foxborough. 

The game started out well for the Reds when Luis Silva put one past Revs keeper Bobby Shuttleworth after some very nice work from Reggie Lambe. Our Reds up 1-0 less than 10 minutes into a game? Fantastic. But no one I was watching with was satisfied; TFC does not generally inspire confidence these days, even when they score first. But they surprised us. Lots of nice play through the middle, some actual decent passing and they kept pressing. 

But then in true TFC fashion they started going to pieces putting on a fantastic combination of shambolic (what, I like the word, sue me) defending and a maddening inability to finish (can we please enroll RJ in a finishing school of the non-charming variety?) at the opposite end. And yet, yet they were still up 1-0. Thanks to some sublime goalkeeping from Kocic our Reds continued to hold the lead - what alternate universe was this?

Then came the most devastating moment of the game; no not a Revs goal, but Danny Koevermans down on the pitch clutching his knee after a collision with A.J. Soares in the box with less than 10 minutes left in the half. He was stretchered off and from all indications it doesn't look good at all for the finally fit and in form striker.  This is one of the scariest and most upsetting things I've seen as a TFC fan; because as Danny goes so go the fortunes of TFC.  Prove me wrong RJ....TFC have no secondary scoring threat and unless Ryan can figure out between now and the end of the month how to actually put the the ball into the net, things are going to revert back to very ugly for our boys.

Newest Red Andrew (Andy the eye candy) Weideman came on in his place and while yes he's a forward; he's one with very little experience and likely did not expect to play for his new team quite so soon.  He did not acquit himself very well when he first came on the field - although this is not surprising, first game, he's hardly played this season - and by the end of the game had shown a few nice touches but he's still very much an unknown quantity and hardly expected to step into Danny's boots.

The second half was quite frankly terrifying to watch - and why was Aaron Maund given a run out, why not put Avi out there?  The Rev pretty much owned possession and spent the majority of the half continually pressing and attacking the Reds goal.  If not for some outstanding work by Ecks and Kocic (MOTM in a stellar performance) at critical moments as well as some decent play by Logan Emory and the rest of the back line this game would have (and honestly should have) been lost.  But at the end after seven minutes (SAF must have been in town) of added time in which I don't think I dared to breathe as I waited for the inevitable (and patented) TFC last minute goal concession, the ref blew the whistle and unbelievably, wonderfully the Reds had won.

This was by no means a game to hold up and say ooh, look at how well they played, look at the progress! No, this was one of those "how in the hell did they manage to hang on and come away with three points?" kind of games.  Not only did they win for the first time ever in Foxborough but they won one of those games that have always bitten them in the past - I did not expect them to come away with more than one point on this day and on any other day this team would not have come away with the win. But every team gets at least one of these wins on the season and finally it was TFC's turn. Certainly they and we the fans will not quibble at 3 points (on the road!), a clean sheet and back to back wins (it's not a streak) - I'll take all the positives I can get.

What happens next is still very much in the dark; there are signings coming but are there attacking players being looked at; as all of the focus has been on securing an experienced CB to anchor and organize the defense.  No one could have anticipated that Danny would go down, but RJ's lack of finish has been apparent for most of the season. Patience is being asked for and I'm fine with waiting as this team does not need yet another knee jerk signing to temporarily bandage its wounds.  The woeful lack of depth on this team is not a new issue but seems highlighted in neon this season; reinforcements are needed and soon. Hopefully our patience is rewarded with smart signings and a chance to rebuild (for this is a rebuild, not a 'tweak') for next season.  So, see you on Wednesday?

Allez Les Rouges! 

Late Links: Read all about it! The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New England, Meet The New TFC

Mood: Umm..
State of Mind: Too hot to think
Location: Non air-conditioned supporter's couch

                                            Ooh, they're singing about our new CB!

A lot of things can change in three weeks - the question is have things changed enough for TFC to steal points down in Foxborough?  The boys in Red are headed way south of Southie in hopes of building off of their last minute comeback performance on Wednesday night. And while the team and the fans may be tempted to rest on the laurels of that exciting finish, it would be a mistake to gloss over the errors from Wednesday in a haze of Terry Dunfield celebrations. 

The Reds will be relying on a very young backline as Doneil Henry is likely to start in the place of the injured Jeremy Hall and with JDG no longer with the team there's a chance that Matt Stinson may see some time in the midfield. As defense is always (new CB, Bueller? Bueller?) the weak part of TFC's game, when it's an (even more) inexperienced group well, we all get a little nervous.  Adding to the nerves (well my nerves anyway) is the still arduous schedule that the Reds have been slogging through; playing a game every 3-4 days - whereas the Rev have been playing one game a week and will be well rested for tonight's match.  Once again Mariner's use of his subs (please use your subs wisely Paul, pretty please!) will play a major role in how this game turns out as with limited resources, a tired squad and another league game this coming Wednesday (we are not talking about that game next Saturday), managing the minutes and staying competitive will be no mean feat.

What's more nerve wracking is that the Rev have been on a very nice run of form, having not lost in their last five games and winning two of those including winning 2-0 over the NY Energy Drinks. This is not the team that let TFC put two goals past them three weeks ago - and they are looking to continue the streak that has them with three clean sheets in a row. Whatever defensive woes the Rev were experiencing seems to be in full on lock down.  Shalrie Joseph is back from injury to bolster the midfield and joining him is the Revs brand new DP, Honduran forward Jerry Bengston who scored a goal in his first appearance with the team last weekend. Add to that the still dangerous (I've said it before and will keep saying it) Barry Feilhaber...well, it's sure to be an interesting (and potentially soul crushing) game.

All is not lost; it's not as though TFC have been completely miserable - draws are better than losses (so says obvious girl).  And the fight (don't make me use the "H" word) they showed on Wednesday in not giving up like they have so many times in the past (see three weeks ago - or most of the season) is a baby positive step; and if you remove that horrible, crashing back to earth loss to the Union on Sunday, they're scoring a fair number of goals. Actually one of the most notable things from Wednesday's match is that all three goals were scored by different members of TFC and none of them were named Danny Koevermans - instead it was Silva, Frings and Dunfield who were the difference makers in this one. Danny has now gone two games - I know, an entire TWO games - without a goal and his trigger foot must be itching, I'd say he's due.

You can never discount the confidence that a wild, last minute win can give to a team - especially one that saw an unlikely goal scorer in literally the dying seconds of the game.  And with the changes to the team (both through trades and playing time) coming fast and furious, these days the players who do make the starting XI are playing for their positions as much as for points and pride.  Or (speaking of the unlikely goal scorer) as Terry Dunfield put it yesterday: "It's like the Hunger Games..." - hopefully without the violence and killing, otherwise practices have changed a lot since I last played.

I feel that this game is either going to be a grinding, competitive, end-to-end, anyone can win kind of game or a nightmare of epic proportions - most likely for TFC. Hoping like mad for the former while the little cynical demon on my shoulder is whispering it's the latter. Of course I plan to muffle that demon with my TFC scarf if he gets too loud; I haven't gone completely over to the Dark Side just yet. 


LES LINKS: You know the drill - The Yorkies, Red Nation Online and Waking The Red (James, James & John).

Oh, one last thing - does anyone else think it's kind of hilarious that they're playing the Revolution on Bastille Day? Just me? OK, as you were...

Friday, July 13, 2012


Mood: Surprised, yet not.
State of Mind: Waiting for the other shoe to drop
Location: Not on a plane to Dallas, or Ecuador, or Europe

                                           Was there really any other song choice?

The more things change...well it's been a busy week for whoever writes the TFC press releases as it's been a veritable flurry of activity the past few days.  The (finally) official announcement  of Joao Plata's loan to LDU Quito came down and made the situation clear as slightly murky water instead of mud...apparently he'll be back in January but I'll believe that when I see his pint size frame back at BMO.

And then came the surprising (only for the timing) news that Nick Soolsma and the team had parted ways by "mutual consent".  This was not an unexpected move as it had become apparent that Paul Mariner didn't rate him and that he wasn't going to be part of the team's long term plans.  Personally I thought Soolsma was one of TFC's better players this season - he seemed to have picked up some added pace in the off season that made those runs down the wing and that patented turn move of his even more deadly. And I truly believe he made the team better - However, the change in coach put the writing on the wall for Suarez's owner (Houston escapades notwithstanding) so while disappointing; it's not at all surprising. 

But the biggest news of the day - OK, last night - was the trade of TFC's first DP Julian DeGuzman to FC Dallas. The rumblings started on twitter late in the evening (this is why you need twitter kids) and by 2am there was confirmation from JDG's agent that he was indeed on his way to give Brek Shea hair tips. Official word didn't come down until today but it was obvious that Julian was moved in order to free up some additional cap space, open the possibility for a new DP and again, he wasn't a player that Mariner was going to utilize going forward.

JDG's presence on the team was a polarizing one for many fans - most either loved or hated him. Those firmly on the dislike side railed against his monster contract and seeming ineffectiveness on the pitch. His supporters loved his feisty play and point to the intangibles of his play.  I fall somewhere in the middle. I was often frustrated by his inability to perform in MLS games at the same (and highly competent) level as he did during CCL games. The difference in the style of play just never seemed to be something he could consistently overcome. And yes, he was much improved this season and had a really nice run of form in the past couple of months; but this was never going to be a lasting arrangement.  When he was on his game (and when he plays for the CMNT) I'm a fan; when he's doing his "walking yellow card" act and kicking balls into the stratosphere, not so much.  I expect that in true former Red fashion he'll do spectacularly well in Dallas and I do wish him well - especially if it keeps him sharp for CMNT games!  

After all this clearing of the locker room - and there is more coming - what has TFC received in return? Not much as of yet, although there are all sorts of rumblings about defensive help in the form of one or more players being on their way. But first up is Generation Adidas player, 22 year old Andrew Wiedeman (Pronounced Wee-de-man? Puns be praised!) who while listed as a forward seems to play anywhere but at centreback. He has barely played at all for FCD so looks like a work in progress and definitely not a starter. Whether he is meant to be some sort of back-up for Danny and RJ remains to be seen but he is already with the team in New England so there is that outside chance that we'll see his debut tomorrow night.

As it stands at the moment TFC is not improved by all of these changes; at least not yet. Not to belittle the (unknown and hopefully eventual) contributions of Wiedeman, there's still no answer for the team's most pressing need and that is a quality CB.  I do hope that the promised help is coming to bolster the backline and give it the leader and anchor they've never had; anything else is really a waste of resources. 

Lamborghini Links: The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

TFC = Trolling For 'Caps

Mood: Tired but happy
State of Mind: Wow, we needed that!
Location: Sunny supporter's couch
Voice: About 40%

Whee!! Tempted to make that my entire post; just lines of "whee!!!" but then you'd all think I'd lost my mind  (Hush peanut gallery). OK, one more time - WHEE!!!!  And may I add to the Van City team - HAHAHAHAHA! - Petty you say? In this case I am more than willing to accept that.  If only to refute all of the conspiracy theories from the 'Caps - no excuses this time guys - our Reds beat you fair and square.

It's been hours and I'm still smiling and giggling and just so happy from last night. If you weren't there then I'm oh so sorry that you missed it; I do hope that you at least watched so that you could share in the utter madness that was the last 30-40 minutes of that game!  And if not then at the very least I hope you've watched the Game in 6 (I could watch that all day) over and over again like the rest of us. 

In an attempt to live up to the name of this blog I actually went to my seats in the West Stands for the first time in weeks; mostly to visit with some of my seatmates but much to my surprise none of them were at the game! Maybe they're avoiding me? Regardless, I decided to watch the first half from my usual perch and well all I can say is please for the love of Pele, someone teach RJ9 how to finish!  That breakaway on Joe Cannon (and his tiny shorts) should have been a goal! Never mind that whole hitting the post business (again).  I appreciate his work rate and the fact that he never (ever) gets a rest but c'mon man, your job is scoring goals. 

Anyway, the first half was pretty much a snooze; perhaps due to the empty seats (players can't get amped in front of 209 people),

The stands right before kickoff
or maybe they were trying  to lull the Whitecaps to sleep? Or perhaps it was in protest over losing Soolsma (I don't want to talk about it)? I'm not sure but either way - even though they made some noise right near the end of the half - the half ended with my thinking that perhaps not much good was going to come of this. This was the TFC that makes me sigh...

I also decided to relocate back to the South Stands with the Cynics Circle et al. for some second half silliness. 

The Reds looked a lot more lively after halftime - perhaps they got in a 12 minute nap? But of course it had to be the Whitecaps that struck first when rookie Darren Mattocks was able to ping a rebound from a Kocic save into the net - cue the "here we go again" groans from everyone. Great initial save by Milos but no one to clear and Mattocks had an easy one. Even still, I refused to believe that Van City would get the best of our Reds; it's not allowed, right?  Right. And then something fantastic happened - no our Reds didn't immediately get an equalizer - no, the always hilarious @ignirtoq of The Yorkies and his buddy Phil started singing "Bohemian Rhapsody"; shortly thereafter myself, @theyorkies1812 and our merry band of cynics joined in and well watch for yourself:

                                        We never claimed to be professional singers

This may seem like an odd song choice but if you listen to the lyrics they're oddly fitting for a TFC fan and well it just fit the mood.  As the half progressed the Reds continued to press and were having greater success getting forward and then our Nasty Leftback Ashtone Morgon put another of his (soon to be) patented crosses into the box and found Luis Silva who easily put it past Cannon!  Game on!  Then our boys just kept on coming - Das Kapitan Frings almost put TFC ahead if not for a wonder save by by Joe Cannon. But the Whitecaps couldn't keep our Reds at bay much longer when just minutes later Frings stepped up and delivered a gorgeous blast of a free kick into the left hand corner of the net!  Jubilation!!  Much yelling, jumping, shouting and hugging ensued - but could it last?

The 'Caps continued to fight back and with minutes left in the game YP Lee came within a whisker of tying the game when he was also stopped by the post...this is where I started holding my breath and looking to see how much added time; 4 minutes? And then the worst happened; Darren freaking Mattocks leapt what seemed four feet in the air to beat Kocic to the ball and headed it into the net - if that wasn't bad enough Mattocks then became the biggest douche at BMO by coming over to the South Stands and taunting the supporters. And not just for a few seconds but for well over a minute - what ticks me off more than the jerky taunting was the lack of any sort of sanction from the ref - that behaviour in any other league would earn a card and should have in this case. We'll wait and see if the league does anything about it but I certainly don't expect anything to happen.

So there we were, with added time ticking away, the score tied and it looked like our boys were going to toss away three points yet again. But wait in the dying seconds a corner! We didn't hold out a lot of hope knowing TFC's less than stellar record on set pieces when the most glorious thing happened; Terry Dunfield (yes that Terry Dunfield, former Whitecap Terry Dunfield,) headed the ball into the net!!  Total freaking pandemonium!!!!  Screaming, shouting, jumping - I don't remember when I've last hugged that many people - and then the whistle!!  I can't remember the last time I was that happy to hear three blasts of a whistle!  What a great night, what a fantastic finish, what a WIN!!  

Was it the best game they've ever played? No. Are there still plenty of issues with the team. Yes. Does that matter one bloody whit? Hell no. That was one of the finest nights I've ever spent at BMO watching the team I love.  I'll leave you with a few words from the hero of the night:


Laughing Links: Here are your usual suspects with the recaps - The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Time To Whip The Whitecaps

Mood: Shrugging off Sunday
State of Mind: They're going to win, it's Wednesday after all and you know, Vancouver
Location: Currently, work. Later, BMO
Weather Forecast: No Towrads in sight

OK boys and girls today our boys get to take on that team that they love to beat and that we love to watch them beat.  Yes once again those conspiracy toting visitors from the west coast the Vancouver Whitecaps are in town. There's nothing quite like playing Vancouver to get the team fired up and get the fans pumped up. There's just something really, really fun about beating them; maybe it's that it drives them crazy and of course the endless conspiracy theories after each loss are well, just hilarious.

And let's be honest; our boys need a win based off of a strong performance - OK any win will do but wouldn't a good trouncing be nice? - to lift their and our spirits after the less than stellar outing on Sunday.  And really there's no better team (well, except maybe Montreal) out of our growing list of bitter rivals than Vancouver to make a match have some underlying drama and emotion.

Vancouver of course are coming to town with revenge on their minds after our Reds once again won the Voyageurs Cup and left the poor Whitecaps without any shiny silverware to call their own (yes I'm doing an evil laugh as I type that).  The Van City team had come to town back in May assured that they were going to finally walk away with our (yes damn it, it's ours - try and take it away) trophy but of course the Reds put in one of their best games - what is it about Cup games anyway? - and convincingly won over Van City.

Tonight will likely be a scrappy affair as there is no love lost between these two teams and the last time they met things got well, a little heated shall we say? Of course that scuffle was capped (see what I did there?) by the spectacularly awful dive by Jun Marques Davidson and the tossing of Sebastien Le Toux.  And by the Amazing Invisible Man aka Eric Hassli - oh those were the days...And Hassli will indeed be invisible again tonight as he's been suspended for yellow card accumulation (pardon me while I laugh delightedly) and I'm back. 

This match is no sure thing - even though it's a Wednesday, at home, playing Vancouver - since you know Van City has only (only!) 20 more points than TFC, has only lost once in their last 5 games (and winning two) and well they're just better than TFC.  Don't think it's a walk because Hassli is out; Sebastien Le Toux is not one to ignore and he's joined some fairly talented folk up front (otherwise known as the Van City striker collective) with Camillo, Darren Mattocks and their new Scottish DP Barry Robson who although still adjusting to MLS play should not be discounted either as a threat off of the bench.

Does any of that matter? Not one bit - this is after all the team we love to torture - who wouldn't be ticked off when they continually lose to one of the worst teams in the league? And lost a major trophy to them as well? That boys and girls is the object of this particular match - tick off the Whitecaps.  Seriously. OK yes, the boys should be playing for the badge, the fans, their pride but really at the end of the day if they can do all of that AND irritate the Whitecaps? All the better; after all tradition is important in any sport and this one should certainly be carried on.  If only to keep tweaking their noses for yet another year. Fun!

I have hopes for this game; hopes of the "not crashing and burning" sense. I hope that Mariner meant what he said about making some changes to the lineup tonight; of course I hope that we don't see an entire starting XI of kids out there but that JDG and maybe Soolsma get some legitimate time on the pitch.  I also hope to not see that high line employed again until we have more solid and experienced defenders to execute it.  And I (and you too, admit it) hope that not only Danny scores but that Terry puts one past his old team; just for that final turn of the screw.

We've got a gorgeous night, a (hopefully) fired up team, a Wednesday night tradition - really what more could we ask for? Oh yeah, 3 points - yeah, we'd like that too. See you at BMO; be there or be a parallelogram. 


Laid Back Links: Your pre-game posts from the usual suspects - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (James & Duncan) and Red Nation Online.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back To Reality

Mood: Sigh
State of Mind: Sigh combined with not surprised
Location: Subdued supporters sofa

Due to work I didn't get to see the game as it happened on Sunday. However, I've watched the replay (2 hours of my life I'll never get back), read some of my fellow bloggers thoughts and mulled for a couple of days.  These are just some of my thoughts and I'm not going to make any attempt to analyze the entire game but for me there are some things that stand out.

                                                   That pretty much sums it up, right?

Thud. That's the sound of many fans' and supporters' optimism crashing back to earth after Sunday afternoon's disheartening loss.  For those of you that thought TFC were turning the corner and on to the road to respectability well sadly we haven't even approached the corner. There it is, kind of off in the distance - it is close enough that you can see it and maybe it's time to slow down and prepare to turn, but they're not there just yet.

Much has been made of fatigue due to number of games played, travel, heat and so forth.  And while yes those were contributing factors for this game in particular you have to remember that they had an extra day of rest, they arrived in Philly early giving them extra time to acclimate, they had the players that were available back to full health and they were playing the second worst team in the league (who were also dealing with similar issues).

Yes, games like this are inevitable and it's true that the team still lacks the needed depth (well, talented depth) to withstand the rigors and unbalanced nature of the MLS schedule.  But I have to ask why yet again the exact same players were put out there - what happened to managing minutes? - and why it took so long for certain subs to be put in (why leave Emory in there for so long?).  I have called for consistency in the starting XI all season long, but I also recognize when it's time to change things up to keep your players freshn because this stretch of a game every 3 days or so is not ending anytime soon.  Especially with the really exciting friendly with the Liverpool FC scrubs coming up...but I digress.  

Not helping the seemingly exhausted team (and they pretty much all looked gassed) were some of the tactics being employed (high line that the inexperienced defense just cannot execute), the regression in form of Logan Emory and the cold foot of Danny Koevermans. Like I said, if he doesn't score they're going to lose and well, you watched the game, you know what happened.  And perhaps Paul Mariner has realized some of these things as he's stated that there will be changes in the lineup tomorrow night against Vancouver - what that means exactly is obviously under wraps until oh about 6pm but my first thought is that maybe (finally) Ryan Johnson will get a rest; but probably not.

Do I think all is lost? No; that's not my way. I just don't believe in blindly supporting anything and everything that happens with the team that I love.  They didn't play well, there were some suspect coaching decisions and still no sign of any of the much needed support coming through the transfer window.  Asking questions is part of my being and I think part of being a supporter of any team.  Does that mean I'll stop going to games or stop cheering for the boys in Red? Of course not - I go to every game thinking (hoping, wanting) that they're going to win; I hold my breath, bite my nails and work myself into fits of anxiety during every game.  I'll be there tomorrow night as always ready to celebrate when our boys win; just like I'll be there the following week and two weeks later and so on. Hope to see you there.

Lot of Links: For some actual recaps and some other perspectives on Sunday's game and the current state of TFC I suggest you visit the following fine folk: The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Red Nation Online and Typical TFC.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Time For Some Less Than Brotherly Love In The Battle of the Basement

Mood: Cautiously optimistic
State of Mind: Still too damn hot to think
Location: Still right in front of the fan

It's a rare Sunday afternoon match for TFC and they continue their roadtrip with a swing through Philly to take on the second worst team in MLS (yes, we're still the worst), the Union.  You remember them right? That team that our Reds got their first MLS win of this tumultuous season against? I know that it was way back in May but you can't have forgotten already!  You didn't forget? Excellent; hopefully our boys haven't forgotten either.

Like TFC, the Union have gone through some changes since that game back in May. While Aron Winter didn't get shown the door until further into the international break, Union's coach Piotr Nowack was sent packing fairly soon after losing to the "worst team in the world". Once again Philadelphia seems to be our sister (sorry, brother) squad in terms of performance and drama. However again they are responding and playing just that little bit better than TFC which means even if the Reds win today they will still be the lone occupant of the MLS basement - hmm, maybe we should decorate?

Included in that just a bit more effective play was their win over the Galaxy on Wednesday night; which means that although the Union are also in the midst of an ugly stretch of multiple games they'll be coming into today's match with perhaps a shade more confidence having earned those valuable 3 points. Although beating the Galaxy isn't that great an accomplishment these days...

Now I am in no way saying that the Union have somehow become an unstoppable opponent; not in the least. In fact this is a match that our boys stand an excellent chance of coming away with all 3 points.  Both teams are tired, both have been playing two games a week, both will be playing in the same unrelenting heat and both are still very much trying to prove something to themselves, to their fans and to the other teams in the league.  Not that I care about what the Union have to prove of course; I only wish to see our Reds continue on some sort of path to respectability and hey a win against, well anybody would sure go a long way to seeing that happen.  Yes I know I'm stating the obvious but TFC need to do the obvious things if this season is going to have any sort of positive look to it.

The same questions remain for today's game: 

1. Will Danny continue on his goal scoring streak? I'm going with yes, otherwise don't expect a win.
2. Will the backline still look shaky and uncertain on set pieces? Again, I'll sadly say yes. Oh when will our CBs be healthy (or when will the transfer window gods smile upon us?)
3. Will the midfield continue it's strong play and keep breaking up the opposition attack? I'll go with a qualified yes - I think JDG (health issues hopefully at bay) needs to start to make that happen.
4. Will Mariner be more willing to bring subs on when players start to fail? I'm going with a maybe on this one - past experience says no, but these games are starting to wear on the players and the two a week pace isn't ending soon.
5. Will TFC put in a complete 90 minute performance? That remains to be seen.

There are a lot of positive signs going into this game; the knocks that Danny and Terry Dunfield picked up on Wednesday seem to have been minor so Mariner will have his preferred starting XI ready. TFC were the better team in the second half on Wednesday night and should be building off of that performance. And they've had an extra day of rest and have been in Philly for an extra day so should be well acclimated and set to go.  

Sadly the delightful vagaries of a retail schedule mean I won't be watching this game - considering the last time I couldn't watch they won 3-0 in Montreal perhaps this is a good sign - so I will be relying on the twitterverse to keep me updated. I've got a good feeling about this one folks; here's hoping I'm right.


Link It Up Baby: And here are your usual suspects with the pre-game breakdowns - The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Partially Obstructed View and Red Nation Online.

Decent Effort On The Field, More Confusion Off

Mood: Optimism rising
State of Mind: It's too hot to think
Location: About two feet from the fan - gods I miss A/C

Well alright then. Wednesday night TFC went deep into the heart of Texas, on the most sacred of American holidays and emerged more or less unscathed. In the midst of a punishing schedule and the oppressive, Toronto-esque heat the Reds once again came away with a point to keep their unbeaten streak at 5 games.  Was this the best game that TFC have ever played? Not by a long shot. But they managed to do enough to continue the road trip with some confidence heading into the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday.

Wednesday night's game started like far too many of TFC's game this season, with the team looking flat, disorganized and generally shambolic. And in true TFC "what's defense" fashion a complete lack of man marking on a corner allowed Zach Lloyd to head in the first goal after only five minutes had passed. Also discouraging to watch was both Brek Shea (and his terrible hair) and Fabian Castillo pretty much run wherever they wanted time and time again. 

But they Reds managed to put some semblance of defense together and kept the Hoops off of the scoreboard for the rest of the half. And in the 31st minute after some pinging about the box Danny managed to put a ball from Eric Avila past Kevin Hartman with a lovely little flick and once again the boys had managed to equalize instead of completely collapsing and conceding. Game on!

The second half saw Dallas try to press the advantage; but instead of wilting under the pressure our Reds actually pulled themselves together and showed some nice defensive shape and grit. Jeremy Hall appeared to have realized that Castillo was going to continue to be blow past him unless he stuck to his shadow, Ecks put in his best performance as the stand in CB and Terry Dunfield decided to emulate some of his favourite hockey players by sacrificing his body and eventually his face to keep the Hoops at bay.  Even better was that they kept attacking instead of falling back to just play for the point; instead they continually moved up the field to try and make it three. 

The Reds were definitely much improved in the second half and came within of whisker of going ahead when Soolsma just missed a lovely ball. TFC were actually quite enjoyable to watch in that second half. Led by stand out performances from Danny Koevermans who not only scored the goal, but has shown some really nice movement all over the field of late (yay for match fitness!), Milos in net and Torsten (other than the free kicks, please no more!) was again excellent for the team. What most impressed me was that they got better in the second half; they settled down, held their shape and didn't let up - a nice improvement that I hope continues.

Really my only issue with Wednesday's match other than the first 30 minutes of so was the way Mariner used (or didn't use) his subs. There has been much talk of managing minutes for this team as they are in the middle of a punishing few weeks schedule wise and yet other than the sub for Avila - who did not shine against his former team in one of his worst performances of the season - the other subs were very late in the game even when it was obvious that players were fatigued and had obviously stopped being effective. You could see the immediate difference when both DeGuzman and Soolsma came onto the pitch; I have to wonder what the outcome would have been had they been given more time to influence the game.

However I will happily take a point on the road from a team that in times past would have crumbled and left it's fans once again frustrated. Although soon they've got to find a way to win these games, but for now equalizing and getting points will have to do.

Lots of Links: If for some reason you haven't read these, what are you waiting for? The Yorkies, Waking The Red and Red Nation Online.

Drama Update: 

And once again still marring some good on the field performances by TFC is the ongoing drama surrounding Joao Plata. Even though the TFC front office continued to state that they were still working on a loan deal this piece from  and this from Waking The Red obviously show something quite different.  It is frustrating as a fan to see this sort of ongoing confusion still happening from those that run the team.  I don't really have much more to add to what I said earlier this week and the comments by Duncan in the piece at WTR really sum it up. Tomorrow is a brand new day, week etc...fingers crossed for a few days of drama free TFC - let's just watch them play, distraction free - OK?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More TFC Fireworks In Dallas Or Fizzle Out On The Fourth?

Mood: Sort of optimistic
State of Mind: Wondering what sort of drama is next
Location: Not air conditioned splendour 

                                         Brek Shea looks worried; as well he should

Alright boys and girls here we go. Tonight TFC return to the scene of one of their greatest wins ever; that glorious 3-0 (yes, it was glorious damn it) victory on October 18th of last year that sealed the Reds entry to the next round of the CCL. It was a game that no one said they'd win. Not only did they win but they destroyed the Hoops on two goals from (the now departed) Joao Plata and another from Danny Koevermans.  In fact it was so fantastic I say it calls for a wee reminder:

If watching that doesn't make you grin like an idiot in happiness then you're likely reading the wrong blog...move along, nothing to see here...

Of course tonight's match is the polar opposite to the one last fall. Both teams are mired at the bottom of their respective conferences and have not lived up to expectations. TFC has once again taken the term "lowered expectations" to dizzying new lows and the FCD have plummeted from the heady heights of MLS Cup contenders to, well the third worst team in the league. And while our Reds have been slowly showing some positive signs of improvement, FCD have been anything but impressive over the last couple of weeks having lost 3 of their last 5 games, whereas TFC have only lost 1 of their last 5 and are unbeaten in their last 4 games. 

Points for the taking you say? Could be; with multiple draws and even a win on the road of late this could be an opportunity to crush a weakened opponent. However, you cannot discount the emotional charge that the Hoops will get from playing on the 4th of July - they're already having the biggest fireworks show ever (OK, in that part of Texas but still) - expect what little crowd there is to be loud and uber "USA" all night and that goes for the players and half-time "entertainment" as well.  Personally I suggest draping yourself in a Canadian flag to help ward off the "America is the best" vibe escaping your TV set tonight.  Not to mention that Dallas are well rested not having anywhere near the punishing schedule that TFC is facing at the moment and they also have much missed midfielder David Ferreira returning from injury. While not likely to start Ferreira is a both an emotional spark for the team as well as being a game changer when on the field.

In TFC's favour is confidence and being unbeaten in 4 games. No they're not setting the league on fire but they're scoring and hey that was a pretty good team they held to a draw on Saturday...and there's the whole Wednesday night record thing and there may be hope yet. Other than the fact that they're getting little rest in between games, are heading into the Texas heat (although not much different from Toronto heat these days) and they still have off the field drama possibly distracting them as the Plata situation continues to spiral comically out of control.  You have a potential for a less than sharp group of Reds out there this evening.   However I'm very much in favour of spoiling a good jingoistic celebration and putting the boots to a demoralized opponent (especially one that lets Brek Shea do that to his hair) so I'm feeling pretty good about tonight's match and our boys chances.. And if all else fails, remember this:

     They named their park after a giant Pizza blob! Or at least that's what I like to think.


My Links Are Bigger Than Yours: The Yorkies, Waking The Red, Partially Obstructed View and Red Nation Online