TFC 2015

Home At Last


I had to ease into this season slowly. Previous encounters with TFC’s off-season hopes and promises have left me a bit shy of committing full blown enthusiasm to any campaign as it launches.

Once again, we started this season with a new(ish) coach, a renovated roster and a new strategic mandate. I knew we’d have to wait 8-10 games to see if this season’s TFC would come close to what was promised by the management. And here we are, approaching that milestone, and the Reds are not in the best nor worst of form. In fact, this really isn’t a bad place to be at this moment in the season.

Indeed, the start has me feeling optimistic. So far, through a long road opening, the Reds have shown lots of promise and managed to squeak three wins out of the first seven. Injuries and the newness of all involved together have definitely shown up the weaknesses, but there have also been lots of reasons to be confident that this year’s squad can compete.

The MLS has gotten consistently better across all teams year over year over year. That this is the best TFC team ever must also be put in the context of a much higher grade of competition than ever previously. It’s exciting as a fan of the sport in North America to see the calibre of this league rising. It may not rival Europe’s top flight leagues yet, but it’s certainly gaining ground.

All the more reason to be thrilled to greet 2015’s TFC to BMO this afternoon. Houston may not be one of those better teams out there this season, but that might be the best way to inaugurate the newly expanded stadium. It would be nice to see a full bore victory, with a full house in attendance.

I’m forecasting a win:

Toronto FC  3  –  1  Houston

C’mon you Reds! Time to get this season started.

TFC 2014

RoboCap 2014

RoboCap: “My program will not allow me to act against an officer of this company.”

My Favourite: The Mid-week Tilt

The Whitecaps storm ashore for a weeknight contest tonight. Starting strongly, the Caps have been potent performers out west until sagging out a bit since the World Cup break. Last weekend’s loss at home to Chivas means the blue and white are looking to regain form and put some ugliness behind them. Add some arch-rivalry intensity to the evening, not to mention post Voyageur cup revenge fantasies, and it’s fair to say the RoboCaps will be arriving at BMO prepped for a rumble.

Toronto FC is rolling into this contest after what might be one of the more epic performances in club history. Climbing back from an early two goal deficit with four unanswered goals, TFC showed it could correct course and deliver. With their tails up, and Houston’s carcass behind them, the stage is set for another boisterous home contest.

It would be a mistake to underestimate this Vancouver side. Their attackers will surely be watching the game tape of Brad Davis’ two first half goals against the Reds over the weekend. Despite his general effectiveness this season, Mark Bloom blew his coverage on both markers. The Caps will be searching for similar cracks in TFC’s back line, especially with Steven Caldwell sidelined by injury.

With Bradley Orr likely in Caldwell’s place, and Michael Bradley back from the spa, the Reds defence will not be the cracked glass pane of the past. Ryan Nelsen actually has some depth and options for spreading the workload across this second of three matches this week. However he stacks the back, the mids and the forwards will be entering the game with some swagger. TFC’s speed on the flanks with Oduro and Jackson and tenacity in the middle ground could generate lots of headaches for the Caps defenders.

I’m guessing we’ll see similar game plans from both sides early on. The Reds and the Caps benefit from a high pressing defensive pressure that looks to spring quick counter attacks. It could grind out in a cagey midfield contest where neither can break free. Or, this one might blow open with multiple goals from both sides.

Either way,  I couldn’t be happier than making the journey to BMO tonight. Rain or shine. C’mon you Reds.

World Cup 2014

Canadians should support USA at World Cup



I support the US, because I was born American and adopted Canada. I have no other international biases.

I think more Canadians should be sympathetic to the US in the soccer/football realm. Here are:

5 Reasons Why

(1) They are our neighbours and perennial underdogs

(2) Much of their squad plays in the MLS

(3) US success at the World Cup will bring even more resources into the sport in North America

(4) They’re not Mexico*

(5) They’re not Honduras*

* Good for Costa Rica making it this time around. I bear no grudges toward their footballing.

TFC 2014

TFC fills gap with Oduro


Freaky Fast & Freaky Hair

It wouldn’t be a normal MLS season unless TFC were churning their roster. Out goes another body today, and in comes a newcomer. We know the chorus: “with every season, churn, churn, churn… .”

Hasta la vista Alvaro Rey, que se vaya bien en Columbus. And welcome to Dominic Oduro — our new man in Red.

In the past few weeks, the team has traded two natural wingers out. Issey Nakajima-Farran and Alvaro Rey both had poise on the ball and a decent service touch from the flank. Oduro, a winger/striker, has blazing speed and probably less technical ability than the two he replaces on the TFC roster.

Guess we all know how he fits into Nelsen’s tactics.

How many ways can we say “dump and run”? Boot and scoot. Hoof and woof. Blast and fast. Boom and zoom. Hazzah.

Most importantly, the Reds have finally acquired somebody who can reliably challenge hairstyle norms on the pitch. He’ll be playing among a sea of high and tights, hopefully filling the Red’s gap with a real outlier do. Obviously, this is a vital trade, with Issey’s pseudo-Samurai ponytail gone, and DeRo in one of his most conventional coiffs.

Phew. I couldn’t take it if the Reds all looked like Jarheads.

Let the peacocks strut.


TFC 2014

A Perfectly Sporting Storm


 One Trick Ponies

One thing seems clear at this point in the season. Toronto FC are one trick tactical ponies.

First half, TFC throw down a high-pressure defence. The plan is to create turn-overs. Then, the Reds deploy thoroughbreds for quick breaks and counter-attacks. This style suits Jermain Dafoe just fine. And when Gilberto finally finds his bearings, he looks good for the work too.

Mostly, it means TFC never equal their opponents in terms of time in possession. Whatever you think of that statistical variable, the truth is that TFC are a reactive force. If they were thieves, they’d prefer bumping marks on the street and lifting wallets over carefully orchestrating larger heists.

When that approach goes well, TFC leave for half with a lead. The Reds usually return with a phase two plan. They turtle up on D, absorbing attacks and countering when they can to relieve pressure.

In cases where there’s no lead to defend after half, TFC’s game gets cagey. That high-pressure D comes at the cost of fatigue. And if the counter attacks can’t get results, there isn’t much more to lean on.

Facing an organized defence, TFC usually punt and run on the flanks. It seems like a low-odds tactic.

Reds wingers (less one just traded) now seem capable of some fancy dance and decent service. Most of the time, these attacks lack shape and creativity. Individual efforts may prevail, but as a team there seems to be little uniting disparate talents moving forward. The Reds can move the ball outside, but usually cannot convert that into real threat.

TFC have shown little taste for building up from the back. Most balls are lobbed forward in the hope of attackers holding it up or, most often, the opponents coughing it back up to them.

It’s a dull slog for spectators. Surely with all the game reels available now, it’s also no secret for TFC’s opponents.

I’m trying to give Ryan Nelsen the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s keeping it super simple and consistent. Perhaps he’s waiting until there’s enough cohesion to introduce variations and tactical shifts. Nevertheless, big stars or not, it would seem there is something still missing from the formula.

 Sportingly Depleted

Normally, I dread TFC’s trips to play in Kansas City. Sporting are tough opponents. Their new stadium might be the best facility for the sport in the US. Usually, they play like it is and they deserve the same respect.

The question for tonight, however, is whether this is a perfect storm for SKC.

Sporting are limping into tonight’s match. Their central defence has been levelled by injuries. They’ve lost their past two matches. Their back line tonight will feature shuffled in players accustomed to other roles. Nothing could bode better for the Reds one trick.

There will likely be goals in both directions. Here’s hoping we come out on top.

For a TFC team struggling to hold it together under heavy expectations, a third road win in the first half of the season would be a bloody big deal.