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Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE MATCHUP: Où est l'Playoffs?


TORONTO VS. MONTREAL
BMO FIELD - SATURDAY 2PM ET
TV: TSN 4

MANUFACTURED DERBY NAME:
"The 401 Derby"

FACTS* AND STATS**
TORONTO FC
- 2:1: The odds that TFC's post-match will include the words "mathematically", "still", "in" and "it"
- Corners: Where General Managers paint themselves into when refusing to add the word "interim" in front of a late-season coaching hire's title
- Jermain Defoe won't necessarily consider a defeat to Montreal on Saturday as a loss but more gaining a day towards his next emotional reunion. Glass half full.
- In the middle: Where Michael Bradley in most effective and also where he finds himself between Don Garber and Jürgen Klinsmann
- 5-10: Number of players we will probably be seeing in a TFC kit in person for the last time

MONTREAL IMPACT
- "Lots": Just how much Impact would love to end TFC's season
- 30%: Approximate number of seats that will remain intact in the away supporters' section by the final whistle
- Scoffing: The noise that will be heard around the stadium when visiting Montrealers sample BMO Field poutine
- "Still inhumane": Issey Nakajima-Farran's feeling towards TFC
- "Marco Di Vaio": The name that finishes the inevitable TFC supporter sentence "You just knew it would be __________"


*Possibly
**Maybe

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Playoffs: TFC's march to justification


The long-shot prospect of Toronto FC making the 2014 MLS playoffs represents one glorious opportunity for those that control this club from up high. No, it is not to reward the most beaten-down of all MLS supporters - it is justification.

Already, many fans have come to loathe the four-week "must-win" campaign that has devolved into the "we're still mathematically possible" reality we have today but as annoying as the internal club promotion may be - TFC is still in with a tiny chance. The best-case playoff scenario would see The Reds flail backwards into the fifth spot in the East and a shot in the wildcard "play-in" match. The question is: should we want them to?

The refrain that "anything is possible once you're in the playoffs" isn't completely hollow. There have been a few instances in the past where an unlikely club battles their way deep into the semi-finals or even finals but these are mostly the exception to the rule. For the most part, the cream rises to the top and it would be hard to find too many TFC supporters who would put their money on the line to back the locals in a one-match do-or-die, away to either New York or Sporting KC.

"But why would that be bad?" you may ask. "Don't we deserve a crumb of the post-season?" Yes. We all do… but the problem comes afterwards. The problem becomes how ownership may use that potential future and the most likely answer is again: justification.

Tim Leiweke & Co. made bold statements that the playoffs were the goal this year. No asterisks involved. Nothing about how far in the playoffs they would travel - just the playoffs. TFC's eight-year Valhalla realized. It is not difficult to imagine TFC squeaking into that wildcard match and - even if they re-produce an effort not unlike Saturday night's miserable display at Red Bull Arena - being trumpeted as a successful completion of the stated pre-season goal. Your first-ever post-season TFC! "We gave you what we promised! Now we need to talk..."

A mere appearance in the league's post-season will give MLSE the ammunition to go forward in two ways. On a team level, the so-far greatly underwhelming Greg Vanney and his inexperienced staff who lead a squad rife with imbalance and shallow depth may no longer seem to require an urgent fix. “Surely if this young(ish) squad made fifth this season then better can be achieved with the experience and a transfer window that Vanney has gained” will be the likely refrain. The cracks, and there are more than we'd like to believe, will not necessarily receive the care they require this off-season. However, the real justification that MLSE seeks from a post-season appearance may be more personal to you, the supporter.

After rolling back season ticket prices to 2007 levels and having to then freeze those prices, the owners must be bursting at the seams to put things right in their eyes. Giving you the absolute bare minimum on the pitch so they can squeeze the bare maximum out of your wallet is the trophy that they seek most. On a raft of promotions and slow motion videos of The Reds "historic post season march", your 2015 tickets will undoubtedly reflect this grand "achievement". Leiweke has told fans in the past that they would not ask for a raise until they did what they said they'd do. No matter how brief an appearance - this would be trotted out as proof.

Seeing The Reds in the post-season is nearly a decade-long wish for all supporters. The sweet, unknown experience of the playoffs is such a tempting prospect that it is easy to say we will worry about the future when it happens. Unfortunately that will most likely all happen very quickly. This club is not currently built for a run at the Cup. Does the potential of 90 extra minutes resembling this past Saturday suit the expected reward the club will ask of you in return?

Despite "how close" the current manager likes to tell us this club is to succeeding, it is increasingly difficult to see this. TFC, as is, can't compete on a consistent basis with the better clubs in this league. Without an off-season where the club's feet are held to the fire because of their failures this year, this potential playoff blip could simply usher in another long barren spell.

This club is not yet good enough. There are holes now and more to open up over winter with the imminent departures. Having the club emboldened by the absolute minimum modicum of success - and raising prices to watch it in 2015 - could be a far worse long-term hindrance than missing the playoffs again this year.

Yes, anything can happen in the playoffs. The reality points to TFC's possible appearance producing little more of the same on the pitch followed by an off-season of indifference, reinforced by the corporate jewel of being a "playoff team". Any TFC fan can be forgiven for not caring about that right now just to get a taste of what we have deserved for so long. However, is this incarnation of TFC, one which would be justified in its own mind to pursue the status quo albeit at a much higher expense to you, worth 90 more minutes of your time?

Monday, October 13, 2014

THE STARTING 11: Things that Toronto FC are giving thanks for


It's that most wonderful time of the year again when Canadians celebrate getting a draw against Turkey in the Great Pumpkin War. Never forget the nutmeg we lost in Istanbul. On this most solemn of days, it is right to give thanks for the things we often take for granted. This "GivingThanksDay" (what a great name for a holiday - we should TM that) is one not overlooked by the players and staff at TFC who are individually giving thanks for:

11. BRIGHT DIKE: the fact he still exists despite TFC's best efforts to disguise his whereabouts

10. JASON BENT: Immortality

9. MARK BLOOM: Coupons from No Frills

8. DANIEL LOVITZ: Shallow depth charts

7. WARREN CREAVALLE: A barber who remembers what Big Daddy Kane looks like

6. BRADLEY ORR: 360 days without headbutting someone

5. JACKSON: 357 days without headbutting someone

4. MICHAEL BRADLEY: The giant pile of money that makes him temporarily forget he was playing for Roma one year ago

3. GREG VANNEY: Making Tim Bezbatchenko believe using the word "interim" was for wimps

2. JERMAIN DEFOE: The generous volume of daily flights from Toronto to London

1. DWAYNE DE ROSARIO: Having one last chance to remind himself why he left this club in the first place

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE MATCHUP: 99 Problems and 9 Points are 9


NEW YORK VS. TORONTO
RED BULL ARENA - SATURDAY 7PM ET
TV: TSN 4

MANUFACTURED DERBY NAME:
"The Must-Win Part VII: Cronin's Revenge"

FACTS* AND STATS**
NEW YORK RED BULLS
- This will be the final fixture between New York and Toronto this season (barring playoffs - snort) thus robbing local Toronto fans a reason to wear Thierry Henry kits to TFC matches like that's ok
- Security has been heightened as usual for a night fixture in Harrison, New Jersey as autumn is the natural feeding time for the local C.H.U.D. population
- "Bradley Wright-Phillips is twice as valuable as Jermain Defoe" is a sentence no English columnist ever thought they would have to ponder
- Corporate sponsor Red Bull has made noises about pulling their ownership of the New York club with the names Sexinthe City FC, I'm Walkin' Heerenveen and New York Cosmos Kramer leading in a re-branding competition
- To celebrate Columbus Day weekend, New York Red Bulls plan to "discover" that Toronto FC aren't really very good

TORONTO FC
- To prove that they are a much better club than the one that lost that infamous 5-0 match at Giants Stadium, TFC have vowed not to lose by more than four goals on Saturday
- Next year, Toronto FC will have two separate trips to New York City with the incoming NYCFC added to the schedule. TFC is seriously looking at signing Jesse Barfield to help address the challenges of playing at Yankee Stadium
- The terms "must win" and "momentum" have officially been replaced at TFC by the terms "mathematically possible" and "still in it"
- Despite rumours, Sam Cronin was not offered to TFC on-loan for one match in order to explain the team’s woes post-match
- To celebrate Thanksgiving Day weekend, Toronto FC plan to thank heavens that this season is nearly over

*Maybe
**Possibly

THE SOUTH STAND REPORT - Toronto v Houston... or Who does this matter more to?


What the hell was that all about?

Without any scientific data whatsoever to substantiate the following claims, here's the percentage of how the game actually went, in no particular order.
  • 42% raining misery with terrible first half "action"
  • 27% a lack of luck for Toronto
  • 14% luck in favour of Houston
  • 9% high-level time wasting by Houston after their red card expulsion of A.J. Cochran
  • 3% Defoe being absentee Defoe (missed PK included in equation)
  • 2% Hagglund thinking he's a forward now
  • 1% quality finishing for Houston's Giles Barnes after Toronto defenders practically escorted them to Bendik's doorstep
Full Time : Toronto 0, Houston 1

To be fair, Vanney made the best substitutions at his disposal (not a compliment to the depth) at the right times.  Could have been a little earlier, perhaps, but not going to fault him. 

The side played like the shittiest games of Simon where everyone tonight couldn't remember the 4th note in the sequence.  Pass, pass, screw-up.  Houston were not that good, but Toronto were moreso worse.  The first half was bad.  The second half was a cavalcade of oh-so-close moments, shortly followed by swearing at someone (read: rather watchable).  Good saves, tragic deflections, smacking the woodwork a few times, howler misses; this had it all, complete with the TFC trademark wrapping of mediocrity.

If we have seen the last of Gilberto, then I am genuinely sad to see him go.  He's been a workhorse, passionate, and the kind of player any club could adore.  Not that this blog has a vote in who stays and who goes (we'd be champions by now!) but he will be missed more than any other bloody big signing Toronto has seen.  His absence was alarming, as he was good to go as of the day before and he'd have bagged two (of course, why wouldn't he).

@ignirtoq apologizes for the brevity of the report, but it was too drizzly to write any notes and it's late and it's a school night and he has to go to bed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

THE MATCHUP: Orange Is the New Bleurgh


TORONTO VS. HOUSTON
BMO FIELD - WEDNESDAY 7:30PM ET
TV: TSN 4

MANUFACTURED DERBY NAME:
"El Problemo"

FACTS* AND STATS**
TORONTO FC
- This is Toronto FC's Must Win Match 7 in a series of 9
- "A problem": The last two words of most sad TFC supporter jokes if Dynamo go up by a goal
- "?": The official club line on the status of Bright Dike
- MLSE isn't too concerned with any possible adverse supporter reaction to a loss on Wednesday. Instead, angry fans will be invited to pick up a sledgehammer and take it to BMO Field's East Stand to vent frustrations - and save MLSE hundreds in demolition costs.
- "Witch's Tit": The accurate temperature forecast for a midweek evening fixture at BMO Field in October

HOUSTON DYNAMO
"Open": The position most likely to find Brad Davis in vs. Toronto
- "Irony": The grammatical tool used when using the word "dynamic" in relation to either of these two clubs
- With a loss, Dynamo face elimination from the MLS Playoffs. With electrocution, Dynamo faced elimination from The Running Man.
- Houston GK Tally Hall has once again won the prestigious "MLS Player That Most Sounds Like a Wealthy Country Club Billionaire Award"
- 0: Things that rhyme with "orange"


*Possibly
**Maybe

Monday, October 6, 2014

THE STARTING 11: Things that Jermain Defoe missed about being in Toronto

Winter is comin'

He's back! Our l'il lord and saviour Jermain Defoe has returned from the nightmarish hell that was re-habbing a devastatingly injured groin... or something. Whatever. With Canada's apparent Third World medical facilities, Defoe has spent much of the summer back in England doing his best to prepare for a playoff push and #goals... or something. Whatever. Either way, the bloody big deal himself has prodigal-returned to Toronto where he will be happy to luxuriate in the many pleasures he missed while away...

11. Coming home to any of his three houses

10. Playing FIFA15 on his giant screen TV - transferring himself to all of the Premier League clubs

9. Catching up on the hilarious sitcom "The 2014 Toronto Mayoral Election"

8. The generous days off

7. Toronto's thriving multicultural lady community

6. Late-night Skype sessions with Harry Redknapp

5. The top-notch service of his butler Mark Bloom

4. Queen's Park

3. The fine staff in the British Airways First Class Departure Lounge at Pearson International

2. Cozy Scrabble nights at Drake's place

1. How spring turns to summer; summer turns to autumn; and autumn turn into the January Transfer Window

Sunday, October 5, 2014

THE SOUTH COUCH REPORT : Los Angeles v Toronto... or is THIS a streak?

I've been away on vacation but I've kept up with the trials and games of the Toronto "Football" "Club" (good thing the stadium is where it is).  That Portland thing sounded crazy.  And I did watch the Houston match at 2:00am in London (mostly because I snore really loud and the wife hadn't slept yet so I got up so she could sleep... where was I going with this...).  I was spoiled with some exciting footy and the English Championship is still more exciting than MLS.  My London ECL (English Championship League), Brentford, was awesome, even in a loss.  Great fun.  Recommend a visit to Ealing before the demo Griffin Park.  And visit the 4 pubs at each corner of the ground!

This is a streak isn't it?  I mean, it isn't the most ideal streak, but they've earned 7 from a possible 9 points over the last three games.  Doom, gloom, blah blah blah... I know.  It's played out.  Toronto is only a few bad results away from maintaining the status quo.  I think they can make the playoffs!  Who's with me?  Guys?... guys...

Whatever, Defoe is healthy and will cause a headache for the Los Angeles back four...

Ummm... OK.  That was anti-climactic with the whole superstar drama.  Certainly he'd be good for the bench?

Anyways, Los Angeles is crushing everything.  Their last loss was a month and a half ago.  So Toronto needs everyone to keep their shit together for 90+ minutes.  That's plausible enough but is it likely? I have $2 that's telling me 'oh yeah it is'.  We'll see.

On to the match...

12' - Juninho has a go from 20 yards out that loops over everyone and catches Bendik out a little too far, but the crossbar bails him out.

22' - GOAL - Zardes sends it on to Robbie Keane who slips it past a lunging Bendik.  Tragic.
BECKHAMS 1, ROBINS 0

25' - GOAL - Donovan to De La Garza to Keane who volleys this and holy crap it's gonna be like that tonight, isn't it?
BECKHAMS 2, ROBINS 0 

36' - American feed suggested that the conversation between Toledo and Bendik could be time wasting. THEY'RE DOWN BY TWO?  WHO WASTES TIME WHEN YOU'RE LOSING?  Stupid hacks. 

54' - If they gave goals for effort, Toronto would be down by 4.

59' - SUB - Lovitz off for Defoe.  I here he likes dealing in blood or something.  It's been a while, no.

66' - YELLOW - Osorio got booked.  So did Zardes, but I barely care for the bookings Toronto get.  Whatever.

68' - Did Oduro just play right back to deny Zardes?  Did Oduro ask for directions to go play that far back?  Well done sir!

74' - SUB - Moore makes way for DeRo


76' - No hat trick for Keane, as Bendik swatted it out of the air as the Irishman goes for the chip.  Well, no hat trick... yet.

79' - SUB - Bekker comes out for Warner

3 minutes of extra time

90+3' - GOAL - Alan Gordon gets the ball, takes two touches and launches from 20 yards out.  It's a bit of a screamer.  That's about right.
BECKHAMS 3, ROBINS 0 

Full Time : LOS ANGELES 3, TORONTO 0

Man of the Match : Nobody really.

Goat of the Game : Nobody really.

Ref Rating : 5 out of 5.  I know.  But nothing really happened.  Screw it, 3 out of 5 just for the PTSD he's caused.

In Case You PVR'd it : Fast forward to the 20th minute, watch until the end of the half then skip to injury time and you're good.

It's times like this, I feel that Gilberto won't be back.  I'm sure he'll be amazing in DC when he'll kill us repeatedly next season... Also, thanks MLS Live for the privilege to watch the paid for stream via a VPN.  Glad the decision to give you money was a poor one... When Morrow came off, the first instinct was to check the game stats feed to find out when he was substituted on, but the line-up tweet staggered me to find out he'd been playing all along... this Wild Beer company Indigo Child stout I bought in Bath is really sour and nasty.  If you see this and you're curious, just get anything else.  If you're really curious, get something you might like then add a shot of vinegar to it... It was such a strong PRO-LINE ticket. Man City won, Liverpool won.  How could Toronto losing go so wrong *eye roll*... That Vocal Minority Podcast has been decent the last few weeks.  I feel there's going to be rating spike next week as the principle writer of these match reports will be returning... The biggest difference noticed between the three matches I took in on my vacation and every TFC match was that the crowd was watching the match from start to finish and  nobody was straggling late getting 2 overpriced beers or filling their instagram accounts. Will miss that the most.

Player Ratings : Bendik 6, Creavalle 6, Caldwell 6.5, Hagglund 6, Morrow 5.5 [DeRo N/A], Osorio 6, Bekker 6 [Warner N/A], Bradley 6.5, Lovitz 6 [Defoe N/A], Moore 6.5, Oduro 7 (just for playing defense)

@ignirtoq is well rested from his vacation. He tried many ciders, and some were super "earthy" and gross. The only stout he had easy access to in pubs was Guinness and he's OK with that.

Friday, October 3, 2014

THE MATCHUP: #ThanksLandon

LOS ANGELES VS. TORONTO
STUBHUB CENTER - SATURDAY 10:30PM ET
TV: TSN 4

MANUFACTURED DERBY NAME:
"The Tonight Show in Bloody Carson"

Listen, every match is a "must-win" for TFC in October but no matter what happens on Saturday night/Sunday morning, The Reds will still be in the playoff chase on Monday. With that, we stop worrying about this potentially ugly fixture and instead thank the retiring LA Galaxy superstar Landon Donovan. No, not for the years of great service to MLS - but for this - our very favourite picture of any North American soccer star. God speed Landon... keep erotically sipping for the stars.

#ThanksLando

Monday, September 29, 2014

THE STARTING 11: Hidden features in the BMO Field expansion plans

"WAS"

Phase One: "How interesting!" Phase Two: "Look at that roof!" Phase Three: "Say what in the whatnow? Aww nuts." Yes, in the words of a guy who used to work around these parts - "get used to it." BMO Field is being expanded into a 30,000-seat, gleaming Euro-style stadium suitable for an ambitious MLS club with visions of grandeur... and then a CFL team. Enjoy! However, it's not all bad news Toronto FC fans - there are some great hidden features that you may have missed in those architectural diagrams...

11. A touching memorial to real grass

10. High tech attendance counters that only read "SOLD OUT"

9. Luxury Hawk Box

8. ButtyBuffet

7. Tiger-Cats and Columbus Crew fans now fully interchangeable!

6. New GO Station access that guarantees you only miss your train by 30 seconds every time

5. Plenty of bandwagon parking

4. A monument to the brave, wealthy, fat white men who made this all possible

3. Handy permanent gridiron lines help soccer fans know exactly how many yards it is to goal!

2. Hilarious novelty trophy case

1. Football replaced with football