Archive for March, 2011
Monday, March 28th, 2011
The Reds faithful followers were dancing in the stands and the pubs in Liberty Village were packed post game this past weekend. A 2-0 win in Toronto FC’s home opener over MLS’s other expansion team this season, The Portland Timbers.
The brightest light in the home opening win was Javier Martina. The young product of the Ajax youth system scored both goals, with the second being MLS goal of the week material, thanks in large part to a very aware goalie in Stefan Frei. In the 70th minute, seeing both Dwayne DeRosario and Martina were one one one as he ran the ball to the top of his 18 yard box, Frei looked as if he was going to take aim at his captain and give him a run with a long ball. But at the last moment of his delivery, Frei opted for the speedy Martina, who took the long ball on a hop and with the outside of his foot struck a volley off the far post and in for a 2-0 lead. Martina’s first goal in the 14th minute was made from little things gone right with a nice feed from Maicon Santos and DeRosario inside the 18 and a low strike to the far post. Text book stuff.
Far from textbook though were a number of “little things” than can turn into big problems for Toronto FC if they don’t get it right when they play more schooled MLS sides with one each vs newcomers Vancouver and Portland already cashed in.
Defence was better with Adrian Cann back in the middle where he belongs. Cann was more comfortable and as I said on the Sportsnet radio broadcast at FAN590.com, “he is a machine in the middle, a ball hawk”. Play on the outside left from newcomer Mikael Yurassowsky was alright. Nice speed down the wing, overlapping runs with Dwayne DeRosario who was playing wide left in the midfield. The two of them got their wires crossed a couple times but it is early.
I spoke with Dan Gargan after the game. Some good tackles for the Philadelphia native as always. Dan is hard to work again in the corners when he gets the help any defender should have in support. I told Dan I was hard on him during the broadcast for some errand passes . In Dan’s case it was simply trying to make too much out of nothing and those passes up the line or through a crowded midfield turned into turnovers. Dan told me afterwords he deserved the descriptive as he knew he did not have his best game despite the shut out win. Those errand passes are not just the fault of the right back all the time. Those passes or turnovers happen when a player panics, tried to make something out of nothing as I said. The latter happens when players around you without the ball are far too pedestrian when it comes to showing for the ball or running into open areas to receive a pass. (same thing lol).
All in all, you could find fault in any game. But going forward the win Saturday was a good thing for Toronto FC on so many levels. Coaches need wins like these to keep players believing in what is often called a new system. Players need that win to know what it feels like to accomplish positive things as a group of players who are still getting to know one another and who welcome new faces on almost a weekly basis at this point in the season. Fans needed to see it to “believe”. It was a perfect storm for TFC to lose in Vancouver in the season opener, and it was another perfect storm for TFC to win their home opener Saturday.
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
There was a new face in the Toronto FC house Monday. Former LA Galaxy, Chivas and Portland Timbers forward Alan Gordon made his first appearance at a Toronto practice session. In the cool, windy conditions at Cherry beach, the Long Beach california native took part in drills and worked on some core fitness, fresh off a flight earlier in the day from the west coast. Gordon would have loved to have been with his teammate’s in Vancouver for the opener, but a passport mishap, or misplacement got in the way of those plans.
Toronto FC worked more on possession play from the back line at practice Monday. The teams obvious weakness in a season opening loss in Vancouver. To these eyes TFC is not far off being a much tougher team to play against than what we have seen over the last two seasons.
Toronto coach Aaron Winter is hammering home possession, possession and passion. The latter should come from within each and every player without being urged on by a coach. There were moments of frustration made very clear during Mondays practice. Passes too far ahead or even worse, behind fellow back line players working the ball up from the keeper. The latter is what will kill TFC is they don’t correct it before they breeze through the first ten games of the season.
In my opinion, Toronto FC would be better served playing Adrian Cann in the middle and not as an outside back working up the line. Cann is a ball hawk, a hunter. Sure he will, like any player misread a ball or two. But Adrian’s strength is winning balls in the air and filling space in the middle with that big frame of his. Running and chasing down the line is not where I would think he would be at HIS best.
The position of outside defenders has been somewhat of a mystery, or revolving door for TFC over the last couple years. In my mind, if you seek stability in any one area of your team, it is likely on the back line. Players need to rely on one another, communication so vital to their success as a group. When to push, when to cover for a teammate etc etc. This group needs to settle quickly on who it See’s as its back line, and practice them, pair them, room them together until they know each other inside and out.
Midfielders need to react and show for the ball quicker then was the case Saturday in Vancouver. There were too many moments again where defenders with the ball jogged up the pitch with their hands out to their sides as if to say “where are you guys?, I have the ball and i would like to give it to someone”
Santos and DeRosario will score. If Maicon stays in the middle and just shields the ball, turns and has a few cracks, he will score his share of goals with that thunderous left foot. These two started to feel a little chemistry together last season before Maicon was injured. I think that chemistry is not far off already, and that’s a good sign at the start of a long season that will surely have plenty of highs and lows.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
I know the so called experts have picked Toronto FC to finish among the basement dwellers. I was there and watched Toronto FC look terrible defensively in their season opening loss in Vancouver. I come home and now read that ticket sales have stalled for The Reds season opener?
When Toronto FC came into being I, a huge fan of “the game” was among those who said “show me”. I needed to be won over as far as believing MLS soccer would work in this city. I was very skeptical. Good news is, fans in this city proved my speculation to be wrong, and I was never happier to be so wrong in thinking this city would not be a long term home to an MLS franchise.
Now only five seasons in, there are signs that scare me into thinking, “wait a minute, was it all a mirage?”. Did Toronto do what Toronto does, aside from Leaf games. That is, come out to where it’s thought to be cool. Jays games were once cool to attend. Last season The Blue jays drew a game day franchise low one afternoon. With this franchise barely born, are fans already staying away from the game?
Last season I would look across from our broadcast booth and see plenty of empty, “but sold” seats. It worried me then and it worries me now to think Toronto is already in bandwagon mode with Toronto FC.
The supporters will be back and thankfully. They are the backbone of this franchise and they are needed now more than ever. In a couple of ways. The first, strong and classy leadership as they represent this city in their own way. I know for a fact some parents are keeping their kids away from TFC and MLS games because of the foul language contained in the supporters chants and songs en-route to stadiums and while within the home of Toronto’s soccer team. Secondly, keep doing what other teams fans in Toronto seem to be able to do. BE LOUD! The great thing about The TFC supporters is their passion for their team and the city. The Red patch Boys are good at making the opposition uncomfortable playing at BMO field.
Now more than ever Toronto FC need the RPB and other supporters groups to take a stand and remain loyal and hungry for the game. There could be more rough waters ahead for this team under a new head coach yet again. But the one thing players can rely on is the fact the soccer fans in Toronto are among the most passionate in the league. It’s easy to cheer and be loud when your team is winning. It can be a challenge to have that same passion and drive when your team is going through tough times.
One game does make a season. The loss in Vancouver should have hurt the pride of every single player in that TFC room. If it did not, they should be ushered out now. We will find out if the players are driven to succeed when they host expansion Portland Timbers Saturday. There is no excuse for a loss to the other newest team in MLS. None at all. (with respect to the Timbers players, coaches and organization).
Vancouver fans did not know what to expect on day one and they were loud in their march and louder at the stadium. Toronto FC players need the same passion to return to BMO this weekend.
Toronto sports fans have stayed with their beloved Leafs for how long between titles? Raptor fans are starting to fade away from TV camera shots more and more, and Blue Jays fans are seemingly just waiting for a reason to fall in love with their team again. I think TFC deserve more than five years before people start mailing in their support.
Sunday, March 20th, 2011
The day set up against Toronto FC from the get go. This was a no win situation. Beat a Whitecaps team that is new into MLS and you are supposed to beat them. Lose to the new team on the block and you should be concerned about where your team is at coming out of spring training.
The fans were rabid and hungry for this win in Vancouver, and that energy clearly filtered down onto the pitch and into the legs of the Vancouver players for a 4-2 win.
Toronto got goals from players who have to score. DeRosario and Santos. The latter with a bullet of a shot that you wait and hope for every Toronto FC game if you support The Reds.
But sloppy defencive play, a less than stellar effort on a day when Toronto should have been as jacked up as the home team knowing what BMO field has been like in the part for visiting teams.
The new system of ball control first worked to a point. But there were too many instances when players on the back line did not fullfill their roles when certain shifts were necessary.
After the game a lot of talk centred around effort and looking yourself in the mirror. I hate to say this but this is the same tune sung by the same core of players last season.
A week for the staff and players to make adjustments to their game before hosting expansion Portland Saturday.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Sorry for the lack of writing. I was in Vegas for a week (first timer), and have been lucky to be busy with Sportsnet radio The FAN590 and Sportsnet TV’s CHL hockey play by play of late.
I am usually the guy who will say “there is nothing wrong at all with hope” In anything. What is wrong with “maybe”, or “chance”? If you choose to erase these words from your sporting or day to day vocabulary, I feel sorry for you. Life is all about the unknown, unexpected, chance, hope and maybe. Life is also about reality, truth and perspective. Maybe I should throw “balance” into that mix.
When it comes to a new season for Toronto FC I am not sure what to think yet. A player who is not happy with his money hints he won’t play a regular season game without a new deal. DeRosario does not yet have the new deal, is still captain and is still scoring.
Adrian Cann leaves the team in camp, unhappy as well with regards to his contract. Cann returns, bows his head with coach Aaron Winter standing alongside his best defender, and says “sorry” for his “mistake”.
The Reds have a coach, new manager of player personnel and more importantly a new system of playing in MLS. There is no denying the soccer tactic’s Aaron Winter and his staff are putting in place make sense. The question remains as to whether or not this group of players will be able to execute the system in a matter that sees them score. More importantly, See’s someone other than DeRosario score goals.
Toronto FC needed better possession play through the midfield. No secret there. But even with that improved, this team needs to find another goal scorer. Bottom line. The aim of the game is to score, and it can’t be on one guy.
I am also worried for the fan base. If Toronto FC does not compete for a playoff spot this season, and i mean right down to the very last game of the season, it is a fair question to ask, “will they (fans) keep coming back?”
We do know Toronto has a stud in goal in Stefan Frei. If he is called upon to win every game they manage to win because there is only one player scoring goals, he will wear down, despite his youth. Not physically, but emotionally. That is not to questions Stefan’s mental make up. It’s just humane nature. This goalie who has gotten better every year, needs to see better play in-front of him now. It will help keep Frei in the game and in the mix as long as possible.
With regards to the new radio deal with Sportsnet radio The FAN590. I am very excited to be back with Toronto FC as the radio voice. I wish all the games could make it to the air waves but the way the Internet now serves you and I every day, web-casts are not a step down in any way. Crank up those computer speakers and if you are driving, turn on the blackberry or whatever you use and listen on-line while driving! I sat on a train in Buffalo with some Sabres fans who were listening to the call of a game on WGR550 on their Iphone. It is doable.
Now is it doable for the Reds to score enough to finally earn a playoff spot in 2011. Lets hope so.