Archive for July, 2011
Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Toronto FC are taking baby steps in the right direction towards being a competitive team now that Aaron Winter and Bob de Klerk are acquiring players they feel can execute the MLS maligned 4-3-3.
The Reds 2-2 come from behind tie in Portland was one of those steps. A character builder for a new look team that must feel like they are still in training camp as new faces walk into the mix each week.
The latest addition to the fold scored his first goal for Toronto. Down 2-0 in the second half, Peri Marosevic, a former first round pick of FC Dallas, took a strike on goal. in the 71st minute, caught a good deflection off a defenders foot and the ball found the back of the net, to get Toronto within one.
Down a goal, it was Frei time. Stefan came up with some massive saves to hold the teams chances for a point together. Then Joao Plata helped orchestrate the games tying goal from Danny Koevermans. A nice run across the top of the box from Plata, and his ability to turn the play back the other direction into Danny, who deflected a nice touch to the far post and behind Troy Perkins.
Torsten Frings played his midfield role for most of the night before being asked to drop back and play on the back line when Ty Hardens already injured ankle took another knock later in the second half. Frings calmness at the back helped settle TFC once they tied the game.
Plata ran a solid 90-minutes and hit the post in the opening half. Just after his post, TFC conceded the first goal on a Portland counter. I don’t now about you, but I had a feeling as I called the play on GOL TV Canada and Sportsnet Radio The FAN590. Sure enough, that gut feeling was correct.
The rebuild has been a season long process and I have mentioned this over and over. Its not about I told you so, its about the situation being what it is in Toronto.
There will always be the doubters with the 4-3-3 in MLS. Those who do doubt are not wrong in thinking this is a risky form of play right now. But if Winter and de Klerk continue to get what they need from ownership in the form of better training facilities (on the way), and scout staff, TFC will have it’s own identity, and one that just might surprise some people in a couple of years.
Two baby steps were taken over the past week. The next step is a big one. TFC can not let the Champions League slip away now. Its a big carrot for this group of players to hang their hat on as a club finding its way.
The game from Nicaragua against Real Esteli can be seen live on Sportsnet One, Tuesday night at 10 eastern with yours truly and Craig Forrest.
Friday, July 29th, 2011
The overhaul continues. From the start of the season, the regulars who remain, and with whom I formed a broadcaster to player relationship, is down to four players! The rest of the crew are younger faces I have not yet had much time with to get to know, or newcomers who are being flown in weekly now it seems.
Any cliques that were part of the former versions of TFC are definitely disappearing, and new trusts and friendships are being formed each day and on each trip.
While walking the downtown area of Portland I had my first chance to say hello to Peri Marosevic. The 22 year old former first round pick of FC Dallas who is now a member of Toronto FC.
Two of the three seasons Maresovic played at Michigan, Peri led the Wolverines in scoring, the pedigree TFC has been looking for in a young forward. Plenty of upside. It is now up to the player to put the work in and be as good as he allows himself to be.
Toronto said goodbye to a good man and a team player in Dan Gargan. The Philadelphia native is off to Chicago in a trade that brings 27 year old defender Dasan Robinson to the shores of Lake Ontario. Gragan will be missed for all the right reasons. Dan also moves on for the right reasons as his time in Toronto was up under the new coaching staff. Pro sports is not about being liked. Character does play a big role, and Gargan has plenty of that. The coaches with TFC now felt they could improve the teams defensive depth, and made the move.
Dasan is 5′ 11″, 160 pounds. In 2011 Dasan has started in just two matches for The Fire. So again TFC have a play who should be treating this opportunity like a second chance to stick with a team and make a name for himself in MLS.
Both of the newcomers are expected, but not yet confirmed to be part of Toronto’s plans for Saturday night in Portland.
The win over Real Estile on Wednesday night was a boost for this team of new faces to find their way together. Weakness remain, but one can not predict if the answer to Toronto’s defensive woes are in this camp of players, or if more changes will be necessary. Possession was great for TFC vs their Nicaraguan opponents, but the lack of goals continues to be another ill this years team just can’t quite shake.
To equate Real Estile to the Portland Timbers would be a huge mistake in my opinion by TFC. The Timbers will be much more aggressive on the ball and will attack with more regularity than did Estile.
The game is an 11pm eastern time start on Sportsnet Radio The FAN590, a simulcast feed from my call on GOL TV Canada with Lee Godfrey and Andi Petrillo.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Toronto FC’s overhaul has only just begun. Early indications are that The Reds will be ok going forward with short bursts of chances on offence. The question remains, does TFC have the right players to finish those chances when they matter most. Now I hear you already. Yes all chances matter, but in sports as is the case in any walk of life, timing is everything.
Toronto FC’s style of play in MLS (4-3-3), at this moment in my opinion, does not lend itself to prolonged stretches of possession, even thought that is one of the systems intentions. Toronto has seemingly found its way out of giving up an early goal. But what TFC has not yet corrected is the tendancy to give up goals in bunches.
TFC is showing sings of moving forward on the attack early in games. What is lacking to this point is a much needed finish to those chances. With numbers going forward early, TFC are getting their fare share of crosses into the box, but the ball is not finding the back of the net.
Coaches talk of timley saves being needed by a goalie in soccer or hockey. While this is a vaid statement, timely scoring is just as important if not more so. You assume in soccer you wont see many great looks on goal. So when you do, you best be sharp with your knee over the ball or the eyes open when you climb for the header at the far post.
The newcomers up front are still getting their feet wet with regards to learning how one another plays. As long as the run from the flanks continue and the crosses keep coming, I sense the target men will get better as the games add on.
Defencively Toronto is far too soft at the moment during the mid point in ball games. Teams are finding way too many gaps coming through what appears to be a gutted midfield as players push forward and can’t get back to fill the gaps left in their wake. Hence the importance of the early goals.
Thursday, July 21st, 2011
After a 2-0 loss in Houston, Toronto FC Head Coach Aaron Winter promised change. Winter told me he had seen enough of the group assembled quickly after he arrival in January of 2011, and was ready to start the overhaul. He was not kidding. If anything else, Aaron Winter is a man of his word, as is his Associate Coach Bob de Klerk. These two men, along with Director of Player Development, Paul Mariner, knew the changes were necessary, what they did not know was exactly when they would have to pull the trigger on the true rebuild this franchise has so desperately needed. That time is now.
Five new players made their debut in a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas at BMO field on Wednesday July 20th of 2011. Only one in my mind had a true impact on the game for Toronto. Designated player and German International Torsten Frings was a man who showed he wanted the ball, and wanted to have an impact on the game. In fairness to the other newcomers, one game is not a fair judging time frame for any man who takes the field with a new team. Let alone when you have four others on the field with you who are also making their club debut. Time must and will be given to these men to find their way.
Ryan Johnson needs to impact games as an attacking player. Johnson’s goal production has soured a little since his great season with San Jose in 2009. Danny Koevermans is a bit of an unknown to us here in Canada. That aside, the big target man must equal the chances produced by the outgoing Alan Gordon in my opinion, in order for TFC to consider these moves a step forward. Maicon Santos returned from injury and should have had the games tieing goal in the later minutes. The big Brazilian missed an open header wide after working his way onto the end of a Nick Soolsma cross at the edge of the six yard box.
Big sturdy defender Andy Iro looked to me to be out of sorts at times in his TFC debut, while in other moments he was smashing through the ball with strong header clearings off the back line. Iro will be a stable part of Toronto’s back line when all the starters are along side him. The minute you ask a defender to do more than he is capable of, he can look lost and confused. TerryDunfield did not play against Dallas and Toronto was without hard working defender Richard Eckersley due to yellow card accumulation. Both players will go a long way to steadying the back line along with Andy.
The new look Reds hit the road for KC and a Saturday night match that is surely to be played in more stifling heat. That game can be heard live on Sportsnet Radio The FAN590 at www.FAN590.com at 8:30 eastern.
Friday, July 15th, 2011
As I wrote in my previous post, TFC director and head coach Aaron Winter had seen enough after losses in NY and Houston and promised trades. Did he ever mean it!
Out are Alan Gordon, Nana Attakora and Jacob Peterson, in comes Ryan Johnson and an international spot TFC can use to sign the big defender they have been seeking.
Being the one man who travels all MLS games with this team, I have gotten to know a little about some of the players through various conversations in different settings. I have to say that two of the three on their way out I will miss and I think TFC will miss as well. Will they be missed for the means of winning a playoff spot?, only time will tell, and on the other hand we will never know.
Since his arrival in Toronto at the start of this season Alan Gordon was a polite, seemingly honest and up front, aloof kind of personality. The latter description referring his “Californian” styles. Gordon wanted to prove himself with TFC and did by having an impact on almost every game he played. If there is a weakness in Gordon’s game its his health. For whatever reason, Alan just has that Aura of being “breakable”.
Jacob Peterson and I would chat the odd time waiting at the airport. Our talks were rarely about TFC but moreso about life and his background. A sincere and polite young man who admitted he was frustrated with the way his time was going in Toronto. Jacob never blamed a coach or teammate for his up and down stay. Peterson put it on himself, and to bad luck with regards to injuries suffered this year in particular.
As far as Nana goes, I spoke with him a few times and he too was kind enough, but there was a distance to him at times and he seemed pre-occupied with whatever else was going on off the pitch. What Toronto FC needs now is a player who is focused on his job at practice and between the lines on game day. Yes all players have issues off the field with respect to contracts etc. But in my opinion there is a time and way of handling these things so it does not become something that ultimately hurts the team. I know for fact, if Nana was focused on football/soccer and left the rest alone for the right time, he would have been playing and would likely still be in Toronto.
Newly acquired Ryan Johnson from San Jose did have a good season in MLS in 2009. Since then, San Jose fans could not wait for the day the Quakes got rid of the Jamaican National. The Reds are hoping his addition along with that of Koevermans and Frings for their next game vs. Dallas, will provide as many scoring chances on a more frequent basis, as Alan Gordon could muster when he was fit.
Winter did not like the attitude and culture some of the players were/are putting out their so far this season. I don’t expect Aaron and Paul Mariner and Bob de Klerk are done making changes to this years side.
Monday, July 11th, 2011
We know Toronto FC is in the midst of a rebuild. Head coach Aaron Winter and his associate Bob de Klerk and MLSE management have held fast to their plan of 4-3-3 and finding the right players to play in that system. After the disaster that was NY and Houston, I would not be surprised if the coaches and managements patience with some players runs thin very soon.
It has become quite evident to my eyes that not only are some of these players perhaps overwhelmed with the task at hand, but quiet frankly it seems to me some just don’t have the desire to even try and make this plan of attack work. It’s not as if the players are being asked to do something so foreign that they are overwhelmed. Every system of sensible soccer/football play can work if players are committed. I don’t care what league we are talking about.
I have had conversations with both Aaron Winter and Bob de Klerk while on the road with this team and these two men are not lost. They are not asking the players to play above their heads, they are asking for a commitment. I know for a fact there at times has been a lack of commitment to be better by some of the players on this current roster. Ti’s not my job to name them and ti’s their job to prove all doubters and teammates wrong. That’s what being a professional athlete is all about. People will doubt you at some point. The best athletes use that as fuel to be better.
Should Toronto FC be better team at this point in the franchises existence? Yes. Is it right now, No. Many of us know the real reasons for that. Those reasons are in the past and it is time for this team to move past the drama and focus on football. I can tell you for certain that is what Aaron and Bob are trying to instill in this team.
Friday, July 8th, 2011
Just spoke with head coach Aaron Winter. Aaron tells me Julian De Guzman will not join the team Saturday in Houston. Also Maicon Santos will not join the team. Both players are injured.
Winter says he expects to start two players ready to come back again from injuries. Alan Gordon and Jacon Peterson.
Stefan Frei will start in goal for the 22nd straight game this season. Frie started all 28 MLS games last year. Winter did say he is thinking about getting back up Milos Kosic some games soon. I would suspect the Champions League qualifier.
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
The faces were different, not only the names have changed. The 5-0 loss in Jersey did not have the pouring rain and lightening backdrop of a couple years ago at old Giants Stadium, but the silence around the team after this loss was similar.
As I watched Toronto FC fall apart vs. The NY Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night, I felt less and less disgust and more pity on the lads who were trying their hardest against a squad that simply outclassed them in every way.
Toronto actually had four good chances to score. TFC did hit the post twice. It was a night that Toronto dearly missed the likes of Alan Gordon and leading goal scorer Maicon Santos’s touch. I felt all night The Red Bulls back line was looking vulnerable. Joao Plata made some nice runs and cuts to make defenders look silly at times. What was lacking was a finishing touch from both he and the likes of Nick Soolsma.
The rest of what was lacking was as evident as the huge summer red thing that started to show itself on the end of my nose this past week. Teams in MLS in my eyes are just eatong up Toronto when they play the 4-3-3 set up. The amount of running TFC players do early in a game when they do press the other teams back line, then mount an attack, then drop back to defend, seems to be taxing the lads later in games.
The 6-2 collapse vs. Philadelphia at BMO field, and this latest 5-0 embarrassment at the hands of the Red Bulls. Teams are salivating with the thought of Toronto coming to their stadiums now and the chance to rip apart this team. TFC have surrendered 8 goals on the road in their last two games.
Toronto is dearly missing the likes of Adrian Cann and last years version of Nana Attakora on the back line. Eckersley, Borman, Harden and Gargan were all full marks for effort Wednesday night. The group just plain ran out of gas in the end.
I give credit to NY for not running up the score more. Many times I will have words for clubs that run up a score, but NY played possession for most of the second half and just took what Toronto gave them.
Toronto is trying to hang onto “being in contention” for a playoff seed in the east until at least the middle of July when the transfer window opens and the teams new Designated players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans can join the line up. Add the return of Alan Gordon and hopefully a healthy Santos by then, and Toronto will have some much needed depth going forward through the midfield on attack.
Next stop Houston. Its over a 100 degrees in the Texas city this week. That should not worry TFC as the heat is clearly already on this group to turn it around after history repeated itself with a second 5-0 loss in Jersey. At least this loss came at a time of year when Toronto can still recover and maybe make the post season.