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Sunday 29 July 2012

Upon First Glance – Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo

Some immediate (relatively) thoughts on the most recent TFC match:

    It was hot, perhaps the hottest it has been at BMO this season. I had to forgo my usual sweater-shorts combo… it was a bad day to wear socks.

    The South End were the loudest they had been in a long time, making a concerted effort to get behind the team. It dwindled in the baking sun – the play on the field did not help – though a spirited rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody was a pleasant distraction, once it became clear nothing was going to happen.

    Lineups contained no shocking surprises; Quincy Amerikwa starting was a little unexpected, but once Eric Hassli was ruled unavailable it made perfect sense.

    He showed an impressive work rate, and that bicycle attempt was gold, imagine if he had connected.

    Somehow I had forgotten about Adam Moffat in my projected lineup, he missed a bunch of recent matches through suspension and injury, it was natural that he return to his spot in the centre of the pitch. Jermaine Taylor’s absence in the back-line remains unexplained – I really haven’t looked into it – but he was not listed on the injury report and was not on the subs bench either.

    Shifting Andre Hainault inside and fielding Warren Creavalle at right-back was only surprising in that Kofi Sarkodie - seventh overall draft pick from 2011 - did not get a chance for some time on the pitch at his natural position. Homegrown Creavalle, has featuring mostly in the midfield of late, but did well at the back. It would have been nice to see how Joao Plata would have threatened him, but sadly, he’s not around.

    As for Brian Ching getting the start, Will Bruin was a listed as doubtful on the most recent report – it would be great if the league could make those reports public a little earlier than early evening on the Friday before the weekend, always having to guess is a problem.

    Ching did what he does, but his lack of speed did cost a few opportunities.

    On the Toronto side, Richard Eckersley was a beast; constantly putting out little fires all over the pitch by sheer force of determination. I maintain that one day he – probably sooner, rather than later – will be the captain of this squad.

    One final thought: The referee.

    He called an incredibly tight match, one that hampered Toronto’s ability to get any flow and played right into the game-plan of Houston. It’s a little bit funny, pre-match there was some talk that Houston was not going to approach a road match with the same defensive mindset that they had most other matches, but they then proceeded to play a textbook road match.

    Stifle the opponent, keep it tight at the back, and strike when given the chance.

    Back to the ref, one got the impression that he would have been happy with an uneventful 0-0 draw. He was not about to allow things to get out of hand, so he called everything. Toronto has found the most fortune by getting the other team moving; true, set-pieces have played their role, but with the referee slowing everything down, making every free kick a ceremonial restart, Houston was allowed to maintain a tight shape and get numbers back in defense.

    It’s tough to criticize an official, who didn’t do badly, in only his second career MLS match; that tight grip he keep on the match unintentionally favoured the travelling team, intending to keep things tight, rather than the home team, looking to open it up.

    0-2 to the Dynamo, both goals coming at the end of halves; it’s always said conceding at the end of a half is murder, turned out to be so on this afternoon.

    The post-match coverage will continue after having reviewed the tape, taking a closer look at the goals, discussing the 4-3-3, the need for a plan B, and whatever else comes up.

    Jersey spotting – a Pablo Aimar Benfica gold number and a Universidad de Chile kit. 

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