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NCC 2011 | TFC 2011 | Week#11

(p)Luck

Whitecaps, We’re Even

It wasn’t pretty. Surely Adrian Cann must have been embarrassed by his own inept thuggery inside the penalty area. For whatever reason, the referee decided not to award Vancouver a spot kick. They deserved it.

We’re even. That’ll settle us on the account of that ridiculous penalty Vancouver was granted in the first year of the NCC. That goal allowed them to pull out a totally undeserving victory at BMO field. You came in and stole that from us then, we came and stole one back this week. Next week, TFC will have home field advantage, and one away goal on their scoresheet. It may be enough to squeak out another NCC victory.

Despite the controversial officiating, Toronto FC found some luck and played with some fiesty energy. Sure, Vancouver looked to be the better team. And, yes, there were moments (or say the first 10-15 minutes of the second half) when TFC looked like a bunch of cricketers who had lost their way onto a football pitch. Yet, overall, it wasn’t a completely terrible performance from the Reds.

I thought Nick Soolsma and Richard Eckersley put in their best performances so far. Oscar Cordon also looked good. He’s creative and has some flare for attacking. With a bit more experience, he is going to be a valuable contributor.

Gargan haters will likely point to some of his mistakes, but he did much better out there on Wednesday. From my seat, the most surprising and disappointing efforts came from Adrian Cann and Stefan Frei. Both of them were inconsistent and demonstrated some seriously questionable decision-making.

Though he scored the vital goal, Maicon Santos also underperformed. He has yet to demonstrate it consistent leadership on the field in 2011. Scoring goals helps, of course, but Santos has to step it up.

The larger issue to emerge from the first leg of the NCC finals are TFC’s injuries. With Jacob Peterson and Tony Tchani falling early in the game, the Reds might be in some trouble. The depth at midfield is going to be tested. If neither starter are fit to play this weekend, Oscar Cordon and Matt Gold will be put to the test. All this on a weekend when Julian de Guzman will be serving a suspension for too many yellow cards. Here’s hoping all mend well and soon.

Rocky Mountain High

On the road to Colorado for a Sunday game, Toronto FC will face a Rapids squad that has been doing well. To compete, the Reds will need to punch up their performance in the final third of the field. Without Alan Gordon playing the tip of the spear, the Reds have looked dull on attack. Build up from the back is getting better with each game. Runs down the flank now are bringing balls into the penalty area with regularity. Sadly, there just hasn’t been anyone hungry to finish the deal.

Altitude will be a real challenge for the Reds in Colorado. Grinding out a second half with leaden legs and oxygen-starved lungs is a certainty. TFC will have to find some grit to get a goal early in the game. That will likely be their only hope in besting last year’s MLS Cup champions on their home turf. A bit more of Wednesday’s luck would be nice, but that always seems in short supply for TFC in MLS competition.

This week’s match is a prelude of the season ahead. Much of the rest of 2011 will find Toronto FC facing similar scenarios – on the road, taking on stronger and more settled opponents. A good outing this weekend would see a full 90 minutes of quality and tenacity from TFC.

It’s imperative the Reds  stay on their front foot. They have looked absolutely terrible in every game where they’ve relaxed or fallen back to defend. Over the past four or five weeks, Toronto FC have shown improvement. But they also have struggled to put a complete game together. Whatever positives are showing up now, and there are many, they evaporate quickly and often. This inconsistency can make it hard to watch, and definitely hard to remain supportive.

Another tie on the road would have to be seen as a big success this week, with or without some goals scored. I would love to see TFC take on the Rapids. For my money, I would be happy if they work hard for an entire match. A few points in return would be nice. But I’d take a solid effort and a consistent game as a big step ahead.

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