Here we are, the eve of the MLS Cup for 2017. This year has been full of ups and downs. Through it all, the Seattle Sounders have become stronger than they were last year. It hasn’t been without injury and issues, but the team has risen above and made it to the promised land.
Last year was so special because it was our first. I think this year can be even more special because we have the chance to repeat as the MLS champions. Through the playoffs, the Sounders have defeated both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo, both in convincing fashion.
Again, the Sounders find themselves facing Toronto FC at BMO Field on what proves to be a very cold day. Hundreds of supporters are making their way to Toronto. There is a banner going that has the names of people who could not make this trip. We are a family. We will be in the stadium, in pubs, in bars, and in our homes, all over the world cheering our boys to victory. This is our cup, and we will defend it.
This game will not be like last year. Both teams have improved. Both are stronger, faster but just as hungry as they were last year. TFC still has the bitter taste of last year’s loss, during penalty kicks, in their mouths. Seattle wants to cement our dynasty. Seattle has added a number of players who have made a huge difference in the team’s play.
Both teams have injuries issues, with the Sounders being slightly worse. At this time, Jozy Altidore is questionable with an ankle injury suffered late in the second leg of the Columbus Crew game. Seattle will be missing Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso.
Ozzie being out of the game hurts. He is our captain and the heart. Seattle will have Roman Torres back from suspension. Jordan Morris is also at 100% and should feature. No one is suspended for this game, and no one is on international duty.
So we won the Supporter’s Shield, now what? The logical progression, as the best team in the regular season, would be the MLS Cup. However, recent history has proved this a challenge with only 2 teams winning the MLS double in its modern form (since 2003 when the format was changed Source). In this Toronto FC season, records have fallen and new depths have been explored and Toronto FC have shown on Monday night that they aim to win.
Of a wide spectrum of emotions familiar to football fans across the globe, this game had them all. Through the highs and the lows our viewing party buzzed with passion for our team. Despite some long periods of time spent in eerie silence punctuated by fist banging fits of anger, many of us insisted at the end that we were confident in our team all along.
I approached the game with a certain apprehension, knowing that the New York Red Bulls at the Red Bull Arena might just be our toughest game of the playoffs.
A dodgy penalty, a standard Sebastian Giovinco free kick, a kick in the pubis, some dodgy Red Bulls fans whom Greg Vanney eloquently put in their place (what a dad) and 90+ 5 high altitude minutes later we emerged victorious and on top of the world, a feeling we have grown accustomed to. What looked the start of a rocky second half seemed to stabilize after some minor adjustments and Toronto FC kept calm and won the game.
2-1 is a pretty good scoreline to come home to. 2 away goals and the win, NYRB have to score more goals at BMO Field than the home team; a rare feat for wary travelers this year. And the city is ready for them. We have not appreciated the treatment of our players in the States these past few weeks and we are ready to bring the 12th man to the game on Sunday.
If I had to call to mind one image that summed up the match besides the obvious big moments, it would be something like this: Nick Hagglund (possibly in a cape), leaping 10 feet into the air in some sort of karate kick of a clearance. Insert a written sound effect of your choice to indicate great physical prowess and that about sums up our Super Nicky. That’s not to say that Drew Moor doesn’t get the job done, but there was something incredible about watching Nicky come off the bench to accomplish feats of heroism to save us from uncertain death.
It is that type of depth that will take Toronto FC far in this playoff campaign. Hagglund, who has featured in just 3 games for TFC since mid-May after being sidelined twice by injury, was exactly what TFC needed to see the game off. With vigor and the pluck that makes him well loved by Toronto and by former Toronto FC captain and current TSN commentator Steve Caldwell, he put in a performance when we needed him to keep us ahead in New Jersey.
We will likely require another player to step up on Sunday with the possibility of Victor Vazquez missing out (though not if he has anything to do with it) and the team with the greatest depth in the history of the MLS will be tested once again. Who will be our next hero? A stadium will wait with baited breath for all to be revealed.
“They say that these are not the best of times,
They’re the only times I’ve ever known.” –Billy Joel, “Summer, Highland Falls”
I dare you to fight me on my musical choices.
Originally, I was tasked with writing a “Know Your Enemy” style of article before the first leg. But I couldn’t do it. Because there’s not much I have to say: Toronto FC are the beasts of the East. Supporter Shield winners with a record number of points in League history. They have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. TFC is top seed, coming into the playoffs well rested and ready to go.
But the New York Red Bulls have Luis Robles, Danny Royer, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. And they have the momentum of defeating the Chicago Fire in the knockout round. Head coach Jesse Marsch has said RBNY is “going on a run”. The first leg was the true test of that statement.
I’m not gonna lie: I was nervous for the team. The second I got into my car to make the drive to Red Bull Arena, I was hit with a wave of nausea, and I’m not talking about the fumes on the Turnpike. RBNY were able to prove that they can avoid the mental errors and the devastating injuries that plagued them during the regular season. They really looked like a team that is just having fun together and not wearing themselves out mentally. They’re really in the driver’s seat, especially at home in the the first leg.
And when I think about it that way, holding TFC to two goals is pretty impressive.
And also really freaking horrible.
Let me tell you a little something about myself: I tell people that I’m not the least bit competitive. It’s a bold face lie. I’m actually super competitive. I don’t even like admitting it about myself. So losing hurts, and I’m not even the one out there letting myself get pinged in the face with a ball or stomped with some $300 cleats.
You can see the rundown of the game anywhere. You can watch Victor Vazquez nail the rebound after Luis Robles punched away the initial shot from Jozy Altidore:
It felt like I was watching a different team than I had seen in the past month or so. One that didn’t know how to face down a terrible opponent. A team that didn’t want the responsibility of dominating possession and demanding rewards for it. Players who panicked in the face of danger. Men who were ripped apart and had no one to blame but themselves (or each other). A subdued locker room like I had never seen before.
And “I can only stand apart and sympathize”. I’ve been to press conferences following losses during the season. This was nothing like those times. “We didn’t look like ourselves,” head coach Jesse Marsch said following the game. This was echoed by Captain Sacha Kljestan: “I don’t think we played like us.”
Can RBNY right the ship? They have to remind themselves of who they are, more than any fan or writer could ever do. They have to play like they have nothing to lose. They have to give themselves and each other the tools and the guidance to face TFC head on. They need to be a team. And I hope one of them sees this and embraces it. Because I have no problem being a PollyAnna about RBNY: that’s why I’m here. Maybe they need to take that kind of unbridled positivity to heart. Because the whole point of the playoffs is for an underdog to look at an opponent with a winning record and laugh it away in a brief series… just ask the Houston Astros.
“For we are always what our situations hand us… It’s either sadness or euphoria.”
PS: Let me take a minute to comment on the vitriol directed towards TFC players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Both are referred to as “Metro Products”, having been part of the MetroStars when they and MLS were younger. They were booed Every. Time. They. Touched. The. Ball. They were treated similarly in Atlanta on Decision Day. They will likely be treated that way if they continue in the Playoffs.
They will definitely be treated that way when they return to hostile fields across America next season. They know why it’s happening. They can handle it. And I condone it. I just wonder how long it will last or what, if anything, it will take to quiet it. And I draw the line at cursing… but that’s just my own sensibilities at play.
A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale
With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:
Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)
I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.
Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!
*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?
Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings– with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?
By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.
David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.
Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?
We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.
Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.
This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.
The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.
Columbus Crew:In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place.
The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.(#savethecrew)However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.Although, it will be a tough away game.The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players.
New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.
I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.
Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.
With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.
As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.
Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.This year has been such an up and down year.There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before.
The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.This will give the team time to heal up.I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!
Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.
*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.
Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.
If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.
*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.
If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.
(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)
Song of the Match: Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves
July was a month of firsts for Toronto FC. First new contract for a manager, first MLS goal for not one, not two, but three players and all Canadian to boot; and of course first place for a lot of the month. I can only speak for myself but I’m a little sad to see it go, but optimistic to see out the summer.
Congratulations are in order for Raheem Edwards’ first MLS goal. It didn’t dawn on me that it was his first until hours later when I happened upon Jay Chapman’s tweet congratulating him. It seemed absurd that his first goal came in the dying embers of July when all season he’d been making huge contributions to the team, be it just by coming off the bench and injecting the team with some much needed energy, or handing out assists like gifts. He’s become so important to the team’s success I nearly forgot how new he is to the scene, not to mention how young.
Massive win today! Thanks to all the fans for the great support today, and congrats to my guy @Rvheem_ on his first MLS goal! 💪🏻#top
It was a beautiful afternoon for a beautiful game in our beautiful stadium. The whole day had a glow about it. It’s safe to say at this point that Toronto FC loves playing NYCFC, and Sebastian Giovinco loves it most. In the past year Toronto FC have managed to absolutely steamroll NYCFC 13-2 across 4 games with Giovinco bagging a hat trick in one and a brace in another.
The highlight of the game for me came from the blessing I have to be a Season Seat Holder in the south end Supporters’ Section of BMO Field. I got to bear witness to a small moment not entirely caught on camera that is one of those moments that reminds me why I love the beautiful game.
It was the 75th minute and Toronto FC were awarded a penalty; Giovinco got to the ball first. He picked it up and held it against his chest. He could probably taste the hat trick only seconds away from his clutch. But then he must have thought of Jozy Altidore, of the players we had just gotten back from International Duty and whom Seba looked absolutely delighted to be reunited with. Especially Jozy (the jumbotron had been playing a slow-motion replay of Seba running into Jozy’s arms on the first goal throughout the game).
He marched up to Jozy and proffered the ball to him but Jozy said no at first. The second time Seba held the ball out to Jozy he took it reluctantly, and a hush seemed to fall over the south end. We had seen Jozy miss penalties before, and he looked none too comfortable as he set the ball down and stood back for the whistle. “Come on, Jozy!” a few of us yelled in support.
If Jozy had turned for one last look at Seba in that moment, I’m sure Seba would have offered a wink and a thumbs up. It was with the confidence of Seba, the rest of the team, and the fans that Jozy stepped forward and keenly shot the penalty kick home, effectively burying NYCFC by making it 3-0 with only 15 minutes remaining. Of course, Raheem would hammer in the nails at the very end with our 4th.
A first MLS goal for a Toronto native@Rvheem_ reflects on an afternoon to remember
That show of sportsmanship is extra special to me coming from Seba, who was accused of selfishness early this season for an outburst. As a Toronto supporter, nothing makes me happier than seeing players come to our city and learn to love Toronto and the team. Seba showed that on Sunday with his enthusiasm, work ethic, and team effort. There’s no better ways we could have asked for to close out the month than 4 goals and a clean sheet in the Six and in the sun.
My only point of contention? I’m a bit perturbed that Jay Chapman lost a starting spot though it was not unexpected. He will perpetually face the issue many of our Canadians guys face which is to compete in a deep squad, particularly in the midfield, and Jay has it the hardest when guys like Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez are effectively pushing him out of the team. Still, he came off the bench and got the minutes he deserved so I can’t say I’m too disappointed.
Quick shout out to the David Villa jersey wearing NYCFC fan who travelled from New York to stand in the Supporters’ Section. I’d apologize for the torrent of chanting you endured but it was just way too much fun taunting you for the majority of the second half. Thank you for being a good sport about it and my condolences that you chose to stand amongst the most loyal of Toronto FC fans.
Here’s hoping that August is as fruitful as July! See you all this weekend when TFC travels to D.C. to face D.C. United on their home turf.
I may not have explicitly stated this, but let’s all accept that I had taken a vow of silence until Jay Chapman got his first MLS goal and move on, shall we? There’s something bittersweet about it when, just 3 days before, I sat at my keyboard to angrily tap out—with stills as evidence—just how he was robbed by a shoddy offside call in the New York City FC game. No matter now, our boy has done it and he did it at home! My exaltation could be felt throughout the south end. He made us all proud.
I will also reiterate a common theme I’ve seen tossed around the Toronto FC circles over the past week, which is if Jay had have been able to finish out the game we would have walked off the pitch with 3 points instead of 1. He was my clear vote for Player of the Match and in his absence the team fell a bit in their graces and we conceded a goal on a bad turnover from Armando Cooper. It wasn’t, however, without a plucky performance from Raheem Edwards who came on as a sub and tried his utmost to save the game. Needless to say the Canadians boys did me proud that day, even if the result didn’t.
Not for the first time, I find I have to prevent myself from writing an entire article about one of our Canadian prides, but I will take a short reprieve to complain a little. I speak from a place of complete bias but the refereeing was, to put it lightly, deplorable. I have never seen a team waste so much time writhing on the ground in apparent pain with the ref doing little to prevent it or to fairly allot stoppage time accordingly, despite the protests of our players.
Colorado Rapid fans I wish to remain on good terms with, please cover your eyes – but to be frank if that were my team I’d be embarrassed by that display of bad sportsmanship. That is not how you beg for a point, not in my house. But apparently in ref Guzman and co.’s books that is how you rustle up a point and it doesn’t even count towards injury time. Maybe because he knew as well as we did the “injuries” were questionable.
Of course the draw is not to be attributed solely to the histrionics of the Colorado players in the final 10 minutes. We were lackluster at times and we could have put the game to bed in the first half with half a dozen clear cut chances we couldn’t capitulate on. Nonetheless, it left a bad taste in my mouth to end the game on such a sour note when we had brought on a Raheem Edwards who was ready to run his way back to a win.
Since early July our squad has been depleted by players away on International duty for the Gold Cup, as well as, injury and during that time we managed to pick up 5 points in 4 games and maintain a 2 point lead at the top of the table, albeit with a game in hand. To be honest, I’m not too sure what to make of that.
TFC fans have been positively spoiled of late, and I’ve come to expect wins nearly all the time. However, we managed to keep our feet beneath us with a squad that didn’t have a lot of experience playing together and some of the greener players were able to show us what they’re made of.
I hope manager Greg Vanney remembers that down the line, after a second season of Jay Chapman showing us just what he can be capable of after a run of games. I remain optimistic and I know a lot of us were worried about dropping points during this stretch. At any rate we survived it, our squad is slowly returning to full strength, and we are prepared to continue fighting for our place at the top.
It’s an exciting season with Toronto FC; we did the unprecedented in offering a coach a contract extension (no seriously, we’ve never done this before. Moving on up! [source]) and we boast what has been called the deepest team in MLS history (thanks, Greg![source]). We recently reached a franchise record of 6 consecutive wins [source], and the Montreal Impact are doing abysmally. For once in our lives, it’s easy being Red. So here’s to the coming weeks, closing out the summer on a high, and enjoying watching some quality football without our jackets on!
P.S. A huge congratulations as well for Ashtone Morgan. As I was on my vow of silence (ahem), I didn’t get to congratulate him before but I am extremely happy for him for the goal and for the blessing of being able to watch Ashtone come back into himself as a player. Another Canadian who has me welling up with pride at the moment!
P.P.S. Welcome back Nick Hagglund. I love you and missed you, Nicky!
The city is in the throes of shaking off one playoff bid (RIP Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), we came, we fought, we built something great for next year) while simultaneously preparing for round two of another (Let’s go Toronto Raptors! (NBA) and in the midst of the tumult, Toronto FC comfortably plays out a 3-1 win at home to Chicago Fire.
To begin with, I much prefer this dynamic of losing followed by winning to the weird limbo that had been drawing 90% of our games. Now that we lost one it feels a lot more like we are on a trajectory to start winning and keep winning. Sebastian Giovinco was back! The team played well as a unit, and as annoyed as I am to have muddied a clean sheet in the final minutes, the back line is doing very well under the directives of Nick Hagglund. It’s been said he’s doing his best Drew Moor impression. Not sure that Drew agrees and regardless I hope we have Drew back to full health ASAP.
While I have the stage, I would like to clear the air about some behaviour we saw at BMO Field on Friday night and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. In the Toronto FC supporters’ sections we have a song we refer to as “The Bounce” and technically speaking, the Bounce is used only in the case of a win. It’s considered bad luck to Bounce before a game, after a game, basically any time and we should most certainly not Bounce during a game that we haven’t beyond reasonable doubt already won. Well. On Friday we were, to say the least, a little bit excited to be witnessing our first win at home. So much so that we may have, some of us, against the advice of others, started bouncing around the 85th minute…or maybe the 88th…
What I’m trying to say is, I now feel personally responsible for conceding a goal in the 88th minute, superstitious as I am, and would like to take this opportunity to release a formal apology. We could have had a clean sheet but we were soaring above the clouds and we decided we were safe enough to Bounce. Lesson learned! Probably. So once again, to the team and to the fans who were wise enough to have avoided the Bounce, I am truly sorry.
As for some other behaviours in BMO Field that have taken centre stage in other articles, I think that addressing Giovinco’s outburst (for lack of a better word) and my reaction to it is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say his actions of hitting over a metal barricade pillar (seriously what are these things called, when subbed could easily be used to overshadow our entire performance and that sucks but, as someone with a platform to talk about Toronto FC, I’m not going to do that here. Not in this article, anyway.
What Seba did do that’s worth talking about is score a world class free kick in addition to a fine goal to open up the scoring in this match. It certainly looks like we are back to Seba at his best and if coach Greg Vanney has cleared up any ill feelings after that game then it’s cleared up for me as well (source).
In other news something really adorable also happened at the game! Last week I mentioned that Vanney’s mother had passed away, but I neglected to make the connection that as Greg Vanney’s nephew, this also means that Eriq Zavaleta’s grandmother passed away. I’d like to once again express my condolences to the family. It was very lovely to see Zav score his first goal of the season and run over to Vanney to celebrate in honour of someone who I’m sure meant a lot to them. It shows great strength of character on both their parts that they remained focused and present for the team during such a difficult time. For that, I’ll give Zav my Man of the Match vote! Always solid at the back, nice to see him getting on the end of goals as well. Keep up the good work as always.
Apparently I snap my finger and players get minutes so let me be more specific this time: Can Jay Chapman please get a start for us sometime. I think if he had a chance he’d make the most out of it and I’m ready to watch another Canadian rise (newsflash: I’m always ready). Apart from that, I’m extremely happy with the result. There’s something daunting about a World Cup winner, here, in the MLS, trying to win another World Cup, but we kept our heads (for the most part) and we played at what was very nearly our best. It helps also that we had a Canadian in the starting XI, and Raheem Edwards was as dependable as always. I’d also like to welcome Marky Delgado back into the fold. He’s one of our young players I’m always excited about and it was great to see him back at BMO Field and putting in a shift.
Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to Mo Babouli who TFC put on waivers earlier this week (source). I think my feelings can best be described as “disappointed but not surprised” as it was never going to be easy for him to break into the first team given our depth. I wish him all the best in his future and it was a pleasure to watch him play.
Nevertheless, and for the record, this is just a phrase and does count as a Bounce, the Reds go marching on…
It’s little surprise to anyone that our first loss of the season comes in the absence of Drew Moor. I wish Drew and his family all of the best and I’ve heard that the initially terrifying prospect of him being diagnosed with a heart condition may be something that can be dealt with within a couple of weeks. (source) It sounds like no one, including Drew, expects him to be out for long but I’ll breathe easier once he’s back.
Despite the absence of the Toronto FC rock in the back line, my personal favourite Nick Hagglund did a great job in Drew’s role, and although we were caught sleeping a few times, particularly on the header goal, Nick and Eriq Zavaleta both put shifts in and helped to lead the team from the back. It just, unfortunately, wasn’t enough for us as we fell 2-1 to Columbus Crew. It definitely smarts a bit more than it should served up by the team in yellow we play for the Trillium Cup.
Besides a defense that wasn’t as airtight as usual (again!), we also should have been scoring goals. We looked strong early on and managed to open the scoring but our midfield looked lacklustre especially in the second half; we quite obviously lacked in pace. It seems one of the things we are still tinkering with is the right midfield dynamic.
Having said that, what on earth is it going to take to see Jay Chapman get a minute? Any minute? Several of them preferably? We’ve yet to see our Canadian-born midfielder on the pitch this season and its high time we give him a try. He’s been dependable in the past and I’d love to see him get the chance he deserves. In the coming weeks I hope Greg Vanney explores our options and gives these young guys such as Raheem Edwards and Jay Chapman more opportunities.
It was a big night in Toronto and the Toronto Maple Leafs win helped to ease the pain of the Columbus loss. It made it easier for fans to look forward to change instead of the performances of the past few weeks in which we were barely holding on. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of our hockey team’s book and field more young players. It seems to be working wonders for them.
My Man of the Match talisman will be gratefully handed over to Nicky, as it’s been a pleasure to watch him develop under the direction of Drew Moor. Between Nick and Eriq we have a promising centre back pairing that I think we can eventually feel safe with. Even after conceding two goals I will comfortably say that our 4 or 5 at the back, however you look at it, were our strongest assets on the field. It’s only a matter of time before we start scoring goals again and our defense plays a series of games without a hitch. I believe in them.
Finally, my condolences to Greg Vanney and his family, it seems it’s been something of a difficult week at Toronto FC. It can’t have been easy juggling preparations for the game and even coaching it while dealing with a loss in the family. (source) It really feels like overall our team suffered a number of losses this week, not just on the field, and my only hope is we can move forward from here. To those who are going through some big changes in life at the moment, I will keep you in my thoughts, and to the rest of us: onwards and upwards.
Still undefeated, she croaks, the words dying in her throat, pneumonia and an ashy taste of mediocrity diminishing the conviction and the meaning of the phrase. That and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t at least a little bit disappointed that I missed the Toronto Maple Leafs clinching an NHL playoff spot to watch Toronto FC squander away another 2 points. Nonetheless, we all go marching on.
If I wrote this piece on Saturday night after the match it would have been filled with hatred for Atlanta United FC; the rage I felt that night was one of an instant rivalry and, on second look, may not have been as deserved as I thought. I definitely saw red that night. Atlanta made me angry.
This was due in large part to the histrionics of not once but twice goalscorer Villalba and the fact that it happened right in front of me. To see a player doubled over when there was no clear contact to have caused such pain and a mere 15 feet from where I stood was infuriating. There was also a piece of play that was not caught on camera wherein the same player ran into Armando Cooper of his own volition and then threw himself to the ground as if struck. I got angry early on and I stayed angry.
However, from the safety of my living room I have given the game a second look and I now see an inaugural side full of attacking promise and a whole lot of character for a newly minted squad. And this without having seen what I’ve heard is one of their best players in Josef Martinez. We have only ourselves to blame for a pair of defensive mistakes that lost us 2 points.
As for the red that Atlanta saw, it’s hard to convey my exact feeling towards it.
Having seen the bump on Eriq’s head, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t at the very least pretty vicious. Asad raised his elbow level with Zavaleta’s head knowingly and threw his arm out, an unquestionable foul with intent. What I’m not sure of is what the referee saw on first look. From my view at the south end there didn’t look like much to it but I know Zavaleta is not a player who goes down easily or for long which led me to believe it was serious.
In cases like this, a retrospective ban makes sense. It’s a big call for a referee to make without having a good view of it, and it seems pretty obvious the decision was made upon a video replay on the jumbotron which was seen and reacted to by the crowd and also quite clearly viewed by the fourth official. In my opinion and even at the expense of my own team, unless all big calls are made by video review then none should be. As far as I know, video replay has not yet taken effect in MLS.
Nonetheless, Atlanta need not have worried too much considering Toronto have what must be the worst possible record playing with a man advantage in the past few years (0W-1D-5L in the 2016 season including defeat to a San Jose less 2 men) and despite a win to Vancouver Whitecaps after Brek Shea’s sending off we don’t appear to be improving on that front. So despite being graced by video replay we failed to capitalize on the chance. As usual.
It’s hard to talk about an easily avoidable draw without pointing fingers in this case. However, despite being extremely partial to Nick Hagglund (and thanks to a friend reminding me of my bias) I won’t do what Vanney did and throw a player under the bus. If a player isn’t match fit as Chris Mavinga certainly did not look, it’s up to the manager and staff to decide. It also didn’t appear that Chris really had a proper understanding of his role in the 5-3-2 formation, a miscommunication which is not solely his fault.
When Nick Hagglund came on for Chris early in the second half it was technically a straight swap but visually it completely changed the shape of the team. Nick played yards forward from where Chris sat, and Nicky’s comfortable relationship with the other 2 centre backs and Alex Bono saw Drew Moor cover for Nick when caught out of position (where he wasn’t able to for Chris for both goals) and Bono quickly off his line to make saves he didn’t make earlier on in the game.
It’s easy to blame the new guy for what did look like some pretty rookie defensive mistakes, but if we want to make this team work it will require a more in depth look at where we need to improve. So welcome to the team, Chris, and I hope you see better days.
Besides the obvious errors of Chris Mavinga, Alex Bono also didn’t look his best. He appeared very out of sorts at times and didn’t really seem to get into the game until the second half. This could be in part a lack of playing time with Mavinga, paired with the fact that Bono is getting into the rhythm of regular minutes in the absence of Clint Irwin.
I know he’s better than he was on Saturday, which says quite a bit as he wasn’t all that bad. Most notable to me was his lack of distribution in the Atlanta game, normally he outranks Irwin in my books for goal kicks but on Saturday he just couldn’t seem to find his footing. I still have complete faith in our young back up, though.
On the bright side we finally saw Giovinco on the scoresheet, and what a beautiful goal it was. Jozy’s backheel was delightful and both Giovinco and Morrow’s goals came from clever play on Vazquez’ part. Our midfield was particularly good that night, with Michael putting in a top performance as usual and Armando Cooper the best I’ve seen him. I say this all begrudgingly as we have once again seen an XI without a single Canadian player.
I know Vanney is rotating but I hope in future he’ll incorporate more Canadians into each side and not 3 one night and 0 another. This gameweek I will break apart the MotM crown and hand a piece each to Victor Vazquez and Armando Cooper. It says a lot about their performance that I am giving them these plaudits as they have both crowded my two favourite Canadian players out of the team.
It’s time for me to take another few days to shake off the pneumonia I caught on that freezing wet home opener, and hopefully for the team to also shake off the cobwebs and gain momentum in what we all hope will be another successful season. And for the big hockey games to be played before we see Toronto FC back in the 6, Go Leafs Go!
Toronto FC song(s) of the match: Have You Ever Seen the Rain? By Creedence Clearwater Revival AND Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head by B.J. Thomas
I’ve got CCR on repeat and I’m trying to find inspiration in a game that was all washed out. We came, we sang, we drew, we froze half to death. That’s not to say I don’t still have complete faith in this team, that’s not to say I’m not proud we’re still undefeated in the league, but things are starting to feel a bit repetitive.
3 out of 4 games draws, 2 of them scoreless, and one relatively late winner that was more than overdue. And still Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t scored.
Don’t get me wrong, it felt so good to be home. Too good! So good I’ll forgive the cold that settled in my bones and the strange feeling that I had just taken a dip in Lake Ontario on my way to the stadium. Boy did it rain! But still.
Being among the fans again, singing our hearts out, it just felt so right. I hope the players felt it too. I hope BMO Field instills in them the same passion it does me and the thousands of others who sang and cheered like we could still feel the tips of our fingers. And to the Inebriatti guy who still took his shirt off in the second half; you’re really something else! That is passion.
I was, to say the least, not amused last game when we fielded a starting XI without a single Canadian player in it. Raheem Edwards silenced anyone who could have thought that was for the best when he set up a great goal off the bench in Vancouver and Jonathan Osorio asked questions too with his assist.
Edwards is still silencing any dissent with his phenomenal performance on Friday night against Sporting Kansas City. The kid was everywhere! The ground he must have covered! He provided a great option in the absence of Justin Morrow and he was well served in a 3-5-2 formation, a very attack minded player but not without his defensive prowess. Particularly impressive was his far post header save in the dying minutes of the game, a moment that could have proven the difference for SKC. This young local guy has my man of the match vote and I sincerely hope we consider him as more than just a stand in for future games.
Speaking of Canadian players, after reminding myself a dozen times this is not an article about Jonathan Osorio, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that it’s okay to sky a few shots! I know nobody is going to be as upset about this as he is but it’s worth noting that besides missing 3 sitters he had a pretty good game overall. Good passing, good positioning, his defensive game has improved a lot lately, and he always has a good read on the game. The shooting can be practiced! I only hope he isn’t too hard on himself, and finds the positives in his game as well as the room for improvement.
Finally, we unfortunately saw Clint Irwin forced off on injury late in the first half which is never ideal. I wish him the speediest recovery and I’m hearing he’ll miss 4-5 weeks with a hamstring strain. I’m just so glad we have an extremely capable backup by way of Alex Bono. He rose to the occasion and he got that clean sheet and he made two great saves in the process. It’s really nice to have not one, but two goalkeepers in whose hands I feel completely safe.
To my fellow fans: I’m so happy to see you again, we had a great first game back and you lot always make BMO Field the best place to be in the world. To the players: Welcome home and see you in a week. Undefeated, baby!