Archive for September, 2010
Sunday, September 26th, 2010
The MLS playoff chase for Toronto FC is now all but officially over. The Red’s loss to San Jose Saturday, coupled with Seattle’s 1-0 win at Chicago, has put the last playoff spot in MLS out of reach.
Toronto has 12 points remaining on the table with seven points between them and Colorado, who have a game in hand as I write this blog. The rapids quite honestly are a better team than Toronto FC right now, and should have little problem keeping a gap between they and The Red’s.
So what has happened in Toronto. A lengthy home winning streak at one point this season, a nice little unbeaten run in MLS play. Then the crash. As far as I can see it, the fact remains, there was an unsettling energy lurking around Toronto FC. The fact a designated player was signed for a role on a team that is clear in MLS a designated player should not signed to undertake. (although DeGuzman did play some quality balls into the area Saturday). Reports of promises not kept to certain players by now former management have always been lurking beneath the surface with Toronto FC. One can’t help but think Dwayne De Rosario’s “sign me” gesture after his goal pretty much confirmed what he is wanting from TFC. A DP contract.
There are players on this Toronto FC roster that are quite obviously either not interested enough to play at their best game in and game out, or they are simply outclassed in almost every game they are used. The lack of marking by TFC on San Jose’s goals was embarrassing. It’s often easy to forgive a team for not making it to a playoff tournament if it’s clear everything was done by management and the players to make sure the team had a chance. You ask anybody who is an impartial observer of this franchise and former General Manager Mo Johnston seems to have been given far too long of a leash by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. There is no way this franchise can recover (with respect to an MLS playoff chase this season) in such a short period of time, with the personnel they have on the field. Somehow the team is still very much in the hunt when it comes to Champions League play. Go figure. So called better competition, and TFC have a better chance at advancing in Champions League play then they do of making it as high as the eighth seed in MLS.
I have been around championship teams. I have felt the energy and the confidence and the attitude that is needed within a group of players for any team to win a title. That energy has actually showed itself at times around some of the players and at least one coach with Toronto FC this season. But then that energy is wiped out when the teams caption makes a selfish gesture like DeRosario did Saturday. I side with DeRosario when it comes to feeling disrespected by management. But there is a time and a place to make those statements. In-front of paying customers who are watching the team they pour their hearts and wallet’s out to, is not in my opinion the time or place.
The one player who has emerged as a leader in my eyes this season, despite injury is Chad Barrett. Last years goat for Toronto FC when it came to missing scoring chances, turned his season around with excellent play and five goals before he was shut down with a second hamstring injury on the season. His absence was felt on the pitch. Barrett’s tireless work to get back to playing form was evident at every practice. Since Chad’s return to the line up, his quality has just lept off the page when it comes to his ability to set up players with touch passes into the area, along with his new found confidence at putting the ball into the back of the net.
I will save player by player easements from where I have sat all season until the last game of the year is done in DC in October. This club is not a wreck, it has some good pieces in place to move forward with. But championships are not won with a few good pieces.
For now it’s onto Champions League play. Head coach Nick Dasovic will be a guest on the FAN590′s Andrew Krystal Morning Show Monday at 8:20. Andrew and I will talk with Nick about where he goes from here with his roster and who sees more playing time as the season winds down.
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
The fact is, Toronto FC need some help to make the playoffs. So far, every team that Toronto needs to drop points are winning games. These teams like KC and Seattle and San Jose aren’t just earning one point on a nightly basis, these clubs are winning! They are coming from 3-1 down to win in the 6th minute of extra time as KC did last night home to Houston. They are beating first place Columbus at Crew Stadium 4-0 as Seattle did last week.
You see Toronto FC may be in a spot that despite their best effort, they can’t get out of. This Saturdays home game vs. San Jose is it. Toronto FC need the three points if they want a shot at the Earthquakes, who sit five points up with two games in hand on Toronto. The Red’s also need Chicago to beat Seattle. The Sounders are also five up on Toronto and the two teams meet in Seattle October second.
Chicago is right on Toronto’s heels as they play Seattle then Chicago. Toronto needs Chicago to win both of those games, and to stay clear of the Fire themselves The Reds need three points from EVERY game they play from here on in. Less will not be good enough. Simple as that.
Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Oh what a night. Mid September back in 2010. What a free kick what a night. Toronto FC’s best player was the best player this night and TFC stays alive, five points back of Seattle for the final playoff seed in the MLS.
The 2-1 win over Houston was Toronto’s second road win of the season. Last year Toronto won twice on the road in MLS play, at KC and San Jose. This year San Jose and Houston. For The Reds to make the playoffs they will have to allow me to write they also recorded wins in 2010 in Seattle, LA and Washington.
That is the reality even in light of Saturday night’s character win. The game was a tale of two halves. Toronto was not good in the first half and fell behind 1-0. Give aways in the midfield by players who are paid far too much money to play as they did. The second half, after a holler and character call out from the coach, was a different story, and in more ways than one.
Perhaps when TFC coach Nick Dasovic called upon his players to never give up and show the organization, the people of Toronto that they were not going down without a true fight from each and every man on the field, he may have also called out the soccer spirits. Over the last six weeks the soccer spirits have not been kind to Toronto. In fact they have been down right nasty and cruel. But on this Saturday night, TFC got a couple breaks in the midst of seemingly being shafted again with multiple yellow cards to just one for Houston.
The late free kick call against the home team at the edge of their box is not something Toronto players, fans, are accustomed to. So as De Rosario stepped up to a seemingly hesitant in-direct touch pass from Lacbrocca, I had little thought the ball would find the back of the net. I just did not think this team would shake what they could not control, bad luck. But they did.
After I screamed my lungs out on the winner at FAN590.com, I stood in almost disbelief. “they did it, they found a way”.
What’s next? No time to rest is what is next. TFC will fly to Mexico City for a Champions League game mid-week then fly home to host San Jose Saturday. Nick Dasovic’s first head coaching home game in MLS. The teams first league game back from (for now), their most important league game of this season.
Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Did Preki really leave the building? The same team that has been making the same mistakes or has had the same short comings showed up at Rio Tinto Stadium Wednesday night. The 4-1 loss was made of tough luck, missed chances, and brutal selfish fouls.
O’Brien White has to start finishing one out of four chances to score in a game. Sorry to sound harsh but this is the next level. Nick Garcia has to stop trying to do too much. Mista has to stop taking selfish fouls that hurt his team because he felt he was wronged minutes earlier. Martin Saric needs to think before he lunges. Julian DeGuzman has to start imposing some kind of will on this team. Be it vocal or through his play. That’s what a 1.7-million dollar per year player HAS to do.
All of the above are good players and can help this team when they play football the way I have seen each of them play from time to time. The lack of consistency in Toronto’s game is killing the clubs confidence. Nobody has said it to me, but it has to be disheartening.
The play on the back line during set pieces against was not good. Players standing still, rasiing thier hands as if they were playing sunday recreation league football.
As coach Dasovic told me after the game. “there’s a lot of work to be done at training”
Next test, In Houston Saturday night on the FAN590.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
There needed to be change within the club operations offices of Toronto FC. It was so obvious for those of us close enough but still on the outside looking in without TFC colored glasses ( I try my best not to wear them despite my close proximity to the players and staff, who are all good people).
I had a conversation with coach Preki at the airport in Chicago last week. Preki got up and asked me how I was doing. Preki always did that and was very accommodating when it came time for me to ask questions about how he planned to approach a game. I certainly did not always agree with Preki’s line up decisions, but I did always side with him on how the game should be played. Preki wanted the game to move forward, he wanted effort and he wanted skilled players to be able to rely upon. The conversation Preki and I had will stay between us so as to keep my trust, which I value within the ranks of Toronto FC and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. An off the record conversation stays that way. But let me suggest Preki had majors worries about the future of this franchise the way it was being run up until Monday morning when both he and MO were relieved of their duties. As I suggested in my last posting, it seemed that Preki looked and felt defeated in some way. Not by the players lack of success, but other forces that were swirling, or not swirling around him. We can all pick apart peoples weaknesses, that’s too easy and weak character for any of us. But to see someones strengths in character shows character in ourselves that we even look for it. Preki was a fighter, a man who hated to lose, felt horrible to sit and watch game after game seemingly, MLS referees give his guys the raw end of the stick with non calls etc. Preki also loves this game. He enjoyed working with the players. At practice Preki would break the coach/player barrier at times and join in on the drills. This shocked me at first because I am used to seeing head coaches stand off to one side and direct the drills, not get involved with a ball at his feet. When Preki did so, he did with a big smile on his face.
A couple team sources also told me there was not one conversation between coach and General Manager in Chicago about the teams play, future direction or plans. Mo Johnston joined the team in Chicago a couple days before the game against the Fire. If this is true, that Johnston and Preki were not meeting to talk about the teams present state or where they go from here, I think we found one catalyst for the change that was finally made.
How will Johnston’s days be remembered at TFC? Good question. Already stories not so flattering to Mo’s so called resume are circulating. It’s as if writers have been sitting on this until Monday happened. I honestly feel that nobody wanted to see soccer fail yet again in Toronto, and wanted to stay out of the way of the rumoured ongoing soap opera at the top and let MLSE find its own way through it, and onto the next phase in this teams history.
Now the search for a new manager is underway, and maybe even a new MLS experienced head coach. You won’t find anyone cheering harder for Nick Dasovic to be that coach when next season starts. MLSE has thrown Nick into the fire here and he is taking one for the team if it does not work out over the next six league games. I had dinner with Nick and some other staff members in Salt Lake City Monday night. I congratulated Nick, and you could tell his head was still spinning. A source< not the current coach, tells me Nick and Preki got into a good spat recently, which may have led to Nick not being on the last trip to Dallas and then Chicago at a very important time of year. Players were not informed as to what was going on with Nick and this led to some uneasiness within the ranks. Preki is to take the blame here for not being upfront with his players if this is true as I trust it is based on my conversations. When I asked on the bus in Texas “where is Nick” I was told he was on a scouting mission. I am a fan of scouts and scouting and appreciate the need, but the timing was odd. The eyebrow did go up and to the right.
Nick has six league games to pull a pretty tricky rabbit out of the hat and get this team into the MLS Cup tournament in the season TFC hosts the championship game in November. Toronto headed into Saturdays game in Houston is six points back of Seattle for the final playoff spot, both teams having played 24 games and have a head to head meeting on the west coast coming up.
The mood around the team was a good one yesterday en route to Utah. I know the mood amongst the fans has been most jubilant. Now we will see if that energy tranforms itself into the legs and minds of the players who will have to look themselves in the mirror at the end of this season and say "did I do every single thing I could to get this team, this franchise, this city into the playoffs for the first time?"
I will have the call of the Champions League game tonight live from Utah at 10 eastern, or following Blue Jays baseball. The FAN590 is the radio voice of Toronto FC and I will be at every MLS game down the stretch to call Toronto’s late season efforts to get into the dance.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
The last place team in Major League Soccer came into mighty BMO field and showed the fans in attendance and the team in red across from them, what it means to be united no matter what the circumstances.
The 1-0 win by DC United all but sealed Toronto’s playoff fate once again. On a grey and dreary day in Toronto, there seemed even before this game, to be a cloud hovering over the MLSE franchise. There was no bounce in the step of this organization when there needed to be one. I can’t put my finger on what was missing but IT was, and it cost them a result.
My fear is that another coach may bite the dust at the end of this season, and the merry-go-round that is TFC’s saga continues. This organizations lack of ability to keep a coach is going unchallenged by the media to this point. Every coach who has been in Toronto, including Preki, can be questioned for line up choices, formations etc. But it appears from the outside looking in that no coach has been able to make the moves he feels necessary with complete backing from management or ownership. That backing being more than a “win now or you are out” philosophy. How else do you explain the in and out of what could be four coaches in four years? Is that the kind of stability MLSE has in mind for this team? If so, do they think other quality players around MLS will want to come near this situation? More teams are coming, more places for players to choose to play. Toronto is running out of time to boast about a new state of the art stadium with die hard fans. Yes the fan core is there, but MLSE is now in serious danger of losing its other fans, the other season ticket holders who do not occupy the south end seats, if they don’t show some stability with who runs this team. I watched as disgisted fans left BMO field after United scored the games lone goal with still ten minutes to go in the game! Afterwords I walked with strangers towards the GO train, and they talked of writing letters to MLSE, their disgust was very vocal. These were not your beer drinking, agressive and loyal south enders. These were your mom and pop fans, wearing their TFC colors proud.
Tom Anselmi has to be sitting back in his MLSE office and wondering what is going wrong again. Has he not seen this play before? Where does he look for the answer if the team does not make the playoffs?
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
By Dan Dunleavy
Ok Gino Vanelli, hit it! “This is it, make no mistake…”
Ok, the rest of the song might not fit Toronto FC’s situation tonight here in Chicago, but it’s close.
The Fire are breathing down the neck of Toronto in the standings at just two points back. TFC are still the ninth seed in the eight team playoff chase, but Toronto has dropped five points back of the final spot.
TFC can talk about nine points being available at home still and having two games against basement dwellers in DC United, but the fact is that those nine points now would not be enough to get in the tournament.
So points are needed on the road. That means goals are needed on the road and mistake free defending is needed as well. Oh yes Stefan Frei, keep it up too!
Good news for Toronto with De Rosario, de Guzman and Attakora back. All three have to have an impact on this game tonight. They simply have to!
Mista needs to be his clever cheeky self. Santos needs to fire a cracker and test the Fires back line. Make them come to him and open lanes for De Rosario to run into.
TFC must play as a team. Not as individuals. If they each bring what they are capable of, Toronto can stay in the hunt for the playoffs after tonight. If they play as individuals, “turn out the lights the party’s over”.
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
A good day of work out in by Toronto FC today in Chicago. Practice had a good pace to it. Maicon Santos was very much part of the group and looks fit and ready to return from his ligament worries. Chad Barrett still is not there yet. Chad worked out on his own as he nurses his hamstring back.
I spoke with Nana Attakora. He tells the FAN590, he took himself out of the Canada vs Peru game by informing the coach right before game time, he was not feeling right. Attakora says he is fine and ready to play Wednesday here in Chicago.
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
In this place known as the “windy city” Toronto FC hope for winds of change in their road game as of Wednesday night. It continues to be a broken record with this team on the road.
After the loss to Dallas on the weekend, Nick Garcia told the FAN590, he made a mistake and it cost the team a goal at the start of the second half. Now the goal was not all Nick’s fault, but his jumping way out of position at the start of the second half, did open up a lane for the run down the wing that eventually sent in the cross to Jeff Cunningham, who scored the games only goal. Another stand up thing for Nick to do after the game in admitting he made a mistake. But this group of players can not afford these mistakes if they want a shot at the playoff tournament.
The bus ride in from O’Hare on Sunday was interesting. My law of traveling with a team is “what happens on the bus, stays on the bus.” It will remain that way. So just trust me when I tell you, there was a certain attitude, feeling, camaraderie on that ride I had not seen nor felt in my two years with Toronto FC. Maybe, just maybe this is the lead up to the game that starts Toronto’s own wind of change on the road.
Dwayne DeRosario, Julian DeGuzman and Nana Attakora are all with the team and will train today here in Chicago. FAN590 will be there. I will talk with DeRosario about playing for Canada on the weekend in the friendly against Peru at BMO field. His team missed him Saturday and needed him. The way FC Dallas played that night, I say if Toronto had their trio of starters in the line up, Toronto FC would definitely have earned a point on the night.
Don’t be surprised if Maicon santos plays Wednesday against The Fire. Don’t expect Chad Barrett to play, but I am told Chad is getting closer to coming back from his hamstring worries. Barrett is built like a sprinter, hence the longer it is taking his muscles to heal themselves. For now it’s treatment every day on the road while the team works out. We will see what happens this morning here at training.