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Friday 19 August 2011

Upon First Glance – CCL Edition: Tauro FC v Toronto FC

Some initial, post-match thoughts on tonight’s meeting:

     Toronto appeared to start the match with a similar 3-4-3 system with Iro, Harden, and Eckersley (from left to right) in the backline. The lack of pace on the left-hand side was really concerning and was probably the reason Iro was substituted so early, especially once he had been booked.

     Julian de Guzman seems to enjoy playing these Champions League matches, several of his best matches have come in CONCACAF, he’s always more confident on the ball and energetic.  Perhaps it has something to do with the decreased physicality and additional time he has when compared to league play. Great to see him score again, though the keeper did make a meal of that shot. He seemed to be more vocal than ever on the pitch tonight, marshalling the troops around - especially compared to the docile performances he’s put on in the past. Could having Frings and Dunfield set the tone in the squad have loosened Julian’s voice by knowing that he’s not alone, freeing him to show some of the leadership he has. He too often was on an island before in the midfield; the new acquisitions should really bring out the best in him.

     Ryan Johnson too seems to revel in the excessive heat of CONCACAF action. Another goal for him again capitalizing on a mistake by the opponent but having the composure to put it in the back of the net. He should have had a second with that header off a free kick that would have put the game on ice when TFC were pinned down in the second half.

     Kocic was solid in goal, but had a few errors to his game. The cross that went right through his hands was troublesome, though nothing came of it. All told though a second game in hostile surroundings and he’s only been beaten on a pair of penalty kicks, not bad for a man who has barely seen the pitch this season. Twice the ball was cleared off the line by defenders, firstly Eckersley in the opening half, then Morgan in the second.

     Toronto picked up a lot of bookings, though they could largely be a function of the referee’s mindset, as opposed to actual aggressive play. Those are a concern, as missing Frings through a suspension affected this match, and more bookings should be expected. Other key contributors are likely to miss future matches in the group stage.

     Toronto switched to a back four in the second half, which gave Eckersley license to go forward more, but they were very sluggish, the whole team really. The back line could really push up a bit more to compress the field of play, but are reticent for fear of not having the pace to recover should they get caught out. As a consequence Tauro had so much open space to utilize in the attack throughout the second half. The lack of on-pitch practice the unit has together would remedy some of this vulnerability, but it was showing as the Panamanians maintained possession and pressed.

     Tauro was much more physical than Arabe Unido was last season. They played within themselves in the first half and really showed some skill in the second. They launched into some nasty tackles out there, the ones on Plata and Marosevic come immediately to mind, as does the collision with Kocic from that corner late on. The aerial challenge was acceptable, but given the predominant standards established throughout the match, how that was not called a foul is a mystery.

     The one-sidedness of the officiating was to be expected, but one can never get used to the ridiculousness of it all. It really got into the heads of the players as the minutes ticked by, it’s pointless to let that happen. It was disappointing after a strong first half de Guzman in particular was getting wound up. He of all people should know what it’s like down there. He has too much experience in CONCACAF to not know the deal. The tackle he committed that gave Tauro their penalty kick was unnecessary and he let the situation get to him; it was a penalty. Watching Winter and de Klerk lose their minds was hilarious; the culture shock from Europe to CONCACAF is sitcom worthy. The passion was good, but the suspensions and fines will not be, reminiscent of Carver and MLS officials, too much will not be good for anyone

     Borman is better played in the midfield, allows his forays forward to occur more often – that’s his value – and limits his liability on defense where he seems out of position too often. He has enough speed to assist on that left flank if he spots the danger in time, though that needs to be worked on, Iro needed his help more often than he got it tonight.

     Dasan Robinson got his TFC debut tonight, seemed rusty and unaccustomed to his teammates, but that was to be expected. Another big MLS quality defender, he won’t solve the problems, but another warm body is a good thing. Again pace is an issue.

     The stretcher incident – when the referee forced Koevermans to leave the pitch on the stretcher rather than walk off of his own accord – was one of those things you’d only ever see in CONCACAF. There was a fear that the first aid staff may have dropped him if they tried to carry him too far, he’s a big boy.

     Plata had an off match. Sometimes after missing a chance – such as when he rounded the keeper – he gets blinders on and just wants to make up for the mistake by himself.  A small criticism, he needs to relax and make the right play at the next opportunity instead of trying to redeem himself, though it could be a sign of his determination and faith in his own ability, which is part of the package.

     The final moments of a match like that are so tense. CONCACAF will do that, the lack of rhyme and reason means one never knows what to expect.

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