Sunday, October 16, 2016

Holding pattern - Montreal Impact 2 TFC 2

Nobody can accuse TFC of storming towards season's end and the playoffs. It feels more like meandering towards the playoffs.

TFC continues to lack firepower and inspiration, the same mushy playing style that they have been wading through since the last time they played Montreal. It was good to see Seba Giovinco play a game and look healthy, but he was not the magic elixir that may have been hoped for. Except for two surprising, scrambling in front of the net goals, TFC continues to create little in the way of shots and goals.
Sure, some good things happened. Altidore was back on track with a goal. Ricketts on as a late game sub and providing the game tying goal was fantastic. TFC has spent the year missing a spark from off of the bench. It was great to see that dimension added. 
But it is the same old story as every opponent knows to pack the back and force TFC to pass it around the outskirts.

So the playoff picture for TFC is either they will stay in third or find a way to grab second from NYCFC. Should Toronto defeat Chicago in the last game of the season next weekend AND Columbus draws or defeats NYCFC, TFC would do it. Somehow, I am not going to bet on that happening. Chicago is out of the playoffs, so meeting them for the final game is not ideal. They either fold and provide TFC with false hope or they play spoiler and frustrate TFC.
Now, could you excuse me, I need a nap.

Snooze, you lose (or rather draw against Montreal). Could have been worse.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pointless TFC 1 DC United 2

Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night
With a fear so real
You spend your life waiting
For a moment that just don't come
Well don't waste your time waiting

               - Bruce Springsteen  

Rarely, nay never, do I start my blog post with quotes from old Springsteen classics, but the phrase "spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come" seemed to sum up my feeling about TFC home games since losing to Montreal back during the CNE. They have been awful. They can show energy for stretches and hold onto the ball, but creating opportunities seems beyond them. Opposing teams seem to anticipate faster than TFC appear to know each other.

Two games left to play and the avalanche of offensive power and goals, goals, goals is just not going to happen now. If any MLS team is not drooling about meeting TFC in the playoffs, they have not been paying attention.
Tonight the starting midfield of Bradley, Osorio, Lovitz and Cooper represented a 2016 offensive output of 1 goal, 1 goal, 0 goals, 0 goals (a recent signing in Cooper). Defending against TFC means paying attention to Altidore. Shut him down or limit his goals to one and you have a chance with Toronto. Drew Moor and Justin Moor are more likely to score than anyone in the midfield.

I don't think that we are dealing with players who are squandering their talents, I see no reason to question the effort. TFC began the night with more energy than of late. It did not translate into the long awaited goal fest.

I blame the coaching. The midfielders all seem to lack any shooting abilities and awareness of each other. It takes guile, speed, skills and a fair bit of ego to get yourself and the ball into shooting opportunities.
Those qualities were once again absent or at least the ego is lacking.
Cooper had some moments of skill and surprise, although I am not sure of his position within the midfield. Did he have the green light to roam around?  I must once again propose Michael Bradley pair with Drew Moor in the back and put Cheyrou at the base of the midfield again.

Endoh started the year as a promising rookie. He seems to have regressed. Lovitz started well last nigh, got lost as the game wore on. Osorio missed getting his foot to a scoring opportunity early on. I want Osorio to succeed as much as the next fan, but something is missing.

It is hard to come out to the stadium and be so frustrated. It becomes difficult to imagine this team turning it around and reaching the playoff stage of the season with any zest, style, confidence or winning ways.
The return of Giovinco might be a magic bullet, but this is a team that has not won in Toronto since August 6th. Remember TFC began the season with an eight game road trip and finishing the year with plenty of home games was supposed to be an advantage.

Advantage officially squandered with a recent home stretch record now of two losses and three ties. 

p.s. I would establish a celebration rule for TFC players. You can go towards/into the south end and celebrate a goal IF it is in injury time and you have scored a goal that puts TFC ahead by two goals or more. To watch Jozy Altidore go into the crowd following his goal in the 35th minute and then have DC score within minutes was too much. Talk about counting your chickens before they have hatched. Talk about looking foolish. Talk about the cart before the horse. Talk about lack of pride and intensity.
Look away

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Muddled attack woes continue TFC 1 Philly Union 1

The frustration level rose steadily throughout Saturday's game. It might only be a just a little higher on a season long timeline, but blogging next morning I remain frustrated. TFC looked as flat as a pancake for the first half and once Philadelphia had a goal, it was TFC unable to be creative, unable to pass 
It's the attack (or lack thereof) that bugs me.  The goal against was a pain (and should have been a lesson for Toronto players who NEVER seem to find that sort of space or take advantage) but TFC bounced back from the three allowed versus New York Red Bulls. Defending seems to be under control.  October and November success needs more than reducing somebody else's opportunities.

The midfield starters were a puzzle. Fine players, each one of them. But when you start Osorio and Bradley in the middle and your wings are covered by Cheyrou and Johnson it is just a matter of time before they are all working in the middle of the pitch. Vanney has tried to hand the wing attack to Morrow and Beitashour...and Morrow did score the TFC goal. It still makes for a mess of a midfield.

As for that final seconds claim for a foul in the box against Jozy Altidore, I did not see the play clearly and I have not watched a replay. I think that the foundation reason for the heated confrontations with ref Ismail Elfath is based on the game in June in Orlando.  It was the last time he officiated a  Toronto FC game. He awarded a last second penalty, "The Beast" had fallen in the box and Kaka won the game on the ensuing penalty kick. TFC players did not think that Moor had fouled then and did feel that Altidore had been fouled.  The yellow card awarded to Altidore for arguing or swearing or abusing the ref is one he should accept proudly.

I am going to continue my campaign to play Michael Bradley as a central defender. Sure, He and Moor are a pairing that might lack in height and size. I think that the height and size argument is why TFC plays a rotation of Erik Zavaletta, Nick Hagglund and Josh Williams paired with Moor in the back) but we are encountering teams that bunker in their  Could Osorio play as a holding midfielder? Could Cheyrou? Could Will Johnson or Marky Deglado? Yes, to everyone of them. 

Now, clobber Orlando.

Jet flyovers seem to put TFC to sleep

Monday, September 19, 2016

Somebody's messing with my route to happy TFC 3 NYRB 3

I want to cheer, I want to feel that this team is building towards both top spot in the East and then playoff success. Instead of cheering, I am just turning down my grumbles to a low level.

I want to be happy with drawing at home against New York Red Bulls, but TFC still have gnawing areas of concern. Yesterday was a game where sloppy defending returned to combine with a muddled midfield. Jozy Altidore provided the skill (two goals) and the rest of the team gutted it out. Ok, the Bradley goal was a quality effort too.
You walked away from the stadium feeling turbulent. Reminded that neither Giovinco nor Ricketts were involved eased the worry. Nobody can accuse them of peaking too early. Osorio is still not taking shots. Delgado had a crummy game. Lovitz and Endoh came into the game as subs and they gave some wing quality to the TFC attack. The new player, Cooper, had a few moments.

Let me get back to the sloppy defending.

NYRB took advantage of a lucky break with their first goal, an own goal put in by Beitashour. I felt that TFC had the better of the early play and that
Then Erik Zavaletta stumbles and gives NYRB a second gift. I might as well throw it in, although the NYRB third goal was the result of some strong play from the guys in crayon yellow and blue, I still felt that Zavaletta lost himself on that goal too. A big step forward, pressuring the ball, would have put Bradley Wright-Phillips offside.

I have a proposal. Play Michael Bradley and Drew Moor as your central defender pairing. I am convinced that Benoit Cheyrou needs playing time. He may have lost a critical step in his defending, but his movement forward and his passing are excellent, maybe better than Bradley's. It is also sentimental of me, I am fairly sure that Cheyrou's contract expires as season end. He must be facing his final weeks in Toronto. Let him contribute. 
TFC get the week off and then face three home games in 8 days. Three victories, please.

September Sunset

Sunday, August 28, 2016

No idea as to why TFC have no ideas - TFC 0 Montreal 1

Is it a statistical blip? A trivia fact in the making? "Did you know that in TFC's Championship year of 2016 they never won a game with a man advantage?"

Or is this a darker omen? Could this be their Achilles heel? A window to a deeper problem, both on the strategic side (coaching) and the execution side (playing). A team that can't score when it truly needs to can have the greatest goals against statistic, but that won't get the job done.

For the third time this summer, TFC experienced having an opponent sent out of the game with a considerable amount of time to play. Every time they have had an advantage for the entire second half. If my memory serves me, Justin Morrow scored soon after the first sending off in San Jose. Since then TFC have gone a minimum of two hours and fifteen minutes (three 45 minute halves of football) of not scoring a goal despite having an advantage in players on the field. 

I think this was the first time it had happened in a home game. It was a thundering disappointment of a game.  TFC arrived after a very successful run of three road games, two victories and a tie. They went into the game as top team in the East (still there, but NYCFC could catch them with victory in their Sunday game). They had never lost to Montreal in a MLS game in Toronto until last night. The fans seemed poised to take TFC support to the next level. Instead, TFC came up with a clunker. Now 2016 has seen Toronto lose to both Montreal and Vancouver here at BMO Field. It is not a good trend that TFC falter in heated rivalry games.

When you lose a player against TFC, when you have to bunker down or "park the bus",  you know who provides the attack. Giovinco and Altidore. Scoring potential from the midfield? Bradley, Osorio and Cheyrou all share the season stat of ZERO goals scored. Johnson, Delgado and Endoh each have scored two goals this far into the season. So you smother their two forwards and dare them to come up with penetrating runs or dangerous crosses from out of the midfield.

Here is my idea, for what it's worth. The next time TFC face a team with a player sent off, go tough, go ugly. Shift Michael Bradley to forward and put on Nick Hagglund and play him as the other forward. Drop Jozy Altidore into the withdrawn striker role and put Giovinco out to the wing. Place the scoring emphasis entirely on midfielders. Stop this endless deference that is displayed by the likes of Endoh, Osorio and Delgado. If, with the ball at your feet, you present no scoring threat - then the other team will treat you as a perpetual passer. Passing last night got them nowhere. Montreal let them switch the point of attack as many times as TFC wanted. After all, it was not leading to much of an attack. I suspect that the hope that the recent signing of midfielder Armando Cooper would provide some attack in the middle of the field is in the category of wishful thinking without evidence at this stage.
Now TFC get a break in the schedule. No game on the Labour Day weekend. Away game to Chicago the following weekend and then September 18th return home to play NY Red Bulls.
September needs to be a "scoring goals" step up month for a host of TFC players. Or the promise of summer will be turning into a fall for TFC's autumn.
Nothing happening near the goal in this stage of warm-up, could also have been applied to the game...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Top of the East ... (Orlando City 1 Toronto FC 2)

and in contention for the Supporter's Shield (top team in MLS).

I spent most of the day (Thursday, day after the Orlando City game) staring at the standings.

I am usually a fan/blogger who believes that atmosphere and observation, tactics and history all combine to tell the story.

That statistics and number crunching is fine for OPTA and nerdy coaches, but the true lover of footy goes beyond the stats. Goes into the blue sky (as if a cloud) and dreams about the possibilities and surprises that the game provides.

But today those MLS standings have been singing a song.

Top of the East, 6 of 8 remaining games are played in Toronto. The only road games are Montreal and Chicago.

The early Ricketts goal was a lightning bolt, credit to both Giovinco for the throw-in and Ricketts for both speed and finish.

My concerns about TFC as a hardened road team, concerns fuelled by that July night loss in San Jose and the wonky tie in Houston in August, have been evaporated by the Philly and Orlando games.
TFC proved they can dampen down the opponent and Altidore provided the late goal that went missing in those men advantage games.

I look forward to the CNE game Saturday. Bring on Montreal and celebrate what a summer TFC have given us.

The best is yet to be.... (he said hopefully).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Building your better TFC - Philadelphia Union - 1 Toronto FC - 3

Philadelphia Union is an improved team this year and they have a good chance at being a playoff team.

Therefore I approached watching the game in Philly on tv with a touch of caution. It could be a true test against one of the better teams in the East. The inability to score a winner against Houston last weekend still haunted. 

Worry not.

Toronto looked strong at the defending end (exception- the set piece mess up early) and talented at the scoring end. The TFC goals were scored by Giovinco, Moor and Altidore in the first half. The second half had fewer scoring opportunities, but TFC never looked in trouble. 

Michael Bradley is returning to form. He set up Drew Moor's goal with a precise ball into the box. Will Johnson played for the first time since his June injury.

Hagglund, Ricketts and Chapman came on as subs. Getting playing time for the likes of these subs and others such as Endoh, Baboulli, Hamilton might be the only problem to the wave of players returning from injury.

Orlando City is a midweek road game ahead. till then.

Not from tonight's game, but great view of bridge - stadium alignment