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Friday, October 30, 2009

No Hall of Fame for Mo's transactions

---- -----------------"Can I get back to you in five years?"

One thing has become crystal clear over the last few days of post-season naval gazing at BMO Field. It doesn't matter, who the head coach is, it doesn't matter how the star player feels, it doesn't matter what the supporters want - Mo Johnston (Yes, the Scottish Hall of Famer!) will do as he likes with Toronto FC. The Wee Glasgow Dictator quickly learned what it takes to excel under the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment umbrella - profit equals success, trophies are a bonus marketing tool but not necessary. In turn MLSE has given the keys to the jalopy to Johnston - with no questions asked.

Mo Johnston should be a head North American/ NCAA scout but that is all. His draft prowess is actually quite remarkable but his day-to-day control of the club is mediocre at a charitable best. In nearly four years on the job, Johnston has yet to establish a solid back-line, acquire a consistent striker or create a balanced line-up.

Somehow, Johnston still has a lot of backers in this city but there is an error in a common defence of the Director. While his drafting has been good, his transaction and transfer skills have often been equally lauded. This is simply not fact. Taking away the motley crew that was the 2007 MLS expansion draft crop, a look at Mo's moves since will reveal far more failure than success.

A couple of wily trades in 2007 and the signings of veteran English-based free agents were solid early on but have only been complimented by a Scarborough trio in the three years since:
JIM BRENNAN: The captain has been a hardy mainstay but his time is clearly up.
DANNY DICHIO: Journeyman at best, but a permanent folk hero nonetheless.
CARL ROBINSON: Underrated engine of the midfield and the true captain.
MARVELL WYNNE: Mo's best steal but development may have peaked.
AMADO GUEVARA: Not that good, should be a maybe at best - disappears far too often
DWAYNE DE ROSARIO: Without a doubt the best player TFC has seen but unhappy.
ADRIAN SERIOUX: Sometimes error-prone but tough, mean and solid at back.
JULIAN DE GUZMAN: Not enough time but a great talent if surrounded by quality.

One of the big problems with TFC has been the revolving door of players. When you don't create a system built around a solid managerial style with talented coaching, what can you expect? The answer: a lot of mediocrity, many courtesy of Mo's agent pal:
CONOR CASEY: Bring in a guy who can’t play on turf - blame him for leaving.
ANDY WELSH: Couldn't cross a ball above a defender's chest.
COLLIN SAMUEL: Didn't hit the net - always hit the buffet.
JEFF CUNNINGHAM: Scores tons of goals. Except in Toronto. Why?
MARCO VELEZ: Usually played Marco Polo with oncoming attackers.
LAURENT ROBERT: Played great for 1 game. Sulked. Went home.
CARLOS RUIZ: Took three weeks to show up but never really did.
ROHAN RICKETTS: Professional Bridge-Burner who Twittered his way out of town.
KEVIN HARMSE: A shocking lack of football intelligence. "No Harmse - no fouls"
TYRONE MARSHALL: Useful defender who should have been kept for another year.
JOHANN SMITH: Previous career high was Bolton's Academy. Nuff said.
OLIVER TEBILY: He came. He saw. He disappeared.
CHAD BARRETT: Not only an awful acquisition but a four-year deal too. Genius.
PABLO VITTI: Has there ever been an Argentine so afraid to take a shot as Pablo?
NICK GARCIA: The human own-goal.

It's a little more evident when they are balanced out like that isn't it? A lot of transactions with little quality. The non-stop revolving door of bargain basement squad players only brings instability and an entire lack of cohesion to an already poor team.

Johnston has prevailed in the art of procuring players who are not wanted elsewhere and available on the cheap while using MLSE's PR machine to trump them as "the next great thing". The man can indeed draft, exactly like a head NCAA scout should. As far as being Director of Football, he is much like many of his transactions: overrated, unwanted elsewhere and needs to be shown the door.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Headlines that would have made 2009 worse

--------------------That is some quality toad. Nice hole too.

Well, that's it then. 2009 is done and dusted with Toronto FC having nothing but a big wad of mediocrity to show for it. But have no fear brave TFC supporters - Mo Johnston is working feverishly to make everything better! (You! Step away from the ledge!) Well, you always have to look on the bright side though right? Imagine opening the newspaper and...











1. MO JOHNSTON SIGNS 2 1/2 YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION.... (What?... Really?... But I was joking... Aww crap.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Scapegoat # 2 fired

So Mo Johnston's big state of the no-union address was to remove the "interim" tag from head coach Chris Cummins title. He also removed the word "head" and "coach" from the affable Englishman's job description as well.

Yes, the ever-humble Johnston dispatched yet another manager from the TFC bench with Cummins being the convenient excuse for the mediocrity which Mo has taken nearly four years to build. But not to worry TFC supporters, the Scottish genius and # 1 on Richard Peddie's Christmas card list, "hopes" to have a new manager by February. No... not a typo... February!

Why exactly will it potentially take a professional club over nine months since the departure of John Carver to find a manager? Could it be that he needs to wait for Danny Dichio to get his coaching papers before being announced as Nick Dasovic's assistant? Is Mo waiting to see if the current Luton/ Crewe/ Swindon Town (insert low English league club here) manager is fired and suddenly available? Or maybe Barry MacLean, Mo's agent who seems to represent 75% of TFC, needs more time to do Mo's job for him?

Considering that the coaching style of your on-field manager should reflect upon your squad, how exactly are off-season moves going to be decided? Obviously it will be Mo (and his agent) fully deciding on the draft and any (if any) off-season acquisitions. This series of events will of course mean that any new manager will likely just be another extension (i.e. puppet) of the Scottish Lord and doomed to be Scapegoat # 3 in the "Keep Johnston at MLSE For Life Program".

And, in case you missed that sweet little nugget today, Johnston admitted he has agreed upon a 2 1/2 year contract extension pending finances. Joy! TFC supporters can expect a whole lot more of the same for a long time to come. Simply sad.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Late Night Playoff Update: Come on you Washington, Osmonds Massive, up the Ewings... how you doin' Mo Johnston?

------------------ "Sing when you're winning" - RSL = 40pts

After having to swallow a 5-0 debacle in New York, one thing was clear - any team other than Toronto FC had to make the playoffs tonight. There was that brief moment where it was still possible that the Reds, that unbalanced, built-on-the cheap by Mo Johnston squad could still make the playoffs despite the club's horrifying display and completely mediocre season. Thankfully, the MLS gods don't have a morbid sense of humour and the truly undeserving TFC are done for the year. I don't care who grabs 8th as long as Johnston can't claim he did a good job. And that is mathematically final.

------------------"Hi there... I'm Washington" - DC United = 40pts

---------------------------"So close y'all" - FC Dallas = 39pts

------------------------------------This guy = 5 year plan

So Mo, builder of "something special" - this season's tally is a few extra points, the slimmest of victories over two USL sides, a meaningless friendly, a head coach evacuee and Chad Barrett's 5 goals. On the theme of 5. Here's 5 adjectives for tonight's "must-win" match: miserable, gutless, shameful, heartless and disgraceful.

The South Couch Report : New York v. Toronto, or... The Last Kick of the Can

It's a Saturday night, and I didn't want to watch the damn game at a pub on an f'ing delay for whatever reason MLSE had in mind. And technically, should "f'ing" begin with an "an" instead of an "a", because if you say it, it's more like 'effing'... semantics.

We've got a damn rain delay. Sure, there's thunder and lightning, but big deal. Let's get on with it alread. An interview courtesy of Tony "OOOOOOOOOVERRATED" Meola talking about the glory days. I didn't realize the MetroStars had glory days.

The pre-game has been going on and on (and on) about the importance of Giants Stadium. Sure, the place, historically, is important, but I question the sentimentality to the people who went to the ground and watched soccer felt endeared over a stadium where they were the secondary tenants.

Toronto is currently lying in the bed that they've made. Mediocre play and weak late game collapses has put them not only on the outside looking in, but needing other results to fall into place. Hopefully the off-season, if any one of them truly cares, will allow them to work on mental toughness.

But it's OK. Because we'll sing for them like they're heroes that have accomplished something... let me know when that happens (and no, the NutCan isn't good enough)

1 - The first mistake is made - The Chad is starting. Again. Also, the legend that is Giants Stadium has puddles in front of each goal.

2 - GOAL - Kanji gets a half chance splitting Attakora and Gomez and buries it from about 16 yards out. Two mistakes, two minutes.

For the record, I did joke that Angel would bag 4... so we'll lose by 5 now.

6 - Angel loops a volley way over the bar. He's totally trying to meet my expectations.

10 - Guevara lets a skidding ball go from 25 yards out just wide of the goal. You know, for range, the gridiron lines ain't so bad.

11 - Coundoul mistimes a cross and The Chad lets a ball back into the box, set for White only for him to get 30% strength on it and die in the water.

12 - De Rosario leaps for a header ahead of the NYEB keeper and puts it wide. Push you red bastards, push...

14 - Guevara rifles a shot back in from a spoiled clearance forcing a leaping save from Coundoul. Pretty uncharacteristic stuff from Toronto. I could get used to it.

OK, The Chad comment was unfair and I apologize. Old habits and all... until he shanks a sitter, that is.

16 - Serioux has a go from 18 yards out, Coundoul with a diving stop. WHERE WAS ALL THIS SHOOTING FOR THE FIRST TWENTY-NINE GAMES?!

18 - The Chad makes a marauding run into space and Coundoul comes out to just beat The Chad with a slide tackle and takes Barrett out. Replay shows that there might have been a bit of malice from the NYEB keeper, but I didn't see anything with it.

20 - The Chad comes back on. He's OK folks.

Looks like NYEB has survived the shooting gallery. For the American readers who "don't understand SOCKerrr", this would be the equivalent of the end of the first quarter.

27 - Corner punched away by Edwards (I got his name right this time) but it is strange that I get nervous with the play by play team name-drops Andrew Boyens' name?

You know, I can't wait for New York's new stadium. 8000 people won't seem as pathetic in a 27,000 seater...

29 - You know when you see a low, fast cross and you get a little excited? Cronin just let one of those suckers in. They're usually the kind of cross that ends up in goals. Sadly cleared by NYEB back four.

32 - SUB - The Chad is done, Gerba in. This is a new role for Ali Gerba because he's got more than 3 minutes to make a difference (eat it Cummins)

33 - GOAL - Kanji lays the ball off, one sweet touch and a low right shot puts NYEB up 2-0 and Angel bags his 11th of the season. Three more and I'm Nostradamus.

I'm starting to think I pissed away $5 more for 'the rest of the season option' with the MLSnet live streaming account. There is a chance they can make it with a tie, but that means we need to score something.

35 - A cross allows for White to loft a ball over top of the bar. Not by much.

38 - Guevara free kick from 20 yards out JUST misses the right post on a free kick. I remember those halcyon days where Guevara would have 5 shots a game... it's like reliving the glory days.

45 - DeRo half-volley shanked wide left. At least they're shooting.

1 Minute of added time

HALF-TIME : I get the feeling that swearing here won't make up for the fact that it's frustrating.

With 45 minutes left of a disappointing season remaining, here we go.

48 - Brennan cross gets into the NYEB box, bounces around and Cronin lets an attempt just go wide.

51 - Cronin crosses to the left, headed down by Gerba to be left for White, only to be cleared away by the defenders.

Shep Messing, NY Cosmos goalkeeper and Playgirl centerfold (it was in the Cosmos documentary) is claiming that Toronto needs to put more pressure and chase the game being down 2-0. Messing hasn't watched many TFC games apparently. Now he's talking about how Vitti must be disappointed for being on the bench. Messing hasn't watched ANY TFC games apparently.

57 - I can hear the Toronto away support singing the PAOK song "Oooooh, Toronto... I'm goin crazy, oh yes it's true..." except the irony is that it's undying instead of stress-driven.

59 - YELLOW - O'Brien White gets a booking going up in the air and elbows his opponent. No intent in it, but I am not an official.

63 - GOAL - Angel. Who cares how. I need two more for my prediction to be true.

66 - SUB - Vitti in, Brennan out. Cummins has waited how many games to bring back the 4-3-3?

67 - Coundoul with two saves in a minute, a point-blank header from Gerba and then rushes a challenge to prevent another opportunity. I've got my man of the match chosen cuz it's nobody in red...

68 - GOAL - Kandji. Edwards gets caught out in a mistimed challenge. Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH... I don't see New York playing any Redbullnaccio any time soon.
74 - Gerba loses his marker, gets a header down past Coundoul, but not past the post.

75 - Now Gerba is swinging at everything. ABOUT TIME.

76 - Vitti shoots (haven't said that in forever) diving stop from Coundoul, pushes it to Gerba who shoots wide at a bad angle. Fackin'ell...

77 - SUB - White out, Sanyang in. At FOUR-nil?

87 - DeRo scores from a very offside position.

90 - Angel is subbed off. My prediction has been officially quashed.

3 Minutes of additional failure

90+3 - PENALTY - Bad foul from Serioux, but mandatory, hauling down Kandji. No booking.

90+4 - GOAL - Mbuta converts.

FINAL SCORE : New York 5, Toronto 0

Man of the Match : Bouda Coundoul. Excellent.

Goat of the Game : where do you start? You can properly blame Edwards for one goal. The other three is the gaping defence. Our forwards aren't fully taking advantage of their opportunities, and aren't getting enough quality ones to begin with... a la midfield service.

Ref meter : 3 out of 5.

For the record, I'm going to start writing this at the 73rd minute, to save myself from reminiscing over this abomination of a display and insult of a season. We sign players that don't fit our playing style and show no attempt to shape to that talent. The talent is above average, but the result is sad.

With their backs against the wall, Toronto FC FAILS. Hell, with a lead, Toronto FC USUALLY FAILS. But it's OK. Because we got grass. A designated player. Some of the best Canadian footballers on the planet, which would be competitive in MOST LEAGUES (not all).

If I can say anything positive about Mo is that he's drafted very well. O'Brien White and Sam Cronin have been OK and excellent respectively. And Frei too. Frei has been outstanding, and as much as I didn't want to see Sutton go, it made sense. Identical keepers, one younger and cheaper than the other.

Free Agents, he's done well.

Trades have been pathetic at best. We're trading like an expansion team. And we get guys who don't want to play here, leave and resume their old pace of goal scoring. There MUST be a better reason why people don't want to play here.

With the talent we have, even our somewhat unstable back four, this result is unacceptable. Thankfully our last game was played on the road, because the Yorkies may be the only supporters who would be visibly and vocally upset by this display. And that would put us in the minority in the south stand somehow.

My sense of ha-ha is gone for this season. And with a 15% ticket increase next season (like this past one) only MLSE will continue to be truly in on the joke.

See you next season. *sigh*

Friday, October 23, 2009

Match Preview: They Might Be Giants

Giants Stadium - Saturday, 7:30PM EST
TV: GOL-TV - RADIO: The Fan 590

In the wacky world of North American soccer football there are very few historical sites. While we will stop short of comparing East Rutherford, New Jersey's Giants Stadium to the likes of the San Siro, Nou Camp or Wembley, you have to admit it has played a large concrete role in the continent's footy story. Saturday's match between NYRB and Toronto will mark the final competitive match at the "Big Grey House that Pele Built". Giants Stadium was the epicentre during the NASL's heyday and was home to the aforementioned Brazilian as well as Beckenbauer, Cruyff and the rest of the Cosmos super-team. It also hosted matches at the 1994 World Cup and many other big-time friendlies and internationals. The stadium's awful NFL-laden Astroturf and its crumbling architecture make it a dinosaur in the current MLS world but it will always be the place where "soccer" made its first big American splash. And hey, if the results don't go TFC's way - at least they will be on a trivia question one day.

NY RED BULLS - 4-6-9 18pts - 7th in EAST (15th OVERALL)
What can be said about the Metrostars’ truly awful 2009 campaign? Winless on the road and only 4 W's at home is quite the collapse for a team who played in last year's MLS Cup Final. While it's true that they fluked their way to the Championship match last year, no one expected a level of futility as bad as the 2009 version of American Salzburg. That being said, perhaps TFC could be in for some bad luck as New York may want to shut down the old stadium with a bang. The shiny and awesome Red Bull Arena (too bad about the neighbourhood) awaits the Energy Drinkers and maybe this is the fixture which looks towards their future. It may very well be Juan Pablo Angel's New York swan song as well and if so, the Colombian ace will want to go out blazing as well as marketing himself to potential suitors. Even on this terrible team he managed a 10 goal tally (I wonder if he likes red?) With John Wolyniec out injured, Jamaican international Dane Richards will likely partner Angel up front and despite having a bad year he is still a top MLS player. Kevin "Bobcat" Goldthwaite is out with injury so if NY does turn out to be spoilers, at least it won't be with ex-TFC irony. See you in Harrison 2010 - The Gateway to Newark!

TORONTO FC - 10-9-10 39pts - 3rd in EAST (8th OVERALL)
Every time a certain Italo-Canadian in our section at BMO senses a TFC attack, he excitedly proclaims "THIS IS IT!” Well my Sicilian pal, this is indeed - it. Last match of the season and all to play for - it's 3 points or playoff bust for Toronto FC, nothing less will do. Toronto has had a horrendous road record this season and that has to end on Saturday. It is time for TFC's veterans to step up in a big way and carry this squad on their backs. With Carl Robinson out, Julian De Guzman must make good now and De Ro must snap out of his funk if TFC are to grab a win. With Stefan Frei still out, Brian "Brian Williams" Edwards will start and try to continue his solid form in goal. The injured Marvell Wynne will unlikely play against his old club meaning TFC will once again try wing play with no wingers. We could wish that Chris Cummins won't start Chad Barrett but we know how that will go - I used to want a "CHiPs Big Wheel" for Christmas and didn't get that either. That means it's a great chance for O'Brian "The Malvern Muscle" White to turn this match into his MLS coming out party. Goals need to be scored - goals need to be kept out. Easy as that. If TFC can get the win, they will have to wait for the late start Seattle vs. Dallas match to learn of their playoff fate. Before that though, they have to be Giants - or go home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are the 2009 playoffs TFC's poisoned cup?

Just because you can do something, doesn't necessarily make it the best option. As Toronto FC head into their last gasp attempt at making this year's playoffs, that conundrum does indeed rise. The enigma that is this season's Reds are quite frankly lucky to even have the chance to qualify for the post-season but that is the reality of MLS parity. Toronto does have a lot of individual talent but as supporters of the club have seen this year they lack structure, positional balance, tactical knowledge and far too often... heart. What, if anything, could an unlikely trip to the playoffs do to the face of the club?

The talents of the individual TFC players are often muted by the lack of positional options on the pitch. A glut of talented central midfielders hampers the club’s natural tendency to look for wing-play while the weak centre back combinations are only spared the goat’s horns by the truly appalling impotency of the forward line. This poor team structure sits at the feet of Director of Football Mo Johnston. In nearly four years of construction, and heavy rotation, Johnston hasn't been able to construct a balanced squad. Yes there is talent, but talent alone doesn't make a good team unit. Would a playoff appearance this year validate Mo's insistence that he is "building something special"? If an extra two matches means Johnston's ego is inflated more (if possible) and he can rest on his far from finished laurels, is it worth it?

There are of course positives that could arise from the post-season. Perhaps the taste of success, albeit minor, could propel the core of the team to move forward to bigger and better things in the future. If the younger members of the team can taste what the veterans already have, even briefly, it may be a benefit in 2010 and beyond. It is one of the veterans however whose attitude it may help the most. Many observers have been alarmed that Dwayne De Rosario has not looked himself in the past month or so. Frustrated, at times upset or on the odd occasion, uninterested - many have feared that the mediocre season has taken the shine off of the star's homecoming. Being in the limelight of the playoffs, where De Ro has always shined, may be just the tonic for the Scarborough superstar and his future in T.O.

The future is in fact the biggest concern as far as playoff residue is concerned. Could an October trip to Columbus or Houston put the brakes on progress that is already slow to begin with? Would a playoff-qualified TFC not feel the need to replace the nice but woefully under-qualified interim manager Chris Cummins? Further, does it mean that off-season player acquisitions are kept to a minimum as the team is called "good enough" or "close to competing" even though they are not? And, perhaps worst of all, does MLSE dine out on a playoff glimpse and use it as a marketing tool for the next 3 or 4 years of mediocre football?

Only time will tell of course, but as a fan, would you want to roll the dice on what could be two humiliating post-season matches in exchange for shaming the management into improving the club long-term? If the CONCACAF Champions League experience taught us anything, just getting there is often enough for TFC.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Other MLS playoff tie-breakers

Any MLS supporter who still has a club in the race for the final playoff spots knows by now how completely wacky the tie-breaker system is in the event of two or more clubs ending up even. MLS must have hired unemployed former Soviet scientists to come up with such a series of win-loss-tie possibilities for this weekend. Well not to fear, if your club still can't be separated from a rival, it will come down to these...

11. Beard growing competition

10. Least amount of "Barretts" wins

9. Mascot oil wrestling tournament

8. Must last 3 minutes in the ring with Adrian Serioux

7. Team with dirtiest MLS cheerleading squad goes to playoffs

6. Competitive hot dog eating competition hosted by Collin Samuel

5. Survivor: Harrison, New Jersey

4. Team with most back hair moves on

3. So You Think You Can Dive

2. "Don Garber’s Rock-Paper-Scissors Showdown"

1. Chip Butty making contest

Monday, October 19, 2009

TFC Media League - Round 7

The MLS regular season is about to end but the TFC Media League is still going strong. Since the news doesn't end when the season does, the Graham Legatt Trophy won't be decided until the end of 2009. The Fan 590 was a hot mover this round, despite Bob McCown's best efforts, but it's still The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun battling it out on the top of the table. Keep your eye on the table by scrolling down the right side of the page!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The South Stand Report : Toronto v. Real Salt Lake... or failure by numbers (as in points and goals)

Congratulations! You've made it to the last home game of the year. Is it meaningful? Quite possibly.

As it turns out, this time around we are in a position to actually visit Mr. Post Season for once. There is still a chance that the whole thing will collapse around us as expected, but you can dream. You can hope.

Will some of the mysteries of strategy that has left the south stand scratching a hole in it's collective heads? Will Cummins finally wedge his head out of ass and make more than one useless substitution too late in the match become tactically astute in his choices resulting in some of the magical displays once witnessed at the infancy of his tenure?

Vegas odds has a reasonable line that Beckerman's dreads would win in a fight to Serioux's at an unlikely 17 to 1 longshot. Have you seen "The Predator"? He's that dangerous.
They're the Mormolacticos
~ Tony before kick-off
1' – Espinola gets the first break of the game, running down the left side and forcing Edwards to parry a shot over the bar

6 – O'Brien White bulled (can 'bull' be a verb? Screw it, it is now) his way into the box and his ensuing shot gets blocked, only for the Chad to overrun the loose ball.

11 – DeRo has a 20 yard go to introduce himself to the game.

18 – The Chad floats a nice little ball into the box only to see DeRo do a “dead salmon flop” looking move, fishing for the penalty. See what I did there... I made a salmon-fishing pun. Yeah, I'm clever.

19 – YELLOW – Brennan gets a booking for a supposed mistimed tackle which resulted in the dramatic fumbling and rolling from the victim for 6 or 7 revolutions.

21 – Hard work from White and a nice cross leaves Chad with a rudimentary half volley sent 12 yards over the bar hit from 6 yards out. Well played Barrett.

26 – Dom distracted me with accusations of environmental damage due to my discarding of loose papers from my notepad. Also Dom has declared that he was “feeling it”. I missed some offense. Way to go Dom.

30 – Guevara corner results in Gomez getting his head to the follow-up corner.

32 – Quick break to Brennan lays it to the Chad who rolls a very slow ball to Cronin who tries to rifle one to have it blocked. A little more pace Chad.

37 – Cronin volley ricochets off a defender and White's hustle ALMOST got to it before the keeper got his hands to it. For Christmas, I'm asking Santa for another step for the White.

39 – In what only can be described as 'bucking the trend', The Chad does something right and draws a yellow. The following free kick by DeRo bounces off the cross bar.

TFC is actually putting pressure on Real Salt Lake. It's as if they're trying. To win.

HALF-TIME : So close, yet so very very far.

48 – GOAL – The Chad's shot is blocked by the keeper however the rebound is slotted home by “Wee” Jimmy Brennan. Thank you football gods, wherever you may be.

50 – TFC are on the counter attack, Barrett lays off a pretty little ball for White who takes one touch too many, fires and has his attempt thwarted by the Salt Lake defender

65 – After a spell of RSL pressure, TFC is finally in the other half of the pitch and setting up shop. Hopefully, they have something to offer.

Much of the game at this point as been mostly one-way traffic for TFC. I don't believe it's the case where Toronto is playing exceptionally well rather Real Salt Lake is playing exceptionally poor. Beggars can't be choosers... we're still winning.

67 – The Chad nearly has a break, which to be honest frightened me a little, but a defender sweeps it away for a corner.

We, at the Yorkies, felt that the Chad had a rough first half. I mean utterly brutal. However, his second half has been very very good. He's making plays, he's aware of his surroundings, he's being a threat and a pest and we haven't seen him shank anything that didn't result in a change of possession. This IS what Barrett is good at. If he can be persuaded to take fewer shots, which will be difficult since he's usually in the best positions to shoot when he is being aggressive, and be a set-up man, I will firmly 'shut the hell up' about his bad play.

72 – Backup keeper Brian Williams Edwards [edited] is begging for a Man of the Match nod tonight with another key low-diving save on an awkward shot heading for the bottom right by pushing it around the post.

74 – SUB – The Chad out, Sanyang in.

76 – < run TORONTONACCIO.EXE... (oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t...)

80 – Espanola gets a break and fires a Chad-esque shot wide left from about 8 yards out. Talk about anxious...

83 – This should have been something special: DeRo breaks out, sweet ball over to Cronin, Cronin settles the ball and passes is back to DeRo but a deflection puts it on the foot of De Guzman who one-times wide right. It should have been something special... it was however typical.

84 – SUB – DeRo out, Fellinga in. Huh?

87 – Toronto are officially now playing 10 man behind the ball and 'not the fastest in the world' White is the lone striker. Nice tactics, idiot.

90 – SUB – White out, Gerba in. Since Torontonaccio traditionally begins at the 75th minute mark, might I make a suggestion to make this swap at the 74th minute?
4 minutes of extra time

90+2 – De Guzman turned some boor bastard right out of his boots and then negated it all by sending it to Gerba offside.

FULL TIME : Toronto 1 – Salt Lake 0

Man of the Match : We gave it to Gomez. Sure, we never said boo about him, but he did a wonderful job, great clean-up of mistakes and excellent tackling.

Goat of the Game : Aside from griping about tactics (or the lack thereof), no one worth bitching about for 90 mins.

Ref Meter : 4 out of 5. The yellow to Brennan was deemed a bit harsh, but he kept control, let the game flow and kept his whistle away as much as possible.

Man it was cold. We need a “Roof For BMO” campaign.

Otherwise, a team with the depth of talent on its books should be playing way better than this. I mean, way better. This team, on paper, is good enough to finish top 4 and feasibly win the league. But they don't. We speculate a lot of things, talk'em out. One of the notions that seems to come around is the question of DeRo's happiness. He plays with a great deal of skill, but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. That can stem from frustration with coaches, teammates, results, pressure on himself. The last 3 home games, the 'fire' that DeRo draws from has diminished to a flicker. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe he's hurt. Exhausted. I don't know. I'm concerned with him because I think the world of him. I even went as far as suggesting that we make DeRo our DP back in season one. I hope the fire can be stoked for New York. We need that guy to be there.

Plain DeRo, the guy we've seen the last few weeks, though still awesome, might not be awesome enough for what this team needs. It needs a special effort and I'd be shocked if it came from anyone else on the roster.

Anyways, that's my shtick for the season. Oh, I may do the New York game. And if there's playoffs, I'll be back.

While we're talking about fantasies, I would like to [deleted for inappropriate comments] while taking her [deleted for inappropriate comments] pound cake [deleted for inappropriate comments] unibrow [deleted for inappropriate comments] all the way to Tuscon, Arizona.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Match Preview: Done for Real?

BMO Field - Saturday, 4PM EST
TV: CBC -- RADIO: The Fan 590

The worst tease to Toronto supporters are the two simple words: mathematically possible. It's the ever-changing combination of points available and rivals' performances that allow TFC to still say "we have a shot" at the playoffs week after week. You can almost hear the brighter sparks in the TFC faithful praying to be put out of their misery. At this point, would you really want to see this version of The Reds squeak into the playoffs? Would a two-game, first round drubbing at the hands of a Columbus or Houston really be that special? There is a reasonable line of thought that says that TFC making the playoffs this year would be a curse. Mo and the MLSE Gang would be trumpeting an 8th place finish as a "great success" and claiming that the current roster and coaching staff are good enough to compete. If they miss the playoffs however, questions about the players and staff will have to be addressed in time for 2010. The long term success of this club will be far better served by the front office being shamed into strengthening the team and its coaches rather than resting on the laurels of a first round playoff glimpse.

TORONTO FC - 9-9-10 36pts - 5th in EAST (11th OVERALL)
The biggest question for Toronto this weekend will be - who really deserves to be in the starting 11 against RSL? Also, who has the heart to play for a full 90 minutes? Sadly, due to the kiddie pool-like depth of the team, it will likely be a very similar line-up to the one who could barely contain the juggernaut that is San Jose Earthquakes last week. The injury bug is still the biggest detriment to the already talent-challenged squad. With Carl Robinson already gone for the season, keeper Stefan Frei is unlikely, Marvell Wynne is still a question-mark and both Adrian Serioux and Pablo Vitti will be game-day decisions. Brian Edwards will likely get the start in goal and will provide very capable back-up but the depleted squad will no doubt feature "The Human Own Goal" Nick Garcia and Chad "Holy F**kin Sh*t He's Still Starting" Barrett. Amado Guevara may or may not be back from Honduras depending on World Cup Qualifying hangover/ military coup. No matter who starts, if TFC really wants a shot at the post-season, the Torontonaccio all-out-defend tactic and the 15 goals in the last 15 minutes cannot make an appearance. Just to twist the knife: if TFC ties or loses and New England beats Chicago - The Reds are (say it aloud!) mathematically eliminated.

REAL SALT LAKE - 10-7-11 37pts - 6th in WEST (9th OVERALL)
The only thing more interesting than watching a wholly undeserving team try to make the playoffs is... TWO wholly undeserving teams try to make the playoffs! The Mormon Tabernacle Choir aka Real Salt Lake aka Deportivo La Utah travels to the (extremely) chilly shores of Lake Ontario for this late-season Battle of the non-Titans. To be fair, RSL has a fairly solid squad who have had some bad luck this year. Considering their young manager Jason Kreis can substitute in the club's leading scorer Robbie Findlay off the bench, while we start Wayne Rooney's non-union stunt-double (you know who I mean), they're not too shabby a club. It was back in June that RSL manhandled TFC in Utah to the Jazzy tune of 3-0. Kyle "White Rasta" Beckerman and the seriously underrated Yura Movsisyan made like Stockton and Malone that night and will be up for it on Saturday. Expect those Osmond-listening, sodium-swimming sons-of-guns to play a solid conservative style in the knowledge that TFC will have to attack and will likely make a sloppy mistake which will allow an easy counter-attack. If by chance Toronto get a one-goal lead, put your money on RSL's Toronto-born midfielder Andy Williams to score a 93rd minute equalizer. Gotta keep it Real.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

THE STARTING 11: 2009's worst TFC player excuses

If everything goes as expected in the next two weeks, Toronto FC players will be packing their bags and heading home for 2009 while many of their rivals prepare for the playoffs. What happened this season? There was such promise back in spring but it quickly slid into mediocrity - all that was left was a look ahead to 2010. Lots of reasons and excuses will be trotted out after the last game but we thought we'd get a jump on some of the more curious excuses...

11. "I was mesmerized by De Ro's ever-changing cornrow patterns"

10. "Feeling unnerved since 'Bitchy The Hawk' attacked Johann Smith"

9. "There were strange noises coming from the Food Building"

8. "Adrian Serioux scares us with his creepy 'Predator' impressions"

7. "South End supporters break our concentration with their loud chanting"

6. "The net is too small" (Chad Barrett only)

5. "Chris Cummins makes us watch the ending of 'Marley & Me' at halftime"

4. "Since Rohan Ricketts left, there's no one to Twitter with"

3. "John Carver took our favourite ball with him"

2. "Since Dichio retired, no one brings fresh cupcakes to practice"

1. "Half-price, day-old chip buttys are too hard to resist"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Editorial: TFC bench doesn't know is it's Cummins or going

After the all too predictable failure of Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon, the supporter's, and media's, axe was immediately and forcefully swung at interim manager Chris Cummins' head. It is hard to argue that anger, what with the technical shortcomings of TFC in the San Jose match and in many previous matches this season, but how much of the blame can lay solely at Cummins’ feet? Think about it this way, if your bus hit a lamppost on the way to work but the bus driver only had his learner's permit - would you blame the driver or the TTC who let him drive the bus? Chris Cummins, whose previous coaching zenith was as Luton Town's youth coach, has a learner's permit at best.

Cummins should have indeed been far better tactically than he has been this season. You should not deny him some of the responsibility for the constant all-out-defence, or Torontonaccio as we call it here, every time TFC held a slim lead. The astonishing statistic of 15 goals allowed after the 75th minute is shameful. The late game let downs, as well as the often impotent offence, are sure signs of a club that doesn't have a system that it is confident playing and players who have even less trust in their ability to succeed. The awful tactics, strange substitutions and often baffling line-up inclusions (yes you Chad Barrett) show a manager who is either woefully ill-prepared to manage at this level or is being controlled too tightly from above by a Director who has a hard time letting go of the reins. Perhaps the sudden and shocking departure of John Carver earlier this season had a lot more behind it than was let on at the time. After all, it's not as if Carver ran to another job was it?

Carver's early season departure is the most frustrating episode of this saga. Before the season began, Mo Johnston and MLSE were telling the world that this season's goals were Champions League and most importantly the playoffs. Carver's departure was indeed a road bump but it happened less than a third of the way into the season. If the less than lofty ambitions of a post-season were true, then why wouldn't a club of this size go out and find a suitable manager by mid-season to steady the ship? In MLS, half a season is an eternity. The right manager, and there are an awful lot of qualified ones out there, could have led Toronto well into the CCL Group Stage and safely into the playoffs. There are two big issues with a hiring of that sort though - spending the non-salary cap money to attract a good manager, and most importantly, having the Director cut the strings and allow a qualified manager to run the show his way.

A new face in TFC's coaching staff is an obvious checkmark in Mo Johnston's post-season to-do-list. It doesn't necessarily need to be a huge name in charge but it has to be a man who has the respect of the players and the freedom to create a style and set of tactics that TFC can and will play. Three Head Coaches in three seasons is no way to build a solid foundation. Mo Johnston will have to bite the bullet on this one and hire a strong character who may not always agree with him but that can work with him. He must also fight the temptation to simply promote from within in order to keep payroll down and keep his own job continually safe. As for Chris Cummins, he seems like a really genuine, nice man who was sadly put in the driver's seat of a bus headed towards a cliff with his learner's permit flapping in his jacket pocket.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The South Stand Report : Toronto v. San Jose... or grasping at the final strands of a meaningful season

I know this one is weak. If you can come up with a better name than
the San Jose Sh*theads, I'll consider it for next year.

Meaningful. We use it to describe sentiments, feelings, pathetic uphill struggles that shouldn't have come to this and macaroni-art cards we get from our kids for Valentines Day. If I had kids.


After a dismal week weather-wise, we are treated to the potential of partly-cloudy autumn weather, which is PERFECT football weather.

Toronto FC has been really working hard off the pitch with the whole good news-then-bad news angle. This latest turn has been 'we got grass' then '15% ticket price increase for sh*tty sh*tty football without direction the exciting 2010 campaign'. On the pitch, there's no media magic to be had. One of our beloved Yorkies received a call from their ticket bugger in the TFC office and ripped into the poor guy. Bet he was disappointed when reading the MLSE employee handbook that "customers would be and should be lucky and thrilled to renew their tickets for mediocre entertainment, even after price increases" (this undoubtedly applies to ALL their holdings. Except the Marlies - no one cares).

So here we are. 3 games to go and not a clue in sight. Sure, what's 3 points out with a game in hand on some of the teams directly in front of us. To be honest, we couldn't have asked for a better last 3 games. Then again, I don't think MLS schedule makers thought that San Jose, New York Red Bull Barcelona and Real Lago de Sal (that's Salt Lake in Spanish, kids) were going to have a bed-crapping of a season.

On to the epicenter that will be a natural disaster

1 – The Chad fires a shot wide to remind us what we've been missing out after nearly a month without a home game. He's “probably crampin' up like a salmon up a stream”

8 – Free kick set up and White gets some skull on the ball but it ends up in the hands of the keeper.

9 – (More than a) Fellinga gets a run down the left wing, and catches the keeper off his line. His attempt beats the backstop but lands safely at the feet of a covering defender.

18 - “The Malvern Muscle” O'Brien White fights hard in the San Jose box to get a shot off. We appreciate that kind of hustle at and made more impressive by the fact that it was created solely on his own effort and determination. Quite the rumbling.

23 – Serioux catapults a throw in leaving a bit of a goal mouth scramble. Resulting effort had to be cleared off the line by the defender as the goalie was nowhere near it. Harrowing stuff early in the game.

I would like to take this time for an editorial. Yes, I'm paying attention to the game. Seriously. I, for the most part, ignore the 'male chorus' that goes on around me because I like to be a bit up my own arse with an opinion that the world has to, no, NEEDS to bask in. The fact that the next important event is another 15 minutes away doesn't mean that the game was boring or uninteresting, but you can only say “The Chad blows another pass” or “Brennan clears a ball” or “DeRo calls for the ball” so often, that at this point in the season, just assume that if nothing is said, those things happened in random sequences.

36 – White seems to be about the only one who is prepared to pull the trigger on a regular basis, with another attempt, this just wide of the net. In other news, The Chad doesn't want to shoot.

If this ends up nil-nil, at least I'll be drunk
~ gentleman behind me to my left, Quote of the Game

39 – Three attempts all weak ending with a floating slo-mo chip that would've hit the cross bar has the San Jose keeper not lept to catch it.

44 – DeRo floats an off-balance random ball into the box only to have “Supershank” Barrett just get his foot on the volley to smack it into the beer gardens behind goal. If Chad wanted to be a legend, this could've been it.

Half-Time : Pathetic. Seriously, with every attempt and offensive move we make, no one wants to run wings. It's sad to say we're missing Wynne, but not because he's a stalwart defender, but because he's usually OUR BEST WINGER.

47 – GOAL – While in line for a chip butty, DeRo threads a ball through the 18 yard box missing the legs of three Cheesequake defenders and two pink shirts only for the diving head of Attakora to connect and beat the keeper. Pretty goal.

48 – Chad vainly goes for heroism and shanks one over the bar. Even the guy behind me in line groaned.

49 – Chip butty is stupid and overrated. Those are it's good qualities. A veritable 1.0 on the Richter Scale. They should call it “English taco” but that would offend our Latino demographic. And that's important given that TFC is “Brand of the Year” as designated by Marketing Magazine. That's right folks. It's a brand.

56 - DeRo pokes a ball through the San Jose keeper but gets enough of it to slow to a trickle. DeRo gets around, but a defender gets in the way and injures himself in the process. Keeper then “Bundy Splashes” DeRo's legs (and shook the foundation) to prevent a second goal going in.

67 – YELLOW - Serioux was booked for copyright infringement, looking too much like the Predator. About time too.

82 – SUB – The Chad out, Vitti in. Originally Fellinga was to come off, but thankfully The Chad did his usual 80 minute cramp-up. Shockingly, this was the only substitution Toronto made given how grossly stale TFC's play has been for the last 20 mins.

84 – With one goal lead comfortably in hand, Toronto institute their traditional “Torontonaccio” style of play with 10 behind the ball and White all by his lonesome up top.

86 – White (who is really slow) doesn't want to turn on a break, which results in another tradition of “I don't wanna shoot”, leaving the ball to DeRo's feet 25 yrds out and firing a low shot at the San Jose keeper.

4 minutes of extra time

90 – YELLOW – Brennan booked for time wasting on a throw-in. That was a good call.

90+2 – GOAL – Brennan throws himself desperately at a goalmouth opportunity to successfully block the shot, however the resulting ricochet ends up at Cornell Glen for a volley into the back of the net. Edwards makes a heroic effort launching himself desperately to stop, but no chance. The aftershocks result in more frustrating late game anemia that we've come to know and love from your Toronto FC!

Full Time : Toronto 1 – San Jose 1

Man of the Match : reluctantly Attakora. Not that he didn't deserve it, but it was a team effort to put us in this position of collapse. Late in the game. Again. Attakora to his credit had a very solid game otherwise.

Goat : Cummins. You get three substitutions. Use them much much sooner. Why does Gerba and Gala get no love, but The Chad, Vitti and White get regular game time? Our back four were no better or worse than what we've come to expect with second stringers, but with the depth and variety we have in the middle and front, why wait until it's beyond too late to make a difference. There are no aftershocks to be had with late game shake-ups.

Whomever came up with the plan to turtle up every game we're up by a goal needs to be beaten with a rubber hose. The WORST IDEA EVER.

I was a big fan of Cummins at the beginning cuz we played a 4-3-3, it was pretty, aggressive and scored a plethora of goals. Somewhere we reverted to a 4-4-2 and fared no better than before he took over.

Cummins is a solid manager, but I think he's lost the plot of the team. They look listless and don't seem to believe that the system actually works. White needs actual wingers to be effective. More players need the foresight to make runs on BOTH wings to open up the middle if nothing else. And giving the ball to the forward and 'hoping for the best' isn't a strategy, it's irresponsible.

Ref : 5/5. Excellent. Stayed out of the game. Didn't blow any big calls. Thanks for coming today sir.

O'Brien White has the makings of a great forward in football except he's just a step too slow. He's strong like bull, but fast like snail. He could be out run by just about everyone on the pitch. If he can work on his speed, he'll be the greatest draft pick ever.

I would also like to offer that Fellinga isn't bad, but I haven't seen enough of him to be frustrated. I think the team played well given their lack of inspiration or urgency to play post-season footie. But that isn't good enough. Not enough jobs will be lost to correctly depict the 2009 season. I don't rate either Gambian much and to say Gerba gets one half shot every game with little service and two defenders closing down on him is unfair to deem him unproductive or worthy of being on the bench every game.

A new system with a new manager shouldn't have any difficulty reconfiguring our roster to come up with a menacing enough starting XI to tsunami the crap out of the rest of the league.

It is beyond frustrating given the schedule we've been served... 9 points out of 3 games is far from impossible. I want to say that DeRo didn't appear the most inspired person on the pitch, but that may not be fair. It's difficult to get up when you're frustrated going nowhere on the table. It's only a matter of time before the fault lines appearing clearly instead of speculating where you think they are.

OK, enough of the randomly scattered earthquake-related puns. Here's to 2010.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Match Preview: The Unnatural Disaster Derby

BMO Field - Saturday, 4PM EST
TV: CBC - RADIO: The Fan 590

If Charlton Heston was still alive he would be the perfect guest referee for this match. Hollywood's greatest crisis character actor would do well to preside over two clubs who have been an ongoing train wreck/ plane crash/ natural disaster all season. He could hold red cards aloft in "his cold dead hands!" Both of these clubs have hit way below their pre-season aims and as the season reaches its zenith, neither can afford more bad news. Toronto supporters can take some solace from its recent off-the-pitch good news, namely De Guzman and real grass, as opposed to San Jose who have yet to make a real plan to move out of their glorified high school stadium - Buck Shaw. However, if TFC doesn't get a win on Saturday and misses the playoffs, their on-the-pitch results won't be too different than the Californians. In MLS, if you don't make the playoffs, does it matter if you come in 9th or 15th?

TORONTO FC - 9-8-10 35pts -5th in EAST (10th OVERALL)
The disaster story took a turn for the worst this week as TFC was nailed with a major late-season injury crisis. The two week break was supposed to do wonders for the club's health but suddenly Carl Robinson's face was smashed by a young Cote D'Ivoirian, Marvell Wynne pulled up lame and Stefan Frei dislocated his finger. Robbo is gone for the season and Wynne is most likely out for Saturday while Frei will be a game day decision. Add to the mixture Amado Guevara's international absence and you suddenly have a line-up mish-mash at the most crucial point of the season. Julian De Guzman will have to step it up in the holding midfield role as the Designated Afro makes his home debut with big expectations from the faithful. High hopes will be placed on any new found chemistry between De Gu and De Ro and how that affects the so-called strike force. If Toronto can grab a lead they will have to show the backbone to hold it for 90 minutes and not let in yet another league-worst late 2nd half goal. If TFC doesn't leave with 3 points you may see that classic disaster movie moment when Chris Cummins drops to his knees and yells to the sky "NOOOOOOOO!!!!" ... especially if it's raining.

SJ EARTHQUAKES - 7-7-12 28pts -8th in WEST (14th OVERALL)
Late last season Frank Yallop and his San Jose squad really looked like it had gelled and that the future was bright. Many expected them to challenge for a playoff spot this season but it never got off the ground for the Ghosts of George Best. Very inconsistent play and some roster re-shuffling saw Quakes start slow and only get slower. Insult to injury came in the form of Darren Huckerby's unfortunate fate. The former Norwich star, who was in great form last season, succumbed to a nasty season ending injury which may turn out to be a career ending injury. The star has been passed onto the terrific young defender Ryan Johnson. The American full back who used to play for Sweden's Orebro actually leads the club with an astonishing (for a defender) 10 goals but if TFC can silence him, the remaining SJE offence has been anaemic. It will be interesting to see what effect San Jose's poor season has on the fate of manager Frank Yallop. If the former Canadian MNT coach happens to become free, I can think of a certain red team with an interim head coach who should sign him immediately. That would definitely be no disaster.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Young Elephant breaks Carl Robinson's face

In Mo Johnston and Toronto FC's quest to build the cheapest team in the world, they invited three unknown youngsters on trial from the African nation of Ivory Coast - or Cote D'Ivoir to its friends. Ivory Coast is a football rich nation which can boast the superstars Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue and Didier Zokora amongst its talented "Les Elephants" national team. Something tells me that the trio that Mo invited over for a Canadian autumn adventure aren't in that calibre. Just a hunch.

There is nothing wrong at all with trialling young internationals - you never know when you may indeed find the diamond in the rough. However, it is surely an unheard practice to train raw athletes with your first-team during the most important part of the season. At a time when the starting 11 should be honing their skills and most importantly their chemistry, why would you be running out three young men who may never wear the shirt? The problem with green young men trying to land a dream job with a big team is that they will do whatever they need to do to catch the manager's eye. Earlier this week, at TFC practice in Oakville, that is exactly what happened.

It is being reported that during one of the scrimmages, one of the young trialists (Ivory Coasters? Cote D'Ivoirians? Elephant Men?) crashed hard into veteran midfielder Carl Robinson, apparently fracturing the Welshman's cheekbone in the process. Medical reports coming out of BMO Field are sketchy at the moment but Robbo is definitely heading to a specialist. Worst case scenarios claim that the defensive midfield stalwart may be gone for the season but the club has yet to confirm that. With Amado Guevara away on international duty, it looks as if Chris Cummins will be forced to put together a rag-tag midfield. This is exactly the kind of news that no one who still holds slim hope of a TFC post-season wants to hear. Well Mo, hopefully these young Elephants develop into valuable players because one of them may have inadvertently cut The Reds' thread of playoff dreams short. That's no bargain... in English or French.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Ways to bring the BMO Field experience home

Even though TFC will likely get about 95% season ticket renewals this year, not every Reds' supporter will be returning to BMO in 2010. Maybe the 15% increase is too steep or maybe the lacklustre season made you say "enough is enough". Not to fear though, you can still enjoy that BMO South End Experience from the comfort of your living room. So switch on your TV and enjoy...

11. Collect empty pizza boxes during the week, stack them on your lawn, then kick your kids' toys at them during the half

10. Find a random Scotsman in your neighbourhood and constantly yell at him to "sign better players!"

9. Put the words "FOOD BUILDING" on top of the house across the street

8. Buy a budgie and name it "Bitchy". Sit it on top of the stairs and train it to attack the kids

7. Invite random neighbours over to form long line-up in front of your bathroom 2 minutes before the half

6. Prank-call 911 before the game to get that stadium-esque police presence

5. Dress your pets in red - pull their tails in the 24th minute and make them sing

4. Have a guy dressed in an AC Milan kit come over and say "your TV's not as good as the TV's in Europe"

3. Buy a case of beer then charge yourself triple to drink it

2. If your family walks near the TV throw streamers at them and chant "Who Are Ya?!"

1. Wonder Bread and McCain's Superfries - enough said

Dawn of the Playoff Dead

With this being Toronto FC's first realistic challenge at the bottom of the MLS playoff picture, Toronto fans are experiencing the frustrating yet forgiving parity that comes with this league. Championship playoffs and football are chalk and cheese as far as we are concerned but that's a complaint for another day - we will play with the hand dealt in MLS. As it stands right now, TFC are somehow still mathematically eligible for the post-season despite a lacklustre campaign in 2009. It is possible, with quite a bit of help from other clubs, and a sudden three game backbone, that The Reds could still challenge for the MLS Cup. Like some kind of footballing zombies, you think they are dead but they still keep coming back and trying to qualify... and eat your brains. Well, if Collin Samuel were still here the eating part could be true.

There are two necessities that must take place for Toronto to make its playoff debut. 6 points at home against San Jose and Real Salt Lake are absolutely essential and they preferably need to win by as wide a margin as possible to avoid tie-break messes. The kicker though is the final game against New York. Toronto will have to pull off what has been so rare in the last three years - a road win. New York is well and truly out of it this season but perhaps the final MLS match at Giants Stadium may spur on NYRB a bit. TFC will have to man-up to get the 3 points on the final day if they want to play another match in 2009. Unfortunately, because Toronto has floundered for much of the season, they also depend on help from teams around them. There is an astounding seven clubs who can affect TFC's final position and who have all to play for themselves. The other MLS zombies we are running from are...

Fire are still aiming for a high ranking in the playoff picture and will be playing hard. TFC isn't aiming for them but their away match against New England and home finale against Chivas USA could do TFC big favours. Chicago should finish strong and use the momentum to propel into the playoffs where they can do some damage.

The first year club (don't hear any excuses there, do you?) have had a fantastic year and currently sit in 5th overall. With two games left, Sounders need to play fairly well to qualify and could get a potential 47 points on the season. The schedule is friendly to them with an away match to magic-less Wizards and a home season closer to high-scoring FC Dallas. The Qwest experience on the last day should see the Green Wave wash into the playoffs which is a great achievement in year one.

The Goats are likely out of TFC's reach and with a home match against Kansas, should have what it takes to grab a playoff position between 4th and 7th. They end the season away to FC Dallas but should have enough quality to safely see them through to the post season.

Rapids have been as inconsistent as Toronto this year and are definitely one of the clubs TFC is aiming for. Colorado has two away matches to end the season against playoff hopeful Real Salt Lake and the recurring fixture that is FC Dallas away. If Colorado gets 3 points from either match it might be enough to secure their playoff ticket but less than that and they will be in a dogfight for the 8th spot.

Revs are one of the three playoff zombies, along with RSL and TFC, which have three fixtures left to play. A tough home and away with Columbus (gotta love MLS schedules) and a tough visit from Chicago means Steve Nicol's boys have their work ahead of them. New England has the hardest schedule of all the playoff wannabees but if they can get 6 points or more they should be able to secure a spot between 6th and 8th. Anything less than that sees the three teams below them eagerly nipping at their heels.

The formerly perennial playoff contenders find themselves 2 points out of the playoffs with two games left to play. The reigning champs Columbus visit DC but the always difficult RFK Stadium should help that challenge. Finishing off the season against Kansas City is a good bonus for DC but there is no room for mistakes. United must get 6 points to have any chance of grabbing the last spot.

With three games to go and 34 points to show for it, RSL has a challenge ahead. In their favour however is a schedule that sees them face two playoff contention rivals and the usually lame New York at home. 9 points would give RSL a solid shot at 8th in the playoff picture as it would mean them stealing points off of TFC and Colorado. Anything less than a perfect string and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir won't be meeting the team at the airport.

All of which leaves the hometown heroes (?) Toronto FC. This Saturday sees San Jose coming to BMO Field followed by the aforementioned RSL visit and capped off with the NYRB trip. A perfect run is necessary and to be honest there is no reason why they can't do that - on paper. Sadly TFC's problems seem to be in the spinal area and as highlighted earlier, it is not an area where they have shown consistency. If the players and staff back-up the confident talk with some solid play then TFC can potentially be the dark-horse of the playoff scheme. That being said, three wins in a row including a road win would be rarefied air for Toronto FC. If they can't be perfect they will go from being the playoff undead to the zombie head chop which is no playoffs... again... brrrr-ains!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

THE STARTING 11: Innovative ways TFC plans to compete with the Maple Leafs

Well, it's that time of year again. The National Hockey League, and in particular the Toronto Maple Leafs, are back tonight meaning that every sports station, every news channel and every newspaper in the city will devote 90% of its coverage to every minutiae of the sport that is Frozen Stick Soccer. It's also the night where those of us who are both Canadian citizens and not hockey fanatics (yes America, there are a few of us) tend to go into a publicly shamed sporting hibernation only to peek out on weekend mornings and Champions League afternoons like hooligan groundhogs. Our true local love, Toronto FC, sees the season nearing its untimely end, but before they go they will need to make a last ditch effort to challenge the Leafs for the city's sporting attention...

11. If Toronto FC are down by a goal late in the game they will "pull the goalie"

10. Danny Dichio to challenge Doug Gilmour to a match of "BMO vs. ACC Zamboni Chicken"

9. Ali Gerba must "drop the gloves" against San Jose Earthquakes

8. Club to hire South End supporters to go to Leafs' games - throw streamers at Vesa Toskala

7. Sam Cronin will sport a Wendel Clark-esque handlebar moustache for remainder of season

6. TFC to hide all of the Leafs’ pucks in Julian De Guzman's hair

5. Late-night crank calls to Leafs' Swedish players - ask them if their "Sven Goran Eriksson is running"

4. Reds' keeper Stefan Frei must wear new brightly coloured helmet in goal

3. "Bitchy" the BMO Field hawk to attack Leafs mascot Carlton The Bear - try to poke out his eyes with beak

2. TFC striker forced to legally change his name to Chad Barretzky

1. In order to make both sets of fans feel equal, TFC will refuse to make the playoffs then raise season tickets by absurd amounts