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CCL 2011 | TFC 2011 | Week#31

Pride and Kudos

Red in the Face, But not in Last Place

Toronto FC played to a 1-1 draw in Philadelphia over the weekend. The result was met with resounding yawns among fans. None have been so wide and windy as those among the most ardent TFC supporters. All news, hype and chatter is squarely focused on today’s Champion’s League (CCL) match against FC Dallas.

I get it. It’s the only match that matters now.

It’s a pity all that CCL attention has overshadowed the remainder games of 2011. Win or lose tonight, I still think the MLS matches are more telling as indicators of how TFC have improved in 2011.

Aron Winter put out a young squad and rested many starters this past Saturday. He even subbed out the only Designated Player fielded, Torsten Frings, before the hour mark. And TFC still managed to come from behind and take a road point against the Eastern Conference’s leading team.

Since they joined TFC, success seemed to require Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings on the pitch. The game in Philadelphia suggests otherwise. Even Nathan Sturgis, who has played little recently, looked reasonably competent filling in for Frings as the sweeper. I’m not saying Koevermans and Frings aren’t needed, only that the quality and ability of the whole team has advanced considerably since the mid-season shake-up.

For me, there was a lot to admire in Saturday’s outcome. It was a strong performance on the road against a team that has been playing well. It was second half equalizing goal that brought TFC back into the match. And they stayed the course to earn the draw. This from a team that’s has a habit of falling back and expiring, especially when trying to hold onto a result through the end of a match.

Credit where it’s due: Ryan Johnson’s goal was a sweet one. It was the result of a well-developed countering play, flowing through Nick Soolsma out on the wing. Johnson’s nice back-heel shot aside, it was a group effort and a sign of the ‘gelling’ everyone likes to discuss.

More compelling for me, Milos Kocic had a really good game. His confidence is way up, thanks to the playing time Winter lately has offered him. He isn’t as solid as Stefan Frei. But that said, Kocic has raised his game a notch. Always a good shot blocker, now he doesn’t seem nearly as nervous with the ball in his feet or hands.

It wasn’t a win, and it was a head-slapping series of errors that gave up the goal to Philly. Still, TFC were not fielding their best eleven. The Union did not look like they were capable of scoring six against us, as they did earlier in the season. Philly might even be grateful they got the draw, because they really didn’t look like the better team.

All this bodes well for the future.

CONCACAF’d Up

And, as for tonight, I’m not putting money on this prediction but I think Toronto can take it. Dallas are solid, but this match might mean more to TFC. I’m hoping that passion translates into performance.

The conspiracy crowd and quality of refereeing hounds will mull over the Mexican officials as a variable tonight. Overall, this ref seems to have a balanced performance to date in the CCL matches this season. Biases to consider – Mexican fans may want TFC to win because they feel they are an easier team to knock out later. The other way to look at it is that FC Dallas carries more sympathy along with more Latin American players. My hunch is that officiating will be as good as it gets in this competition, and the ref will let the sides decide it with as little interference as possible.

FC Dallas  1  –  2  Toronto FC

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