Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tide Is Turning; On And Off The Pitch

Post-match High Still Going Strong

Mood: Wheeeeeeee!!!
State of Mind: That actually happened, right? Will it happen again?
Location: Jubilant supporter couch - Soon, The Duke

                                         Who doesn't love a good celebratory video!

THEY WON!!!  They won, they won, they won. Did I mention that they won? Were you there? Oh I hope that you were because Saturday night is the sort of night that you remember; not just for a day, or a week, or a year, but forever. Am I overstating things? No, I don't think so - Saturday was a special night at BMO and if you were there you know exactly what I mean. You're still smiling aren't you? Still filled with that sense that hey, maybe the tide is finally turning for Canadian soccer? Yeah, me too. 

Was it the perfect game? No. Was it pretty damn close? Yes, yes it was. They played a great first half - the only thing that marred it were some missed scoring opportunities. But our men (still sounds weird, still going with it) had full control of the game, highlighted by some outstanding defensive work led by Kevin McKenna and a monster game by Atiba Hutchinson and JDG in the midfield.  And then that goal!!  The one that some of us missed so quickly and cleverly did they take it.  The one that we were sure was going to be called back at any moment? That was fantastic. So great to see such intelligent play from our team - this is how you win games. And you know what? That was one of the best games I've see the Canadian team play. They were organized, quick, passed the ball, talked to one another and well, they were better; plain and simple. The best game of football I've seen at BMO in six years. Really, I mean that. This is the turning point 

Don't let the empty seats fool you - this was a good 1/2 hour before kickoff - the stands were packed by 8pm.  

But the best thing? The very best thing about Saturday? Being in the stands surrounded by hyper, excited friends, supporters and fans was like nothing else I've ever experienced at BMO.  While we all lamented every time the Canadian forwards seemed afraid to shoot the ball (Shoooot!!!) and groaned in unison when McKenna's header went the wrong way off the post; we were all together - one voice, one purpose, one group of supporters for one team.  If you were there you know what I mean.  I've never had that much fun, been that stressed or felt that part of something at any sporting event I've been to in my life.  17K + (almost 18K) rowdy fans and the vast majority cheering for Canada - while not the sellout that some were hoping for it was a giant leap in the right direction.  To not be outnumbered by Panamanian supporters - Who to their credit were a lot of fun, they brought it but only added to the great atmosphere. Other away teams could learn from them - to have the stands full of flags and fans chanting "Ca-Na-Da" non-stop? Huge for the game here; huge. An truly unforgettable 90 minutes. 

Spirited support for Panama - boy were they loud! - But we were louder.  :)
Since Friday I've talked to so many people who casually went to the game or were taken by friends and family - every single one has bought tickets for the October 12th match against Cuba. This is where the tide turns folks - if you've been dithering for some reason about supporting your national teams, it's time to come out to a game, or go to a viewing party and join us as we agonize and cheer for our team. It's wonderful; really. If you love the beautiful game then this is what you need to watch.  In fact tonight you have another chance to join in on the agony and ecstasy of watching Canada play.  While not a home game tonight's game against Panama is one of the most widely broadcasted games ever.  Not only is Sportsnet showing it (most people get Sportsnet) but you can watch it on CityTV!  Seriously - no excuses - get thee to the TV or pub or friends house and get set to watch this game! Why? Because it's a HUGE game. So big in fact that the Panamanian supporters spent the last two nights having a street party outside the hotel where the Canadian team is staying. That's called respect folks; it they weren't worried they wouldn't bother.  Also exciting about this game is that the Estadio Rommel Fernandez is from all accounts a beautiful facility with a fantastic pitch.  None of that crab grass & gopher holes that they played on in Cuba. So once again (even being without Olivier Occean and Will Johnson) our team stands a very good chance of not just walking away with a point; but all three. Believe me when I tell you this is not a game you want to miss. It will make that game you're coming to in October (because you are coming, right?) all the more special. 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Time For Some Meaningful Football

Mood: Stressed, Excited, Anxious - all in equal parts
State of Mind: They're going to win. Right? Right?? (oh please let them win)
Location: Soon to be in a sea of Red at BMO
Weather: The Towrads are awake - looks like thunderstorms/rain - whee!

Today the most important football game you will see so far this year (because you ARE going, right? RIGHT??) will be played at BMO Field. Forget that other team in red that so many of us follow and come out to support your Men's National Team in their quest to go to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. This is one of the most nerve wracking things that a fan of the national team can experience - watching in stressed agony, hoping that this time they'll see it through.

As nervous, stressed, anxious and excited as I am, I feel good about this game. The team has performed well so far during this round of qualifiers (hey, 4 points is performing well!); the same core is together; they've been in Toronto together for several days getting acclimated and most importantly many of the team have been in fantastic form plying their trade for their clubs in various parts of the world.

But regardless of all of that what more do you need to know other than that you get to join thousands upon thousands of your fellow fans and cheer on our team - because no matter who you cheer for on any other day - this is OUR team like no other team can be.  Moments like this do not come around all the time - don't pass up on the chance to be a part of what has been a very special year for Canadian soccer. Oh, did I forget to mention that almost every member of the Bronze medal winning Canadian Women's National Team will be at the game? They're going to be (deservedly) honoured before the match - don't you want to be there to celebrate their accomplishments? Of course you do. Can't you feel the excitement, the buzz, the tide turning in Canada's favour? I can; it's palpable. 

Yes they're playing against Panama, the group leader (won against both Honduras away and home to Cuba); possibly the most difficult team in Canada's group and according to coach Stephen Hart the best team in the group. They feature a great deal of speed up front, are unbeaten in this round of WCQ matches and well damn it they're a good team! Tonight's game isn't a slam dunk, hell it's not even a walk in the park; but the points are there for the taking and our men (hmm, that sounds a little odd but I'm going to go with it) are more than capable of taking all three.  

And at the risk of repeating myself - this is the most important game they'll play this year (so far), the most meaningful game of football that you can watch!!  There is nothing to compare to watching your country's team play; it is truly a special experience to be surrounded by your fellow fans as you all focus on willing your team to win. I can't describe it other than it is the best, most exciting, most enthralling experience you can have as a fan of the beautiful game. And no, I don't think I'm overstating it - days like this are special!!  So if you haven't already bought a ticket please get online or get to BMO and get yourself down to the stadium tonight - believe me, you don't want to miss this!


World Class Links: Here are some actual previews for tonight - Waking The Red (Duncan, James), Red Nation Online and Squizz at CSN.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Mood: Can't we all just get along?
State of Mind: Time for a vacation; for everyone
Location: Somewhat subdued supporter couch

                                  Newest BMO Field chant - SKA! SKA! SKA! *clap clap clap*  

September started out with a bang for TFC eh? As in *bang!*, shot to the heart (Bon Jovi earworms for everyone!) for many supporters and fans at around oh the 87th minute of the match in Kansas - I wonder if we can blame Dorothy or some other shoe stealer for our woes against the Wiz? No? Hmm, worth a shot - we've used every other excuse...

As I worked through the long weekend I haven't really had a chance to voice my thoughts on the state of things both on and off the pitch over the past few days. And with no games to discuss for our Reds in the next while due to the International break we've got to find something to talk about...

The Good: It can't all be bad; really.

  1. Our fragile, broken, tired Reds hung with one of the best teams (if not the best) for most of the game on Saturday. Considering my lowered expectations for any TFC match right now I was surprised that it took 87 minutes for the axe to fall. Was actually thinking they might escape with a point - see, I still have hope!
  2. No further injuries to the already sparse team occurred.
  3. Darren O'Dea may just be the real deal back there. I like him more and more each game - especially his highly vocal command of the back line.  Really, this could be the beginning of the pieces for our defense.
  4. RJ's goal. This was actually a pretty nice goal off a lovely ball from Ecks (another huge game from him). Well taken, no hesitation, just great.
  5. Wiedeman - Yes, I realize my putting him in the good list is a shock considering my issues with his play since the very beginning. But the best 'first touch in the modern era' actually looked good out there. Again showing a ton of energy and making some really nice runs. I still have my doubts - could be a one game wonder. But for now? Welcome to the Good list Andy.
  6. Vacation! Hey, this has to be on the good list.  Those TFC players that haven't been called away for international duty are getting some rest and relaxation time. Here's hoping they return refreshed, rested and focused a week from now.

The Bad: Even when playing out the string there must be drama - it's the TFC way!

  1. The inevitable loss in the dying minutes of a match. While not surprising (sadly), this just furthers to break the spirit of every fan and supporter. Not to mention the players.
  2. Torsten Frings' status - After being thrown under the bus by Mariner after the Santos game he was suddenly listed as injured on the MLS injury report. Is it his hip? Or has he been laid low with Dichioitis? Mariner was to have addressed this before the match but instead did a sideline interview during the game and barely explained what the issue was other than yes, he'd injured his hip and hey may not play for the rest of the season - I think that is something we the fans would have preferred to know before the game, don't you think?
  3. Freddy Hall in net. This is not calling into question his play (although that tying goal? Ugh.) This is about the freezing out of Milos in net. There are lots of rumblings about a contract dispute and that he's been nailed to the bench for asking for more money. And with Frei coming back to the No. 1 spot next season it looks as though Hall is being groomed for the second spot if not already a lock. This is another frustrating end to a player's time with TFC. Whether Kocic is asking for this, it's maddening as a supporter to see what has been the No. 1 keeper since Frei went down be treated as though he's not needed. And maybe come training camp he won't be; but this does nothing but leave a bad taste.
  4. Subs. While this could go on the Ugly list I'll leave it up here on the Bad list - once again Mariner chose to well not use his bench; at all. As in not one. Boggles the mind just a bit right? When you have a tired squad one would think that the injection of fresh legs could help turn the tide in your favour.  I've been vocal in my calls for Avi to see more time and today in an interview with Kurt Larson Mariner states that he hasn't shown the proper attitude in training and in games. Fair enough, if that's true then why keep naming him to the subs bench? Bring up one of the Academy kids and give him an opportunity to play. Putting Avi on the subs bench only to leave him there to prove a point serves no one.
The Ugly: And with a thud we come crashing back down.

  1. Anselmi is named President and COO of MLSE. Actually this almost went on the Good list. Teflon Tom was never (never, ever, ever) going to be fired. This falls under Ugly because it underscores that our team isn't a CLUB that has a focused owner or vision (I realize this comes as a shock to no one); it's a tiny, insignificant part of a business that TT has managed to squeeze a great deal of money from for his MLSE overlords. Great deal of money = promotions! Simple as that. As many of us loathe this man, this is a bitter pill to swallow; especially after his interview on TSNRadio (not to mention his smarminess during the Winter is gone, Mariner is king presser back in June) in which he - in true Teflon Tom fashion - tries to distance himself from TFC as much as possible and is already laying everything on PM (feel that Paul, that bus heading for you now?). A more frustrating caretaker (and I use that word loosely) for our Reds would be difficult to find. On the Good note - this hopefully will keep him far, far away from TFC going forward. Oh and you MUST check out this hilarious (yet scarily accurate) faux interview with the Teflon Tom himself by Michael Gardner over at Waking The Red.
  2. Frings is done for the season. Word came today Torsten Frings will have arthroscopic surgery on his hip thus ending his season and likely his time with TFC.  This causes me more anger and sadness than just about anything else. A legend in the world of football chooses to come here to finish his career and this is how it ends?  Frings has had to deal with several injuries, coaching changes, dwindling fan support, and an embarrassing marketing ploy by TFC in which hundreds of commuters basically ignored him over the course of this season.  And now this; a likely career ending injury (because even after surgery and rehab the chances of him coming back are pretty much nil). Depressing to say the least.  
One final thing - this could go on the Ugly list but I chose to just address it separately - what I am on about you ask? Supporter and fan sniping.  Look, I know that this has been a long, frustrating, depressing and difficult season. And I know that we all have very strong opinions and feelings about the team we love, the players, the coaches, the management; hell sometimes the colour of the kits - but when did we all stop talking to one another like we were all part of the same community? Because that's what we're supposed to be; a community united by our love of football and our team. Instead of coming together as a community to try to make things better, it's become all about who is a "real" supporter, what's the right way to support and it's open season on anyone that has dissenting or negative opinion - regardless of what side of the divide you fall on. I'm not talking about the supporter group forums (that's a whole other kettle of fish), but our favourite method of voicing our opinions; Twitter and blog comment fields. 

I disagree with a lot of people (a lot it would seem); and I know there are plenty that don't share my views, but this constant immediate attack on anyone that doesn't share your views on the coach, the players, etc. is getting wearing. I enjoy a spirited discussion as much as the next person and dissecting my team with other fans is something I enjoy. Or at least I did. But it's become less like a discussion and more like a defend yourself or capitulate until you agree sort of shouting match. Some criticism is warranted or we're watching different teams. On the same note being all negative doesn't help either.  However, for the most part (other than this blog) I stay out of 'public' discussions most days and instead use messaging or texting for one on one venting - Because more often than not, that's what it is, venting. Watching TFC is a highly emotional experience, venting is required. - or post on game threads where opinions seem to be respected. Otherwise I spend my time getting more frustrated than when I watched or attended a game - instead of commiserating we're hating - enough!  Feel free to disagree, voice your opinions and support in whatever way suits you; but remember that we're all part of the same community; that we all want to see our team do well and that (to be completely hokey) we're all in this together.  So, see you next week?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hey, There Are Still Games To Play!

Mood: Curiously calm
State of Mind: A lot can happen in 10 games
Location: Not at the Air Show

                         TFC - all of their games are without frontiers - except the fear part

There is something to be said for playing out the string. The only pressure on TFC players for the next 8 weeks is to try to ensure that they have a spot on the squad next season. And you know what? That can make for some highly energetic, driven and yes, entertaining football. There are only eight games in MLS play and two away games in CCL play left for our Reds - not a great deal of time for some - but really, that's almost two months of games to be played and hey, a lot can happen in those two months. Things like a scrappy, upstart little team from Canada coming together in triumph to win back the hearts and minds of their fans....sorry, drifted off into 'feel-good movie' mode there. But umm, they could play some good games - really, it could happen! Wait! Where are you going? I'm not delusional, really...hello?

Tonight our Reds take on that baby blue team the Kansas City Wizards, Sporting KC in an epic battle between first and worst. Yes, I said epic and I meant it!  SKC always seem to be that team that brings out the worst in TFC, not just this season but from the very beginning. Maybe it's the pajama like kits that SKC sport? Some sort of subliminal message that puts our Reds to sleep? Yeah, that's the reason we can never beat them (grasping at straws). And of course let's not forget its compliment of players we love to hate (Jacob "I've blocked half of TFC's fans on twitter" Peterson and that Bunbury fellow) - both of whom are not playing tonight - happy dance! But that doesn't suddenly mean this game is a walk in the park and that our Reds can stroll into Livestrong (or Performance Enhancement Park as some of my rather witty blogging brethren call it) and steal three points.  I will consider it a massive victory if they can eke out a draw.

As has often been the case this season TFC are coming off a run of several games (three in the last week) and SKC is well rested and have the added advantage of playing at home. And while The Wiz are missing Peterson, Bunbury and backline anchor Aurelien Collin (for yellow card accumulation) our Reds still need to find a way to stop Kei Kamara. If only to prevent more (even if all too true) comments about how TFC resembles a lower division English side what with the long balls and kicking it out all the time...but other than that, he's just plain dangerous up front and has an alarming (seriously, every bloody game?) tendency to score against the Reds. Notice that I didn't even mention Zusi or Sapong or Espinoza...OK, I'll stop - starting to depress myself again and I'm trying the "all is well regardless of outcome" method of coping with the game today.

But wouldn't it be great if they won tonight? Just for shiggles? Even though there is little (OK, very little) to no chance of that happening; it'd be an awful lot of fun. We could celebrate like we won something - parade time! *Crickets* No to the parade then? Hmm...OK, after we win two in a row we'll talk. Hopefully we'll all get to watch something good tonight (Psst, the new Doctor Who is on!) and not have to have epic meltdowns on Twitter...what, just me again? OK, hopefully I don't have another epic meltdown on Twitter - so uh, see you all later?


Laborious Links: The usual suspects with actual analysis and stuff - The Yorkies, Waking The Red (Duncan, John & James) and Red Nation Online.