TFC 2012

A Cold Shower & A Long Road

Saturday’s loss to San Jose was a like a cold shower. Almost literally. Partly shocking, partly sobering. And it was long and unrelenting enough to be quite debilitating. It’s taken me a few days to recover.

Maybe it was the early goal the Reds gave up. Possibly it was just the demoralizing reality of watching a team that looks and plays so differently without captain, Torsten Frings. Of course, there also is the misfortune of chilling outside through our first home MLS match, at the end of a week of summery weather.

No matter how you look at it. It was a grim day at BMO Field.

TFC had life and hope for some of the match, but ultimately fell apart when it mattered most. The defense looked awkward and unreliable. The attack showed flash and fleetness, but ultimately created very few real scoring opportunities. It was all potential, no pay off.

The stands and the supporters, for their part, were knocked out of the match after the first goal. There was some fizzle and pop here and there. Mostly, though, the fans never amounted to even half the venerated 12th man. It was like everyone was watching their worst fears come true.

Three goals allowed to the Sounders in Seattle is one thing. Three goals allowed to San Jose, at home, without even scoring one… now that’s something else altogether.

Everyone knew from the last half of 2011 that Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans were fantastic additions. It was also quite clear that there wasn’t much depth in the roster to back them up. While there are some matches ahead where the Reds could yet prove this wrong, it seems a fundamental truth we have to accept.

The Reds’ attack is much more effective with Koevermans on the field, whether its him scoring or not. His presence in the middle opens the flanks for Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata and others to make more of their magic. With him on, TFC score more goals. Last season, he also scored proficiently and consistently. Sadly, we’re still waiting for Koevermans’ first goal of 2012.

The same is clearly true for the defensive line. Without Frings, the chemistry cannot hold the elements together. Bad decisions and poor communication run rampant. Worse yet, there’s no solid and inspiring force that reliably cleans up the messes. It’s very early in the season, so the bonds yet may improve. But the past two matches cannot be good for their confidence.

Clearly, the next four or five weeks will be an agonizingly long spell for Toronto FC’s defenders.

The thing that surprised me most was how much San Jose’s midfield outplayed the Reds’ line of Luis Silva, Terry Dunfield and Julian de Guzman. I went into the match seeing that trio as a capable choice. I saw a mix of grit and gristle with some experience and young verve. I’m no longer so enthralled.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t lost faith. Like any short and refreshing dunk in cold water, last Saturday stands as a visceral moment of clarity. The Age of Winter in Toronto has really just started. We’re in for another season with more struggle than triumph. I can live with that, as long as the long term shows benefits that last. That seems to be the course, but the miles ahead just look a little longer this week.

Champion of Something

Wednesday’s CCL tilt against Santos Laguna no longer seems so exciting. Anything can happen in one match. Maybe the Reds will find the fire they lacked the past two MLS contests. A win at home isn’t impossible. A shameful skinning would be nice to avoid. Santos will arrive without much respect for TFC, and if we’re lucky we might make them pay for that.

The telling contest, however, will be in Torreon, Mexico. It’s only 1,000m elevation, but the Seattle Sounders looked like they were playing on the dark side of the moon.


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