Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ooh Ah Canada! A 4-1 win over St.Luca to help calm the nerves

For those for those of you who live in Toronto and did not attend the Canadian Men's National Team's (CMNT) 4-1 victory last night against St.Lucia, you missed a special evening. The stadium was not at capacity, but if you were standing outside BMO you would have thought it was ram packed. The atmosphere from the Canadian supporters in the south end was absolutely amazing. Last night was my first opportunity to watch a Canada match from that end of the stadium and I must admit it was an incredible experience. A major factor in that made the experience so memorable was the fact that the majority of the fans were Canadian supporters.

It has been well documented in the past that matches played in Toronto lack home support. Aside from the Voyageurs and the TFC supporters groups who always turn out in their numbers for CMNT games, the crowd tends to be tilted in favour of the away side. A case in point would be Canada's Pre Gold Cup friendly against Ecuador in early June. I was at that game stuck in a section that was 99% Ecuador supporters. Out of the announced attendance of just over 10,000, 90% of those were supporting the away side. What made last night so special was the fact that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds were in the supporters end legitimately supporting Canada. It is a reflection of the current Canadian urban landscape and a refreshing site to see in a city that at times can be quite divided.

Josh Simpson (Centre) celebrating the opening goal.

As for the match itself, Canada dominated with large amount of the game spent in the attacking end. It was clear that they were playing a side in St.Lucia that had a large amount of Semi-Pro players who did not have the conditioning to sustain the pace Canada set. Although Canada eventually put four behind the St.Luca keeper, head coach Stephen Hart will have some concerns heading into Tuesday's match at Puerto Rico. After winger Josh Simpson opened the scoring in the 6th minute, the Canadian back line when to sleep and immediately gave up the tying goal on a wonderfully struck 30 yard shot. The Canadian defenders did a poor job of closing down the St.Lucian midfielder, and keeper Lars Hirschfeld did not cover the proper angles on the shot. However that would have been the only real defensive complaint, the left and right backs for Canada were so far up the pitch they should have considered proper wingers.

Going forward Canada looked sharp, although they at times lacked wide play. Especially down the right in the first half in which there was a lot of space to create chances. The attacking trio of  Simeon Jackson, Dwayne DeRosario and Josh Simpson worked very well along side central midfielder Julian De Guzman. Granted St.Luca were abject at the back, but these are the type of games Canada must to assert its dominance in order to progress to the next round of World Cup qualifying. The road to the next stage is clear, they must win this group to advance. With remaining home and away games against the aforementioned  Puerto Rico and St Kits, plus one more away game at St.Luca this is a group Canada should win.

And a opening match 4-1 thrashing goes a long way to establishing that claim.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

5 really good transfers that flew under the radar

It's always interesting to step back and look at the business clubs made at the end of the busy summer transfer window. The high priced, star laden transfers always get the attention, however it's always good to look further down the transfer list and find those potential diamonds in the rough. Who knew that after his low cost 6 million pound move, Javier Hernandez would turn out the way he did in his first season at Old Trafford? Who knew that Seamus Coleman and not Marouane Fellaini would be Everton's best buy in 2009?

So here they are my 5 best low key buys of the 2011 summer transfer window:

5) Joel Campbell - ST - Deportivo Sapressa (Costa Rica)  to Arsenal (ENG) - Loaned to FC Lorient (FRA)
The Young 19 year old shone at both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America in his first major senior team tournaments for Costa Rica. However it was his play at the U-20 level that had scouts after the 5'10 striker. 10 goals in 13 games at that level helped propel him to a 5 year deal at Arsenal. Manager Arsene Wenger knowing Campbell needed game time to grow used his French connections and loaned Campbell to FC Lorient, who will have space to play him with the loss of France international Kevin Gamero. If Campbell can adapt to European football his finishing ability could help the Brittany club move up the Ligue 1 table.

4) Ireneusz Jelen - ST - AJ Auxerre (FRA) to Lille (FRA)
While most of the news for the French champions on transfer deadline day was surrounding the loan signing of former England international Joe Cole, a less talked about move was the free transfer for the Polish international Jelen. Coming off the back of a disappointing 2010-11 season with only 5 goals, Jelen will be eager to prove he can get back to the form that saw him score 14 goals for an over achieving Auxerre side in two straight seasons before 2010-11. If Jelen is back to full fitness he has the track record of scoring goals in Ligue 1, and could prove to be the man that can replace the Arsenal bound Gervinho.

3) Davide Santon - DEF - Internazionale (ITA) to Newcastle (ENG)
This move originally looked like a loan deal, but became a full buy the day before the window shut. Santon showed a lot of promise under Jose Mourhino's reign at Inter, however he has since lost his way a little. What we have to remember about Santon is that he's only 20 and he will make mistakes. Aside from a goalkeeper, learning how to be a top notch defender takes time. Santon has an abundance of skill and talent, and if he can adjust to the rigours of the Premier League should be a very good left back.

2) Jonathan De Guzman - MID - Mallorca (ESP) to Villareal (ESP)
Putting aside my "He should be playing for Canada not the Dutch" hat for a second. This is a wonderful pick up for Villareal. De Guzman has excellent vision, creative fair and an eye for goal. The 23 year old was a constant highlight for a Mallorca team that fell short of it's high spending expectations last season. Helping to fill the creative boots for the departed Sani Carzola will be difficult, however Jonathan has all the skill to succeed at El Madrigal. He will be expected to help feed goal machine Giuseppe Rossi as well as add a few goals of his own. De Guzman will also get the opportunity to showcase his skills in Champions League this season which will serve as extra motivation.

1) Shane Long - ST - Reading (ENG) to West Bromwich Albion (ENG)

Surprise! I know this won't be the sexiest choice as number 1, but I was looking at which player will walk into the club and make a difference right away. After watching Long in the championship last year and his first 3 Premier League games this season I believe he's a player. Considering most of the West Brom news this summer focused on the contact saga of star striker Peter Odermwingie, Shane Long's signing was seen as a  scenario in which he backed up Odermwingie. The qualities he has that a lot of new signings into the Premier League do not is the pace, strength and conditioning required to compete at that level. He also has a great strike rate, and has already scored in two of the Baggies three games this season. No one including I are fancying him for the English Golden Boot...yet, but he could become a future contender.

As always these lists are of my own choosing and feeling. Feel free to rip it apart and come up with your own 5 under the radar transfers.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Full Transfer Lists

Owen Hargreaves
Hargreaves to Man city...Will he be able to show his fitness as the 7th best midfielder?

I'll have some reactions to transfer deadline day, as I like a few moves but not others.

I've added a full transfer list courtesy of You can filter by league. Enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2011

The plight of the TFC supporter

In the 75th minute you could feel the anxiety in the air, the sense of ininevitability that 1-0 just wasn't enough. 

At the 85th minute Saturday night you could have come up with about 100 different cliches to describe TFC's capitulation of its slender one goal lead. Granted TFC were robbed of a goal as Joao Plata was clearly onside when he seemingly put the Reds two up.

By the 90th minute you could see the frustration on both supporter and player faces alike.

Another defensive collapse, another performance that went begging, another lead squandered. This has been the 5 year story of a Toronto FC supporter. For those who are not up to speed on the events of the last four years, watching one match can give you glimpse into the disarray of the club. From the consistent movement players in and out of the club, to the ineffective management on and off the pitch, all the way to the shockingly bad scouting of player talent. It is been clear for sometime that something fundamentally is, and has been from day one wrong with the club. There is no one thing that you can point your finger at, no single smoking gun that explains the poor results on the pitch. There are several things mainly behind the scenes that have caused this. However this blog post is not dedicated to those reasons, this is dedicated the the loyal almost to a fault TFC supporter.

This blogger does not sit in the south end (Still on the waiting list...and will probably will be there for awhile) however he's watched just about very TFC game there has been either live when it was still nearly impossible to get tickets, and now when you can walk up to the box office. On T.V when it was carried, online through at times terrible feeds with massive lag times. I've skipped work for games, brushed off dates with ex-girlfriends to be home to catch a game (Hence the ex). I've even hung outside BMO on days I could get match tickets just so I could hear the game and the crowd and feel a part of things. I've watched the team get completely thrashed 5-0, I've watched heartbreaking 1-0 defeats in which the losing goal was scored in the 92nd minute....and I came back for more. But after 5 years for losing football and no chance of the playoff come August, as the reality is TFC will not make the playoffs again this year, you have to much more of this can one take?

The club now seems to be on the right path towards building a winner. A strong emphasis on youth and the academy has always been the key to strong long lasting sides. The senior squad under manager Aron Winter are playing, at least offensively a more attractive style of football. However this style of rebuilding takes time, a long time and do TFC supporters have the patience to wait? This town is craving for a winner, and the first team that does it will win the hearts of the people, TFC had the chance right away. Duane Rollins made a good point in his post today on, those who were 27 when the club started are now 32 with kids. Renewing TFC season tickets will not be on the top list of priorities, nor should it, and frankly my age group (I'm 28) may not have money to afford to spend on a losing football club. I personally will be there, along with many of the die hard supporters, but that may only fill one end of BMO field, what about the rest of the stadium? Will people care enough if the rest of this season is a dud?

The crowds this year have been falling short of previous years, it was evident at the home opener something was different. Even for the notoriously late arriving Toronto crowd you could see the games was not a clear sellout. The trend has continued through out the year, with some Canadian Championship games only drawing 10-12,000 people. After the end of last season it was clear that some casual fans had enough, for them the side show was over. Depending on how this season ends a lot more casual fans may just say forget it when they get the season's tickets call from their sales rep. Contrary to what is shown on the televised games or the ticket packages, the casual fan is the key to TFC's success. The die hard soccer fans in Toronto were always going to come out in numbers, but those numbers are small compared to the amount of so called "part-time supporters" who fill out the rest of the stadium. It seems that MLSE and TFC believe that the good times would always role at BMO as long as they could keep the ticket prices reasonable and the Carsburg flowing. However this part-time supporter is smarter than that, pints are fun but winning along with those pints make the experience worth coming back for.

So what now...what will make BMO continue to rock like it has these past 5 year come 2012? Winning for one will help but the question is how and will the club take the steps to do that? It seems that Director of Player Development Paul Mariner along with Winter and the rest of the player staff are up for the task. But TFC supporters have heard all this before. All the promises, all the changes all the fancy ads and new kits. However there is only one thing that will matter, the signing of quality players who want to be here and the successful implementation of Aron Winter's vision on the pitch.

This is the plight of the TFC supporter, this is when you find out who'll stand up and who'll fade away.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is Jose losing the plot?

When football supporters think about the El Classico many envision football being played at its highest level. Wonderful passing, excellent tactics, and intense play. Last season the age long Barcelona v Real Madrid derby had a new dimension added to it with the appointment of the "special one" José Mourinho as Madrid manager. His tactical ability having beaten Barca in the previous year's Champions League semi final on the way to the trophy, was the key selling point on Madrid's decision to hire him. His goals were clear, Win the Champions League, and just as important if not more, beat Barcelona. 7 games later and the plans is now going so well.

What was Jose thinking?...And who is that freaky dude in the backgroud?

His actions over these past 7 games has been puzzling at times and down right crazy at others. From not speaking to the media, to berating refs, to calling Barca's victories over his team a part of a conspiracy involving, UEFA, the Spanish football federation and even UNICEF....yes that UNICEF. It's become clear Mr. Mourinho does not handling losing very well. However the scene at the Camp Nou last Tuesday of Jose eye gouging Barcelona assistant coach Tito Villanova was a step too far even for a manager of his stature.  I'm not going to pretend to know what exactly happened to make Mourinho want to pop his thumb in another man's eye, but regardless of the "series of provocations and insults from the Barca bench" as Madrid's higher ups are calling it, he must do better.

I don't truly believe he's cracking up under the pressure of managing the Real Madrid, but I do believe he has a serious problem handling defeat. And not just a 1-0 shock loss kind of defeat, but the kind in which his tactics are well beaten by another manager.

Today he released an open letter on the Madrid site apologizing to Los Blancos fans, but funny enough not to the guy who's eye he thumbed. In fact he went on to mention the  "hypocrisy in football" and those who "hide their faces and speak in whispers deep inside tunnels". Your guess is as good as mine in regards to what whispers and tunnels he speaks of or which hypocrisy is out there to get him and the club this time. Yes, he faces a 12 match ban... but he poke a man in the eye...Jose that's not hypocrisy, that's punishment that fits your crime. 

He may not be losing it, but he's on the verge of damaging a reputation as a solid manager and a master tactician. Keeping these two components in tact will be key if he wishes to return to England as he has mentioned in the past.


Monday, August 15, 2011

What August ode to football

The start of a new European club season always brings about a sense of renewal and excitement that is rarely rivialed in world sport. Fans forget the bickering over match fixing allegations, the wild and ridiculous transfer rumors, the long some time painful to watch overseas tours and just get down to watching their club for the next 9 months. The glitter than comes with watching the big new signing at your club shine on their debut, or finally seeing your club make the top flight is something that has always intrigued me. It's one of the few times that everyone has the small, if even slightly out to lunch hope that this is truly "Our year".

For the football junkies like myself this time of year means synchronizing watches and re-learning the different world time zones. It means no more sleeping in on the weekends, no quiet Saturday and Sundays, and no more "hey what you doing" calls during normal game time (Sorry ladies).  The weekends in August bring us the delights of French football, the pace and power from England, the beauty of the Spanish game and the tactical brilliant of Italy and Germany.At times it means that a football supporter has to make difficult decisions like which game to leave behind, which games to put your faith in and how much Arabic you know so you can watch your favorite match online if you can't get it on T.V where you are.

From a North American perspective, August is football dream land. Not only are the European Leagues getting started, but MLS is going into the playoff stretch drive. All the games in April and May no one though important, now become huge as team scrap for every last point to get themselves a shot at a league championship. At any given time one can watch football on a Saturday from 7:30 am -10 pm at night. And that does not include if you want to watch a west coast game which could be done at 1am the next morning!

To Man U, Arsenal and hell even Man City too. Lazio, Parma, Roma and Inter. From Wolfsburg to Bayern, PSG to Barca, from the 85,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu to the 2,500 in Frisco, Texas who watch FC Dallas. Enjoy, revel the best football months are back! and not a moment too soon.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The look of love: A case for F.C Barcelona

They say love is fleeting and this may well be true but do you remember that feeling? That certain sense of excitement and fear? Like the beautiful painting you can't help but stare at for hours on end. The beauty I'm about describe is not of paint on canvass, but of sweat and skill on pitches lush and green. Of course I'm sugaring my word for dramatic effect, however football does provide its own form of art in motion. In the past we could point to the flowing creative Brazilian or Dutch sides of the 1970's as proof. Even for those old enough they could describe the Real Madrid sides of the 50's and 60's who dominated with pace and power.  In the new century F.C Barcelona presents itself as the first side to truly reach the level of legendary sides.
To start off, I'm not a Barcelona supporter per say. I certainly was not at the Brazen Head in downtown Toronto at the end of May, jumping for joy after their 3-1 masterpiece against Manchester United in the Champions League final. However what I was doing, in between sobs, was marveling on how this team worked and moved as a unit. Of course this team is comprised of many individual talents (Messi, Iniseta, Villa, Xavi, Pique, Pedro, Puyol etc..etc..) however what sets this team apart from their European rivals is how they play as a team of 11 on the pitch. At times during that game, and many though out the past 3 years in particular. The footballing world has been witness to an art form come of age.

By no means is the system they play or the tactics they use new, this "total football" system first brought to the forefront by the Dutch in the 1970's was the most technically gifted and far too advanced method of play for its time. The one thing the Dutch could not do, that Barcelona have been able to figure out. Is how to defeat the physical brand of football that is still widely used. This can be demonstrated by not just the Champions League final this year, but also by 4 out of their 5 encounters with Real Madrid last season. Madrid especially in the last 3 games displayed what can only be described as bully ball tactics against Barca. Yet no matter how hard they fouled, they like so many other just could not hold out against the dominate passing, movement and possession game of Pep Guradiola's side. Like the Dutch system preaches, everyone on the pitch can play anyone else's position and fit in seamlessly. If a left wing back moves forward on the attack, a holding midfielder can step into the void he left and execute the defensive responsibilities as if he'd played the position his whole life.

With all this said, and the throphy haul to show (4 straight Spanish titles, 3 Cpoa Del Rey's, 3 Champions Leagues, 3 World Championships...all in the past 5 years). The single largest reason as to why this generation of Barcelona maybe the best of the past 50 years if not all time, is the imprint it has left on the Spanish national side. Since Spain's thimuph in the 2008 European championships, each successive team from the senior team down to U-15's have had at least 5 Barcelona players on the squad. The 2010 World Championship side had 8. They way Spanish football organises its training facilities, runs its youth programs and advances its coaches are all based on the Barca way. What other club, aside from the club Barca modeled itself after (Ajax in Holland) has this kind of hold on it national side? What other club is producing this many players as first choice selections for national sides?

The art of football is for the most part suttle. A dash of individual colour here or there and you can have something this is passable, something that can be sold at the local Wal-Mart. Then you have true art, at times alluring a vivid, and at time obtuse and strange, but you are drawn to the power of it none the less. This is what F.C Barcelona are right now, a Tate musuem masterpiece.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Brazilian Magic: Neymar

He might have struggled a bit under the spotlights of Copa America earlier this month for his native Brazil, but Neymar is still the boy wonder of the moment. I submit this goal from is first game back at club side Santos as evidence.

P.S: The announcer is just as entertaining.

FIFA and Ethics are like Oil and Water

Over the past few months those of us immersed in the football world have been collectively shaking our heads, disbelief etched on our faces as FIFA's credibility has been eroded by vote buying scandals and a general lack of ethics. We, at least those of us who chose to open our eyes,  have known for quite sometime that FIFA was dodgy. We knew that there were things behind the scenes that would make us question if the leaders of world football really loved the game at all. However I don't really think any of us thought that it went this deep, or was so wide spread and common place.

Last week came the word that former FIFA presidential candidate, executive member and Asian Football President Mohammad Bin Hammam had be found guilty of corruption (vote buying amongst a host of other charges) and was banned from all football related activities for life. This in itself was no great shock, the events that lead to his conviction was.

Last year Bin Hammam launched his bid to unseat current FIFA overloard President Sepp Bladder. Bin Hammam promised an open and transparent FIFA. One that would seek to end decades of corruption, mis-management and the endless insider politik. Most of us knew this wouldn't really happen under Bin Hammam had he won, but there was a certain sense of optimism. What fans of the game were looking for in the world organizing body was a fair debate and contest over the future of not just FIFA, but the game itself. What we ended up with was nothing short of a farce.

Accusations of vote buying, expensive watches and cars given to football delegates, financial mis-management and in the end a presidential election with only one man running. This year's FIFA elections may have been one of the clearest demonstrations of how rotten the administrative core of the game has become. Its aftermath with the sacking of both Vice President Jack Warner and Bin Hammam showed us her true politik.

So fans and lovers of the beautiful game I pose this question: How do WE fix this?

I stress the we aspect of the question because it us, the supporters who will have to spur real change. Whether we boycott FIFA matches, spend less money on FIFA product; or the products of FIFA main sponsors (Coca-Cola and Adidas), or start an online campaign for change and transparency. We must DO something. The game is nearing a tipping point, the ratings for football matches have never been higher, the game has reached all time highs in exposure. But with that match fixing, and all the corruption of FIFA has come with it.

Change is coming, if it is to be either good or bad is completely up to us.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Ladies lead the way

Japan lift their first Women's Wold Cup trophy

"I wasn't really a fan before the world cup, in fact I didn't really think of it at all. But after today I'm in!" ~ Random guy at the Football Factory bar in Toronto
Sunday's epic Women's World Cup final between the United States and Japan was on of the best played, and most exciting games of football I've watched all year. I just wanted to get that out before I continued.

It was everything a cup final should be. Two teams maybe not as evenly matched on paper, but were the two in form sides heading into the final. What we got was a treat, two sides that respected the game and each other enough to bring everything they had to the pitch...and left it there. The match ended in the cruelest way any final could end, but penalties were just and the team that deserved to win lifted the trophy.

The final itself was a fitting reflection on the success of the tournament as a whole. Well played, well organized well watched and attended. We saw what at times was sorely lacking the the men's World Cup of 2010, competitive spirit. There were few games at the WWC which you could label as boring, or poorly played, I could name at least 4 from South Africa 2010. One of the most impressive things I took away from watching the women's game was the lack of whining and diving that continues to plague the men's game. Funny enough I was watching the World Cup final at the same time as Brazil took on Paraguay in the Copa America, the amount of cheating and unsportsman like play in the Copa game made it completely unwatchable. After 30 minutes I focused my attention solely on the women's final.

Although I ended up disappointed that Canada did not advance out of the group stage, it gave me a chance to view the women's game from a neutral point of view. I gained an appreciation for the skill of the players which has jumped light years ahead from when I last paid attention to the WWC in 2003. I also noticed that FIFA finally gave the tournament the media push it needed. This was the first tournament in which every game was carried on network T.V (CBC/Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN in the U.S). Christine Sinclair who I have been touting as Canada's best soccer player men's or women's for a while now, became an instant Canadian sports icon for busting her nose then curing in a sublime free kick against Germany. The Canadian sports press never gives a female athlete that kind of coverage unless it's an Olympic year or they are a hockey player, and even then most of the articles are condescending. However coverage of Sinclair was about the sport and not about the sex.

Has the women's game turned the corner into mainstream popularity? Based on the ratings of the final and the record smashing tweets per minute one would lean towards yes, but we will only truly know at London 2012. If the games are as well attended and well watched then yes, women's football has turned the corner. If not...well there's always World Cup 2015 in the good Dominion of Canada to look forward to...


Monday, July 18, 2011

Transfer madness for dummies


It's that time of year again! It's July, birds are chirping, the sun is shining, Toronto is melting under another heat wave, and it's international transfer window time in the world of the beautiful game. For those are not familiar with what exactly I'm talking about, the transfer window in football is like what the free agency period is for the NHL right now. It's a time in which players can move to other clubs either on a free (no fee paid to a club) or on a transfer in which the club losing the player is paid a fee, this can either be in straight cash or player + cash.

Moving to Man United?...please let this NoW story be true!

The summer transfer window, starting from the of middle of June to the end of August is a time in which the footy supporter like myself, dream of big name players with amazing skill joining my favorite club in the unrelenting quest for more bragging rights...and glory...but mainly bragging rights. It is also a time of wild speculation and gossip in which every player is is possibility on the move to new and sexy locations like Paris, Madrid...or Blackburn. All these are important aspects of the window, but what really gets the attention of the fan, and part time fan alike is the incredible amounts of money spent in transfer fees on players this time of year.

When looking at the reports of player signings this summer or any summer for the past 10 years the dollar/pound/euro amount spent is mind boggling. Although this summer is not anywhere near the summer of 2009 in which Real Madrid spent 140 million Euros on Ronaldo and Kaka in 4 days, and overall during the window spent over 200 million on players, the numbers are still massive. When analysing the spending of English Premier League clubs this summer you find that combined they have spent over 202 million pounds on NEW players. That doesn't cover the salary costs for the CURRENT players on their rosters. Nor does it speak to the amount of debt some of these clubs are consuming.

Recently in Spanish football the 26th team in the past 4 years declared for bankruptcy. The tend is being repeated all around European football as clubs play a dangerous "keeping up with the Jones" game with finances. The massive clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid have borrowed substantial amounts of money in order to fund new signings. Now these teams can sustain the interest payments because of the large multiple revenue streams they have, however all parties know it cannot last forever. As for smaller clubs looking to go big, some like Stoke, Fulham, Villarreal, Napoli have been able to spend wisely (or be luck enough to have new owners with deep pockets) to make it to the middle or the road. Where others: Leeds United, Portsmouth, Valencia, Sampdoria spent a lot of money but because of reckless spending in their pursuit of silverware they fell of the debt wagon.

And there you have a snapshot of the madness, this is a time where a young English midfielder with just one England cap is worth 20 million pounds (Jordan Henderson). In which a Argentinian striker can hold his team ransom twice in one year, and still gets when he wants (Carlos Tevez), and a great but diva-ish superstar player could be offered a reported 400,000 pounds a week and say no (Cristiano Ronaldo).

So may the madness reign, however don't believe everything you hear in the rumor mills, some footballers phone might have been hacked for that info ;)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

When fair isn't fair: Vancouver screwed in Canadian Championship second leg

I was at the game and I can tell you the game was unplayable after a while.

Wednesday May 25th, in the 29th minute, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli curled a low left footed shot into the bottom corner of Toronto FC's goal in the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final, it seemed they were on the way to their first Canadian title....Then the skies over Toronto opened up.

The lightning struck closer and closer to BMO Field and the pitch became so badly water logged the match had to be abandoned after 62 minutes. The question on everyone's mind was "What now?"

Hassli's goal made the aggregate score 2-1 in favour of Vancouver, and with away goals counting double, it could have well won the match and the cup. The fair thing in most people's mind was a replay starting at 1-0; or call the leg completely and hand the cup to the Blue and Whites. The rules written by FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association said something completely different in mind. Rule 27 subsection F stated:

27. f. If the match is interrupted before the completion of normal playing time or extra time (if required) because of extreme weather or for reasons outside the control of the host team, a repeat match lasting 90 minutes shall be arranged for the following day, thus avoiding the considerable extra expense for the visiting team. If it is still impossible to play the match the next day for the same reasons, the match may be postponed by another day, provided both teams agree. If the match can still not be played on the third day, the expenses thus incurred by the visiting team shall be split between the two teams

When reading the rule at first it seems a simple interpretation; that is until you understand that "repeat match" in this case meant the game would start at 0-0, making Hassli's potential winning goal irrelevant. Is it fair? According to the CSA and FIFA it is, to Vancouver it's a joke and it's hard to argue against them.

Toronto had the majority of possession and were creating chances, but it is the what ifs that strengthen the west coast team's case. If the game had not been stopped, and if Toronto had not scored, Vancouver are champions and heading to  CONCACAF Champions League. Therefore in true fairness the replay should start 1-0.

It is one thing to have a replay, but it is another to nullify the results of the previous unfinished game as if it never happened. The advantage is back in Toronto's court in which they can go back work on the things that didn't go well with a lead on aggregate as they scored the away goal in the 1st leg. It's a huge let off for the defending champions were we facing another poor result at home.

As for Vancouver they are left to stew over a game they were winning and a cup that (for now) has eluded them for a fourth straight year. Who must wonder what if at least until the replay on July 2nd.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reppin' Support Local Soccer

I remember in 2006 when it was officially announced that Toronto was going to have a professional soccer team in the MLS. I was immediately excited and hoped that this would translate to long term success for the Canadian national team.  5 years later, and my excitement for both club and country has not ebbed. However it's a bit disappointing that we still have very poor attendance for Canada games. It also is extremely disappointing when you go to a Canada home game and there are 10,000 more fans of the away side then there are Canadian fans. 

No one could possibly ask you to forget your roots, your parents roots, however when Canada is playing your heart should be here pulling for the Red and White to win.

A few weeks ago Canadian soccer supporters met up at The Football Factory in Toronto to make their feelings heard, and to encourage others to support their country. The result was this video called Support Local Soccer. You may recognize some faces (like mine), you may not, but what's important is the message. Canada play Ecuador on June 1st at BMO Field in Toronto, I'll only have a half hour to get to the game after work but believe me I will be there and I will cheer for the Red and White....will you join me?

If you know anyone who loves soccer and loves Canada please pass this video along, rip it from my site if you have too, but let them know Canada supporters are out there and are waiting for them.

Thank you to creators Ben Rycroft and Duane Rollins for putting this together and giving us supporters and bloggers out there a chance to be heard. To see the site and the comments to the video click this link


Monday, May 23, 2011

United States Gold Cup roster

I know I'll mainly be focusing on Canadian soccer and the CMNT. However since the U.S will be going in as a top 3 favorite, and the CMNT plays them in the opener in June 7th I've posted the 23 man roster announced by head coach Bob Bradley.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Eric Lichaj (Leeds), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Freddy Adu (Rizespor), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

*Notable omissions: Teal Bunbury, born Canadian, chose the U.S to play more big international games. Charlie Davies, recently returned from a serious car accident, but playing well for MLS side D.C United.


Canada's 2011 Gold Cup roster

Canadian Men's national team head coach Stephen Hart named his 23 man squad for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. The tournament is CONCACAF's championship and names the top team in the region.

Canada's tournament begins June 7th in Detroit against the hosts United States.

I'll have my reactions to the team a bit later, but here's the full roster with club teams in brackets.

Goalkeepers: Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga), Haidar Al-Shaibani (Olympique Nimes), Milan Borjan (Rad)

Defenders: Nik Ledgerwood (SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Mike Klukowski, Kevin McKenna (Cologne), Andre Hainault (Houston Dynamo), Jaime Peters (Ipswich Town), Dejan Jakovic (DC United).

Midfielders: Marcel de Jong (Augsburg), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City), Tosaint Ricketts, (Politehnica Timisoara), Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara), Julian de Guzman (Toronto), Terry Dunfield (Vancouver Whitecaps), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Josh Simpson (Vestel Manisaspor), Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (Preussen Muenster), Issey Nakajima-Farran (Horsens)

Forwards: Rob Friend (Hertha Berlin), Ali Gerba (Montreal Impact), Dwayne De Rosario (New York Red Bulls)


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

EPL Goal of the Year

I enjoyed coming up with my favorites at the end of 2010. Now that the EPL season is ending this weekend, I figured I'd present you with some of my end of year favorites and awards.

Today...Goal of the year.

I've already devoted a blog post on this goal but when watching it again, it brings it all home. My EPL goal of the year is the Wayne Rooney over head kick to win the 2nd round of the Manchester derby. Yes as I admitted then I'm a Manchester United supporter and I clearly have personal stakes in this choice...but really if you look at it and the other candidates, it's simply the best.

The key is the technique, especially because the ball from Nani is played behind him. However he adjusts ever so well before leaping up and hitting the ball as perfectly as you possibly can. The fact was Joe Hart has no chance.

(Please click on the link below the player) Video provided by Wat.TV.

A close second was Arsenal's Samir Nasri and his magic in the box, Third Carlos Tevez's free kick goal form Tuesday night.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Penarol show you how to do a Tifo!

Just as I complete my Tifo post yesterday and think I've seen some awesome work, I check my twitter and get this...

Uruguayan power club Penarol create a massive Tifo flag that celebrates the club's 120th birthday. It's 1017 feet by 157 feet and weighs just over two tons. It took over 300 people to carry it!!!!

Click here to read the great post by Andrew Das of the New York Times.

If you don't love this I don't know if you could really love football!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Manchester United clinch title 19...Wayne Rooney shaves his chest hair.

You can put this  under the What the F!@$k file. Manchester United got the draw they needed to secure their record breaking 19th English league title. It will put them one up on bitter rivals Liverpool and will serve to be one of manager Alex Ferguson's greatest achievements.

It'll also be a massive achievement for one Wayne Rooney. Considering how poorly the the last half of 2010 went for him, this is a god send. So what does a footballer who makes £200,000 a week do when he helps his side clinch another domestic title?

Shave his chest hair into the number of titles they club has won of course!

It should be noted that Rooney grew up in Liverpool, and grew up an Everton supporter so he has no love loss for Pool's tumble from the England summit. But this is....well I have no words for this. Make of this what you want, but this is half funny and half plain weird.

Wazza strikes again!


The Art of the Tifo

An excellent example of a North American Tifo from Seattle.

Among being an avid Football fan and club supporter, I am a massive art fan. However since you will not see me hitting up the next big thing's art exhibit in downtown Toronto anytime soon, I needed a way to meld two of my passions into one. Then I watched a Milan derby game and everything changed.

The game ended up being a fairly comfortable win for AC Milan but what really caught my attention was something that took place even before a single ball was kicked. Up in the Curva Sud, the south end of the San Siro stadium reserved for home supporters (in this case AC Milan) was a large almost canvas like object. The television camera missed it on the first go around; clearly focused on the upcoming match, but when it panned back to the section I could see it as clear as day. What the supporters of Milan had created was a replica of the famous Last Supper painting by Da Vinci, with a twist. Instead of depicting Judas in his place at the table, they replaced him with the likeness of Inter Milan manager Leonardo.

Leonardo probably wasn't expecting this!

As a former AC Milan player now managing "the great enemy within" the parallel was obvious and a bit humorous. However it got me thinking about displays of club support around the world, what kind of time and effort had to go into creating such works of art. I also had to wonder, was this type of art making its way to North American football? What examples were out there? So I began my Internet search and soon found some amazing works of art and passion.

Before I share my favorites I should explain a bit of where this phenomenon came from. From everything I could gather the practice began in Italy, the works were, and still are called Tifo's. The Wiki/dictionary explanation reads:
"Tifo's are mostly used as a name for any spectacular choreography displayed by supporters on the terraces of an arena or stadium in connection with a sport event, Tifos are primarily arranged by Ultras or a supporters group to show their love to the club, but are sometimes sponsored or arranged by the club itself."

From what I've witnessed they are dominant displays of affection and pride towards the home club, or an expression of intimidation or dislike of the opposing club.  Tifo's can be as small as one guy with a simple banner, to massive displays which cost thousands of dollars and take weeks, and in some cases months to prepare. Some have come in the form of large banners with the club logo or crest, others are dependent on supporter participation. In many of these case the supporters are not even affiliated with the supporters group, they just show up that day with a ticket and receive cardboard or paper cut out with instructions.

These types of displays are starting to become more prevalent in the North American game. Seattle and Los Angeles are some of the top clubs in the MLS when it comes to Tifo's. D.C United recently did a touching one for the return of U.S international Charlie Davies from serious injury after a devastating car crash. Toronto FC now have a "Play as we dream" Tifo in the south end of BMO Field. As the game grows and the fan base for these supporters groups grow, you will see the size of tifo's grow in both size and complexity.

And now I present my favorite tifo's:


AC Milan- Best Tifo's going!

Inter are a close second

Tifo for the opening of the 2010 World Cup

At Barcelona they get they whole crowd into it!

French style in Marseille!

The most famous Everton defender Jonny Heitinga will ever be.
Saved the best for last, AC Milan at it again....with flares!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is Toronto FC the worst team in the MLS?

Saturday was a disaster.

A 3-0 loss is always a better pill to swallow for any team, but for one trying to re-built both on a off the pitch it is extremely harsh. While most Toronto sports fans had their eyes glued to the blood and glory at Rogers Centre Saturday night, a small dedicated group of football supporters gather at bars or around t.v's to watch their ever evolving Reds take on the Sounders in Seattle. What they saw might have sent them to even heaver drinking than when the team plays at home. 

I could go into all the tactical issues that occurred in the game and what exactly went wrong, but the only thing one needs to know is that the fight was not there. Head coach Aron Winter, his coaches and some players described the loss in three words; Embarrassing. Shameful and Frustrating. In all sports; especially in Toronto, the effort is as important as the win. Obviously this town wants a winner, but this town has been without a winner for so long now we can settle for second place until then. This town can even forgive a lack of quality if you give it your all. However what we can't forgive is a poor, spineless effort. Or in the words of Columbus defender Chad Masrshall after last week's 1-1 draw at BMO " This team is not very good". On evidence of the first 8 games of the season, this is the worst team in the league.*

Yes I am aware that Toronto currently does not have the worst points total in the league, that belongs to Sporting Kansas City. However I've watched a few SKC games, and although they lack quality in the midfield... they fight. When I watch TFC go down in a game, I have no sense or feeling that they could mount a come back. Most teams in a situation like that can pour on the pressure and create chances to tie the game. In both Saturday's game and the 3-0 home loss to D.C United a few weekends ago, you had no belief that this team could mount any kind of challenge. The passing was poor, there was no creative spark anywhere on the pitch. Players were afraid to play the ball, which has become a recurring theme for the coaching staff. The defence caved in easily and  maybe the most startling thing, Aron Winter seemed to have no answer.

Granted the team is only 8 games into a 36 game season, so there is a lot of football left to played, and at times they have shown that the system Winter is trying to bring in is starting to sink in. But glaring questions still remain; where are the goals going to come from? who is going to be that creative force in the midfield? (Lets face it De Guzman is not the answer here) Can they strengthen the defence? And  maybe the most important question, when things get really tough; and they will before they get better, Can Aron Winter keep this team motivated?

3 of those 4 questions won't be answered until the European transfer window opens in July.

The fourth maybe answered in the next few weeks, if the recent results continue. I'm not trying to suggest that Winter will be fired anytime soon; but it could potentially derail the continuing installation of the "Dutch" style of play.

*I left an asterisk beside my statement of TFC being the worst club because all of this is still a work in progress. If the club can add two or three quality players to the fold they have the potential of being a very explosive team. They also have have on of the best goal keepers in the MLS in Stefan Frei, so if they can upgrade their defence they could become a much more solid team at the back. But for now these are all ifs, and ifs for a fan base starving for success may not be good enough.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Toronto remain winless against Columbus Crew

Tony Tchani his own dimise.

Tony Tchani had a day to remember on Saturday as he scored his first goal for the Reds since being traded for Dwayne De Rosario, and then had his first sending off all in the span of a minute as TFC remained winless lifetime against the Crew drawing 1-1. Following the recent comments from David Beckham and other MLS players in regards to referees and their influence on games all eyes were on the officials this week, and in some ways they did not disappoint.

The talk going into the match was the manufactured rivalry against the 2008 MLS Cup winners after incidents at Crew stadium sparked fights outside the stadium that same year. Tough the "Trillium Cup derby" as it has been called packed little punch as only about 20 Crew supporters made the journey north. With the home support in full voice the game's first 20 minutes were scrappy with TFC gaining the upper hand in possession. Alan Gordon had the best chance early on with a sliding effort that Crew keep Will Hesmer saved well.

5 minutes later the Crew should have gone in front as Crew striker Emilio Renteria beat out Decoy Williams on the byline and fed the ball back to Robbie Rodgers however the American international fired his placed shot wide of the post.

Things almost threatened to kick off in the 34th minute when TFC right back Danleigh Borman was fouled hard into the visiting bench by Kevin Burns. Tchani flew in to defend his teammate and both he and Burns had a shove in. Both players were cautioned which would have a major impact on the game just 5 minutes later.

After a wonderful lay off by Gordon, Julian De Guzman played a precise chip pass to the streaking Tchani who buried the ball pass a diving Hesmer. The jubilant Tchani jumped the partition and into the first row of section 127. For this referee David Gantar gave the 21 year old midfielder his second yellow and his matching orders. TFC for the second week in a row would have to play a significant portion of the game down a man.

The second half saw the Crew dominate possession as expected and in the 50th minute they equalized though and excellent glancing header by the dangerous Renteria. The rest of the second half saw little in actual goal scoring chances, though TFC showed much more fight then they did in last weeks poor display against D.C United.

As the full time whistle blew for full time the major talking point was the Tchani sending off and if really warranted a yellow card.

Hi his post match comments TFC head coach Aron Winter had no issue with the card being shown, but took some issue with the ref over the first card and the overall consistency of calls.

When asked about the sending off, Winter replied "It's stupid, you know you're on a yellow card and you know when you jump from the pitch into the crowd you're going to get a second" (Yellow card) He added that "He was emotional because it was his first goal at TFC, but it was not clever, he feels bad because he let his mates down, but let's hope he gets some teachings from this".

Winter also took issue with the consistence in the application of the celebration rule, noting that on three separate occasions this early season , Alan Gordon, Charlie Davies of D.C and Terry Dunfield for Vancouver have jumped into the crowd and have not been booked.

Winter looked to the positives in the game especially the start that TFC made in the first half. It has been an issue with the first year manager all season which culminated in the horrid 3-0 defeat to United last weekend. If Toronto are to start making a push up the eastern standings the team must continue to play with the same intensity they did in this game.

NOTES: Nana Attakora missed the game with a groin injury...Toronto FC have never beaten Columbus (0-5-7)...CB Decoy William made his full debut for TFC after one sub appearance. TFC new signing Richard Eckersley made his debut as a sub in the 63rd minute.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Epic Cup fail! Sergio Ramos and the destruction of the Copa Del Rey

Now I'll never call myself the most co-ordinated person on earth, however watching Sergio Ramos on the top of an open top bus with the Spanish Cup makes even me look like Fred Astaire!

I laughed a lot when I watched this the first 6 times, but then I started to wonder if this is a bad sign for Madrid. With a Champions league tie against their hated rivals Barcelona coming up, was the destruction of the cup they had just beaten Barca for a sign of bad things too come? It just might be, and we'll have to wait and see for next week's first match of the tie, but for now sit back relax and watch the Epic Fail of Sergio Ramos!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two amazing goals in this weeks Champions League quarter-final ties

Normally I don't like to post a ton of goal videos unless they are really, really good...or if Messi scores..because most of his goals are highlight reel worthy. This week however there were two outstanding goals that I have to share with you.  The first goal was in the Inter v Schalke match on Tuesday from the San Siro. In fact the goal with in the 1st minute of the game and is a stunning volley from 55 yards!

The second is a sexy strike from a player I had tipped for big things in my players to watch post last year, Angel Di Maria. The Real Madrid winger put the dagger in the hearts of Tottenham players with a bullet just outside the box.

I won't talk too much as pictures speak louder than words, but if you can't appreciate the beauty of these goals you may never really love football.

The Dejan Stankovic volley is in the first few seconds, this video is a highlights of all the goals scored in Schalke's 5-2 win.

Inter Milan v Schalke 04 by specsoccr

Di Maria's bullet curler against Spurs. The goal is a minute into the video.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Unlucky but sloppy TFC draw 1-1 at home to Chivas USA

Things looked to be going against the home team early as Alejandro Moreno scored off bad TFC defending in just the second minute, however former Chivas striker Alan Gordon tied the game in the 36th minute off a whipped in set piece from midfielder Jacob Peterson.

64176294Much of the buzz around the stadium had little to do with the match however as club supporters were still coming to grips with the Dwayne De Rosario trade. The reaction seemed to be split down the middle, one half believing that the trade needed to be made made as the player was asking for money the club could not pay. Or the other belief, that the club has once again let the supporters down by trading the club Captian, best player and home town boy. Coincidentally both Danleigh Borman and Tony Tchani, the players that were sent in return for De Rosario from New York made their club debuts in the starting 11.

The first half was a display of sloppy football by the home side, a poor giveaway and bad marking by the usually reliable Adriab Cann allowed Moreno to dribble though the defence for the opening goal just 2 minutes in. In his post match comments Head Coach Aron Winter was shocked at his club's sluggish start in the first 25 minutes "We seemed to be asleep for the first 15 minutes. We had two new players in the team and they struggled for the first 10-15 minutes".  As TFC struggled to complete even the simplest of passes Chivas heaped on more pressure and could have made it two as Justin Braun missed a good opportunity.  The California side were soon made to pay for their missed chance as off a free kick Jacob Petersen delivered an excellent ball into the box were Alan Gordon was left unmarked to head home the equalizer.

This seemed to spark the home side as they started to have better control of the ball and in the 44th minute looked like they had taken the lead when new Captain Maicon Santos headed in from close range. However the goal was disallowed by the side judge as offside, though the replays showed otherwise.

The second half was evenly played though lacking a cutting edge for a decisive goal. The introduction of club designated player and Canadian international Julian De Guzman at half time was a welcome and unexpected sight for Reds fans who were now looking for a new home town hero. He came on to a loud ovation and made a difference in the teams ability to keep possession of the ball, though his lack of match sharpness showed at times. He commented after the game that "There were a couple of early runs in the game where I felt the physical side of things needed to be worked on but that will come naturally," But I was very pleased to have 45 minutes with no pain, and the knee feels great."

The only significant chance of the second half came in the 66th minute as Santos would miss a glorious chance after he beat the onside trap and was sent in alone on Goats keeper Dan Kennedy. Santos rounded Kennedy however it allowed time for former TFC defender Andrew Boyens to put him off and slide his effort wide of the post.

As referee Toledo blew for full time the attention once again shifted to De Rosario. Winter wanted to make it clear that "We gave him a very good offer for 3 years but he turned it down". He also added that the former Captain requested to be traded during training camp as he wanted to be made in to a DP and make the larger salary. When pressed on how the club will use the extra cap room or who will be brought in to help score goals, Winter indirectly answered by saying the club will explore their options over the next few weeks. He also inadvertently hinted that the opening of the European transfer window will be a prime target.
 Although in the immediate future no signings were planned.


Friday, April 1, 2011

The face is gone: DeRo had to go

Dwayne De Rosario
De Rosario in his last game for Toronto FC

It sucks...plain and simple, no football supporter even wants to lose their clubs best player, leading goal scorer and icon at anytime, but especially at a time in which the club is forging a new identity. However this is what has happened again to Toronto Football Club supporters. After today's confirmation that club Captain Dwayne De Rosario had been dealt to New York Red Bulls it was clear to all that didn't already know, the club was heading in a new direction.

For those who follow the club closely this trade is not a total shock. The deal had been rumored for the past 10 days or so, and NYRB manager Hans Backe has made it clear he was looking for an experienced number 10 to fill out his already stacked roster. Most TFC fans hoped he was looking somewhere else for his midfielder.

Now that the trade has happened and there has been some time to swallow the news, TFC fans should take a step back and ask is this a blessing in disguise for the club?

It was clear from the start of training camp in February that De Rosario was not happy with the club. He was promised something from previous GM Mo Johnston that never materialized. Until we hear from DeRo we can only speculate, was it a promise of Designated Player money? was it the promise of high profile signings? a quick route to the playoffs? whatever the reason(s) were he was not pleased to be here. As I had mentioned in a previous post the equation of a disgruntled player and a rebuilding club equaled a parting of ways. What I and many supporters knew as TFC dilemma was What's more important? star and drawing power? or building a strong nucleus for the club?" I leaned towards the latter stating that dumping his salary cap hit would allow the club to bring in players that could help the club both in the short and long term. Bare in mind I wrote that post before Winter was hired as TFC manager so I did not know what style the club was going to be playing. But clearly Winter, director of player development Paul Mariner and the rest of the TFC brass thought the same way.

It didn't help the Canadian international that he wanted more money after signing a 4 year deal paying him $420,000 after one year. No one could argue that he was the clubs best player, but was he worth DP money. After the acquisition of Julian De Guzman on DP wages he clearly thought was. Yes admittedly he scored goals and won games for the club, but he was also known to be a cancer in the dressing room with many calling him a Captain in name only. He also at times on the pitch played for himself, taking shots when a pass would have been the better option, or trying to dribble past three defenders to create a chance.

Did the club lean on him too much to score and create? Yes, did he make things worse by feeding into that? Maybe. However both sides clearly needs this separation, DeRo needed to be on a winner and TFC needed to find some young players with potential for depth reasons. No one knows if Tony Tchani or Danleigh Borman will proved to be good buys for TFC but one thing  is for certain the club will be out of excuses if this season turns into a complete failure.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This past week of international games prove why Internationals still matter

Over the past few years I've been hearing a growing contingent of football supporters who have spoken out against international week breaks, especially during the middle of the European domestic season. For those who are fairly new to the game FIFA,UEFA etc just like a league, has it's own match calendar which decides when national teams will play each other. The past week was just such an occasion, FIFA had a series of friendlies lined up, Africa had Cup of Nations qualifiers and  UEFA had qualifying for its European championship tournament taking place next summer.
England v Ghana: Gareth Barry tackles Sulley Muntari
England v Ghana: More than a friendly

 The major gripe from these supporters is that club football is coming to its exciting end of season stretch run, and that club football produces more entertaining games to watch. While I would agree that in about 80% of the time club football does bring about higher quality football. I would disagree with the idea that it is always more entertaining, have you watch a Blackburn v Wigan 0-0 draw?

 This week we had some absolute dynamite matches including the U.S v Argentina friendly, Spain v Czech Republic and Russia v Armenia...yes that was actually a really fun game to watch mainly due to the crowd atmosphere. However there are two games that  really made the week were the Netherlands v Hungary Euro qualifier and the England v Ghana friendly from Wembley.

 Both matches with very different levels of importance delivered all the drama, excitement and skill you would find in any club match. Netherlands v Hungary was a back and forth game with 8 goals between them and a very high level of intensity due to it being a qualifier. At one point it looked like the World Cup finalists would fall to the lower ranked Hungarians. However the Oranjie turned it on in the final 15 minutes to escape with the three points.

 While in London a match that had been panned by much of the ravenous English media before hand due to the amount of changes England manager Fabio Capello made to the roster turned out to be the friendly of the week. Both sides wanted to prove something to their supporters, Ghana who had 20,000 fans at the game wanted to beat England for the first time ever. While for the England players on the pitch they wanted to show Capello that they belonged as regular selections to the squad. He handed debuts to Manchester United on loan to Sunderland striker Danny Welback and Wolves winger Matt Jarvis, Capello also started newly signed Liverpool striker Andy Carrol his first start.
The game was played a fast pace and both teams played as if it were a Wold Cup match and not just a friendly. What really made the game was the crowd at Wembley, both sets of supporters were cheering on their sides and there tended to be a good feel vibe in the stadium. The game also had and exciting finish as Ghana through Asamoah Gyan who grabbed and equalizer at the death to finish the game at 1-1.

 There is no doubt that club football will always grab more of the headlines and attention when it comes down to it, there are simply more games to watch than internationals. However what the club game cannot replicate is that unbridled passion for one's country that national team games bring. Just remember back to last summer and the emotions and pure excitement World Cup 2010 brought us, unlike club football which only captures the fans of that league, internationals at the highest level can and does captivate the world. I agree that maybe FIFA could do a better job of lining up the schedule of matches, but in no way should international matches completely be ignored as a footballing institution.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

TFC defeat Portland 2-0: Building blocks for the season.

I'll be honest right off the bat, I will not provide to many tactical views on Saturday's game as I was both freezing in the 200 level at BMO and slightly drunk by the 70th minute. As mentioned in the previous post it was a cold one for the opener and I was prepared for it, however it still made it difficult to grasp all the tactical displays on the pitch. What I will provide is the aspect of play from a purely supporters point of view.

Toronto FC 's Javier Martina celebrates scoring his team's opening goal against Portland Timbers during first half MLS action in Toronto on Saturday, March 26, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Javier Martina with the brace on opening day

There as a lot to like in TFC's second outing of the year, for one the defenders cut down on the amount of horrible mistakes they had made in the Vancouver game. Adrian Cann was returned to his preferred centre back position and look much more comfortable both defensively and with the ball at his feet. Ty Harden actually looked a bit better this week, but was really only in the line up due to an injury picked up by Nana Attakora during training. It also helped that he didn't have to worry about getting battered by a big powerful forward like Eric Hassli.

The passing looked improved as well, new comer Alan Gordon seemed to fit in well at the top as the centre forward. Maicon Santos and Dewayne DeRosario played just off of Gordon with Javier Martina playing wide right. The latter looked very effective as he helped to spread the play wide on the flanks, it was his pace off the wing which lead to his first of two goals. As TFC have never really had a wide player that could attack the back four it was refreshing to see that a lot of the play was focused that way. Unfortunately Dan Gargan so far does not look like he is quite fitting in Aron Winter's system as a right back who can pass and attack on an over lap.

Martina's second goal was very well taken, set up by and excellent long ball pass by kepper Stefan Frei. It is unusual to see a goal like that but Martina's first time volley was well placed and left the keeper with no chance. The goal set off wild celebrations in the stands as it was one of the finer goals ever scored at BMO by a TFC player.

If there was any bad news from the game, it was that fact that Portland is that bad of a squad and TFC were still making some school boy errors on the pitch. Winter commented as much after the game as he quickly pointed out there was a ton of work still to do. The back four is still shaky and unsettled, Mikael Yourassowsky looked solid as an attacking left back but made some errors defensively and was also sent off late in the game. Harden still has a lot of work to do in order to fit in the new system, and is facing being replaced in the starting 11 once Attakora returns to fitness. The team as a while still have an extremely difficult time defending set pieces and corners. In all honesty Portland should have turned in at least one of their corners in the first half as Reds defenders had a hard time clearing out a bouncing ball.

So my first impressions of the 2011 squad after seeing them in person is this: They will make a lot of mistakes this year, and they will lose a few ugly games against better sides. However they will be entertaining going forward and they will score much more than they did last year when going down a goal spelled the end of the game, even if it was early on in the first half. It's way to early to indicate if this club will have the playoff come October, but I got a feeling they will be in the mix for the majority of the season.

But judging form my predictions from the World Cup, they are doomed to last place.