TFC 2011 | Week#5

Spaced Out

Bless Our Goal Posts

All things considered, a scoreless draw against the LA Galaxy was a fairly good result last night. The 12th man for Toronto FC proved to be the woodwork, as our crossbar and posts provided the final line of defense against two well-directed Galaxy shots. The Barrett nearly zipped one in from open play, and Beckham was one upright away from scoring on his trademark set-piece. Luck was with us, though, and the Reds did enough to hold off defeat.

The big winners in the end may be the Chicago Fire who host LA in Chi-town on Saturday. A red card to Juninho and a fifth yellow to Beckham in six matches means neither midfielder will be available to play for the Galaxy this weekend. Unless Landon Donovan can be called back into the line-up, LA will be fielding a significantly diminished roster against the Fire.

A Bird’s Eye View

Toronto FC suffered through a dismal first quarter of the match. They struggled on and off the ball. Stefan Frei was the only reason the Reds didn’t start the game a goal down in the first minute of play. Hesitant and tentative, the Reds picked up their play to finish out the first half. The relief in the stands was palpable. Lots of grumbling seemed to take the crowd out of the game for most of it.

For the second match in a row, Toronto FC genuinely improved in the second half. They even managed to generate a few scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, they looked nervous and tired all night. Even in the second half, the Reds movement off the ball was poor. Many times, possession ended with one TFC player stranded and facing multiple defenders while the majority of the Reds walked and watched.

I’m chalking it up to fatigue. Winter’s subbing and strategic resting (neither Gordon and Santos entered the game) may offer some hope this weekend. Odds are, however, it’s going to be a lean and mean contest against a hungry DC United on Saturday. At least LA were on a similar schedule, taking an Eastern Conference road trip this week. Toronto FC will have to dig deep to face a better rested side coming up next.

The Bright Side

It was nice to see Julian de Guzman start, and he definitely put in his best performance of 2011. He seemed to have a bit of a scrap going with Becks too. The combo of Tchani and de Guzman looks like good one and I’m feeling positive about how it will improve with time.

Last night, though, Tchani was not in the zone. At times he showed strength, but most of the game he looked off and definitely seemed to be coasting. It’s hard to get down on the guy, as he’s only been with the Reds a few weeks, and is now logging a lot of playing time.

Stefan Frei proved himself to be the team’s most valuable asset, and had a strong game in goal. Adrian Cann made some valiant work in defending, even when it was clear the back line were struggling.

The highlight of the match for me was watching Oscar Cordon get his debut in match play. He showed some poise and had a few moments that offered glimpses of his ability on the ball.

The Dark

Possession play at the back was just plain awful last night. The back line were unsure of themselves, uncomfortable on the ball and committing errors of judgement and timing. The build-up of passing from defense often became a gifting of offensive opportunity for the Galaxy.

Time and practice may improve this, but it may boil down to the strengths and weaknesses of the personnel. Stefan Frei is included in this deficiency. It’s not a matter of character or will, but all involved are clearly pushing the limits of their abilities and comfort zones.

Another dark spot was Alen Stevanovic’s play. It’s clear he likes to run with the ball at his feet. He’s a dangerous threat when he’s in motion, and you can see defenders scrambling to keep up. The downside is that he almost always holds onto the ball too long, even when there are multiple passing options to further open up the play. Frequently, his gambits end with him running straight into defenders.

Stevanovic took some fouls, and showed some hustle last night. It didn’t seem like he was ailing. Mentally, though, he seems to be an island. With a fog around him, he rarely seems to see the passes available to him. From my vantage, it looked like his runs always ended before any ‘end-game’ action (e.g. a shot on goal) could be executed.


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