Saturday, April 19, 2008

TFC: Thoughts from the home opener

Earlier today, I made the pilgrimage down to the soccer shrine known as BMO Field to watch Toronto FC’s home opener against Real Salt Lake. It was a pretty awesome experience as always, and is highly recommended to anyone who hasn’t yet been. TFC claimed the win 1-0, and Larry Millson has a good story on what happened over at Here’s the breakdown of my own observations in true Clint Eastwood style.

The Good:
- Laurent Robert: Former French international Robert made several stunning runs down the left flank and delivered quality crosses in consistently. He also fired a first-half free kick directly through the Salt Lake wall for the only goal of the contest and was rightfully named the man of the match.
- Amado Guevara: The 2004 MLS MVP proved he’s still got what it takes to play in this league,
- Danny Dichio: The former Preston North End striker and firmly entrenched TFC legend contributed a strong performance as always, scrapping for every ball that came near him and creating several solid chances, particularly with his play in the air.
- Maurice Edu: Edu, the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year, showed why he’s such a valuable midfield player, threading passes through almost imperceptible gaps at will and making several key tackles.
- Marvell Wynne: Wynne turned in a great performance at right back, shutting down the Salt Lake wing attacks while surging forward at the right times with runs of his own. An excellent two-way player.
- Greg Sutton: Sutton looks to have fully recovered from the concussions that kept him out of much of last year’s inaugural campaign. His experience in the net brings a crucial confidence to his defence, and he made full use of his tremendous 6’6’’ height with fearless aerial ventures to intercept crosses.
- The atmosphere: The TFC fans were in fine form as always, saluting their heroes with chants and songs while jeering the opposition and bombarding them with streamers. The Salt Lake players seemed somewhat intimidated by the hostile atmosphere, particularly in the first half.

The Bad:
- Rohan Ricketts: The former Derby County man came in with high expectations. He delivered on some of them, showcasing his great speed at times on penetrating runs, but his crosses were abysmal, often nowhere near any fellow attackers. He also made several questionable decisions with the ball, including taking on a defender from a bad angle on a four-on-two rush instead of passing to any of his wide-open teammates, thus nullifying a solid scoring chance.
- The second half: TFC dominated the possession and the chances in the first, but they seemed to lose some of the urgency in the second, and appeared content to primarily knock the ball around in the middle of the park instead of surging forward in quest of an insurance marker. It worked today, but attempting to win 1-0 is a difficult proposition, especially in a league like MLS that’s full of quality offensive talent. I’d much rather see the team keep their foot on the pedal and drive for the extra goal to clinch the lead: there have been far too many stoppage-time comebacks for a one-goal lead to ever be completely safe.

The Ugly:
- Wait times at the concession stands. It took far longer than it should have for the staff to process orders, and they often struggled with various ways to ring purchases in and such. A certain amount of that is expected at a home opener, but they really should have had more staff working: it took almost half an hour to get some food at halftime, which resulted in us missing the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Also, they pipe radio commentary into the concession area, which is nice, but it wasn’t loud enough to really make out what was happening. They had TV sets in the concession area, but they weren't turned on, making it difficult to follow the action.

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