Thursday, July 24, 2008

TFC notebook: The bitter, bitter taste of humble pie

As the final seconds of Tuesday’s nights deciding game of the Voyageurs Cup the crowd at BMO field was not in a good mood. A whole bunch of crap was being thrown towards the pitch. Lots of creative words were being directed towards the Reds and if Mo Johnston had walked into the south end he would have likely been ripped into three separate pieces.

The fans were pissed. There ain’t no other way to put it.

And they should have been. There was no excuse whatsoever for Toronto to have lost the competition. They had more resources and more talent. The only thing the USL teams had more of was desire. It was clear in the first two games of the competition that the Whitecaps and the Impact were playing these games with a little more desperation than Toronto.

Before I go on, least I be accused of just being a bitter fan, let me say this: In sports all that matters is one thing. The result. The result was in Montreal’s favour, therefore Montreal is the deserving champion. Period. If you are a USL fan hellbent on holding one over on big, bad Toronto and its fans please re-read this paragraph once more time before you make your comment.

The tournament was lost on Canada Day when TFC couldn’t find the net (well they did actually, but it was incorrectly waved off. But that’s another topic) despite dominating possession and chances. Actually, the last half of the Vancouver game saw Toronto control an opponent in more totality than at any other time in its short history. The Whitecaps bunkered down and got real lucky--there were at least two line clearances and the post was hit once. Oh and the penalty that gave Vancouver its goal was borderline to say the least (if you looked hard enough you could find three or four examples of what Jim Brennan did in every game ever played. It was a tic-tack u-14 foul that is never called in the pro game. But, it was on that day and, well…).

Against Montreal Tuesday it was similar. Anyone that looks at these games and concludes that its evidence of the USL closing that gap with MLS is trying too hard to find it. The USL isn’t closing the gap. Actually, the gap is wider than it was 10 years ago. Much wider. Tyrone Marshall’s “blows” comment aside, you would be hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t admit that a USL team was capable of upsetting a MLS team from time to time. By playing organized and taking maximum advantage of limited opportunities a USL team always has a chance. Just like Barnsley had a chance against Chelsea and Liverpool—and no one is going to argue that the Championship is the same quality as the Premiership.

What these four games did illustrate brilliantly are Toronto’s shortcomings. It has a one-dimensional attack that relies way too heavily on an aging target man who could be injured for the rest of the season. Telling was the fact that in TFC’s most important game of its history it started a 16-year-old kid at forward (then aimlessly threw high crosses his way all day where he was hopeless to outfight the bigger, stronger grown men for the ball in the air. Ibee Ibrahim needs the ball at his feet—late in the game as a sub—to be successful). Despite having waves and waves of attack, Toronto just couldn’t score.

To be candid, I fear for Montreal in the actual Champions League. Not so much in the first leg where it’s Nicaraguan opponents are likely of a lower quality than TFC, but in the group stage. There I worry that Montreal will be embarrassed and I worry what that will mean for the Canadian entrant moving forward. But, that’s a topic for another day.

Another worry would be that some less enlightened in Vancouver and Montreal will take the view that those cities don’t need MLS teams. After all, some might say, the USL is just as good. Look at the results in the Voyageurs Cup!

Canada needs Montreal and Vancouver in MLS. The fact that impotent TFC could only manage one win against Vancouver and Montreal this summer doesn’t change that.


Tyler King said...

"if Mo Johnston had walked into the south end he would have likely been ripped into three separate pieces."

Nah, probably just hit by streamers.

John Edwards said...

Why worry about Montreal? They showed sufficient quality to hold off supposedly superior competition, when their opposition had to win the game. Their league form has been bad this year (no scoring), but they have shown an ability to put it together for Cup games.

More to the point, on TFC's current form, there is no guarantee that they wouldn't have caused equal (if not greater) embarrassment themselves. The pre-tournament hype had the Red Streamer XI winning easily over the supposedly "inferior" opposition - not going 0-1-1 at home and then blowing a late lead at Vancouver.

Duane Rollins said...


If TFC plays poorly in Mexico it loses 2-0, maybe 3-0.

If a USL team plays poorly in Mexico it's going to lose 8-0.

TFC had about 2/3 of the ball in all four games. It had something like 20 shots on goal July 1.

Lastly...although I could buy an argument that it's unfair that it's happening in Toronto (based on the city's support of the Lynx), but "Red Streamer XI" is probably the best thing that has happened to Canadian soccer over the last 20 years. It's brought more attention and interest in the game and it was the ultimate reason why this tournament was created in the first place. .