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Thursday 16 August 2012

Upon First Glance – Toronto FC v Portland Timbers

Some initial thoughts from the match:

    From every kick off that Toronto takes possession, Torsten Frings receives the ball and lashes it to the left touch-line, normally out of play for a throw-in – must be a superstition of his.

    The absence of Terry Dunfield’s energy was evident, especially when they were trying to close out the match after taking the lead.

    The makeshift back-line was a touch out of sorts at the start, with Ty Harden and Richard Eckersley at cross purposes, no surprise as each was playing the other’s position.

    Ashtone Morgan’s new shiny black boots were slick; Adrian Cann’s whites are classy. It’s interesting how choice of foot wear can reflect a player’s personality.

    Eric Hassli was spotty - he was clearly struggling for match fitness after about sixty minutes; he was able to push when called upon then, but wasn’t covering the necessary ground to cut out passing lanes. That being said his play was very intriguing. He was willing to shoot from anywhere – something not regularly seen in Toronto Red since the days of Dwayne De Rosario – and considering how little time he has had with his teammates, the link up keeps getting better – as it should.

    He missed a chance to lay in Quincy Amarikwa, but that’s going to happen from time to time.

    Must be said a goal and an assist from a player still working to fitness and to comfort with his new side is a great haul.

    Eckersley was lucky to not be sent off for the tackle on Mike Fucito at the top or just inside the Toronto box, can only assume ref played advantage and saw the continuation of the chance – and a decent attempt on goal – as enough of an advantage to not be necessary to call it back and further punish TFC.

    Sal Zizzo’s goal was scrappy – tucking in a knocked down corner kick at the near-post, scrambling it past Eric Avila and Milos Kocic; David Horst was definitely the danger man on set-pieces, a weakness that has haunted TFC all season long. Zizzo was tearing TFC apart with his runs and dribbles in the first half.

    One had to feel for him when Morgan displayed a little of the #nastyleftback and raked his studs down Zizzo’s Achilles. The slight delay in going down drew the ire of the hometown fans, but given his injury troubles glad to see it wasn’t anything serious, though he was markedly less effective after that.

    Toronto was listless for the first forty-five, but really came out well in the second, only to concede a late equalizer minutes after taking the lead. Same old, same old.

    The first TFC goal was a bit of a gift. A long Eckersley free kick, nodded down by Cann somehow slipped through the entire Portland defense – if that was Cann’s intention, it may have been the greatest headed through-ball in recent memory. Donovan Ricketts did well to parry the initial shot from Silva, but pushed the ball into a dangerous area and Hassli was quickest to pounce.

    It’s always good for a striker to get that first goal out of the way quickly and to do so in front of the home fans at the proper end is a bonus.

    TFC fans have really taken to Hassli. It’s a little odd given the damage he’s done against them for Vancouver, but good to see. This city loves a character, and Hassli has that in spades. Plus it’s nice to steal a fan-favourite from Vancouver.

    The second TFC goal was beautiful – wondrous interplay from the left. Morgan looked trapped in the corner, well covered by Kosuke Kimura, but made room with a cut back, switched onto his right foot, sent a little shovel cross towards the near-post, Hassli did a great job to get down to it and flick it on for a deft one-touch finish from Silva.

    Portland’s second goal was equally well-taken. TFC was caught napping from a contested throw-in, but must pay respect to some fantastic ball movement from the Timbers – it was reminiscent of the Danny Mwanga goal included in the preview over at Waking the Red.

    That sort of precision in passing and the vision of Steven Smith to spot Darlington Nagbe unmarked wide is a useful asset.

    The Keith Makabuya chance to steal back all the points was so close to being a winner. The ball came to him really quickly and somewhat unexpectedly – would have been brilliant had he come on and scored the equalizer.

    It has been troublesome that the handful of academy graduates that joined the first team at the start of last season have seen so few minutes. Those boys need playing time.

    Aaron Maund was very good on the night, what he lacked in sharpness he made up for with heart and hard work. He was getting beat a lot, but showed the kind of tenacity that one needs in the defensive midfield slot.

    Well done to the travelling Timbers fans, that’s one hell of a trip to make.

    All told it was a fair result on the night, Toronto was lucky to not be behind by a few after the first sixty minutes and their first was pretty much a gift. Portland was fortunate to not fall behind by more when Toronto can into the game and looked the more likely to score.

    Both sides showed fight to come back; both showed the defensive aptitude that has them rooted at the bottom of the table.

Jersey watch: Saw a Werder Bremen ‘Diego’ kit, Corinthians and Flamengo strips, an AC Milan one, and a few Rangers ones – more on those later.

Final Score – 2:2

Zizzo (PT - 21’), Hassli (TFC – 57’), Silva (TFC – 63’), Nagbe (PT - 82’)

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