Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Monday, September 12th, 2011
The future is now for Toronto FC, the future is also months from now. The past is what it is, behind them. With the rebuild settled down somewhat, at least for now, Toronto FC is still searching for, but genuinely closer to a new identity.
The 4-2 win in Columbus Saturday night to win the Trillium Cup, gave this version of The Reds it’s second trophy of the season. Toronto had never beaten Columbus (first in the east) until this past Saturday. Toronto had never fielded a team that had this much depth, or leadership in my opinion. Good leaders have come and gone from within the walls of BMO fields dressing rooms, but a great leader? Torsten Frings is setting the bar where is needs to be set for TFC going forward.
I spoke with Julian deGuzman on our Sportsnet Radio FAN590 pregame show in Columbus Saturday about Torsten Frings impact on his own game. Julian admitted Frings presence and leadership has taken some of the DP, well lets be honest, a lot of the DP load from the Canadians shoulders.As a result, Julain is playing his best soccer since he joined Toronto FC. deGuzman scored his second goal of the MLS season, with an “I won’t be denied a shot on goal effort”.Julian followed up his goal with a lovely pass up the pitch to Danny Koevermans, who rounded Williams Hesmer, who came well out of his 18 yard area to challenge for the ball.
There was a time when TFC fans were saying they had seen enough of Julian deGuzman, and they would not have shed a tear if he was not a Red much longer. The way Julian is playing right now since Torsten arrived to take the holding midfield role over, it might be a good idea to find a way to keep the Canadian around to be part of the future, which is seemingly well beyond what has been an interesting past to say the least.
Sunday, August 28th, 2011
Ok the Full Monty relates to leaving yourself exposed, thanks to pop movie culture. But for Toronto FC, without playing the full 90-minutes again, they left themselves “Full Monty’d” if you will. Exposed at a worst possible moment.
As was the case in a 1-0 Champions League loss to FC Dallas earlier in the week, or rather, just hours prior to hosting San Jose Saturday night, an unmarked man off of a throw in, a common set piece of all things, right in front of the goal, buried TFC’s hopes of a celebratory post game quote.
Saturday TFC had done very well at defending Chris Wondolowski of the Earthquakes. Sure Toronto’s general sporting landscape is saying “Chris who?” Well this MLS goal scoring king of a season ago is a dangerous and clever player. Tireless in how he works for a look at goal. This season Chris has nine goals, after he scored 18 last season to win the MLS “Golden Boot” Wondolowski’s decrease in goals scored is not for his lack of effort and determination. Ask anyone who has worked with Chris, coached or coaches Chris, and they will speak of what a great student of the game he is and how determined he is to be better.
It was the current US National Team call ups determination Saturday at BMO field that should have taught TFC’s youngsters how you play the game. Dialed in for the full ride. People can slag MLS all they want for it not being EPL or Serie “A” etc etc. But if you take a moment off during a game at this professional level, you will be schooled.
Wondolowski found himself facing an open net in the 87th minute with not one red shirt in his way. An easy tip in and a 1-1 final is salvaged by a team that is now winless in 13. In another Wondo-moment after he scored to tie the game, Morgan was on the right side of the ball and denied number 8 a chance at stunning the BMO faithful anymore than he already had.
Any sporting event, like all walks of life is made up of moments. Toronto FC had some good moments vs. San Jose. Eric Avila’s first goal in a Reds uniform for instance. A quality strike to the far post in the 32nd minute to give Toronto a lead. MIlos Kocic again with big saves to preserve the lead. Torsten Fring’s is simply quality like Toronto soccer fans have not seen in a long time if at all. Certainly not in a TFC uniform. For all the hard knocks he has taken and deserved at times, Andy Iro played a better game for Toronto as well. Ty Harden was solid in the back as well as Richard Eckersley. The latter has become a big fan favorite for how he plays the game with a fearless energy.
All of those moments are worth building on for TFC. What has to happen next is the equivalent of what The Blue Jays are trying to work out with their bull pen. Find a way to be sharp for the entire game, and seal the deal. Oh what a difference that could make when it comes to booking playoff flights in MLS.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Toronto FC may have come up short in Chicago. The 2-o loss to the woeful Fire ended TFC’s six game point run. But what I witnessed after the game was as much a sign of victory for this team as three points would have been in the long run.
For a number of years I rode the bus and flew and stayed in the same hotels as the only consistent champion this city has known for years, The Toronto Rock. No matter the sport, or the league, pro or semi pro, however you care to label it, there is a constant amongst winners. Attitude.
Since I have been traveling with Toronto FC, I have been watching for those same characteristics I witnessed from The Rock, to surface with TFC.
Despite the fact The Lacrosse players spend far less time together during an NLL season than professional soccer players do, I always marveled at how much chatter about a win or a loss there was post game amongst the players.
Post game with The Rock we would all go for a pop and inevitably, each group of players I would encounter, would still be talking about the game. What happened, why it happened, how to be better next game. The markings of a champion. I Always enjoyed my post game chatter with the likes of Head Coach Les Bartley, Jim Veltman, Pat Coyle and Glenn Clark. These men were always students, humbled by the game despite their success.
The odd game on the road I would walk into a hotel room and there were Paul and Gary Gait, lacrosse legends, talking with those names I just mentioned about the game they just played against once another.
Flash ahead to post game in Chicago. The banter about what happened in the 2-0 loss to the Fire was immediate. For my ears, this was a first. The culture with this Toronto FC group is headed in the direction Head Coach Aaron Winter, Associate Bob de Klerk and Player Development Director Paul Mariner all want.
There are no guarantees this group of players will be champions for Toronto FC. However, what i witnessed this past weekend in Chicago showed signs of hope that the culture around the team is pointed in the right direction. Players are talking amongst themselves, veterans of the game talking with teammates and sharing their past experiences in similar game situations.
It’s a work in progress still for Toronto FC. But it does appear that finally the foundation and vision for this franchise is stronger than it’s ever been. Some players may not like the way things are being handled, and that will always be the case with any team. Those players, like many before them, if they don’t buy into the plan, will be not long for TFC.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
The city of Toronto is a buzz with Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays. Toronto has been a buzz for the likes of Jose Bautista, and hopes are high for Travis Snider.
Nazim Kadri’s future was very much a topic of discussion for Toronto hockey fans last season, and once camp opens soon, his name will be front and center again as a former first round draft pick.
There is an athlete, five foot three, and 19 years of age, who is having an impact on a Toronto sports team and the I believe a lot of people in and around the city of Toronto who are missing out on a special player, a special energy and a special young man. His name is Joao Plata. An Ecuadorian who Toronto FC drafted after making a draft day deal with Chicago.
I have said it over and over again on Sportsnet Radio’s play by play of Toronto FC and on GOL TV and Sportsnet’s Champions League calls, Plata is the second coming of Pinball Clemons for Toronto Sports. Yes stature has a lot to do with the comparison. Both smaller than most they line up against on game day. Both with an engine that just not have have a slow gear. Like Clemons before him, Joao has the ability to leave his mark on a game through sheer determination as well as skill.
All three goals so far for Plata have come at BMO field. After the goal there is the dance. You can see the pure joy in Plata’s face when he scores and goal and then swiveles his hips for the home crowd. Joao is a player and an entertainer. Just what Toronto’s sports scene needs right now, while wins and playoffs are at a premium.
Plata’s impact on Toronto will only be heightened when the young man from Ecuador learns to speak better English, and he is working on it with help from teammates like Julian de Guzman.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has a gem on it’s hands when it comes to a marketable young star. Plata will not likely lead Major League Soccer in any offencive categories. I would argue he does not have to. All Plata has to do in order to continue to have an impact both on his team and the city, is keep working as hard as he has been, and stay teachable and humble. There is every reason to believe this very likable young man will follow that path.
Thursday, August 4th, 2011
There is a new attitude in and out of the dressing room with Toronto FC.
The overhaul of the team is far from over, but early indications are that all the right moves are being made.
As a GM and coach, you can only hope the players you acquire live up to expectations on the pitch. The destiny of a player ultimately lies in their own hands, or feet in this case.
The air around the club is different. While ownership is still saddled with the question “why is Philadelphia going to the playoffs in year two, while TFC continues to falter?”, the players now wearing red and white are distant from any such criticism.
The calm and fire in the room burns from Torsten Frings. The German national team star has led the way on and off the field with his dedication to being the best footballer he can for TFC. Players around Torsten are taking notice of how he conducts himself in and out of the locker room.
Team meals that were once made up of separate private groups gathered with their own little discussions and thoughts have reportedly morphed into a united gathering of players hungry to prove their coaching staff right that a 4-3-3 can work and that they the players can execute, despite being mocked by announcers calling the MLS ALL star game recently.
Champions League play victories and a come from behind tie in Portland where The LA galaxy were just shut out 3-0 by The Timbers, are short term proof that The Reds are going to be ok when it comes to their MLS future. There is a plan in place and with players better suited to execute that plan, fans are starting to see some positive signs.
There are still leaks in the teams defensive play that would scare a plumber off a contract, but one must remember this is a work in progress for the team that has three wins in MLS this season.
Soccer culture and attitude were the first priorities for Aaron Winter and Bob de Klerk. To judge these two men, along with Paul Mariner on the job done to date, how can it be labeled anything less than a success?
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.