Friday, May 19, 2017

Road strength NYRB 1 TFC 1

The Granite and Redbrick FC (just me, trying to spruce up the Grey and the Red)  continued to look a rising force in New Jersey tonight. A point on the road is often the target for a game such as this and the cagey veterans of TFC fandom tuned in hoping for just that.

The Red Bull Arena has rarely been a place for TFC to flourish. TFC with an all time great winning streak has one looking for a bubble burster of a game. NYRB have a great home record and they were stung

Without Seba Giovinco and Nick Hagglund due to injuries and Drew Moor playing 60 minutes in his comeback from injury game, TFC managed to raise our expectations all night long.

- came back from being one goal down at the half  with Cheyrou's goal
- had a penalty called in their favour at NYRB Arena (too bad Jozy hit a soft riser too close to the        keeper and had it saved).
- had a near winner as Tosaint Ricketts put one off the crossbar
- and had Ricketts put one in the net only to have it called back on a offside / interfering with play call on Raheem Edwards.

Rare in TFC history to have a draw in NYRB territory feel so much like two points squandered rather than the tie point gained.
The TFC record now stands at 7 wins 1 loss and 5 ties, still #1 in the East although Orlando is only 6 points back with two less games played.

Next game is a Canadian Championship game in Ottawa against the Fury. You can expect to see plenty of regulars rested and Hamilton, Chapman and Osorio be amongst those to give TFC a Canadian shape.
Then next Friday it is a home game versus the Columbus Crew with the Trillium Cup on the line. I like our chances...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ragged power TFC 3 Minnesota 2

A fully entertaining afternoon down by the lake today. Toronto FC looked confident and cohesive in the early part of the game, ragged for a few scattered patches in the second half and then back to full power mode to finish Minnesota off in the end . When Giovinco scored the first goal it was possible to dream of a runaway "run up the score" victory. Clearly that did not happen, just not sure if it was a matter of Minnesota making a game of it or TFC too often letting them back up when they seemed down at last.

I give credit to Minnesota for a few things. They have improved defensively somewhat from their woeful start to the season. They have some quality players and gave a solid effort. They also have the vaguest name lettering I have ever seen (or actually not seen) on a MLS shirt. Soft grey letters on a white background. As a western conference team we would not see them in Toronto again in 2017 (unless TFC hosted them in the Cup). Just be warned and make sure you buy a program when they play in your town.

TFC rode their offensive side to victory. The effort from Jozy Altidore to keep possession down the left and send in the perfect cross for Tosaint Ricketts to head the winning goal from was superb. TFC clearly sacrificed their defensive side in resting Beitashour and Morrow. Those two sitting out might explain how Minnesota were able to twice crawl back into the game. Hopefully a healthy Drew Moor is close to returning, not every opponent will yield three goals in a game no matter how sparkling the TFC attack is right now.

So it was possible to walk away from the stadium in an upbeat mood. Surprising when you consider that Giovinco and Hagglund left the game due to injuries (and is it possible Alex Bono ended the game injured too?). TFC have never, ever won 6 in a row before.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Woke up just in time Crew 1 TFC 2

Now, that was a scintillating finish. A reward for all those who avoided nodding off when Toronto looked hapless in the second half. Yes, they looked confused and aimless. I also felt that the announcing team of Wileman and Caldwell were throwing in the towel way too early. There were 30 minutes left to play at one point and you felt the audio portion of your broadcast was wrapping up the game as a foregone conclusion.
Just my pet peeve in play by play talk, please describe the action as best you can, try to take me into the moment, into the atmosphere (and therefore spend the money to send announcers to the park, not this from the studio miles away crap). DON'T give me the implications of the action (scoring here will give Jozy Altidore seven goals for the season and he will be tied for the league lead was the jist of Luke Wileman's commentary at that point - he had me yelling at the tv screen before Altidore even made contact). To those who missed the game on television, Altidore's penalty kick was stopped by Crew keeper Steffen. At that point the Columbus Crew were ahead 1-0 as Federico Higuain had scored from the penalty spot (Panenka style) earlier when Zavaletta had fouled a Crew player in the box.

The midfield was not working. It was the return of Vazquez who missed the Seattle trip, a reward start for Jay Chapman, who looked excellent in Seattle, a start for Osorio with Morrow and Beitashour back to their usual wingback spots
It was a victory that Coach Greg Vanney can take a lot of the credit for, but it was not a night that I spent singing his praises. He gets slammed for tinkering too much with his lineup here. He has a deep squad and with the Canadian games coming up (opponent confirmed as the Ottawa Fury) you can see he wants to spread playing time around. Yet at the same time he is not making the best moves in terms of players who know each other and play well together. Jay Chapman did not look as good against Columbus as he did on the weekend, but playing him with Victor Vazquez was a huge factor. Is it not possible that Chapman was playing the Vazquez role in his absence against the Sounders?

In the end Vanney more than dug the team out of the hole he might have created. Mavinga was playing well, but he was subbed still in the first half. Morrow could drop back into Mavinga's spot at left back and Tosaint Ricketts came in the game to add fire power. Although Ricketts was on the field for all those meandering minutes, he scored the two goals and saved the night. Vanney's second half changes, Cheyrou and Edwards in, Osorio and Chapman out, were superb. Putting in Cheyrou was solid, it is not just what Benoit Cheyrou does but also the way that his presence on the field frees up Michael Bradley to get forward. Raheem Edwards brought speed and daring and excellent crosses. He and Vazquez had the assists in both goals. Vazquez finding Edwards on the right wing, who then chipped it into the path of Rickett's head for the first Toronto goal. I have gone on and on about the quality of Victor Vazquez and now heap on praise to Raheem Edwards. The quality of that chip/cross on the first goal is not often seen in TFC land. Then the toe tip of Vazquez on the cross from Edwards later on the left was the gift that Ricketts put the finish too.

Almost forgot to mention 5 straight victories, a TFC record. I must admit that has me worried about the Saturday home game. Playing expansion team Minnesota here in Toronto just might have TFC taking it all for granted. Stay hungry and stay tuned.

They have me peeking at Supporter's Shield TFC#1

Saturday, May 6, 2017

1st in the East and memories of December Seattle 0 TFC 1

Frei robbed Jozy Altidore again (but Jozy had already scored the game winner from the penalty spot minutes earlier).
In today's game Seattle Sounders managed to take some shots on net (the stats say only two on target). 
It was a rematch of last year's MLS Cup Final and you felt that TFC had more to prove, having come so spectacularly short last December. 
The new names as starters might have given you a different impression at game start. Giovinco, Beitashour, Vazquez and Zavaletta had all been left in Toronto. The new faces were Hernandez and Mavinga joining Hagglund in the back line. Benoit Cheyrou and Jay Chapman joining Delgado, Bradley, Edwards and Morrow in the midfield. Clint Irwin was back in net and Altidore the lone forward.
It started rough. Seattle put the ball into the net early, but it was called back on the offside call.
TFC bounced back quickly and looking back at the game, the 1-0 final score flatters Seattle. Jozy should have had another or two, Morrow found himself just short of goal too.
To echo Mr. Caldwell on the tv broadcast, it was a team effort. It gives a fan real confidence to watch them win on the road with so many depth players.

TFC are right now first in the East with a record of 5 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties for a total of 19 points. Orlando is only a point behind and two less games played (they play tonight), so they can leap ahead. New York Red Bulls can tie TFC in points should they win tonight.

Onto Columbus Wednesday night.
Devoted Toronto fans make the trip to Seattle

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Varied, but valued victory TFC 2 Orlando City 1

TFC had a sparkling first half against Orlando City last night. They continued the excellent passing and movement that had dominated Houston just days ago. Vazquez was distributing the ball beautifully. Delgado, Edwards, Beitashour on the wings were taking defenders on and making things happen. Giovinco and Altidore were getting the ball in good attacking spaces. Seba Giovinco scored both goals and it was possible to dream of a goal fest.
Then the tide turned.
I have a lot of respect for Orlando, they have built a solid team. You have to respect a team that gets a  very late first half goal from their superstar, Kaka, and then gets stronger in the midfield when they replace him for the second half. Toronto seemed to shrink a little as Orlando played a more muscular style of play and their midfield dominated. When TFC dominate ball possession they have the players to dazzle with. When the opponent takes over the ball, TFC seems smaller, weaker. Dare I say it, they lack a Will Johnson. Subbing Osorio in for Vazquez improved the defending in the midfield, somewhat. Cooper for Edwards was for defending purposes too, one supposes. TFC preserved the lead and grabbed the victory, so they withstood the onslaught. It was always in doubt though and that diving slap save from Alex Bono in net, as the ball looked a sure goal for Orlando, was the most memorable moment from Toronto in that half.
If the night was one part exciting passing and motion and one part experimental rugby, I must give some credit for the grappling rugby portion to ref Baldomero "baffling decisions" Toledo. Jozy Altidore in particular was impeded, grabbed and muscled and somehow Toledo found a way to make calls against him. I am all for ref respect, but I wish I could find a way to have Mr. Toledo impeded as he does his job the way he allows TFC forwards to be impeded. Perhaps a drone buzzing his butt while he makes his mysterious calls.
pre-game Coach Conway warming up game saver Alex Bono

A fan blogger salute to Coach Greg Vanney who coached his 100th TFC game last night, the club record (which might say more about the club than Mr. Vanney, but I quibble). I feel like an old-timer to recall the start of his era, in on the heels of the firing of previous coach Ryan Nelsen (who has gone onto?) back in September 2014. Who thought then Coach Vanney would last this long? Or qualify for playoffs in his first full season? Or take TFC to the MLS Cup final in his second full season?
It is time to clear away those old clouds of doubt and salute the accomplishment. Greg Vanney, longest serving and most successful TFC coach. Long may he reign win.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Efficient with dashes of dazzle TFC 2 Houston 0

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Toronto FC looked strong in victory last night. It was a mixture of elements at play throughout the evening as they handled the Houston Dynamo. TFC did not pursue a goal fest, although they always looked capable of adding to their total, at the expense of protecting their end of the field. After allowing a late goal against Chicago a week ago, you got the sense that shutting down the Houston scorers was a priority all game long. I think that you have to give credit to Coaches Vanney and Fraser for the continued growth in TFC defending quality. The ability to play with three in the back is due to the progress that Hagglund and Zavaletta exhibit in both defending and ball control out of the back. My hunch is that if a team has one young defender rise in ability it could be talent despite neglectful coaching. Two young defenders on the rise and the coaching gets credit. It was so encouraging, on so many levels, to hear that Drew Moor is on his way back to playing in the short term. Only one goal against in two games however is a strong indication that TFC has a deeper squad than we have ever seen.
The midfield was just as strong. It was a pleasure watching the distribution of Victor Vazquez. He is worth the price of admission. He is neither swift nor flashy. You watch him slide into passing angles so that Michael Bradley and the three defenders can easily find him for their outlet passes. Then he is a master at knowing where everyone on the pitch is and could be. Sudden passes launch attacks or he quickly finds space. I was sad to see him come off the field (though another game looms midweek and rest for veteran legs and playing time for Osorio was wise). After last night I could give the inside track to midfield playing time to Marky Delgado. He had a strong game, seems to fill the spaces defensively that Vazquez can't get to and was positive in the attack. Bradley played a strong game, I think having Vazquez around take pressure of off Captain MB. Raheem Edwards was superb. Beitashour too.
Altidore and Giovinco seemed to be a true partnership. The second Altidore goal was due to a pure unselfish moment from Giovinco.
Alex Bono fully deserved his shutout. Made some timely saves, particulary in the second half when defending legs were weariest.

All in all, a good night down by the lake. You never forgot it was April, but mild weather all night and no wind to speak of. Toronto provided effort, style and ball control on every part of the pitch.
The next game is against Orlando.
Stay tuned.
TFC attack finding wide open spaces

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Our home opener TFC 3 Fire 1

We spent our winter south of the border and returned to Ontario for the Easter weekend. So this was our first BMO Field game attended for the year. Keen readers of the blog will know it was not our first TFC game attended as we trekked up to Sandy, Utah to see the season opener versus Real Salt Lake the first week in March.
Snap out of memory lane one must. But first a complaint and a cheerful thought. Ontario this is not spring weather. We know it is coming, we experienced it already in climes such as California, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana. Yes, our route homeward involved going eastward for days to avoid going north for as long as possible. Thanks April in Ontario for reminding this potential perpetual snowbird to plan future returns for May.

It was terrific to see the familiar faces in mighty section 220. Through email, all knew we had been away for months and months, so it was great to be welcomed back. It's a funny contrast that those around me are mostly tech free, while I remain Mr. Social Media (at least through this blog and Facebook, my twitter and instagram could use some boosting). So when I take on the role of fan spokesperson, I do so in a bit of a vacuum. However most are shaking their heads at the pain of Friday night games. My combo of retired and driving in from Guelph means little difference weekday or weekend. Most fans don't have our luxury of choosing an early afternoon travel time. Friday pm rush hour is chaos in this city. Getting from work to game is a pain. I understand that US television contracts means that Friday night games will be a reality. Bradley and Altidore getting to the MLS Cup means that TFC has ratings potential south of the border. It remains a pain.

I admit I was worried about the rising fortunes of Chicago. After the poor game in Columbus last weekend I was fearing the Schweinstieger the same way the Raptors "Fear the Deer". My concern after the Crew was that the stumbling would continue. This April/May TFC homestand needs to be the winning streak or else. Fair to say that Schweinsteiger provided more stumbles than fear striking. It will be interesting to see how dedicated Mr. Schweinsteiger is to conditioning. He looked a little rough in the first half and was less effective in the second. Will he wilt in the long hot Midwest summer or prove a steiger of schweins? I am looking into travelling to Illinois in August to see the rematch game
When that early Chicago Fire goal was called back on an offside call, it just might have been the required jolt to the collective system. From then on Toronto started playing with greater cohesion, notably with their passing throughout the midfield. The midfield was setup with Bradley at the back with Vazquez and Delgado central, Beitashour down the right and Raheem Edwards down the left. I felt that Edwards played a strong two-way game. You can be taken with his dazzle on the ball, but he does the unsung work of getting back and finding his man on the defending end too.
My faith restored in TFC, time for some random observations...
Giovinco went from the sacred (scoring that screamer of a free kick) to the profane (kicking a pylon, storming off to the dressing room at being subbed late in the game) in record time. At what point does admiration for his passion give way to concern for team dynamics? Does Seba really think that he is the one in "All for One"? 

My fandom for Benoit Cheyrou was severely tested last night. He was the late sub for Gio and his only contribution of note was to give the ball away and allow Accam of Chicago to score their consolation goal. I suppose that balances out in the admiration scale, David Accam is the Fire player that always scares me. He is also on my top players Toronto should trade for list...