Like the feeling you got when you’d do something bad and get caught by your parents, but they wouldn’t come down hard on you, they’d just tell you they were “disappointed in you”. What a horrible feeling. Disappointment is worse than rage because disappointment breeds apathy.
That’s how I felt walking out of the newly renovated BMO Field on Sunday evening after seeing the home side drop what should’ve been 3 points in the bag to the Houston Dynamo.
The stadium, although still not completely finished, looked stunning. I caught myself several times just looking around in awe. Like a kid on Christmas morning staring at all the presents under the tree. For the first time, BMO Field looks like a professional soccer stadium, and not just a glorified set of bleachers that you and a couple of buddies could take apart in an afternoon with a power drill. And when the long awaited roof is finally installed, BMO Field as a soccer specific stadium will be on another level, unseen in North American soccer.
The supporters groups were rocking the south end. The national anthem was deafening. The weather was holding. It was as if the soccer gods were smiling down on house built for the Reds for the first time ever.
And then the game kicked off.
After back-to-back victories and clean sheets, you’d think that playing in your home stadium for the first time would be the boost needed to push you over the top. That clearly wasn’t the case, and I think that was done almost intentionally.
Their wins in Orlando and Philly were not exactly statement victories. Although the team showed flashes of what they are capable of, performances like those against teams in better form would yield nothing in the point column. Defending had shown signs of improvement, but a team that boasts as much fire power as TFC has should be able to blow teams out of the water.
Houston, coming off 3 pretty ugly games played the role of spoiler on the day, and did it with relative ease considering how unenthusiastic TFC played, namely Michael Bradley.
Bradley himself gifted Houston with its first goal on a challenge in the box that he had no business making. Partner that with his inability to create anything going forward and his almost constant loss of possession, and one would make the case that he was one of the worst players on the field in Red.
A player of Bradley’s calibre should never find himself in that position and he already has taken responsibility for Sunday. The thing that seems to plague Mike is his lack of trust for majority of the players on his team. He seems to refuse to play a ball to a player who has not had a great game but is in a better position than he is. As a leader, its good that he feels the need to bear the brunt of the work load, but in doing so he handicaps himself and his teammates. For him to be truly “unleashed”, he needs to unleash himself and have confidence in his team, for better or worse.
TFC did not come flying out of the gate like many hoped they would, and that is something that coach Greg Vanney will need to answer for.
In yet another loss, his inexperience was glaringly obvious. Between his decisions to start Robbie Findley, who has been completely invisible since game one, over hometown player Jonathan Osorio, to the substitution taking out Jackson for Collen Warner while down a goal, nothing seemed to make sense. He tactically did not understand how to approach the one goal deficit and set his team up to prevent more damage rather than go all out in front of a sell out crowd and put on a show. If he had elected to do the latter, he would be criticized for letting the moment get the better of him, but the method he elected to implement was just as ineffective and TFC conceded yet another goal to go down 2-0.
Although Jozy Altidore brought the Reds to within a goal with 15 minutes to play, TFC never once dominated the game nor did they really cause much trouble for Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric, even in the dying minutes.
The 30,000 in attendance, many of whom I’m sure are new to TFC were sold a bill of goods in the lead up to what should have been an illustrious home opener. They were promised a team of superstars that would usher in a new generation to go along with a new stadium. The team did not deliver.
I get it, it’s just one game in a long season and TFC could very well turn it around, string together a few wins and be the team we’ve been told they are.
But, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
For the many new fans that came out, paid their hard earned money and braved the rain and humidity, that was their first impression and they have every right to be upset and believe this is the same old TFC. In the world of sport, sometimes you need to see change to believe it. In a town where hockey and basketball are kings, this was TFC opportunity to captivate a market in a single afternoon. They failed at doing so.
The Reds will have an opportunity to right a wrong against the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup semi-final on Wednesday night at BMO. A reserve heavy squad lost in leg one 1-0 in Montreal to an Impact side that was put together with emphasis on having a strong showing. Although players like Ignacio Piatti and Andres Romero did not play the full match, Frank Klopas’ willingness to play top players proved that he clearly wants it more than his counterpart Greg Vanney and has respect for the tournament.
It’s difficult for fans to really help foster a true rivalry when the manager isn’t willing to put his best on the field against the opposition’s best.
Hopefully coach Vanney will have an epiphany and trot out a top notch starting XI in leg two since TFC now requires at least a two goal victory without conceding to move onto the final. My guess is that, with an away match against New England on Saturday, there won’t be too many changes from last week’s lineup.
TFC let a lot of people down, myself included. Here’s to hoping a couple of wins will turn things around.
(image courtesy of torontofc.ca)