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.
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 mlssoccer.com 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?