State of Mind: Trying to adjust to the new normal - playing badly is the new normal
Location: Back from vacationland
Once again into the abyss we go my fellow fans - we really can't have nice things, can we? There is no turning away from the fact that this incarnation of TFC is just not very good; and they're not going to magically get better by the end of October. There may have been a brief moment when things could have come together but coaching changes, player departures, injuries and six years of fan exploitation and team mismanagement by the front office have taken their toll. If you still attend matches (and I know that a few of you are gluttons for punishment like me) you've been witness to more than a couple of lacklustre, poorly executed attempts at playing football by our Reds in the past weeks. It's been frustratingly, mind numbingly depressing to watch.
There's little to no joy on the field to be seen from the players, the fan apathy grows more evident each match (hello empty seats) as well as supporter group malaise (hello lack of tifos, empty seats and grimness in the stands). I've spent a fair amount of time in the south stands this year and with each passing week I see resignation that wasn't there before, less engagement and where we used to poke self-deprecating fun at our team and ourselves for our lot in supporting such a team (OK, we still do that - have to laugh or you'll cry) instead you hear anger and frustration - and who can blame them or any other fan that comes to BMO week in and week out? It's wearing and it's tiring and just plain difficult to "get up" every week for a team that always seems to be on a road to nowhere (6 years of confusion and counting). I go to BMO every week thinking (hoping, wishing) that they're going to win - I really do, regardless of my oft pessimistic tone - but this season has taxed my optimistic soul like no other. Saturday's match did nothing to dispel that and in fact coupled with Wednesday's not so sublime effort it has made it worse.
The game against SKC pretty much typified what TFC has become: by the end of the game there were a minimum of four players playing out of their normal positions - three of them defenders! - when there didn't need to be. But that's TFC in a nutshell; out of position (out played, out shot, out maneuvered and out done). The game on Saturday was always going to be difficult; coming up against the league leaders was never going to be an easy task, regardless of having 6 players available that weren't in the previous match. It was the players that got chosen and their ultimate placement that caused numerous problems throughout the game
The starting XI didn't surprise anyone - even those of us who are not (and likely never will be) convinced that Ecks is a CB - yes, he's filled in adequately but with the signing of O'Dea and the availability of three different CBs I had hope that Ecks would finally get to return to his proper place at RB and that Henry or Williams would start next to O'Dea. But no, coach Mariner likes the idea of a short, speedy, somewhat positionally challenged CB as part of his backline instead of utilizing one of the players that actually play that position.
This was especially frustrating when Doneil Henry (playing at right back of course) was subbed off due to a knee injury in the 37th minute - who came on in his place? Logan Emory. What was the composition of the backline after Emory came on? From L-R: Emory, O'Dea, Ecks, Morgan - yes, that's three defenders all playing out of their natural positions. Three. And you could see the difference; especially in the play of Ashtone Morgan - he is going to be an excellent left back but he is not meant to play on the right. You could see the hesitation in his game, the mistakes due to unfamiliarity (and directly led to the foul, that led to the free kick, that led to the goal; sigh) and the team sorely missed the overlapping runs up the left side at which he has excelled this season. This was even more noticeable as time and time again Ryan Johnson (also playing out of position) looked for someone, anyone to send him a ball and let him move forward on the attack.
It was a sad state of affairs and one that wasn't necessary. With what is basically a new team (again) why not put the players in their actual positions and see how they fare? This is yet another lost season and even with CCL to potentially lift the spirits of the team and the supporters, the next two months are essentially an audition for the remaining players, style of play (kick the ball, chase the ball) and quite honestly the coach.
Although some of those new players should be kept far away from the field unless as a second half sub. I am of course talking about Andrew Wiedeman. I've not been overly impressed Andrew "best touch in the modern era" Wiedeman as of yet. I've referred to him as a puppy; he's eager, he tries hard, has the occasional nice moment and is willing to run, but doesn't quite seem to know what to do with his feet. He was all of that and more on Saturday with errant pass after errant pass and quite frankly just looked aimless. So why (when he was obviously having a terrible game) was he left in for almost the full 90 minutes when there were options (read: Eric Avila) on the bench? With both teams missing chances and an opportunity for points still a remote possibility; why wouldn't you switch things up by taking off an ineffective performer and putting out one that works well with Silva and Johnson?
There were some positives to Saturday's match (I'm not completely doom & gloom; yet): Frings rebounded from a disinterested and lacking effort on Wednesday to going back to bossing things and showing some focus and energy. Luis Silva (should have been playing where RJ was imo) continues to show flashes of a very talented future player. And what about new backline bossman O'Dea? I have no real issues with how he played - although I do feel like he wandered a bit much; especially with Ecks as his partner - he made some nice challenges in the air and I can see the potential. However, I'm not ready to crown him king just yet.
What I don't want to hear is talk of the moral victory - hey we held the best team in the league to one goal - moral victories do not a team make. I'm not saying I expect my team to win every game (I'm not that silly) and a hard fought loss can sometimes feel like a win; this wasn't that. This was well just meh. That is the only way to describe it.
The TFC revolving door roller coaster is still firmly in place and we need it to stop. One year of stability; just one year - that is apparently too much to ask for as a supporter of our club. Regardless of your thoughts on Winter, he deserved - hell we deserved - to see him at the helm for a full season to see what could be done. I'll say the same thing for Mariner. Do I like his coaching style? Not really. But for the sake of any kind of stability in this club either turf him at the end of this season and really start anew or leave him at the helm until the end of next season. Give this version (6.2) of TFC a chance. Maybe they'll surprise us; gods know they haven't yet.