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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Match That Was

     A humdinger of a Nutrilite Canadian Championship – Voyageur’s Cup Second Leg Final was on display at Toronto’s BMO Field.

     Though thunder and lightning were forecast, this match was not affected as the previous attempt had been.

     Camilo put the Whitecaps ahead fittingly – as Eric Hassli’s goal in the abandoned match would have. But that only provoked a reaction from the Toronto FC squad, who pretty much took the rest of the match to Vancouver.

     Goal-line clearances, crossbars, and saves saw out the first half. Another penalty call in front of the South End stand of fans; possibly a handball but given anyways. The waves of attack continued as the well rested Whitecaps could muster little. Another questionable goal, was that a foul on Alain Rochat? A closing chance – how is Hassli that wide open in front of goal? Some nervy closing moments, but then it was over.

     Joao Plata was a worthy man-of-the-match and of the tournament. His quick, skillful play down the left-hand side has been instrumental to the TFC attack all season long; a lone bright spot in otherwise dismal times. Is he an early season candidate for rookie of the year, amazing for someone passed on by so many clubs at the draft?

     Elation: Something to build from for the team, something to cling to for the fans. Reconciliation between two that had done each other wrong in recent times; will the relationship return to the glory it was in years past? 

     Will this quiet those Toronto-based National Media Voices that had readily jumped off the TFC bandwagon to board newer, shinier, less-baggage-strew Vancouver one?

     All in it was a good week for the club.

     The extra matches that come with progression are not necessarily best for the team, though they have gotten a lot of the season out of the way already with a packed first half of the schedule. With their DP reinforcements, some injury relief, and a touch of luck they could push for both playoffs and Champions League progression.

     Julian de Guzman was pushed forward with Sturgis manning the role in front of the back four and had his best match in a TFC shirt. Two chances, the first a strike off the crossbar that led to a mad scramble, the second in alone he chose to cross to the offside Plata. Had he scored either goal it could have gone a long way to bridging that distance that exists between he and the fans.

     Will the additions of Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans spark better performances on of the midfielder? Will the extra flexibility in midfield take some of the pressure off his shoulders while giving him some qualified teammates to work with? Will he be granted license to get forward and contribute as he was in this match? During his time with Toronto FC de Guzman has been on an island in the midfield, hopefully this will rejuvenate his play and he’ll be the player he can be.

     All in it was an exciting match that entertained anyone who watched it. It was open, saw lots of chances, a touch of controversy benefitted each side, and was tight enough to the end that there was no opportunity to sit in comfort.

     The celebrations at the end of the match were heartwarming, especially for a team that has been so maligned by its own fans and city. Too many fans streamed out as the final whistle approached – they probably do not understand the tournament and its importance – but the base that remained saw a team celebrate a step in the right direction.

     New signings due to take the field mid-month, injured players on the road to recovery, a hungry, more offensive de Guzman – finally with the support he needs – and some roster depth the likes of which Toronto FC has not had before bodes well for the rest of the season and beyond.

     The extra fixtures will be a difficult slog, but a welcome one.

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