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.


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