New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/07/robocap-2014/
My Favourite: The Mid-week Tilt
The Whitecaps storm ashore for a weeknight contest tonight. Starting strongly, the Caps have been potent performers out west until sagging out a bit since the World Cup break. Last weekend’s loss at home to Chivas means the blue and white are looking to regain form and put some ugliness behind them. Add some arch-rivalry intensity to the evening, not to mention post Voyageur cup revenge fantasies, and it’s fair to say the RoboCaps will be arriving at BMO prepped for a rumble.
Toronto FC is rolling into this contest after what might be one of the more epic performances in club history. Climbing back from an early two goal deficit with four unanswered goals, TFC showed it could correct course and deliver. With their tails up, and Houston’s carcass behind them, the stage is set for another boisterous home contest.
It would be a mistake to underestimate this Vancouver side. Their attackers will surely be watching the game tape of Brad Davis’ two first half goals against the Reds over the weekend. Despite his general effectiveness this season, Mark Bloom blew his coverage on both markers. The Caps will be searching for similar cracks in TFC’s back line, especially with Steven Caldwell sidelined by injury.
With Bradley Orr likely in Caldwell’s place, and Michael Bradley back from the spa, the Reds defence will not be the cracked glass pane of the past. Ryan Nelsen actually has some depth and options for spreading the workload across this second of three matches this week. However he stacks the back, the mids and the forwards will be entering the game with some swagger. TFC’s speed on the flanks with Oduro and Jackson and tenacity in the middle ground could generate lots of headaches for the Caps defenders.
I’m guessing we’ll see similar game plans from both sides early on. The Reds and the Caps benefit from a high pressing defensive pressure that looks to spring quick counter attacks. It could grind out in a cagey midfield contest where neither can break free. Or, this one might blow open with multiple goals from both sides.
Either way, I couldn’t be happier than making the journey to BMO tonight. Rain or shine. C’mon you Reds.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/06/canadians-should-support-usa-at-world-cup/
Canadians should support USA at World Cup
I support the US, because I was born American and adopted Canada. I have no other international biases.
I think more Canadians should by sympathetic to US in the soccer/football realm. Here are:
5 Reasons Why
(1) They are our neighbours and perennial underdogs
(2) Much of their squad plays in the MLS
(3) US success at the World Cup will bring even more resources into the sport in North America
(4) They’re not Mexico*
(5) They’re not Honduras*
* Good for Costa Rica making it this time around. I bear no grudges toward their footballing.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/06/tfc-fills-gap-with-oduro/
TFC fills gap with Oduro
Freaky Fast & Freaky Hair
It wouldn’t be a normal MLS season unless TFC were churning their roster. Out goes another body today, and in comes a newcomer. We know the chorus: “with every season, churn, churn, churn… .”
Hasta la vista Alvaro Rey, que se vaya bien en Columbus. And welcome to Dominic Oduro – our new man in Red.
In the past few weeks, the team has traded two natural wingers out. Issey Nakajima-Farran and Alvaro Rey both had poise on the ball and a decent service touch from the flank. Oduro, a winger/striker, has blazing speed and probably less technical ability than the two he replaces on the TFC roster.
Guess we all know how he fits into Nelsen’s tactics.
How many ways can we say “dump and run”? Boot and scoot. Hoof and woof. Blast and fast. Boom and zoom. Hazzah.
Most importantly, the Reds have finally acquired somebody who can reliably challenge hairstyle norms on the pitch. He’ll be playing among a sea of high and tights, hopefully filling the Red’s gap with a real outlier do. Obviously, this is a vital trade, with Issey’s pseudo-Samurai ponytail gone, and DeRo in one of his most conventional coiffs.
Phew. I couldn’t take it if the Reds all looked like Jarheads.
Let the peacocks strut.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/05/a-perfectly-sporting-storm/
A Perfectly Sporting Storm
One Trick Ponies
One thing seems clear at this point in the season. Toronto FC are one trick tactical ponies.
First half, TFC throw down a high-pressure defence. The plan is to create turn-overs. Then, the Reds deploy thoroughbreds for quick breaks and counter-attacks. This style suits Jermain Dafoe just fine. And when Gilberto finally finds his bearings, he looks good for the work too.
Mostly, it means TFC never equal their opponents in terms of time in possession. Whatever you think of that statistical variable, the truth is that TFC are a reactive force. If they were thieves, they’d prefer bumping marks on the street and lifting wallets over carefully orchestrating larger heists.
When that approach goes well, TFC leave for half with a lead. The Reds usually return with a phase two plan. They turtle up on D, absorbing attacks and countering when they can to relieve pressure.
In cases where there’s no lead to defend after half, TFC’s game gets cagey. That high-pressure D comes at the cost of fatigue. And if the counter attacks can’t get results, there isn’t much more to lean on.
Facing an organized defence, TFC usually punt and run on the flanks. It seems like a low-odds tactic.
Reds wingers (less one just traded) now seem capable of some fancy dance and decent service. Most of the time, these attacks lack shape and creativity. Individual efforts may prevail, but as a team there seems to be little uniting disparate talents moving forward. The Reds can move the ball outside, but usually cannot convert that into real threat.
TFC have shown little taste for building up from the back. Most balls are lobbed forward in the hope of attackers holding it up or, most often, the opponents coughing it back up to them.
It’s a dull slog for spectators. Surely with all the game reels available now, it’s also no secret for TFC’s opponents.
I’m trying to give Ryan Nelsen the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s keeping it super simple and consistent. Perhaps he’s waiting until there’s enough cohesion to introduce variations and tactical shifts. Nevertheless, big stars or not, it would seem there is something still missing from the formula.
Normally, I dread TFC’s trips to play in Kansas City. Sporting are tough opponents. Their new stadium might be the best facility for the sport in the US. Usually, they play like it is and they deserve the same respect.
The question for tonight, however, is whether this is a perfect storm for SKC.
Sporting are limping into tonight’s match. Their central defence has been levelled by injuries. They’ve lost their past two matches. Their back line tonight will feature shuffled in players accustomed to other roles. Nothing could bode better for the Reds one trick.
There will likely be goals in both directions. Here’s hoping we come out on top.
For a TFC team struggling to hold it together under heavy expectations, a third road win in the first half of the season would be a bloody big deal.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/05/winsome-and-lonesome/
Winsome and Lonesome
Back from the Bye Week
This feels like a good moment to drop back into Better Red regularly again.
2014 has been a tricky season for me, as a weekly contributor. The past two campaigns had drained my will. My reserves of hope and faith were really low. The hype of off-season changes had me praying it wasn’t delusion before disappointment, again.
But the TFC of 2014 is most definitely a new team. Very much improved. And they could not have started better, with wins three out of the first four games. Half of last season’s total just like that. It was hard not to be giddy.
While they were healthy, Michael Bradley and Jermain Dafoe looked to be worth every penny spent on bringing them here. Julio Cesar too. I think Gilberto also will make an impact at some point soon.
Some injury problems tested the depth of the team early this year. Clearly less potent than the best 11, the B squad showed it deserves some respect. A win on the road was no small contribution.
Two sour losses later, in forms that looked familiar to TFC traditions (like a late game faltering goal), I feel we have reached some sobering reality about what lies ahead.
At a respectable 3 – 3, Toronto FC have shown that the roster has the power to perform. Three losses merely prove that the Reds are still a new team with lots of ground to cover together as teammates.
If this team can stay healthy until the World Cup break in June, I think Toronto FC can remain a top contender in our conference. I know there are weak points in the depth of the roster, but they proved it isn’t as big a gap as many jaded and stung TFC fans had feared.
This team is looking winsome and also kind of lonesome.
TFC are a much better team for 2014. Michael Bradley alone is a force to be respected. I saw lots of envy in the league and the press that played up TFC’s early success. Even if our wins weren’t live demos of virtuosity, the team looked capable and dangerous.
With the early hype fading now, the Reds are going to find fans keen for a more solid bond. They need to prove to us that our swelling loyalties aren’t misplaced.
Lovely as Bradley and Dafoe are in our colours, past heartache is still so fresh. We need some consistency and success. When that happens, TFC fans are going to be bananas in-love with this team like never before.
Some not rotten weather would be nice this weekend. The wind is blowing New England Revolution into town. And they are ripe for the defeating. Rumour is that TFC might field their best 11 too.
I’m betting on a TFC victory.
And the Revs owe us a lot of these. (On account of their turf eating Danny Koeverman’s knee).
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/04/party-time-referee/
Party Time Referee
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/01/starting-elevens/
Now that all the big deals are official, I have been consumed with thoughts of how the new TFC will look on the pitch.
This is purely an exercise in day-dreaming. So, I am assuming that TFC figure out some way of keeping Señor Laba and Bright Dike in the roster. I am also assuming that the new roster may beg a change in formation from the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 that dominate in the MLS. Arguably, there is now enough depth and talent in the forward and midfield ranks to innovate. That said, the back line may not yet be ready to stray from those basics formations.
I would love to see Ryan Nelsen’s notebooks now.
Any votes for what we’re likely to see?
De Rosario Laba/Osorio Bradley Rey
Morgan Morrow / Henry Caldwell Bloom
Dafoe Dike Gilberto
De Rosario Laba / Bradley Rey
Morgan Morrow / Henry Caldwell Bloom
Dafoe / Gilberto
De Rosario Osorio Rey
Morgan Morrow / Henry Caldwell Bloom
De Rosario Bradley Rey
Morgan Morrow / Henry Caldwell Bloom
Osorio / Bradley
De Rosario Rey
Bradley / Laba
Morgan Morrow / Henry Caldwell Bloom
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/01/2013s-payne-could-be-2014s-pleasure/
2013’s Payne could be 2014’s Pleasure
MLSE haters and TFC doubters, Timmy L has just gone “all-in” on 2014
Anyone who has lived in Toronto knows the whiney old tune. It gets sung year in and year out. The chorus has lasted a generation for fans of the Maple Leafs. It’s almost two decades now for the Raptors. And Toronto FC is closing in on a 10 bag of seasons too.
The song is the epic about the evil old Scrooges at MLSE who smugly reap monster profits and never care about their teams winning trophies. No doubt there is some truth to those verses. And maybe those greedy old suits are guilty of some of those charges.
Anyone with half a mind for business would know, however, that it’s totally ridiculous to accuse any corporation of not wanting winners in its stable. All of those teams and all of their ancillary products become ever more valuable with those victories.
It’s certainly understandable that fans would tire of the frustration and the futility. Those greedy suits sucking our pockets dry and shredding our loyal hearts are an easy target too. From the outside, it often seemed like the profiteer could be spending more on the substance of those teams in search of lasting success.
New corporate owners are in charge now. And a new leader has taken the MLSE helm. His mission is to make winners of all three teams.
In the case of Toronto FC, Tim Lewieke, MLSE’s new boss, has just dumped a big pile of chips on the table. The true price tag of acquiring Jermaine Dafoe and Michael Bradley are not yet public. They may never be, as the MLS likes to keep such details private.
There is no doubt Bradley and Dafoe are big steps up in terms of talent for TFC. The MLS is already winning with their decision to play in Toronto. Top talent joining the League will always be good publicity.
MLSE’s commitment to raising its stake in the game is commendable. To the players’ credit, it could not have been an easy decision to enlist for duty on a ship that has never really been seaworthy. Whopping sums must be involved.
Great as their reputations are, and popular as they may be with fans, these players are still unquantifiable contributions to the greater mission. Bradley and Dafoe remain unproven commodities for TFC until they can reliably deliver on the pitch.
Kudos to Lewieke, though. Toronto FC are certainly in their best position ever going into a new season. Only time will tell if these big bets will pay off.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2014/01/de-hero-or-derogue/
DE heRO or DEROgue?
2013′s Payne could be 2014′s Pleasure
Yes, he’s older. Yes, some unfortunate stuff went down between the man and TFC last time around. Critics might call him ego driven or over the hill or even ungrateful. And yes, he could wash out this season without ever making a major contribution.
I just wouldn’t bet on that.
Dwayne De Rosario’s return to play in his hometown is unqualified good news for the Reds. That’s because there is one character trait DeRo has that will always be valuable:
DeRo is a big-game player.
He is the guy who makes something out of nothing. He’s the guy who rises to the occasion when it really counts. Among Toronto FC’s seven MLS seasons and dozens of rostered players, DeRo is the only one you can point to who ever brought that to the pitch.
The 2013 DC United team he played for was hampered by injuries, including his own, and was consistently horrible in running to a last place finish in the league. Nevertheless, DeRo lead that squad to win the US Open Cup. No surprise, really, those big games are his best.
In his first stint in TFC red, he was that hero. He brought the team up.
Last time, it sometimes seemed like he had to do it on his own. His teammates on the field and the management backing them really weren’t a high enough calibre. It could make him seem like a ball hog, and a ‘me-first’ kind of player. Though, that really seems unfair.
In San Jose and Houston, he also had a proven talent for serving up opportunities for other goal scorers. Maybe Brian Ching could offer some testimony there.
Surely this year, with mounting expectations of Dafoe and Bradley, there will be games when injuries and tactics and morale are all flagging under the pressure. Those are the moments TFC will appreciate having DeRo around again.
As long as he’s healthy, DeRo will always show up when somebody needs to deliver. That alone, makes his return to TFC one of the best developments of this off-season.
Starting or coming off the bench, scoring or feeding others, DeRo is a guy you want on the field when the pressure is high and the competition is hot.
Dwayne – whatever hair design you show up with, whatever goal celebration you peacock, it’s good to have you back.
New Post has been published on http://www.better-red.org/2013/10/another-year-that-wasnt/
Another Year That Wasn’t
The Most Patient Fans On Earth
Ok, that title really belongs to Toronto Maple Leafs fans. However, Toronto FC fans can certainly boast to own some of it now. The seventh season ends this weekend, and it will bring merciful closure. Arguably, this might have been the worst season of all.
There was the usual hyperbole about change. There was the usual shuffling of the management and the roster. TFC played through an ugly and inglorious campaign.
Yet again, it was the kind of season that makes it very hard to feel optimistic about the next one.
It also has been hard to find much to write about here. The deja vu has been overwhelming. Another year of turning the corner only to find myself staring at the same dead end. The doom hanging over the 2013 team has been hard to escape.
Whatever promise the 2012 TFC had for this season, it was all gone by the end of July. Koevermans never really returned from his knee injury. Silva was traded. Stefan Frei never left the bench. Big name signings never materialized. No surprise, the new management was fired before the end of August.
Not all was lost. Some new players have proven to be good acquisitions. Laba and Caldwell definitely made a difference when they were healthy and available. Osorio, Convey and Rey have some promise as a midfield too. Ryan Nelsen even seemed to be able to organize the defense better than any of his predecessors.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
Toronto FC remain the pitiable runt in the MLS litter. Unable to shore up its back line, too many close contests were lost to late mistakes and laughably bad defending. Worse yet, service forward and the actual attacking were consistently incapable of scoring the goals that would have made a difference.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même.
Tic Tac Tabernac
All that’s left to rally around is the slim chance we can defeat the Montreal Impact at BMO to close out 2013. It could spoil their bid to make the playoffs.
That’s right, there’s no hope for TFC success. So we’re left only with finding pleasure at other’s misfortune. But don’t feel bad about that. They are our rivals. We are supposed to root for their failure.
With weather forecasts running cool and blustery, the stage is set for my favourite kind of BMO experience. If our team’s play fails to bond us in camaraderie, there’s always inclement weather to bind us together around a common cause. Plus, you can buy the big beers without fear of them going warm before you finish them.
TFC entered 2013 with a roar and will exit with a whimper.
Will 2014 bring us any different?
Toronto FC 1 - 1 Montreal Impact