Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Monday 2 April 2012

Upon First Glance – Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

    Another disappointing loss – only 0-1 this time - for the remaining faithful at BMO Field to take in on a sunny, yet cool early spring afternoon. Symmetry was achieved as the reserves lost by the same score-line following the day's main event. 

On the Kit Man's Milestone – Malcolm Phillips took part in his 400th MLS match; the Southampton native began his role way back with the now defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny, before moving on to San Jose where he served along side Frank Yallop and landing with Toronto FC fulfilling his inglorious duty from Day One. Well done good sir, quite the accomplishment; may there be many more, and in happier times.

     A shot video tribute was played pre-match – including Adrian Cann stepping to the mike to honour the achievement with a humourous and poor British accent, or so I am reliably informed. I was standing a few hundred yards away, trying to see over the facade of the East Stand and focusing my ears to catch the words. Fortunately, the video is now available over at the TFCwebsite.

On Parking at the Grounds - Automatic pay spots are far to slow – or people don't know how to use them - and far to few to service the crowds that flood to the match late. Surprised there is no parking structure there.

On the Lineup Selections – Damn you Eric Gehrig, one of these days there will not be a last-minute change that messes up the projected lineup.

     It was surprising how strong of a lineup with which TFC began. The need for points – and wins - in league play is starting to be of concern. Aron Winter must have hoped to grab something early, then see out the match. 

    With Wednesday looming large on the horizon, it was expected that the likes of Eric Avila, Efrain Burgos Jr. and Luis Silva would take some of the minutes in the middle of the park or in the wide positions to get a bit of rest for the starters.

On Logan Emory's Performance – He is shaping up to be an excellent pickup. He was the most active player in the match – partially because as the left centre-back he was matched up against Emilio Renteria, who is generally the Crew's attacking outlet - and partly because he was one of the few TFC players who had the energy.

     He was reading play well, snuffing out passes, making tackles and once even jumped in front of Renteria to steal possession when the big man took a heavy touch.

     One must respect the White Afro, wherever it makes itself known.

     It was unfortunate, but oddly fitting, that his one mistake in the match was punished and ended up leading to the Columbus goal, more on that later.

     Would not be surprised to see him factor in Mexico; adds a bit more pace to a taffy-like back-line.

On Renteria Over the Sign Hoardings – A scary moment, there is at least one large transformer that powers the boards close to the midway line that would be incredibly painful to land on and those patio seats are not very far away from his landing spot. 

    To enhance the symmetry Oscar Cordon repeated the feat at the end line in the reserve match.

On Maintaining Possession – The philosophical changes brought to the club with the Dutch revolution have had a dramatic effect on the way the team plays. Dominating possession, moving the ball well, everyone getting involved.

     The risk is that when it break down the team is caught out. Fear not the results will come with improved finishing.

     Terry Dunfield and Julian de Guzman have been crucial in this. Again, at times it could be moved about more quickly, but that will come with practice and fitness.

On Lumping Balls into the Box – This was a tactic that was never going to find much success against Columbus. Chad Marshall is one of the league's best defenders especially in the air and Gehrig who got the surprise start when Danny O'Rourke pulled out hours before the match was a beast back there on the day.

     A sub-note on Gehrig's performance – simply put he had a great match. His interception on the Luis Silva ball through to Joao Plata in the second half may well have saved the result for Columbus.

On Koevermans Not Finding Goals – Danny was projected by many to be the Golden Boot winner this season, and though it was unlikely he would continue the torrential pace with which he tallied last season, it is something to note.

     He is still getting in position and throwing himself about; creating chances for himself and for others. Do not worry about this one too much, the goals will come, probably when the club needs them most.

On Gruenebaum Getting Clattered – Andy got clattered more than a few times. He had watched his video on TFC, noticing that goal came from fading headers, where a ball is played into space in the air for a player to leap into. 

    G-Baum, as I saw one report refer to him, was doing his best to eliminate these chances, coming out to dominate the box.

     Ref giving fouls too easily; they were all honest attempts at the ball, which is still not the domain of the keeper alone, no matter how much they wish it were.

     He was milking the attention; even though Fortress BMO (NB: term used here in an ironic fashion) has softened through the years teams still come in looking to grind out results. Wasting time is a major facet of this game plan. Would not be a surprised if it is a directive given by the coaches. See Renteria going over the boards, were he hurt he would have been hurt and not played further part, but even that early a chance to kill a few minutes is valuable.

On the Coin Toss – Another tactic that seems of import is winning the toss and making TFC attack the South End in the first half. Not a big deal, but given that the team starts out tentatively and finishes with more gusto, it does factor – just getting into the match around the half and only having a few minutes to press that advantage before the halftime whistle.

On the Penalty Kick & Save – Silly penalty to concede. Absolutely no need to go to ground in that position. Olman Vargas made the most of that and how much contact was made is indeterminate – yet to see a great angle on the replay.

     Milos Kocic came up huge with the save, diving low to his right to palm it wide. Did he move early? Perhaps. Was it a poorly struck kick? Most likely. But justice was served on that one.

    Excellent time to make a save, but the boost it gave Toronto was short-lived as the halftime whistle cut short the momentum it provided.
On Eckersley – I've been a bit hard on Richard of late; his lack of tracking back and constant pushing prematurely up the field has been very costly in this young season, but there is not a single player - perhaps in the club's history - that hates to lose and leaves it all on the pitch the way he does.

     In that way he reminds me of Jimmy Brennan and less-so of Carl Robinson, that red-blooded British passion that still goes a long way here in a land of Anglophiles. Should his stay be long-term, it would not be a surprise to see him one day don the captain's armband.

     He was furious with his Man of the Match award. The boy wants to win.

On the Goal – Columbus played the quintessential road match; a tactic that works far too well against an offensively toothless and defensively susceptible Toronto FC.

     A counterattack, borne of a turnover in the midfield. Julian could be faulted for taking a loose touch that one time, but it was a brilliant, text-book tackle from Milovan Mirosevic that began the break.

     A note on Mirosevic, who didn't show much of his offensive prowess in the match, put in a solid defensive effort. Tracking back, defending in the box, clearing his lines. Great work from a South American number ten in the defensive third of the pitch.

    But back to the goal, Bernardo Anor bust up-field unchallenged, played a one-two with Vargas, but looked to have taken a heavy touch, only for Emory to take his one miss-step of the match bouncing a weak, half-clearance off the shins of Anor rather than hammering it into touch. 

    The Venezuelan did not waste this gift slamming it into the net.

On the Substitutions – Winter really threw caution to the wind in the second half, piling on the attacking midfielders in search of a goal or two. Would have rather seen Avila and Burgos Jr. from the start, but better late than never.

     Avila is an interesting case this season, he's been a casualty of the Champions League. Not being eligible to factor, being cup-tied, has led to him not seeing any action as the club geared up for the season.

     He looked rusty and lacking sharpness, but you could still see something there. He will be an important player later in the season.

     Burgos too showed something in his limited minutes – and again in the reserve match. He snatched at a shot late in the match that knuckled inches wide of the post. Should have gotten the start alongside Avila in the midfield, with de Guzman and Dunfield each taking a half in the defensive hole.

     There was no need to be so cautious against the Crew.

On the Result – It bears repeating that while all matches matter, Toronto is without doubt distracted by the Champions League. They're tired, they're short-handed, and they're distracted.

     These early stumbles may well play a part in the late season standings, but in a league where you must only be one of the best ten sides to advance, it is acceptable and worth the risk to lay a few eggs before getting down to business.

     You could see just how exhausted the team was by the match's end as several sat down after the final whistle was blown.

     In many ways the first few months of the season, especially for teams involved in CONCACAF, are still a part of preseason – the season will truly begin in a month or so – April too may be a write-off.

     How much can be wasted? That's a big question. A confident team can make up a lot of ground in MLS as the summer drudge of draws kicks in.

On Ten More Minutes - An overlying principle or sub-title to TFC's season thus far could be ten more minutes. In each and every match, ten further minutes of play would have either seen Toronto score, or be scored upon – with this team you never know which is coming.

     Whilst it is a dangerous position to be in – both ways – it is preferable to watch a team that is a constant threat, than one that is not. The good with the bad, I suppose.

On the Referee – Not a big fan of Geoff Gamble, the man who dismissed Tony Tchani last season for his celebration took control of another Toronto-Columbus match.

     I was worried when he was announced and just don't like the way he calls matches.

     Now, referees are an easy target, it's an impossible job. But what gets me about Mr. Gamble is how he suffers through poor management of the game.

     Body language is very important to a position of power, more so when that position is in front of twenty-two athletes and thousands in the crowd.

     Gamble lacks the calmness and certainty that goes a long way is dissuading any dissidents. He seemed to both be out of position and in the way simultaneously, while over-reacting to calls and failing to deals with others appropriately.

     There was a mincing and skulking about his movement on the pitch, reacting himself into calls rather than holding it in the palm of his hand and allowing it to be played out.

     The late whistles, and hurried cards, being forceful when unwarranted and lax when called upon. A referee should never rush in and proudly produce a card. Be cool man, act like you've been there before.

     He's young, and it wasn't a poor game, but it makes it harder to enjoy the match when you're worried what the referee is going to do next.

     Chin up Geoff, despite the criticism we do want you to grow and succeed in the job.

On the Crowd – Energy in the stands mirrors the efforts on the pitch, but which comes first? The fans too, perhaps subconsciously, are largely focused on the Champions League.

     Without doubt they would have sprung to life had the performance demanded it, but these early afternoon matches are tough to get up for – the need for coffee rather than a pint diminishes the ferocity of the support.

On Snoods – I thought Sepp and his buddies had them banned. Vargas was sporting one, as was Renteria; Tony Tchani brought further symmetry with his in the reserves clash.

     Cry foul, demand forfeit (I kid).

     It wasn't even that cold, got a bit of a sunburn.

On the Broadcast - Excellent to see Nick Dasovic back in town, felt there was a bit of bad blood after his departure; happy to see him welcomed back. He was responsible for the lone goal, as the Curse of the Commentator struck just second after he had uttered that Columbus did not look like scoring when TFC began to press in the second half.

     Equally great to see Nigel Reed back on the call for a TFC match.

On Cann in the Reserves – Adrian saw the first half of action in the reserve match. He looked sharp, focused, and hungry – barking orders, bossing the back-line, generally leading the team from his position at the back.

     He was up against Aaron Schoenfeld, a late-match sub, who is a big of a banger, so I watched his knees closely on a few challenges, he showed no signs of hesitancy and weakness. All told a reassuring sight.

     Probably still a ways away from full fitness, but if called upon he will deliver a solid half of football. He's on his way to Mexico with the rest of the side.

Reserve Match in General – see Rocket Robin's post-match report, which should be up in due time. I saw who I assumed to be him furiously jotting down notes and busting out the binoculars on occasion.

     I'm surprised they don't mention that there is a second match – who doesn't love a bit of two-for-one action - coming up post-game either during or after the full side play. I'm certain more folks would stay if they only knew.

     It's fun to sit back and take in a less-consuming atmosphere. Every conversation on the pitch is audible. It's a chance to see some of the young talent come through and to gauge whether fringe players are ready for the step-up.

     Spent a good deal of time trying to figure out who was who. Recognized Jordan Hamilton from his appearance versus Vancouver down in Orlando. He's a big kid and one to watch.

     Columbus had a side made up of more regular and experienced players, so it was no surprise they took the result in the end. That's not to say TFC didn't have chances, just the finish wasn't there.

     It was interesting to note that both Thomas Rongen and Paul Mariner took in the match from various positions around the South End, away from the meager crowd. 

    Oh, to have been privy to that conversation.

Had a bit more to say there than I thought. 

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