Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And the summer drags on

Yawn. I think the most exciting soccer-related thing I've come across recently was the head wound I picked up at my game on Monday. Seriously, y'all.

Anyway, I figured it was time for another periodic update from the Great White North...

Toronto FC's extended streak of mediocrity continues, as they drew 1-1 with the Montreal Impact yesterday in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship (god, what a stupid name). Toronto took an early lead with a goal from Rohan Ricketts, but Roberto Brown equalized for Montreal just 10 minutes later. Once Montreal had that goal, they could just sit back and defend, because a draw was enough for them to win the mini-tournament. They'll move on to face Real Esteli of Nicaragua at the end of August in an attempt to qualify for the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.

I suspect there was a bit of complacency from TFC and their fans going into this competition, since they were the only MLS team. But after starting out by beating Montreal, they took just one point from their two games against Vancouver, losing 1-0 at home and drawing 2-2 on the West Coast. That meant they needed a win in their final game, and they didn't get it. The Impact and the Whitecaps help their own against the supposed big boys from MLS, and I think that's not such a bad thing. A close, hard-fought competition like this -- and the rivalry, particularly between Toronto and Montreal that it should inspire -- can only help the state of professional soccer in Canada.

Meanwhile, in the domestic league, Toronto played out a scoreless draw with San Jose on Saturday. They had an early goal incorrectly called back for offside, and then Amado Guevara missed a penalty in the second half. But even so, not being able to score a single goal against the last-place team in the league is kind of embarrassing.

The week before, Toronto lost to Chicago 2-1, pushing their abysmal away record to one win and six losses. Chicago scored in stoppage time to take away Toronto's chance of picking up at least a point. The real robbery, though, came earlier in the game when Maurice Edu was taken out by the Chicago keeper and instead of being awarded a penalty, he was booked for diving. That yellow card also meant that he was suspended for the game against San Jose. Way to go, ref.

And in their two friendlies -- you know, because they really needed another couple of games to cram into the schedule -- Toronto drew 1-1 with Pachuca back on July 5, with Pachuca winning the ensuing penalty shootout 4-3. And last week, Toronto lost 1-0 to Independiente, as the Argentinean team scored off a free kick in the second half.

I think I said in my last post about TFC that they just hadn't been playing well enough. And it probably didn't help having all these extra games on top of the MLS matches -- as one of the commentators pointed out on Saturday, it means they have less time on the training field, which could explain some of their defensive sloppiness. The problem right now is that they don't have enough firepower up front -- Danny Dichio is struggling with concussion, and Jeff Cunningham is struggling, period -- which means that they can't afford to give up even a single goal.

Looking on the bright side, Toronto did look better in the last couple of games I saw, against Independiente and San Jose. No, they didn't win, but they were at least trying to pass the ball around again, rather than just hoofing it forward to Dichio -- which doesn't work all that well even when he's playing, let alone when he's in the treatment room. And they can take hope from the good form shown so far by 16-year-old Abdus "Ibby" Ibrahim, who made his debut for TFC against Pachuca and followed that up by scoring his first league goal against Chicago. They do still need a reliable finisher, though.

Just to add to the fun for Toronto, Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne have been named to the U.S. Olympic team. They'll join up with the squad after the TFC game against Real Salt Lake on July 28. The team will miss them, but it's nice to see a couple Toronto players being recognized for their good performances this season.

Which is more than I can say for the All-Star team. When the results from the fan voting came out, TFC had six players in the top 15 vote-getters. But when the "First XI" was announced (taking into account the votes from coaches and the media)? A big fat zero. Thanks a lot, MLS. They did get a token with the addition of Jim Brennan to the roster, after seven more players were picked by all-star team coach Steve Nicol and the league commissioner. But still: bah.


Amanda said...

I don't know why I'm defending MLS, but it's not the league that picked the rest of them. I think the rest of the votes came from the players, coaches, and media, and they were all weighted 25% each. So, if there is a PR-devil conspiracy, I guess it's the media's fault?

Anyway. I should be studying.

Jen said...

Fair point. I guess I was using "MLS" to mean vaguely the players, coaches, whoever, rather than the people running the league itself.

I'm not really up in arms about it, because I'm not sure that any of Toronto's players have been that outstanding this season. It just seems odd to me that they would have got so few votes from the other 75% as to completely outweigh the fan voting, you know? Like, wow, everybody else really thinks we suck. ;)

Amanda said...

Yeah, I get that. I don't pay that much attention to Toronto -- like, Wynne, Edu, and Dichio are probably the only players I could name. But I guess people are not used to them being decent, kind of like how it constantly surprises me that Salt Lake doesn't suck right now.

Also, I voted an all-Columbus ticket, because I am just that lame. And then my boy got called up to the Olympics, so he's not going to play tonight. Bah.