The month of July was exactly what we thought it would be. It was difficult. But through it all, the Reds managed to keep things on an even keel despite missing their captain and other key pieces. As usual, TFC was carried on the back of Sebastian Giovinco, whose unprecedented goal scoring abilities and play making skills should’ve solidified his claim to being MLS MVP.
As August kicked off with a huge 4-1 victory over Orlando City, which was yet another master class from Giovinco, the boys came up short at home against former champion, albeit shorthanded, Sporting Kansas City. Despite missing Roger Espinoza, Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi, SKC showed their class by picking up a 3-1 victory. Was the score line completely indicative of the run of play? No. The game was balanced and if an incredibly soft penalty wasn’t called early on, the game would’ve been much different.
A soft penalty and a weak wristed attempted save from Joe Bendik cost the Reds in this one. Defending, as usual, was also just not up to par, missing Damien Perquis, Justin Morrow and Benoit Cheyrou didn’t help things. The Joe Bendik apologists in the TFC world will claim he was beaten by a quick flick of the head. I beg to differ. He was caught in the exact same position and conceded an identical goal against Orlando, but this is a story for another day.
As tiring as it is to continuously harp on just how poor TFCs defending has been, currently and historically, it really is atrocious. Some may even call it Jekyll and Hyde. Everyone who follows MLS knows this. But does management fully grasp this?
In the lead up to Saturday’s home match up, MLS’ transfer deadline came and went. Many would’ve thought that, with the playoffs in sight and leaking goals at an unsustainable rate, the Reds would most certainly be in the market for defenders to shore things up and make that final push.
In typical TFC fashion, they did the opposite.
Not only did they waive forward Bright Dike and trade Warren Creavalle to Philly, they brought another American international back to MLS. This time however, it’s a familiar foe that will trot out in TFC red.
I’m talking of course about Herculez Gomez, the former Santos Laguna player who played an instrumental role in breaking TFC hearts in the Reds’ unimaginable 2012 CONCACAF Champions League semi-final. Many fans, myself included, have been blocked on Twitter by Gomez ever since. Tensions were flying high. Banter was had. It was a great time to be alive. But now he’s one of us. (UPDATE: thanks to a concerted effort, he’s unblocked me)
No one really knows exactly what Gomez will bring to TFC. His scoring record, both in Mexico and in his previous MLS life, was not exactly stellar. That being said, he will probably be best suited as a super sub to come off the bench late in games or be a solid replacement for an injured forward, god forbid that happens again. What’s worrying is the fact that, should coach Vanney decide to use him as a starter at any point, there is the distinct possibility that he moves Giovinco out of his now preferred striker position into his previous number 10 role that sees him be more of a setup man as opposed to the focal point of the attack that he has flourished in.
The question that really comes to mind is how little this Gomez signing solves any of the goal leakage issues. If the plan is to just completely outgun your opponent and win games 4-3 or higher, then this is great. But anyone who knows anything realizes this is not the way you win anything. As usual, we can only hope for the best and hope that the signings of Ahmed Kantari and Josh Williams are enough to buoy TFCs backline and force them into the Promised Land.
After picking up an ugly loss at home to SKC, the road doesn’t get any easier as the Reds take on the Red Bulls. At this point, although in the playoffs as of this moment, TFCs position is somewhat precarious.
The Reds are level on points with the Revs and only three points up on Montreal and Orlando, despite having a better points per game than both and only gaining 0.01 points per game less than Columbus, who are three points up on TFC.
TFC will be in very tough, especially considering the Reds have only managed to beat the Red Bulls 5 times in their history (4 of those wins came before 2010). Toronto has never won a game at Red Bull Arena nor have they won a game in the state of New Jersey since a 3-1 win way back in 2008. This edition of the Red Bulls is the real deal, even after the wild and heated off-season coaching controversy. They’re managing to do it with a relatively low payroll and with plenty of MLS and homegrown talent.
And speaking of homegrown talent, the Red Bulls will get their first opportunity to play against an all grown up Jozy Altidore, who makes his first league appearance in New Jersey since leaving the Red Bulls for La Liga in 2008. What a fantastic opportunity for Jozy to snap out of this little funk he’s found himself in.
Excluding Saturday’s match, TFC has an extremely home game heavy end to the season schedule. With 12 games remaining, it’s impossible to understate how important it will be for TFC to pick up points at BMO Field. Of those remaining 12 games, 8 will be in Toronto. Although the teams TFC will be taking on certainly aren’t push overs, winning at home is monumental.
This is it. The final push begins.
(Image courtesy of Toronto FC: http://www.torontofc.ca/news/2012/03/falling-players-gringos-more)