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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The South Couch Report : Seattle v. Toronto... or Emeralds v. Rubies in the gemstone battle to the death!

I love Seattle. It's a great city. Nice people. Peroshki's are tasty. Pike Place is kinda neat. Even that random gum wall thingie in the bowels is a talking point. And The Pink Door is a wonderful restaurant and their hostess is the best looking MILF I've ever seen charming and friendly.

I also like the Sounders. I have two Emerald City Supporters scarves. Though I'm not a fan of Ljungberg, Seattle has supported various incarnations of the Sounders and that's enough for me to fawn over them in admiration.

Toronto is without a few players due to hotheadedness. We can't miss them, can we?

You know, I'm not big on these intros.

Onto the match!

3 - DeRo misses a 12 yd sitter. I hope Seattle realizes that they got away with that one.

5 - Barrett gets sent up the pitch but is flagged offside. I like the ambition.

9 - More ambition from the reds as DeRo caught offside heading the ball towards Keller.

11 - Guevara sends a ball across the box and a few red shirts near by but not near enough.

17 - Tyrone Marshall goes down injured and gets subbed. As a fan of his pairing with Velez, I wish him well and hope he'll be back soon.

20 - Seattle counter has Jacqua curling a ball across the face and Frei stops it, preventing a disaster. Also, Jacqua's name is just fun to say... Jacqua...

This portion of the match is brought to you by Jacqua Body Lotion and Spa Treatment


21 - Toronto look pretty damn comfortable.

22 - DeRo floats a pretty ball and The Chad just misses the superman header. The net has been known to be his kryptonite, hasn't it...

23 - Guevara smacks it off the crossbar... oh my fragile heart...

25 - Seattle presses forcing a wonderful diving stop from the Swiss Mister.

29 - DeRo offside, still Keller makes a wonderful save.

33 - Seattle pressing, nice cross but Montero heads the ball back? Confused...

I'd like to say that the Seattle announcing team is calling this like a hockey game. I kinda like it in a strange Canadian-stereotype kinda way.

37 - Gomez and Attakora double up on Montero to prevent a likely difficult save from Frei

38 - DeRo puts a low ball to find Cronin and rolls the ball just wide right of the goal.

41 - YELLOW - Attakora puts Ljunberg to the ground and gets a booking. Ensuing free kick finds Hurtado? heading the ball just wide.

45+1 - DeRo tries to beat the entire Seattle side. Gets as far as just outside the box.

HALF-TIME : This is Toronto?! TFC!? Agressive? ON THE ROAD?! I'll say "hallucinating" as the mood then.

53 - The game is starting to look more like the game I predicted. Seattle build up, Toronto failing...

61 - Montero gets on the end of a scramble and Frei is forced to make a good save. The hockey announcer is getting on my nerves calling them "The Toronto FC".

God, I want a marching band...

63 - Ljungberg is starting to cause a headache with a darting run and a shot heading for the top shelf only to be pushed away by Frei.

65 - Ljungberg is adamant with this "scoring" bullsh*t. The attempts are getting closer to the net and further from Frei.

67 - YELLOW - Gomez gets a booking for a deliberate hand-ball which was a bit harsh.

70 - Sanyang makes another header save off the line AGAIN after a scramble lets Jacqua take a shot that should've gone in.

72 - DeRo and Hurdato start a pushing match and Ljungberg is the third man in. and the cards come out...

YELLOW - DeRo. Ljungberg gets booked too and is about to lose his crap after getting words in with Cummings.

75 - DeRo takes apart two Sounder defenders and forces a corner. Nothing happens.

77 - Gerba gets into the game (finally) and forces a corner with a low shot at the right post. Keller punches the crap out of the ball to clear.

79 - Seattle does a fail with some nice short passes right into the box and Evans gets the ball on his bad foot behind him. 6 inches forward and that's a crazy save to make.

82 - Sounders are down everywhere as Jacqua collides with Gomez and - Jacqua is down.

90 - Le Toux gets released by Jacqua and what should've been a goal gets shot right at Frei. I wonder if both teams have been fortunate for clean sheets today.

4 minutes of extra time

Something is missing with this game... I can't quite put my finger on it, but I like it.

90+3 - Alonzo gets onto a ball a few feet out and Frei comes up huge with a great stop. That was the game folks.
FULL TIME - Seattle (somehow) 0 : Toronto (somehow) 0

Man of the Match : DeRo. DeRo needs another DeRo to feed off of and then the pair of DeRos will be the greatest duo in footballing history.

Goat of the game : Nobody was terribly bad. I wasn't overly impressed with Gomez to be honest, but he's still got 'new player smell'.

Ref Meter : 4 out of 5. Even with the collapse of all social graces, he booked the right guys and could've easily shown a red card or two.

As a side note : that logo at the top is the only 'flattering' one. My friend came up with that. It almost was the Seattle Coffees... almost.

"Tossed salad and scrambled eggs... we're scoreless again"

Impotence is no laughing matter for a man. It's even less funny when 11 men have it. Toronto FC's anemic finishing was in full effect today as the Reds were held to a 0-0 draw at Seattle's Qwest Field. The rotating cast of characters up front saw Dwayne De Rosario partnered by Chad Barrett (!!!) with the same results as usual - nothin' much. A few close calls including De Ro shooting at an open net only to pass to his other foot and later in the half, the same De Ro sent a pinpoint perfect cross to the other striker, yeah that guy, only for it to glance off his seemingly purposeful head.

Luckily for TFC, Seattle didn't have too much about them today either. The impressive crowd couldn't spur their team on enough today and despite their best efforts, SSFC were as impotent as Toronto. Freddie Ljungberg showed his class as the only DP on the field (hint, hint Mo) and came close to scoring, but the Swedish glamour model's biggest contribution to entertainment was a hissy fit/ near-slapping match with half of TFC in the 2nd half. In the end "Scoreless In Seattle" was a fair result.

If only there was a visual representation of maddening impotent frustration...

Stay connected for the official Yorkies match report later today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Match Preview: Smells Like (No) Team Spirit

Qwest Field - Saturday 4:00PM EST
TV: CBC RADIO: The Fan 590

TFC finally embarks on their first trip to the town everyone in MLS is talking about. No not expansion candidate Birmingham, Alabama - it's the jewel of the Pacific Northwest - Seattle! That is of course if you don't count Vancouver. And maybe Portland. I hear Eugene, Oregon is nice too. Either way - it’s Seattle! What can you say about the Emerald City? It's famous for overpriced coffee, Kurt Cobain's mysterious death, "Spoonman", rioting against the World Bank, TV's "Frasier" and that tossed salad song of his, the poor man's CN Tower, Xavier McDaniel's huge dunks and "Harry and the Hendersons". Damn you Seattle and your Generation X' iness - suck on our Tower. They've also got a football club with a good heritage (for North America) and an obvious solid fan base. So hyped are their support numbers that Don Garber has been cheating on TFC with them! Remember when we were your sweethearts Don? What did we do? ... Oh, the not winning? I'd say we can change but...On to the road game!

There has never been an expansion tag on this club. No management yarns about 5 year plans, no waiting on bringing in a DP, no playing just for pride for the first few years. How dreamy must that be? Since SSFC came to BMO Field on opening day and pissed on our old green rug they have shown the league that they are here to compete. They bought a lot of pricey players (in MLS terms) and they have paid off. Swedish Chef/ Underwear salesman Freddie Ljungberg still has the ability to control a game from the attacking midfield position while the main recipient of his passes, Colombian wonderkid Freddy Montero, leads the club with 10 goals. Throw into the rave green mixture a resurgent Nate Jacqua (7G, 7A) and an internationally renowned 'keeper in Kasey Keller and you can see why success has come early. The fans are filling the stadium and the Supersonic-less city seems to be embracing the club which no doubt has itself a bright future. The only plus for TFC is that Sounders had lost 3 out of 4 before last week's draw but they play well at home.

TORONTO FC - 8-6-8 - 3rd in EAST (8th OVERALL)
As if the usual Toronto road trip malaise wasn't bad enough, TFC has spent the week fighting fires from it's two biggest names. First was the Dwayne De Rosario "No Grass, Kiss My Ass - 2010" story followed by DichioGate later in the week. Tomorrow will prove whether or not the team spirit has stayed somewhat intact or if the dressing room is as fractured as some fear. Interim Mo puppet/ nice guy Chris Cummins will have some hard choices to make with two big gaps to fill in the way of Carl Robinson and Adrian Serioux. The two suspended hard men supply this team with 99% of its steel and that isn't easily replaced with rookies. The youth movement replay in the Reds loss to Chivas last week was not successful but TFC's puddle-like depth offers Cummins very little option. Luckily, midfielder Sam Cronin plays like a young Carl Robinson and seems very composed but the bright lights and 30,000 plus crowd of Qwest may be too much for the younger boys on the team. If TFC are going to get anything from this match, it will only be with a full team effort.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Curious Case of Daniele Dichio

A tempest in a 6 foot 3 teapot? It seems as if a mini firestorm has been swirling around BMO Field this pass week with a lot “he said - no one said” coming from the traditional media circles. By now, most TFC supporters have heard the story - team legend and voted "most likely to walk on water" Danny Dichio had been left off the roster for recent league matches and was apparently told he wouldn't be travelling with the team to Seattle for this week's match against Sounders FC. The story seemed to snowball when the usually genial giant (Dichio) would not talk to the media about the situation but meanwhile an increasingly flustered Chris Cummins gave a bizarre explanation. The interim manager/ Director's mouthpiece dished out a peculiar line about Dichio's sudden inability to sit for the duration of a 5 hour flight and the detrimental effects such an Air Canada-based ordeal could cause a professional athlete. There is no question that Dichio's aging body is banged up and on it's literal last legs but last time I flew in a plane you weren't strapped down like an economy class Hannibal Lecter.

The few mainstream media members who follow the club have been stymied in their attempts to solve this strange case which has only caused a worsening of the situation. The silence from The TFC management has caused an anxiety amongst some supporters, which has manifested itself in the form or "Save Dichio!" style messages on forums and blogs as well as conspiracy theories about huge rifts in the dressing room. While stopping short of declaring Dichio a footballing god he is no doubt this team's cult hero and will be for a long time. Any perceived slight against him in this, his retirement year, is obviously touchy and that is understandable. In the meantime, there has been a sudden reversal of team policy and Dichio is on his way to Seattle this weekend. Regular football team selection or reaction to supporter anxiety? Very few of us will ever likely know the answer but it is once again a sideshow from BMO Field.

It seems that every time the product on the field falters, another one of these off-the-pitch fiascos arises. Perhaps, the notably silent Director of Football doesn't mind the circus stories though. If people are talking about player issues, the grass, stadium expansion, the Argos etc. then the focus is directly off of the performance of his assembled squad. If the pattern of play continues and TFC indeed misses the playoffs then a built-in "player personality" reason becomes the excuse for the team's collapse. That possibility would also give the no doubt contract-extended Mo Johnston a chance to rid the payroll of so-called disruptive forces (i.e. expensive veterans) and start a re-build. Although, how you rebuild something that was never built is far too confusing.

In the end, Dichio will likely get some substitute minutes as the season peters out and will likely get an extended run out during his last game at BMO Field. Why will this happen? Not because the veteran deserves it as do his fans but because TFC/ MLSE can't afford to start a storm with it's ticket base just as renewals are about to begin and because they will still want to use Dichio's everyman fan-favourite image for years to come when they are trying to sell us a team of draft picks and unknowns. Danny Dichio's quiet on the matter speaks volumes - maybe he can see that his first goal back in 2007 - no doubt to his chagrin -has yet to be surpassed as a great TFC moment. After nearly three years, that goal should be a good memory, not a high point.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Surprising Drew Carey innovations at Seattle Sounders FC

11. All contracts decided after players spin giant wheel with different possible wages on it.

10. Team comes out on to the pitch for pre-game warm-up in a 2009 Winnebago!

9. When a Sounders player is subbed out, PA announcer yells out a spectator's name and tells them to "Come on down!"

8. If the match ends in a draw, the two opposing managers face-off in a Showcase Showdown!

7. Escalators to QWest Field upper deck replaced by yodeling mountain climber.

6. Neon green home kits adorned with giant yellow nametags.

5. Passing game made redundant after pitch replaced by giant Plinko board.

4. Freddie Ljungberg only signed with Seattle after clause in contract promised him a role as a future "Barker's Beauty".

3. No one leaves empty handed - all losing teams leave Seattle with a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni.

2. Team is motivated by Bob Barker's pre-game threats to have poor performers "spayed or neutered".

1. Player's decision: The MLS Cup... or a Brand New Buick LeSabre!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Could De Ro kick MLSE in the grass?

Coming home after a long absence isn't always easy. Tougher still when the weight of thousands of supporters' expectations are riding on your shoulders. When Dwayne De Rosario signed with Toronto FC this past off-season, the club could claim that it had its first true star - no offence Andrea Lombardo. The perennial MLS All-Star and Scarborough native had found his way home for the first time since playing with Toronto Lynx all those years ago. This time was different though, a real pro club in a real stadium with a real big fan-base. The signing was meant to herald the dawn of a new TFC, which would see the club move from strength to strength.

Since De Ro first appeared on the pitch with TFC it has been evident that he is a class above most of his teammates. His skills and determination are ever-present and his hometown pride seems to propel him. Yet, despite good numbers, he does not seem to control the play like he has in past years. What has been the difference? Not De Ro himself, but the very squad that was poorly assembled around him. Toronto as they stand as a squad right now is a team built in reaction and not with action. Mo Johnston and the "brain trust" (make your own joke) pick up bits and pieces around the world that become available from their extraordinarily limited scouting network rather than find the right pieces that fit around their stars. The problem you see, is in order to get the right players, you must spend money. TFC (see MLSE) has yet to actually obtain a player that cost the corporation any fee other than player exchange or draft picks and salary is a curse word. This however is an examination for another day - the pressing issue is how this team and it's future was sold to De Ro when they were courting the midfielder this past winter.

Was De Rosario promised a squad would be built around him that would mimic the solid make-up he was used to at Houston Dynamo? Was he guaranteed that real grass rather than green concrete was a matter of months away? Was the future painted as rosy or was the reality of MLSE's corporate structure made obvious. Did De Ro realize that the only goal at BMO Field is winning Major League Soccer's profit league and not the MLS Cup? In the club’s defence you must also wonder how a player with such strong connections to the city wasn't aware of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's reputation as a money-first, success-second corporation. No matter how De Rosario came to the decision to join TFC, the shine is apparently coming off the homecoming.

In interviews this past week, quotes were attributed to De Ro that heavily hinted at his need to consider his future as a Red due to the ridiculous state of the pitch at BMO Field. The green concrete is without a doubt the most embarrassing turf in MLS apart from Giants' Stadium's NFL marked pitch and surely awful on the knees and back. De Rosario is more than justified in expressing his concerns over the turf's toll on his career, the only surprise is that it took this long for a player to grow a pair of Guevaras and tell MLSE like it is. MLSE will turtle into victim mode and blame mean old rich City of Toronto for not letting them put in real grass but it seems like the Torontonian in De Ro can't help but see the horse-Peddie that the Bay Street boys shovel.

It is that hometown boy realization though which is alarming. De Ro like most of us who live in Toronto and support TFC know very well that grass isn't coming anytime soon. Blame what you want - MLSE's penny-pinching, community use issues, preserving turf for an Argos move to BMO (yeah I said it) - but this story isn't even close to a conclusion. Maybe De Ro sees this and also sees the issue as an escape hatch from a team that has no intention of building a perennial champion - just one with an owner happy to manage expectations like they do with their other "sports and entertainment" products. If he can threaten to leave on an issue that has no chance of quick resolution, he could have a way to jump off of a sinking ship. Every MLS club and a score of smaller European clubs would snatch him up in a second and not one TFC supporter could blame him. If you worked in a place where success was job # 2 and your livelihood was being put at risk, what would you do? Every TFC supporter knows De Ro wants to lift Toronto FC's first MLS Cup in Scarborough, but not more than he simply wants to lift the cup again - anywhere.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The South Couch Report – Chivas v. TFC or... I could've been out clubbing tonight

My apologies for the second report, I didn't know that I was going to write one until late Saturday.
So now there's more to read. Lucky you.

This is the first of three away games, which is convenient such that it doesn't interfere with that upstart Canadian National Exhibition bullsh*t that gets in the way. Oh sure, a nice summer night to watch a footy match is too much to ask apparently. I'll never understand why we had so many home games so early. Then again, I'd prefer all of our games be home games. It's not like they're dying to watch us in Columbus.

Toronto are coming off a wonderful match against DC where United failed all over the park and couldn't be any more useless than a speed bump in a home for the elderly the Reds were amazing.

I also would like to give a shout out to the parents for having a PVR. This allowed me to have a night out with the lads rather than having a frustrating night at a pub. Oh well.

Chivas are tied on points with Toronto, but have a few games in hand.

Onto the match.

3 – It's announced that the Reds are playing a 4-5-1 with White being the lone forward. I'm no manager and I know it can turn into a 4-3-3, but why aren't we playing a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation. In Pro Evo, I always play 4-3-3.

6 – Gerry Dobson on SportsNet just called Attakora “the best defender Toronto has had all season”. We're big fans of the guy, but given that he didn't get a game until about round 6 or 7, that's a tall compliment given Marvell Wynne's reliability.

11 – Cronin's got some hustle which results in a corner. Nothing comes of it.

16 – Every offensive manoeuvre has resulted in a no-show of control in the final third. Puerto Rico knows how to prevent it, except in that game TFC looked good and aggressive. Tonight, nowhere near as aggressive as a few weeks ago, but just as anemic.

22 - Maybe I'm tired from the night I've had of indoor mini-golfing with my friends very heavy binge drinking, but the Man City v Wolves match was far more compelling than this.

27 – YELLOW – O'Brien White gives an elbow to the side of the head of Jazic during a challenge in the air. It was the right call.

31 – GOAL – After a near penalty call that left Galindo shooting - forcing a little save from Frei, the ensuing corner bounces around the box a bit and leaves Sacha Kljestan a cute toe poke past a confused everybody.

33 – YELLOW – Robinson gets booked for a bit of a studs-up lake tackle and that will take his tally to enough for a one game suspension. It was the correct call again.

39 – Vitti shows some strength by fighting through a few defenders before getting hauled down. Good stuff.

43 – Robinson and Guevara totally botched a great toss from Serioux that landed in front of them both with no defenders near them in the box only to have a late Chivas defender pick up the loose ball. Embarrassing, really.

45 – Kljesten takes the ball for a few yards and lays the ball off for Gallindo, only for him to fire into the side netting. Solid counter that should've resulted in more.

Half-time mood : tired from mini-golf hung over with a mild bout of depression.

46 – SUB – White out, The Chad in

46 – Serioux dodged a bullet, a yellow and ultimately a one-game suspension after clipping Gallindo's heels.

50 – GOAL – Debutante Santos laces a perfect little ball that undid two defenders, Kljesten finishes with a nice low ball in the far left corner. Very pretty goal.

51 – SUB – Gerba in, Guevara out

54 – After another lost opportunity from a corner, commentator and legend Craig Forrest takes a shot at TFC. He may be the only commentator to dare to do so.

59 – YELLOW – Serioux gets a booking for likely an accumulation of bad challenges, will be suspended for the Seattle match next week.

Quote of the match

Why are all those Swiss guys on the field?
~ my mom reacting to the first aid in their bibs on the pitch
65 – In what seems like a “haven't seen that in a while” scenario, Gerba haves a go, just wide of the net.

71 – Barrett corner results in Serioux's failing on a beautiful opportunity with a wide open net, only to have the ball skip away.

77 – Chivas corner and Nagamura's first touch nearly rolls into the opposite post

78 – DeRo run and cross finds Wynne with an awkward stop, turns and fires just over the bar. Shortly thereafter, DeRo rockets another ball just over the bar.

78 – SUB – Cronin out, Sanyang in. Sanyang's first touch flies just about out of the ground.

82 – Barrett barrels down the left wing and puts a nice cross through the face of goal and a few heads miss the opportunity to put one in.

87 – Nagamura jinked past Serioux and forces a great save from Frei.

90 – Gerba has a bullet just miss the right post from about 40 yards out.

2 minutes of added time

90+1 – DeRo has a run down the left side and runs out of real estate. And runs out of time.

FULL TIME : Chivas 2 : Toronto 0

Man of the Match : Though nobody truly stood out to deserve it outright, I'll give it to Cronin since he was playing both ends of the pitch and had a few good balls in and stopped a legit chance to make the score line less flattering than it was.

Goat : none. Again.

Ref meter : 5 out of 5. Didn't blow any calls. Let them play when he could. Serioux got ample warnings before booking. Good officiating.

TFC wasn't BAD, just anemic.

An hour and some change and we've got the first real opportunity from the Reds. That final third of the pitch seems to be a black hole of lost opportunities and I believe that it isn't because Chivas was playing exceptionally well. Toronto played somewhere between mediocre and well. Build-up was regular and reliable, but either the final delivery or lack of finish was Toronto's demise on this night. With the amount of possession TFC gets in a game, 2 goals a night shouldn't be this difficult.

Now on to Seattle. This might not be good...

Toronto FC blows Goats

It was hard to fight the temptation at 12:30AM EST not to just find a previous TFC road match recap and just copy and paste that one. What exactly happens to this team when they go on the road? Are they bad flyers and get whacked out on Gravol on the way? Do they spend the day on open-top tour buses seeing the sights only to get too much sun? Maybe they fill up on all those foods you can't get in Canada like Yoo-Hoo, pizza flavoured (sorry flavored) Combos and Charleston Chew causing them to get pre-match gut rot? Whatever it is, it sucks.

TFC's first ever match was against Chivas USA (aka Los Goats) in the very same Home Depot Center as tonight back in 2007. Nearly three years later and the team looks as lost on the road as they did that night. There isn't really one positive to take from a truly dreadful performance from the Reds which saw them whimper to a 2-0 loss thanks to two goals from Main Goat Sacha Kljestan. The enigma continues with this club who look mostly solid at home and wholly amateur on the road. The performances of Amado Guevara really encapsulates the effort of TFC in general this season: world-beater one day, invisible the next.

It was evident tonight that manager Chris Cummins was in over his head. The interim boss made a number of tactical errors tonight starting with his 4-5-1 formation that put rookie O'Brian White up front alone based on his debut goal last week. White and the other kids on the squad do what young players do - play inconsistently. The former Luton youth coach should know this. The rookies were overwhelmed, but what was the half-time solution? Bring in Chad Barrett. I hate to beat a scoreless horse, but what in the world does Barrett show to justify his continued appearances? He didn't even touch the ball for 22 minutes! Oh... a four-year bargain basement contract - thanks for clearing that up Mo. While on the topic of strikers, what has happened to Ali Gerba? The big man has gotten.. um... bigger, and while on the "Collin Samuel Diet for Strikers", he has also lost his scoring touch. If the rumours of him having a wonky knee are true I'm blaming the BMO turf because it's late and I'm cranky. So there.

It was insult to injury as both Carl Robinson and Adrian Serioux are now suspended for the next match against Seattle after picking up careless yellow cards tonight which makes "The Road Worriers" job that much harder. In the end though, is it the road form that is the problem or is it more to the fact that while we reach to the bench and pick Wayne Rooney's non-unionized stunt double as a sub, Chivas can bring in an Eduardo Lillingston who is their leading scorer with 7 goals? Forget the bad flyers, pass me the Gravol after this nauseating performance.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Turfed out? Will De Ro seek greener pastures?

A report in today's Globe & Mail newspaper hints at Dwayne De Rosario's growing unhappiness at the state of BMO Field's dreadful Field Turf and its effect on his long-term plans. When asked if the green polyester slacks which substitute for grass in Toronto makes him question his future, the all-star midfielder said "Yeah, kind of, in a way, because my career depends on me playing, and if turf is hampering the longevity of my career, then you have to question how long can you actually deal with playing on turf.” Nuff said. De Ro has been very straight-forward in his view on this issue all season despite the silence from his veteran teammates who seem happy to let De Rosario put his reputation on the line with this issue.

MLSE will once again trot out the victim card and claim that the big bad City of Toronto is stopping their benevolent wishes to lay down real grass but this is not a black and white issue. De Ro seemed to tow that party line a bit but illuminated his knowledge of the ownership's finances when he continued to the Globe "I don't think money's an issue. We saw how they put [grass] down for one game against Real Madrid so I don't even want to hear that money's an issue." The de facto team leader can see what some of the club's ownership-idolizing supporters refuse to admit - MLSE is financially capable of doing just about anything they please.

The truth of this matter is that MLSE only needs to go through the motions with the City and that approval is only a formality if, and this is a big if, MLSE is willing to provide a facility for community use that replaces BMO Field. The cost of such a facility is equivalent to a couple of Maple Leafs' blue liners and hardly a blip on MLSE's books, especially with Maurice Edu's mystery transfer fund somewhere in Bay St. limbo. But, here's the rub - is MLSE really willing to invest in their newest cash-cow or are they just fleecing the golden goose? If they stick to the company line and blame the City for not giving them a totally free facility it may be at the expense of their one and only true star on the much maligned pitch. De Ro would have no problem finding a long list of interested clubs - TFC supporters however, would once again be covered in the wrong end of the golden goose's offerings.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Match Preview: Goats vs. Kids

Home Depot Center - Saturday 10:30PM EST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet -- Radio: The Fan 590

Is there a more pseudo-ethnically diverse game on the MLS calendar than Chivas USA vs. Toronto? Unless the league expands to Mexico or to another foreign country, like Quebec, then this is as strange as it gets. The quasi-Mexican team which has a few Mexicans on it, against the more-than-quasi-Canadian team with a few Canadians on it. Hard to get riled up for these matches although the "Mexi-Can Derby" has a neat ring to it. Both clubs are currently floating around mid-table and neither can drop too many points if the playoffs are going to stay realistic so that may be a recipe for a tight match. It should be road greys for TFC as the Goats' two kit options are red with white stripes or alternately white with red stripes. Ariba Eh!

CHIVAS USA -- 9-3-7 30 pts - 5th in WEST (7th OVERALL)
The Goats have been through a bad spell through the middle part of the season that has seen them fall to 5th in the West after a decent start. The club actually got its first win in two months, beating New York 2-0 in their last fixture. Manager and former MLS standout Preki has had an injury nightmare this year and may still be without core Goats Ante Razov, Claudio Suarez and Sasha Victorine. There is always hope for Club Deportivo Chivas USA (their Christian full name) when Sacha Klejstan is in the line-up. If MLS was a high school, he'd be voted "Most Likely To Go To Europe". Reinforcements have also been brought in the form of "The Jesus" Jesus Padilla. Padilla is on loan from Original Flavour Chivas - The Guadalajara version - and is said to be a talented young forward. Chivas haven't ever dropped a point at home to TFC, including Toronto's first ever professional match back in 2007.

TORONTO FC -- 8-6-7 30 pts - 3rd in EAST (8th OVERALL)
The biggest question for Manager Chris Cummins will be whether or not to stay with the youth movement that inspired the Reds to a 2-0 victory over D.C. United last Saturday. The kids did look good but young players do sometimes lack the consistency needed, especially when trying to grab points on the road. The Gambians looked surprisingly confident and Nana Attakora is more impressive by the week. Attakora reminds us of a young Ledley King but has also been prone to King-like injuries. If he can stay healthy and gain some bulk, a Canada call-up must be in the cards. Jim Brennan, with his Cowboy Bob Orton cast, is suspended due to an amalgamation of yellow cards, which may open the door for a Lesly Fellinga sighting on the left side. Marvell Wynne and Nick Garcia are due back in the line-up, which may see Adrian Serioux and Attakora rotate on the wing. It will be interesting to see if O'Brian White's first-ever goal will be enough to garner another start and if so, what effect that has on Ali Gerba's integration into the Toronto line-up. Unlike Chivas, TFC does not have a Jesus to add to the roster. Victor Moses, Juan Pablo Angel, Solomon Kalou and other Bible-themed footballers are also unavailable.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scarborough Is TFC's Favela

Football has always been the sport of the people. Most of the legends of the greatest game have been from poor or working class roots while many of the world's most beloved clubs are based in their city's poorer neighbourhoods. From Pele to Zidane, it has always been boys with little more than a ball and a dream who have shone the brightest. The most famous football factories are the Favelas of Brazil’s biggest cities like Sao Paulo and Rio but as Toronto FC and Canada grows into it's football skins, our own hotbed has risen - Scarborough.

The much-maligned (never on this site!) eastern suburb of Downtown Toronto with such nicknames as Scarberia, Scarlem and The Scronx is not only the home of some of Canada's biggest football stars but has also raised the spine of Toronto FC. Whether you judge the current crop of Reds as a success or not you cannot imagine many wins without Adrian Serioux, Dwayne De Rosario and now rookie O'Brian White drawing a straight line down the middle of the pitch. In addition to TFC's crop of Scarberians you can add the De Guzman brothers to the mix and suddenly Scarborough Town FC is your perennial MLS Cup Champion!

Some would argue that White is Jamaican-born and not a product of Scarborough but that is just proof of the Borough's strength. Like most of Toronto, people are welcomed from all over the world and given the opportunity to excel. It was in Scarborough where White like his TFC teammates developed and were noticed by football scouts. Serioux, De Ro and the De Guzman's took the route of minor league football while White went to the NCAA only to come full circle. The hard work and determination it takes to become a pro footballer was no doubt helped by growing up in the Boro. It isn't always the easiest place to be a young man and you need good strength and toughness to emerge from it’s available pitfalls. Much like other poor hoods dotted around the football world, it instills a confidence and swagger in those who emerge from it's streets. De Ro's flair, Serioux's hardman steel and White's determination are fine examples of this.

Scarborough natives know there is something special about the place. It is an enigma of a town that can leave you shaking your head one moment and proud the next. It can have some ugly, grey urban landscapes while having stunning natural landscapes. It is an old town full of new Canadians - it is hard and tough but full of families striving to give their kids a better future. Mostly, it's a place where only those who have grown up there can understand and who are the only ones who have the right to criticize it. If the players who have come out of the Boro have the make-up of De Ro, Serioux and potentially White then Mo Johnston should forget about looking near Scarborough, England and keep an eye on the pitches of the Scavela.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Giving TFC a Brazilian

Well, the MLS International transfer window has passed on the Lake Ontario breeze once again with only a Fellinga to show for it. While its never a good policy to buy someone just because they are foreign (see Welsh, Tebily, Robert, Ruiz etc.), Toronto is a multicultural place and the fans do like to see that global flair. The team has recently brought in some young Gambians who are showing promise and the aforementioned "Haitian Creation" but still no big "out-of-MLS" International signing since Rohan Ricketts. Wait...perhaps that's why.

Pity poor, hard-working Mo Johnston. He takes his annual trip to Brazil but just can't seem to find any players out of the thousands there! Forgive the humble Scotsman though - it's hard to cultivate a new two-year extension and actually sign players. He has so much on his plate: keeping the MLSE board smiling with a tiny payroll; pretending to sign DP-esque players; holding press conferences where he mumbles clich├ęs; oh, and don't forget his enlightening GOL-TV appearances! A top-notch football executive who we need to help.

With that in mind, we offer our help in the re-branding of TFC with the Brazilian flair that MLSE would love to promote, while saving the money that MLSE would love to save! So here, in time for the playoff push is the new Brazilian version of The Reds. Now go have a nap Mo, we'll take it from here - rest your hand for the signing of the new contract. MLSE...start printing the shirts.


Manager (Chris Cummins) - CUNGA

GK (Stefan Frei) - SWITZAO
D (Adrian Serioux) - ADRIANEAUX
D (Nick Garcia) - SANJOSITO
D (Emmanuel Gomez) - GAMBIO
D (Nana Attakora) - NENE
M (Jim Brennan) - CANADESE
M (Sam Cronin) - CRONOLOGICO
M (Carl Robison) - ROBINSON CARLOS
M (Pablo Vitti) - NOGOLASIMO
M (Amado Guevara) - CHE
M (Dwayne De Rosario) - DE ROMARIO
F (Danny Dichio) - DANIDINIHO
F (Ali Gerba) - ALI GAO
F (O'Brian White) - O'BRIGADO
F (Chad Barrett) - CACA

Monday, August 17, 2009

TFC Media League - Round 4

Well, TFC managed to do what was needed to move up the table this weekend but what of the media that covers them? The race for the first Graham Leggat Trophy is heating up!

Round 4 of the TFC Media League sees the race at the top stay tight as Toronto's two main dailies, the Sun and Star, battle it out but the National Post got some valuable points. "The Nats" poured a lot of coverage on the Real Madrid madness so we will have to see if their coverage remains strong as the regular season resumes.

TSN is propping up the league from deep in last. The relegation bound "Sports" network still treats TFC somewhere above bowling and far below any story about an Ottawa Senators' fourth liner's plans for the summer. Scroll down the right hand side of the page for the latest full table.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The South Stand Report : Toronto v. DC... or The Mediocre Struggle Into The Playoffs!

Updated logo. The ball and star make it much better.

After a long and drawn out absence, I am thrilled to announced that summertime has officially begun with the annual event we've all been waiting for : EPL SEASON BEGINS!!

Though we've had the mildest summer thus far that I can remember in the mighty Canadas, the last few days have been ridiculously hot. Heatstroke on Thursday, dehydration on Friday, who knows what Saturday can leave me in my fair-skinned condition. So the notion of baking in the sun for a footie match that offers no shade (two words schedule wizards : night games) wasn't high on my things to do on a Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless, Chelsea poached a last minute goal to win (again) and Arsenal smashing 6 past Everton... sorry, I got carried away...

To those of you who think that Canada is a land of Mounties and igloos, you can f*ck right off you are grossly misinformed. It's about 34C out there (or those you who live in the past, that's mid 90s F) with no clouds in sight. You could cook eggs on my back, but you wouldn't eat them... unless you have a thing for back hair in your sunny-side ups.

DC United is faring about as well as we are. The only true advantage is that we're at home for this scheduled mid-season collapse. With 10 games remaining and 1 point out of a play-off spot, there's plenty to play for, a 6-pointer, a [enter typical football cliche here]!

On to the match.

No Chad starting, but two Gambians and a first round draft pick get the nod.

3 - F'ing hot.

10 - Attakora misjudges a looping ball, but recovers to force a shot into the side netting.

15 - Vitti passes across goal, Brennan heads the ball towards the opposite post for Wicks to only watch it ricochet off the post.

17 - YELLOW - Cronin gets a booking for going after a ball with a slide and having a late defender collide with him on the ground. I thought colour-blind people could still see red...

"You know, we all take our shirts off in the 33rd minute"
~ Jonathan says to a woman in front of us
23 - Attakora chases down Emilio to prevent a shot and lose the ball past the goal line. Outstanding hustle and composure.

27 - Still f'ing hot.

31 - GOAL - Brennan crosses right to Cronin, who puts the ball back into the box for DeRo to head into the bottom right. So very pretty.

36 - Frei bails the linesman out after he comes charging out of the area to tackle the ball away from a clearly blown offside call.

44 - "Discount" Fred (as compared to this Fred) gets hauled down, resulting in the second crap DC free kick of the game. Seriously guys, they're wearing red. How is it this team cannot see red. They are the anti-bulls or something. Bullfighting references? No? OK, moving on...

1 minute of extra time

HALF-TIME : Melt-tacular. Seriously, it's still f'ing hot.

SUB - Robinson out, Guevara in.

49 - Too hot. Don't wanna write this anymore...

57 - DeRo loses his marker in an embarrassing-"Real Madrid"-type fashion and slots the ball just wide right.

58 - YELLOW - Brennan for a kinda late brutal tackle.

66 - GOAL - Scramble in the box finds Sanyang poking the ball to White, who settles it (and by doing this usually results in a save but...) and buries it. Well done sir.

67 - Toronto is possessed as White flips a loose ball that Vitti just can't get to. Aggressive stuff.

73 - SUB - Gerba in. White out. If The Chad had been subbed in, he'd have cramped up within this sentence.

74 - Guevara free kick ends up at Vitti's best foot, his head, and just puts it wide.

80 - SUB almost... Sanyang went down hurt and Gala almost came in.

85 - Fancy passing from Toronto ends with Guevara firing a low and weak shot, only for Josh Wicks to bobble it.

They'd been better off with Ben Wicks
~ Tony
87 - SUB - Gala in, Brennan off.

90+2 - Guevara gets his head in front of a sure goal and clears it off the line to preserve the clean sheet that only here seemed to be threatened.

90+3 - DeRo rifled a shot past the top left corner

90+5 - ummmmmmmm... whistle?

FULL TIME - Toronto 2 : DC 0

Even the expected 'last 15 minutes collapse' that the Reds are famous for didn't amount to much, playing their 8-0-2 formation and all (though, admittedly, it looked more like a 7-1-2). DC didn't do anything threatening, even when given the opportunities, then again...

Man of the Match : ... Attakora was outstanding. Guevara looked great, but only for the second half.

Goat : none. Again. Man, we need to start hating on someone soon or this part is going to be useless.

Ref : a few screwed up calls that didn't end up costing us anything, so he gets a 3 out of 5 for not influencing the game too much.

We need a roof. And air conditioning. Or less games in August (even though this is the only one).

On a side note, I very much looked forward to the "game during the EX" this year, however, we've been baited and switched for an overpriced Celtic-B vs. Benfica-B (it's an international weekend, go look it up, we'll wait). $50 to see reserves, I don't think so. Thanks anyways. I was looking forward to post-game Tiny Tom's donuts...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Match Preview: The Damned United

BMO Field - Saturday 4:00 PM EST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet -- Radio: The Fan 590

How do two teams react after being punched repeatedly in the face by Spanish billionaires? It will be interesting to see which club gained the most out of being Real Madrid's b*tches last week. The friendly-hype is now officially dead and the season continues into the final stretch. 10 games left to play this season with the playoffs completely dependent on which Toronto FC shows up. Will it be the dynamically offensive club capable of scoring in bunches - even if it is from the midfield? Or, will it be the defensively offensive club who has allowed a league worst 11 goals between the 76th and 90th minutes? The only problem is that right out of the gate, The Reds face D.C. United who are in exactly the same position as them. This match may set the ball rolling on the fate of two clubs.

TORONTO FC 6-10-4 27 pts - 5th in EAST (9th Overall)
The last league match for TFC was the 1-1 draw at New England but that was a blip during a rather poor run as of late. Once again, Chris Cummins will have had to find a way to re-energize the sputtering offence and get Ali Gerba working as a useful hitman. On the other end of the pitch, the back four will need to keep their shape - especially late in the game. New addition Lesly Fellinga will not play due to work permits and Marvell Wynne is out with a hamstring injury. Stop eating stringy ham - you're rich! Add to the defensive wounded list Nick Garcia and TFC once again has a crisis in the back. Good depth there Director of Football - "building to the future". Up front, things need to pick up in a hurry, especially with the strikers. Good news is that Chad Barrett is suspended due to his red card which means he cannot play.

D.C. UNITED 6-10-4 28pts - 9th in EAST (7th Overall)
The Black and Red machine have always given TFC a hard time but the last match between the two was a real barn-burner. The 3-3 draw at RFK back in May was an impressive display of scoring by both sides. Despite having an up and down year, United have a lot of firepower. Brazilian Luciano Emilio has 8 goals while Christian Gomez and the ageless wonder that is Jaime Moreno have 6 each. On top of that, United also have Fred on their team! Not the good Fred who plays in Europe but another Fred! How great is Brazil to have two Fred's? I guess they are indeed better than one. No major injuries for D.C. except for the stinging reality that Barack Obama likes Chicago Fire more than them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Marco...Velez! Marco...... uh where's Marco?

Finally, Toronto FC have found a way to eliminate a Puerto Rico Islander -terminate his contract. TFC announced the release of defender Marco Velez after 38 appearances for the club. The enigmatic 29 year old was capable of the odd solid game but all too often was caught on the wrong end of a defensive blunder. If truth be told, Velez is not of the quality to be an MLS starter. With TFC (aka "The Bargain Hunters") he started 31 games. Make your own Mo Johnston joke - I can't do one everyday.

The Marco Velez Fan Club doesn't exactly have a ton of members in Toronto but the move does seem confusing. A day after signing Lesly "The Haiti Kid" Fellinga it seemed like TFC was adding some depth in the back but now the number has once again dropped by one. Unless there are a flurry of signings on the horizon (enter your own Mo joke #2 here) then The Reds are as paper thin today as they were two days ago. As for Velez, what can you say? You weren't TFC's worst defender - until Kevin Harmse left.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: It's a Haitian Sensation! Fellinga Joins TFC

Yes, we’ve got Fellinga – it is, Sexual Healing-a” Okay, that may be the worst chant of all time but big kudos to anyone who is heard singing it on Saturday. That’s right fans of Haitian International football, 23 year old Lesly Fellinga has signed with Toronto FC with the club officially announcing the move today. For followers of THE WORD, the Fellinga rumour has been around for a couple of weeks now, so it is safe to assume that the young left-back impressed enough during trials or is willing to be paid by MLSE in Haitian currency.

The new Red is something of an unknown quantity but did have the chops to break into the first team of Dutch heavyweights SC Heerenveen-Gone Tomorrow. If he shows actual quality, he may press Jim Brennan for minutes as the captain has definitely shown diminished qualities this season. Depth is certainly lacking on TFC so any reinforcements are more than welcome but the signing, and any more at this level, will be a bitter pill for any easily tricked supporters who may have honestly believed Julian De Guzman was really coming home. Lastly, kudos to you Mo Johnston – a Haitian via The Netherlands – it’s true, you do know that there are countries that exist outside of the English speaking world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

THE WORD: Trials And Errors

Maybe part of Mo Johnston's rumoured contract extension includes a Eurail Pass because all of a sudden TFC is being linked with Central European based players. As reported in THE WORD last week, European press are claiming that The Reds are close to signing Haitian defender Lesly Fellinga, last of Holland's SV Heereveen (Gone Tomorrow) and that the player is on trial in TFC's secret bunker.

This week, the EU quotient is being upped at BMO with the apparent trials of Dutch midfielder Dominique "Not Wilkins" Van Dijk and Czech striker Michal "Cherry Flavour "Pospisil. Now who dares say Mo's map of the continent was torn anywhere east of Newcastle! Somebody's been in geography class.

Van Dijk is a 29 year old journeyman who may or may not own a windmill but has played for one of the world's best named teams - Go Ahead Eagles. Love them. Read it like a 30's gangster: "Go Ahead Eagles... do your worst, see!". His best years were with lower divisie SC Cambuur - which may also be a type of vegetable. He would be dirt cheap... " a stunning player" says MLSE's accounting department.

Pospisil is not a delicious frozen treat on a stick but rather another journeyman, this time Ceski! Ahoj Michal...Pivo? (It means "Hello Michal...Beer?" My time in Prague really did wonders) Pospisil has had some decent years up front especially during spells with Slovan Liberec of the Czech Gambrinus Liga (Gambrinus is a marvellous pivo by the way) and with Hearts in the Scottish Premier. Oh, now i get it Mo.. Scotland. Either way, he'd be a bit cheap too... "great work rate and a top-notch soccer scoring striker type of guy thingy" says MLSE's accounting department.

It seems unlikely that TFC would be ready to hand out this many international slots but word is they are on trials at The International House of Cut-Rate Players aka BMO Field. Maybe Mo figures 4 or 5 mediocre players equals the one good one he was never really going to... I mean tried really hard to sign.



Friday, August 7, 2009

Back To Real-ity

Los Galacticos have left los building. No need for a match report, no need for analysis. It was an all-star skills competition at BMO Field and ended as predicted. It is no secret that Real Madrid is in a different class from TFC, and that's no insult to The Reds. Real are in a different class to all but a handful of teams in the world. 5-1 was the final and despite the ticket price, Real Madrid did as advertised. They played their stars who scored pretty goals while looking pretty. Kudos to Toronto's Gabe Gala who notched the home side's only goal. The kid looked like he just scored the World Cup winner and in his short career it may be similar. The strike also gave the TFC supporters in the crowd, and yes there were a good number, a reason to cheer for their outmatched home team.

Now that the circus leaves town, the real (not Real) questions can resume. Where does TFC go from here? Does a real push for the playoffs start now or does this team continue to sputter through the rest of the MLS season? Next, does the media spotlight which has been shining so brightly on BMO Field this week have any residue? Will the media stick around and start asking hard questions about actual issues such as the lack of new signings, the poor showing as of late and the lack of investment from MLSE after recent huge profits? Or, is the self proclaimed "Highlight of the Season", tonight's friendly, the best that supporters get this year?

It is a bit of a crossroads for The Reds right now. The only thing left on the schedule are gruelling late season matches and long road trips. There are no more glamour friendlies, no Champions League and if things don't pick up in a hurry - no playoffs. It's just football from here on out and it's time for the head office to make this team ready for the rest of the season and the near future. Hopefully Mo Johnston's magical "5 Year Plan" includes real transfers and isn't only about collecting draft picks and mapping out big name friendlies for the next two seasons while the club wades through mediocrity.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Real" Greed Makes MLSE Kaka

To brand Friday night's friendly against Real Madrid as a negative would be an ignorant thing to do. To imagine that MLSE brought the Nu-Galacticos here to further the "beautiful game" in Toronto would be a far more ignorant line of thought. The fact that our local squad, comparable in stature with a second division European club, gets to test their skills against the reserves of one of the world's Top 5 clubs is great in theory. The way the event was created, and the why it was created, is an exercise so steeped in corporate greed that it must even make some MLSE execs blush - and their bar is quite low already.

The bad taste for some supporters started early when the match was first announced. The immediate excitement that Real Madrid was this year's friendly was amazing. Then the bottom fell out. This was not the free match, instead, season ticket holders were given the privilege to get a bank loan and pay four or five times the regular price of their ticket to see a no contact, no hustle friendly. Inevitably the match sold out, there was little doubt about those chances, however, the very fans who make the noise and atmosphere that the ownership uses so deftly to promote the team will mostly be absent. The great unwashed got the distant second place award of a night with River Plate. Instead, the average rabid TFC supporter will be supplanted on Friday by suburbanites in Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys and corporate hangers-on who might watch the odd "soccer" game every four years. Some BMO Field regulars will be apologists and tout the "once in a lifetime" aspect of the match but real Reds' supporters are far more interested in the remaining MLS schedule and still very angry at the team's pathetic Champions League elimination.

It is no secret in Toronto that MLSE is not in the trophy-winning business. The Bay Street Bankers are in the profit business and they are perennial champions. But, even in their wildest dreams the board could have not seen this coming when they paid a pittance for the expansion fee and weaseled their way into a nearly free stadium. Sold out crowds (who can pound back the Carlsberg), merchandise wearing fanatics, transfer fee windfalls and now this - the multi-million one night only jackpot! It's no wonder that MLSE has been pushing this as the "be all and end all" of football extravaganzas, for them it is. An approximate profit of $3 Million for the match itself and for the cherry on top, an approximate $225,000 gate from tonight's Real Madrid open practice. And that's before refreshments and merchandise! The giddy giggling you hear from Bay Street is The Board of Directors rolling in a big pile of money taken from those "crazy soccer lovin' sons of immigrants!"

Toronto FC, despite its name, is not a club. To it's fans it is, to the suits it is very much a franchise - part of the corporate branding in MLSE's sports entertainment catalogue. It is just the latest product to be sure that all of the Toronto area's market demographics are covered. Results on the pitch are of no consequence to the boardroom. Win, lose or draw, BMO Field is full. MLSE collects just enough men in red shirts to manage expectations and to field an opponent for "big" football teams to visit. This is most reflected by the tone of MLSE VP Bob Hunter who when asked about the grass being installed for Real Madrid said the surface "reflects the quality of the team we're playing...". If that's the case, then the Field Turf, which now looks like a pair of old man's polyester green slacks, must reflect the quality of the team who plays on it the rest of the year. Complain all you want Mr. De Rosario - you are just the pin-up boy for TFC Inc. - your thoughts on the turf do not matter.

The saddest part of this whole fiasco is how a friendly, what most real clubs play in their pre-season, is being sold to the dimmer lights of TFC support as "The Highlight of the Season". For supporters, that should send a collective chill up the spines. There was barely a peep from TFC/ MLSE about the Champions League debacle, there is a glossing over of the wall that TFC has hit and the rapidly disappearing play-offs, the Director of Football has spent most of the transfer window watering a falsehood about Julian De Guzman signing while not actually signing anyone, and yet what is the PR machine churning out and the media eating up? “Kaka is here!” Indeed it is.

Real Madrid will come and go and MLSE will have a giant $3 Million dollar-plus cheque in their hands. That’s a similar amount to the fee they got from the sale of Maurice Edu last year, which was apparently going to be spent on club improvements. Is temporary one-day grass covered in the Edu fund? TFC is turning into a very lucrative little jewel in the MLSE Empire and has given the execs the one thing they didn’t think was possible – “Leafs Nation” 12 months a year. The “Leafs On Turf” may wear red but the bottom line will never share the same hue. One more similarity TFC will share with its MLSE cousins on ice and hardwood… an empty trophy case.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Sepultureros" Didn't Need Help

Puerto Rico Islanders have an unofficial nickname of "Sepultureros" or in English - "The Gravediggers". Over the two legs of the Champions League Preliminary they didn't need help - Toronto FC brought it's own shovel and did all the work necessary to bury themselves.

Where does one begin with tonight's second leg? It is fair to think that most TFC supporters were expecting to see the club come out flying tonight, but instead of a cohesive unit we were offered up 11 men who happened to be wearing the same shirt. There was no evidence of a gameplan, no feeling of urgency and a seemingly shocking lack of motivation to do better. The urgency accelerated as the clock wound down but the team, the gameplan and the quality never reached acceptable levels. 180 minutes of football provided no goals and a shocking lack of good chances. Puerto Rico win 1-0 over two legs - and deserve it.

Throwing Chris Cummins under the bus will not achieve anything. Fabio Capello couldn't make a silk purse out of the sow's ear on the pitch tonight but the interim manager must at least share in the blame. How the club came out without the plan and motivation necessary is alarming. The change in attacking formation in the second half proved fruitless as the long range efforts were wishful at best but there was no further radical change from the bench. The only answer was to throw more and more attackers on the field and pray for a PRI mistake. While the Danny Dichio-Messiah legend is overplayed in Toronto, it is baffling that you wouldn't throw your giant hitman at their giant defenders for more than 20 minutes. In the end the best chance did ironically fall to Dichio's feet only to be denied by the post. All of the tactics were baffling.

The players must take their share in the blame as well. Far too many of the veteran leaders of this club where invisible tonight. The returning Amado Guevara was a non-factor while Carl Robinson and Jim Brennan added little. Brennan's crosses are in fact becoming weaker every game. Adrian Serioux put his body on the line again, and Dwayne De Rosario at least showed heart if not finishing, but the two hometown boys couldn't carry the other 9. It is sad to see that the passion for Toronto FC that made Torontonians make the very long trek to support the team in Puerto Rico wasn't shared on the pitch.

The most infuriating result, apart from failing to qualify, is that MLSE will gloss over this loss with one brief article on the TFC website and immediately get back to the circus that is Real Madrid. Sorry, MLSE/ TFC - this was the most important match of the season NOT an overhyped and underplayed exhibition next Friday which most real supporters were priced out of anyways. With that "the week that will make or break the season" was broke and a wall has been hit. Good luck getting that gravedigger's shovel back on the plane TFC, unless of course you are staying on for a few days to extend your Puerto Rican vacation. If so, I'm sure the travelling supporters who have to rush back to their real jobs will take it for you.

The WORD: More Than a Fellinga?

This one has been floating around the old internetting machine for a few weeks but it has started to gather some steam overseas. Sources claim (why can't sauces ever claim instead?) that Toronto FC is about to sign 23 year old left-back Lesly Fellinga from Dutch Eredivisie outfit SC Heerenveen on a free (of course) transfer.

The young Haitian international (12 caps) has spent his entire professional career in the Land of Pancakes and Windmills as opposed to former TFC striker Collin Samuel who got wind after going to International House of Pancakes. Fellinga started his career in FC Groningen's youth set-up before being given a start at Dutch lower division (sorry, divisie) side BV Veendam. He impressed there and made the jump to Dutch big boys SC Heerenveen where he toiled in their reserve teams before making two senior appearances last year.

Any player with a solid, high-level European training background at least has some promise and TFC definitely needs some depth in the back. At worst, Fellinga could add some competition on the left side of a back four that includes rapidly aging veterans, especially Jim Brennan, but also a couple of decent looking youngsters in Attakora and Gomez. The only strange thing about this rumour is that no one knew that Mo Johnston's scouting radar went any further east than the North Sea. Maybe he fell asleep in front of GOL-TV and "Eridivisie This Week" was on, or he was looking up “Dutch” things on the internetting machine. We will follow this rumour to see if it pans out or if it is Heerenveen and gone tomorrow. Sorry... I had to... the Dutch are hilarious… sounding.

WORD FACTOR: 6.5 / 10

Monday, August 3, 2009

Match Preview: Getting Two By The Islanders aka "Los Miraclos II"

Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium - Tuesday 8:00PM EST

What's Spanish for deja vu? It wasn't long ago that TFC had grossly underestimated a USL squad only to need a major win to escape humiliating defeat. Glad to see life lessons were learned back in Montreal. Toronto FC did manage to pull off a minor footballing miracle back at Saputo that night however this is a whole different kettle of Tilapia. Unlike L'Impact, Islanders (or Tropa Naranja to their friends) have everything to play for and will not be fielding a reserve team for this match. Nothing is impossible and the ball is indeed round, but you have to believe that TFC is about to see exactly how Puerto Rico went to the CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Finals last season. Aye bloody carumba.

PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS (CCL) 1-0-0 (1GF / 0GA - 1 Away Goal)
Expect a very patient Islanders team at home. They have a good fan base who will be pushing them forward but manager Colin Clarke and his team know TFC will have everything to play for. Los Islenos will likely try to shut up shop and wait for TFC to make a mistake then pounce on the counter-attack. You know, like they did at BMO Field last week - aye! aye! aye! The PRI back four were both solid and feisty (almost fighting with each other at one point!) and know how to get the job done. Even if The Reds can sneak one by the defenders, keeper Bill Gaudette is very capable and likely headed back to MLS soon. We may not see them all night but any offense will likely come from Caribbean forwards Kendall Jagdeosingh and Nicholas Addlery.

TORONTO FC (CCL) 0-0-1 (0GF / 1GA)
Toronto FC have been an enigma all year long. You never know from one match to the next what to expect. "Strike early and strike often" should be the mantra being drilled into the players' heads as they acclimatize themselves to Puerto Rico. There will be no time to settle into a rhythm in this match and TFC will have to come out firing on all cylinders. Chris Cummins will hopefully be able to find a way of getting Ali Gerba more involved as success depends on the strikers doing what they are paid for. If he starts Chad Barrett again, they get what they deserve. Amado Guevara and Nana Attakora are still questionable and Adrian Serioux is sore but it will likely take wild Puerto Rican horses to keep him off the field. Where would this team be without Scarborough? TFC needs a 1-0 scoreline to send it to ET and a +2 score to win it. If they do go up by two they cannot have a 2nd half nap as per usual - Islanders will catch them if they do. Let's make a deal, if they manage to win the match and the preliminary, don't call it a "miracle", call it "what is expected".

THE ROTTEN RANT: Islanders Display Sums Up The Season

To whom it may concern,

How could a club who has been preparing for the biggest game in it's history come out so flat? It's not as if Puerto Rico was tearing up the pitch. What happened to "BMO Field -The Fortress", "This Is Our House" etc. etc? The lack of effort and game plan was terrible and as the game wore on the crosses got worse, the corners near amateurish and the finishing was non-existent. God forbid I say it out loud in the stands, but for the first time since 2007 I was so bored I almost fell asleep standing up.

Where is this all going? I'm tired of hearing "TFC is building something special for the future". It's one step forward and two steps back with this club. This season's highlight was the big win in Montreal but honestly it should have never come to that. The long term affect of that game was that another lacklustre season has been sugarcoated by one match. MLSE has once again managed our expectations.

Finally, if you believe Julian De Guzman was ever coming here you should also wait for a fat man to enter your house in December, leave you a new TFC jersey under your evergreen while munching on your cookies.

Yours negatively,
Professor Dom Rotten

Dom Rotten is an expert in the field of negative thought and is Head of the Department of Negative Neurology at University of Stouffville. The Yorkies do not necessarily endorse all of Mr. Rotten's opinions but he will express them whether you want to hear them or not.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

THE WORD: L'Impact du Montreal pour L'Expansion de la MLS avec FC Toronto ou est le Biblioteque?

Hope you like Joe Louis' cakes, St. Hubert Chicken, Pepsi and cigarettes because it looks like "The 401 Derby" is on the horizon! Speaking to financial media outlet Forbes, MLS supremo Don Garber said that Montreal should have the 19th spot in the league by the 2011 season.

No matter what your feelings are about Montreal, Quebec, The Impact, Charles De Gaulle, mimes, body hair... this news is fantastic for Planet TFC and it's supporters. The excitement that is often palpable at BMO Field will be downright fiery when we have a true rival (no offence Columbus, you know you feel the same) playing in a true regional derby. The two cities are already the best of rivals in other sports, politics, language, culture, looks, smell, sausages etc. and football will be an amazing catalyst.

Hopefully this is more than a rumour and Joey Saputo won't put his foot in his mouth once again, pissing off MLS. Let's also hope that the Montreal club will see le light and ouvre le porte for a new name. Impact is a roller hockey name which unlike Whitecaps, Sounders and Timbers has no history or relevance. Bienvenue FC Olympique Montreal? Mais oui!

WORD FACTOR: 8 / 10 (and a side of poutine)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

South Couch Report : New England v. Toronto or... is that a glass ceiling?

Ahh, long weekend here in 'The Canadas' (we've discovered that we have readership in Sweden and Malaysia) and I'm at home with nothing to do except get on my perch and comment about pro footie. For those of you who are wondering, I am not standing watching the match at home. I tried it once, kinda felt stupid. Especially with nobody standing in my way. Oh well.

Toronto, fresh off a personally satisfying display against Puerto Rico, gets back a few regulars from injury, including Serioux and the public-relations darling Gambian kids who are on the bench. There's still good odds that they are a figment of our imaginations... but we'll see when they're subbed way too late into the match.

I'm a little late in the reporting as I was watching Big Bang reruns. Man that's a good show. Maybe I'm crazy, but it's the best sitcom on network TV and that blonde is unbelieveably hot, I can't wait for her to pose naked adds a great dynamic and chemistry to the cast.

Anyways, there's a game on so enough gabbing.

12 - YELLOW - Gerba for diving. Looked kind of weak flop and surprising from a guy of his size to throw himself to ground on something so flimsy. The WSBK play-by-play guys used the phrase "not in our house" just like a professional top-flight television commentator would.

15 - Barrett fights deep in the corner, but the fro'd Alston fights even harder to clear the ball. Impressive defending.

18 - Gerba lays a shot off to Vitti, but Alston gets in front for a deflection. This kid is a machine.

20 - Vitti hits the woodwork off of his head. We should know that his feet don't work like that.

26 - Vitti takes a Gerba pass and fires it straight at Matt Reis. I mean, right at him.

28 - Kenny Mansally draws a free kick after trying to flying shoulder tackle him fails and sends him to the ground. That's a busted call. He's lucky he didn't bounce into the third row as he's done to other poor Vancouver wingers.

34 - GOAL - DeRo fires a rocket after a Barrett shot deflects off of Gerba and right onto the path, full volley later and the good guys are up. Accidental yet pretty. Deserved one of those against the Islanders and we'll need one on Tuesday.

36 - YELLOW - Barrett gets carded after getting bumped off of the ball by Alston and The Chad chucks him to the ground.

37 - Alston threads to Dube who leaves it to Jankauskas who beats the keeper, but not the other three defenders, leaving enough time for Frei to get back and make a very easy save. They should've scored on that, but they didn't.

Wow, $20 to see New England against L.A. Galaxy and David "Better than here" Beckham. Advantages of playing in a 70,000 stadium or Kraft isn't down with fleecing his supporters?

43 - Gerba gets closed down by three defenders and fakes a nice pass for DeRo to just be able to draw a corner. Ensuing corner results in Reis' Pieces with the easy save.

HALF-TIME : Not too shabby.

51 - RED - The Chad gets his second booking after a late tackle on Alston. The way Alston was ruining Barrett's flow, this isn't terribly surprising.

57 - The "Altogether, altogether, hey, hey" chant actually has a consistent rhythm. So that's what it's supposed to sound like?

59 - YELLOW - Serioux a little late on the tackle.

67 - Toronto is doing the usual "8 men behind the ball" trick, but without the panic and desperation that usually plagues them with so much time left on the clock.

69 - Toronto corner after much defending over the last 20 mins. Forgot what that end of the pitch looked like.

71 - Vitti loops a cute low ball over the defenders, only to have Reis get to it before Gerba does.

Seriously, why hasn't anyone else other than me make a connection between 'Wee' Jimmy Brennan and 'Cowboy' Bob Orton? Is he really injured? When I find a picture of Orton, I'll post it, but some of you aren't old enough to know (but somehow think Hogan was a 'good' wrestler).

75 - SUB - Sanyang in, Gerba out. Crossing the Gambian off of my mythical persons list. Santa, Easter Bunny and TFC's designated player still remain.

76 - GOAL - Cross through the 6 yard box, Joseph with a nice touch back and Jankauskas slides it past Frei. Solid goal.

78 - DeRo marauds down the right wing and buries a shot low and into the side of the netting.

81 - It seems like the whole footballing world has figured out how to defend against Toronto. It seems like, offensively positionally anyways, TFC play well, but the defenders know EXACTLY how to lock them down. So odd and frustration

86 - SUB - Emmanuel Gomez in, "Wee" Jimmy out. This would be the other Gambian.

88 - Videira loops a ball that Frei gets in front of.

88 - Back the other way, Sanyang fires a shot resulting in a corner. Ensuing corner has Gomez heading the ball back into the box and Serioux bicycle that left him shaken up. At least they're attacking even being down a man.

90 - ummm is it a RED? - New England boss Steve Nicol has been ejected. No mention for what.

4 minutes of added time

90+2 - Gomez makes a lovely tackle in his own box with full composure. Wonderful touch.

90+3 - YELLOW - Garcia for apparent time wasting. Unnecessary but whatever.

FULL TIME New England 1 : Toronto 1

Man of the Match - DeRo. Forgetting the cracker of a goal he bagged, his hustle is something else. I also think Alston for New England is amazing so he gets a sympathetic vote.

Goat of the Game - none. Subs came at the correct time.

Ref meter - 4 out of 5. Only a blindly biased supporter would see those cards are screw ups. Not perfect, but not bad.

Meh, not a bad game. Toronto looked sharp at times, which is more than I can say for most road matches that I've viewed (which are admittedly, few and far between).

Plenty to look forward to on Tuesday when Toronto head to Puerto Rico for the MOST IMPORTANT GAME EVER PLAYED EVER ANYWHERE... EVER Part II