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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Landycakes leaving LaLaLand?

The questions have been asked for some time now, will Landon Dononvan ever leave MLS for a bigger stage in Europe, specifically a full time move to the bad guys of Merseyside, Everton, where he's twice starred on loan during the MLS off-season.

Will there's certainly been grist for that mill lately. First off, it's been widely reported that he has put his 4 million bachelor pad in Manhattan Beach up for sale. Now many people may ask "what's the big deal?" Landycakes putting his place on the market, BFD" Well true, but as has been pointed out by the ever reliable MLS Rumors, Ruud Gullit put his house up for sale & a short while later, the guy was canned from has brief, but disasterous tenure as Galaxy manager. These real estate transactions are often a harbinger of things to come. Though, from the looks of the place, I cannot understand how anybody could ever give up all that to move to Merseyside to play for the Toffees. It's not worth it, that's for damn sure

Secondly have been the persistent rumours of the arrival to the HDC of yet another DP for Los Angeles. Everyone from Alex Del Piero, to Clarence Seedorf (although he's just signed with Botafogo in Brazil) & now the latest rumour is a resurrected one linking the Galaxy with Frank Lampard. Now unless the league twists the rules again to accomodate the whims of AEG & Goldenballs which isn't too far-fetched if we were to go on past experiences, one of the DP's have to go. Becks, we know, ain't going nowhere anytime soon, that's for sure & there have been no credible reports in regard to a return to England for Robbie Keane, so that leaves Donovan.

I for one think, that should Donovan wish to leave for a chance to be a full time regular for an EPL club, even if it's only for the likes of rinky dink, little Everton, then MLS & the Galaxy should do absolutely nothing to deter him & allow Landon to pursue this dream. Much as many of us, especially those of us who are TFC fans, enjoy taking the piss out of good ol' Landycakes,  no one can deny how beneficial his contributions to MLS have been. He's been the American face of the league for the better part of a decade & the greatest player in its history. Enough can't be said about how much Landon has done much to boost MLS's profile & reputation at home & abroad. Being a transcendent figure for a still growing league, cracking in the mainstream sporting consciousness at home & an apostle of North American soccer abroad, it had been critical for MLS to keep their goldenboy at home & happy.

Can Landycakes be kept at home any longer, though? I believe he has done more than his fair share in building the sport over here & if he wishes to leave & head to the Premier League permanently, then Landon Donovan should be allowed to go, & with all our appreciation & respect for all he has done.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saying goodbye (for now) to Joao Plata

Well the news became official that fan favourite Joao Plata is returning to Ecuador on loan & will not feature again for TFC this season. It's a bittersweet moment for me, & I suspect many of you as well. He was clearly a favourite & Aron Winter's & I still had yet to comprehend how he would fit into Paul Mariner's more conventional tactic arrangement, or if he even could. In addition, it was beoming evident that other teams around MLS were beginning to figure the kid out. Plata is hardly a commonplace soccer player. Only 5'2, him making it to the pros was a case of beating very long odds, let alone play as well as he did last year. Once adjustments had been made by the opposition, namely in playing Plata quite physically, adapting to these challenges were always going to be difficult, especially given his lack of experience.

Still his absence will be keenly felt by Reds fans. Plata, in the short time he graced BMO Field, became one of the most popular & beloved players in the history of Toronto FC. We loved his boundless energy, unceasing work rate & considerable charisma. All this without even mentioning his tangible contributions to the club. His clutch goals in the CCL, including the memorable dagger thru the hearts of FC Dallas which earned advancement into the knockout stages of the competition, as well as his MVP performance in last year's Canadian Championship.

He leaves Toronto behind with many great memories, but in all honesty this is a smart move for him. Young players, especially one with as much upside as Plata, needs constancy & stability in order to properly mature & realize their full potential. TFC has hardly been a bulwark of stability this year & is more likely to find it back in his old stomping ground. So we say adios to Platita & say thanks for all he did for Toronto FC. Hopefully we will get to meet up with him again in the not too distant future.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Comparing & Contrasting Winter & Mariner

To those Toronto FC fans who still doubt the wisdom of dumping Aron Winter for Paul Mariner, allow me to illustrate how beneficial the coaching change has been for the Reds:

Under Winter:

10 League Games: 1W 9L 0D 3 pts 8GF 21 GA -13 GD

       Under Mariner


4 League Games:   1W 1L 2D 5 pts 8 GF 7  GA +1 GD

So in the 4 matches since the coaching change, TFC have more points than they did before Winter was sacked, & scored as many goals. Also notable is that, despite the late game collapses, the average goals conceded per game is lower under Mariner- 1.75 versus 2.1 under Winter, a former defender/holding midfielder.

Say what you want about how Mariner came to be in charge, & despite considering myself to be a full fledged member of Team Mariner, I concede that the relevant events, probably, don't fully pass the smell test, you cannot deny these results. Yes, there is still much work to be done, especially with regards to the leaky back line, but I think it can be said that we are seeing the progress we've all been hungry for from our club.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Count von Count with a few thoughts about the Impact's attendance

He must have had fun last nite, all that was missing from this was some thunder & lightning, (which is currently ongoing out my window at the moment)

TFC vs Montreal Recap

Overview: A win! a glorious win!! & a win away from the friendly confines of BMO no less. TFC were almost unrecognizable last nite as they laid a comprehensive beatdown on the Impact 3-0 at Saputo Stadium in their 4th meeting of the season. The match further illustrated the belief of Reds' fans that this was not a 1-9 team, but a team capable of being, at a minimum, the MLS equivalent of a mid-table side.

What went Right: Well what didn't go right last night? Just about everything that could of, did. Those who showed good form since the regime change at BMO, continued it last night. Another stellar games from Messrs. Johnson, Koevermans, scorers of 2 of TFC's 3 goals & Ashtone Morgan, again, dangerous in attack, setting up the Koef with yet another fine cross into the box. Though, it does have to be said, Montreal's defence seemed to have channeled the inner TFC, as they were quite shambolic in defending it. Whatever Mariner has done, whether it is a change in tactics, instilling confidence in his charges, a deal with the devil..., has worked like magic the offence is firing on all cylinders & will need to be, given the Red's next opponents are the Red Bulls Saturday night.

What should be highlighted the most is the play of the much maligned defence. many, myself included, have been aggreived to no end about the piss poor play of the backline, not just recently, but indeed all season long. Last night's clean sheet was, for me, the most satisfying aspect of the victory. This was in spite of it, once again, being a ramshackle grouping of RB Richard Eckersley playing centrally, partnering with the defender formally known as Sideshow Logan, & Jeremy Hall playing out wide right, whom was subbed off at the half after getting kicked in the face by Hassoun Camara. They did nothing spectacular, keeping themselves organized & compact, & effective cleared their lines, which enabled 'keeper Milos Kocic to earn a overdue & much deserved clean sheet.

What Was Even Better: Pity Joey Saputo. Sure, most TFC would take him over the faceless bureaucrats that oversee the team & how they can screw us out of our hard earned money, though it doesn't change the fact that the guy is f'n clown shoes. His reaction on Twitter last night was not unlike a baby who didn't get his bottle on time.

Priceless, guess you could say he was rather cheesed off by the turn of events last night. Wah wah waaaahhh

Man of the Match: Oh captain, my captain. I was worried about his level of fatigue going into the game last night, but Torsten Frings was massive. He earned every dime of his DP paycheck, bossing the midfield, alongside JDG, effectively shutting down a lively & dangerous midfield. Bernier, Warner, & the dangerous Felipe did jack squat, unable to link up & provide service to the Cheeseballs new acquisition, Italian forward Marco Di Vaio, who saw little of the ball for the 55 minutes he was on the pitch in his debut. Add to that, Frings scored his 1st MLS goal on a terrific free kick that went into the top corner of Donovan Ricketts' net, who never had a hope of stopping the shot. A perfect night from our leader

Bottom Line: Just as quickly as fans jumped off the Toronto FC bandwagon, there wll be a stampede to hop back aboard it . Next game will not be easy, though. Going up against a New York side boasting an offence lead by Kenny Cooper, 2nd in league scoring, & that cheating rat bastard Thierry Henry, will pose a daunting challenge for the boys Saturday night. Not many will expect a result, but TFC are in a peculiar position at the moment, they are a team in form & in a positive state of mind. If I were Hans Backe, i'd get henry to start practicing his handballs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TFC vs the Impact: Who exactly is the expansion team here?

Overview: Round 4 of the 401 Derby tonite sees the Reds travel for the 1st time to the newly renovated Saputo Stadium to play an Impact side that is have been scoring for fun lately. 8 goals in the last 2 games against quality opposition, is not exactly a reality TFC, with their sieve-like backline, want to go up against. It's a depressing state of affairs to see the first year Montreal side performing so well, as if they've been in MLS for a while now, say 6 seasons. While the cheeseballs may have a clown for an owner, it's obvious to all who see that Toronto FC is the club that most resembles a circus. While I have a low opinion of joey Saputo, at least he has the club's & its fans interests at heart, instead of doing solely what's best for the bottom line. MLSE would be wise to take note, if they would stop pilfer from our pockets for one minute.

What to look for: If tonight's game wasn't signifigent enough to start with, the debut of marquee signing Marco Di Vaio adds some extra spice to proceedings. The former Italian international will kick off his MLS adventure tonight & you have to think he is salivating to make mince meat of the Reds' porous defence. The transfer window has, mercifully, opened today, & Mariner is making all the right noises about bringing in a "Boss" in defence, but he ain't here yet. Expect many of the same old problems for TFC to appear tonight, most notably their inability to counter crosses into the box & set pieces. L'Impact have a number of dead ball specialists, such as captain Davy Arnaud, who will cause havoc with their deliveries into the box.

Another thing to be on the look for is the fatigue factor. The Reds are in the midst of a brutal run of games & you saw Saturday the beginning signs that it's taking a toll on the boys. Mariner appears to be cut from the old school managerial cloth, that you keep on riding the hot hand until it ceases to be. Not sure that that is the smart course of action. I'm not one for the maddening Rafa Benitez-style rotation-for-the-sake-of-rotation approach, but you do need to give your players, even your stars a chance to charge their batteries from time to time. I fear that this tact from Mariner will end up costing us going forward.

Also, for something fun, let's find time during the match to count the number of empty seats at the Cheeseballs new digs. The fact that Saputo Stadium isn't sold out for a game like this is shocking. What does it say about the calibre of fan base that IMFC can't even manage a full house against their biggest rivals. One thing ia obvious, they may have the better teams, but we TFC fans are the superior supporters.

Bottom Line: If both clubs' recent outing are any indication, we should be in for more than a few goals tonight. I guess you could say that it will be a gouda evening for all who watch, The Impact may feel they are the favourites, but they should not expect TFC to make it a brie-eze for them

Final Score: Toronto 2 Montreal 2

Delusional England Supporters need to STFU

It was as predictable, as it is laughable. The usual chorus of indignation from England supporters after the 3 Lions crashed out at the hands of a sterling performance from the Azurri on Sunday brought forth an all too expected torrent of tirades from the boo boys. He's too negative, his style is too old fashioned, he's this, & he's that blah, blah, blah.

The truth many, if not most, England don't wish to hear is that Roy Hodgson did a damn good job with what he had to work with, which wasn't that much. Only taking over 2 months prior to the Euros, Woy of the Wovers had to contend with a slew of injuries to key players like Lampard & Barry & the continuing saga of the John Terry racism scandal & whether or not Rio Ferdinand should have been taken to the tournament, & lest we forget, the reality that the 3 Lions' top player, Rooney, was unavailable for the 1st 2 games of the Euros. He also had little time to help his squad adapt to a new coaching staff &  tactics & methods which for most, were completely unfamiliar with. A tough task, but Hodgson pulled it off, far better than most sensible people believe.

Now i'm not going to sit here & say that Roy was perfect. I do agree with his critics that he got a good deal wrong in the quarterfinal vs Italy. They were waaaaay too cautious to the point of negative for 90, showing not even the slightest bit of offensive ambition & come extra time, England were clearly trying to play for penalties, which certainly made me laugh given their notorious history in shootouts. Then there was the choice of subs. Jordan Henderson on for Scotty Parker was, umm, bizarre, to be as nice as I possibly can. Sunday was a match to forget to be sure.

Keep in mind, though, that it was just 1 game, albeit the most crucial one. In the first 3, however, Hodgson did well. Grinding out a draw against a far more gifted French side was a result most watchers of England would have been quite satisfied with before kickoff. It gave the confidence to go on & put in a tremendous display of determination & fighting spirit, coming from behind to score 2 late goals against Sweden & nick a victory late was one of the best England performances I saw in years. The old England would have folded like a cheap card table & give up, but not Woy's Boys. A workmanlike win in the last game against host Ukraine, took England to the top of the group with 7 points. How many seriously thought that was possible beforehand? All in all it was  a tournament performance worthy of a passing grade & a chance to be given a chance to implement his vision.

While he was not the ideal manager for Liverpool when he came on board, Woy is the right man for the England job at this juncture. England need a major overhaul, not just of the national team, but of how soccer operates in the birthplace of the sport. Simply put, England just aren't that good a side. If their level of talent was equal to their supporters' levels of arrogance & hubris, England would have won the Euros, scoring 4 or 5 every game. Now it looked early on as if England fans finally woke up to the state of the 3 Lions, but by the end of the group stage they were back to familiar habits, believing their boys were the equal of Spain, Germany &  all the other world powers. They most certainly are not. The 2 aforementioned countries are stacked with talent. It is more than realistic that both could field 2 teams better than England, & in Spain's case I believe they could put out a 3rd that is their equal. English clubs are horrible at developing their young players, & need a serious rethink as to how they develop the promising young talent so that, one day, they can stand toe to toes with the Spains & Germany of the world. As it stands, England would get played off the park by them & a number of other countrie, the future is rather bleak without meaningful reforms, which Roy has experience in doing, if he is given a fair chance to do so.

Now some of you will say that as a Liverpool fan, where do I get off defending Hodgson, seeing as how his time at Anfield was a spectacular failure? In my opinion, the deck was stacked against him from the get go & was doomed to failure. He came to the club at a time of great turmoil, as the foundations of it were crumbling under the incompetent stewardship of Hicks & Gillette. The fact the Woy was seen as "their man" was bad enough, but he also had the misfortune of filling the shoes of Rafa, beloved by the Kop to this day. Add in the negative vibe around LFC & the fact he had zero money to spend & was forced to sell players in order to buy & rely on free transfers & no wonder it didn't work out. If anyone thinks for a minute that, if he had access to the sums of cash King Kenny spent during his 2nd spell as manager, he would have bought the likes of Paul Konchesky & Christian Poulsen, then you are quite mistaken.

Bottom line, England fans, it's time to wake up & grow up. You're not the big deal you all seem to think you are. You are not a formidable, all conquering world power, just a middling European nation that has the tendancy to punch above it's weight. It's time to stifle the narcissism & accept the fact that a lot of hard work lies ahead & by not being a constant pain in the arse for the manager & the FA will make that task much easier & be done in an expedited fashion. So for once in our soccer supporting live, shut the f*ck up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Robbie Keane: Pure Class

Saturday night Robbie Keane showed exactly why he has been one of Ireland`s best ever captains. After scoring the 2nd goal in the Galaxy`s 3-0 win over the Whitecaps, Keano ran to LA`s bench to get a jersey emblazoned with the message "RIP James Nolan". It was a gesture that certainly touched the hearts of all Ireland fans, I know it did with this one.

The relevant bit begins around the 2:30 mark

For those who aren't in the know, James Nolan was a 21 year old engineering student & Ireland supporter from County Wicklow that drowned while having travelled to Poland supporting the Boys in Green. His death touched many throughout Ireland, & people around the world. A considerable outpouring of support for his family has followed. His funeral drew the likes of Shay Given, Robbie`s wife Claudine, the FAI chief executive & thousands from his hometown. A wonderful show of unity in the face of tragedy.

Keano's tribute is the kind of class act we've come to expect of Ireland's captain, & one reason why I have been such a fan of his for so long. I am, though, of the opinion that, given the crossroads Ireland finds itself at currently, that he should stand down from the team & allow young blood to step forward, in order for a serious rebuild the Republic is in great need of to be undetaken, given its dire display at Euro 2012.

For more check This & this out

It was a fine moment that followed a fine goal against Vancouver. Great to see Keano finally being able to score in the month of June. Too bad it was in Southern California, & not in Eastern Europe. Ahem.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Toronto vs New England recap

What happened: At the core of the fantastic sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica is the theory of cyclical history, which in the show is summed up effectively by the religion of the show's characters with the following axiom:

  "All of this has happened before & all of this will happen again"

Well Toronto FC sure did its damnedest to see to it that art imitated life. On Wednesday, TFC blew a lead late, thanks to a fatal combination of incompetent defending & a series of highly questionable substitutions from new head coach Paul Mariner that resulted in dropped points for the Reds against the Houston Dynamo, & on Saturday, The Reds blew a lead late, thanks to a fatal combination of incompetent defending, & a series of highly questionable substitutions from new head coach Paul Mariner that resulted in dropped points for the Reds against the New England Revolution. Both results lead to Reds fans letting out a collective scream from the tops of our frustrated lungs.

What went right: The maddening mindfrak ending to the game has caused the positives of Toronto, of which there were a decent amount of, that were on display against the Revs to have been somewhat obscured. However they must be highlighted.

First off, spare a thought for poor Milos Kocic. Our keeper more than did his fair share to put Toronto in a winning position. Both of the goals he conceded can, in no way, be blamed on him. To borrow a hockey analogy, he stood on his head for the 90 & will be very hard done by to not get a clean sheet, let alone a W. Facing a barrage of 10 Revolution shots on target that went unanswered by TFC, Milos met them head on, making numerous highlight reel saves, the kind of which would be the equal of any you would find by the best of the world. He has been a rock this year between the posts, but alas, he is only one man. Kocic cannot be expected to do it all by himself.

Secondly, there's Ashtone Morgan. The young LB had, beyond a shadow of a doubt, his best game of the season Saturday. A constant threat going forward, the young Canadian international recorded the assists on both of the Reds' 2 goals, delivering a pair of fine crosses to enable Ryan Johnson & Danny Koevermans to find the back of the net, & nearly scored one himself just after the start of the 2nd half driving the ball just  bit outside after a stellar end to end run. He still needs to work on the defensive aspect of his game, but of the 4 defender on for the late game collapse, he was perhaps the least culpable.

As well, the switch to the more standard 4-4-2 system is seeing the blossoming of an effective strike partnership of aforementioned RJ & Koev. Koevermans followed up his brace vs the Dynamo with his 6th of the season & RJ has rediscovered his early season form, netting TFC's 2nd of the day. The 2 worked extremely well together, their individual strengths perfectly complementing the others. They also benefited from linking up with Eric Avila. The young MF who was, inexplicably, used much too infrequently by Aron Winter for my taste, has made the most of his opportunity under Paul Mariner, was effective in leading the charge from MF & showed why so many have regarded him as one of the most underrated players in MLS in  recent years. While the lack of depth remains a problem needing to be addressed once the transfer window opens, much of TFC's offence appear to be getting sorted out, if the last 2 games are any indication.

What Went Wrong: If the offence is beginning to sort itself out, TFC's defence remains the notorious hot mess we've come to know this season. Once Frings & JDG, who again had another DP contract-worthy performance, the back line fell apart as it did in Houston 72 hours prior. When the most experienced member of your back 4 happens to be Richard Eckersley, you are going to have problems. Shape & composure disappeared & chaos reigned & New England pounced & earned a point that they really did not deserve, when you considered how poor they were for the 1st 65 minutes of the game. Reds fans mustn't just hope, but flat out demand, defensive reinforcements this year. We must not, in any way, shape or form, see Sideshow Logan again take to the pitch for the Reds, he is quite simply not good enough & had no business whatsoever being out there in crunch time.

With that said, as much as we can criticize Emory's play, & rightly so, we cannot overlook how he even got on the pitch in the 1st place. Paul Mariner, again, must be condemned for his poor choice of substitutions. Now I can understand the logic of why he chose to sub off Julian, & Frings. The team is in the midst of a diabolical run of matches from now until the end of July and, with the big match against the Impact mid-week, he wanted to give his stars a rest, which they certainly deserved. If the team had sufficient replacement on the bench to make this work, it'd be praised, but to take off your team's 2 most important leaders, the players who maintain order & focus on the pitch for an attacking winger & a crap defender, the head coach must be raked over the coals. Mariner should have learned from what happened & not repeated the same lapse in judgement.

Man of the Match: For me, it was between Kocic & Morgan & I decided to select Kocic, if for no other reason than out of pity. He delivered, dare I say it, a world class performance in goal & was let down by a defence far too inferior than his efforts merit.

Bottom Line: Defence may not get you points, but it can bloody well cost you. The offence stirring to life & players operating in a system in which they can thrive & perform well in is genuine cause for optimism, but until the defence is sorted out, once & for all, Toronto FC's season will continue to resemble a BSG episode & will drop points again, and again, and again, and again...