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Saturday, 4 August 2012

Upon First Glance – Toronto FC v CD Aguila – CCL Edition

    All of the flaws that showed themselves vs. Houston – the lack of movement, the poor passing, and the failure to back each other up - were all reversed on this night.

    If they play like that for the rest of the season, though many targets are likely beyond reach, it will at least be fun to watch.

    A brace from Reggie Lambe, Luis Silva with a goal and two assists, Ryan Johnson and Terry Dunfield adding singles and a pair of helpers from Ashtone Morgan; overall a good haul for the Reds.

    5-1 is some result and the plus-four goal differential will help build some confidence for the rest of Champions League play.

    For TFC’s sake, let’s hope Aguila take out their embarrassment and frustrations on Santos Laguna when the two meet on August 21st in Torreon. If Aguila can steal a point off the Mexican side it will make Toronto’s path to the knockout round much more credible.

    The travel issues that affected their performance – missing the layover flight in Miami and being forced to sleep in the airport – have been discussed; it was surprising, their cutting it close was known – thanks to reports out of El Salvador, but to run into such an obstacle is unfortunate.

    Any illusion that the return leg will be as easy should be discarded immediately; Aguila will be looking for a measure of revenge.

    They must be applauded for the good nature in which they took the beating. Many teams, when placed in a similar situation – tired, losing, and not getting the calls from the official that they believed were warranted – would have reacted very differently. CONCACAF has seen more than a few scuffles take place on the pitch post-match.

    Aguila did not get overly physical; they didn’t make any rash challenges or try to leave a boot in on anybody. It was actually a little surprising that it didn’t descend into farce.

    In fact, it was Toronto, who on a different night could have had discipline troubles.

    That little step-to – either Terry Dunfield or Andrew Wiedeman shoving an Aguila player after a bad tackle on Morgan - by the centre circle could have gone so much worse, red cards are shown in CONCACAF for the slightest offence and Toronto was lucky to escape the incident with eleven men.

    Video of the match was inconclusive as to what happened there and while it’s good to see teammates sticking up for each other, it is a risky strategy to employ.

    Wiedeman’s challenge towards the end of the match as well could easily have been a dismissal. Toronto must be more careful in the Champions League and not get involved in these sorts of incidents.

    Though Torsten Frings was not happy with being forced to take a seat for the final half-hour, it was in the best interest of the team – his disbelief was almost comical; Johnson’s Iron Man streak finally ends in the thirtieth competitive match of the season – take a breather, well done sir.

    When the board went up it said that number eighteen would be coming on for number eighteen, which was comical – it was almost as though the electronic digits did not want to recognize that Johnson would be leaving the pitch.

    What is it with Milos Kocic and the Champions League?

    It was nearly a year-ago to the day (July 27th, 2011) that Kocic got the start in the CCL at BMO Field against Nicaraguan side, Real Esteli in the preliminary round. Toronto was two-goals to the good – both from Joao Plata – until in the eightieth minute, Richard Eckersley closed down an opposition attacker, Kocic hopped onto the ball, which bounced away from him for a simple tap in by striker, Rudel Calero.

    Toronto would win the match 2-1 and progress after the same score-line in Nicaragua a week later on the strength of a Johnson brace.

    Milos has been great for the club this season, but perhaps giving Freddy Hall a chance would not be a terrible idea.

    It was a little disappointing that the substitutions seem to take the impetus out of the attack. It would have been good to see Quincy Amerikwa get on the board and completing his hat-trick would have been good for Lambe’s confidence.

    Silva was on fire and it should be no surprise that as a first year professional he battles with inconsistency. On Saturday against Houston he was invisible, but on this night he was fantastic. On some note, he finally appeared on MLSsoccer.com’s Rookie Rankings, knocking Ryan Meara out of the top five after a strong two weeks.

    The referee was alright, didn’t fall for too many of the antics early in the match, though there reached a point - once the blowout had started to take shape - that he went to the whistle a little easier. Overall, better than expected from a regional match.

    The stadium announcer must be applauded as well, for not sugar-coating the attendance number. The declaration of 5234 drew a cheer from the crowds at the ground. Though sad, there is some pleasure to be had in being one of the few that stands by the side in these down times and is rewarded with such a performance.

    Why the club doesn’t reach out to soccer clubs or any number of charitable organizations to fill those seats or drastically reduce the prices is tough to understand. Sure the risk of devaluing the product is real, but the benefits of getting new faces in the door and giving something back to the fans and the community surely outweighs that concern. 

    For what it’s worth – not much – Toronto was tied for having the second best result of the opening round. Monterrey put five past Chorrillo and Tigres put four past Real Esteli. 

    There may not be a ‘Further Review’ of this match, video of the affair has been sourced, but as TFC plays Chicago in little under an hour, time may have passed it by already.

    Toronto FC will return to Champions League action on August 28th again at BMO against Santos Laguna.

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