Yesterday was 2012's annual Zombie Walk in Toronto, and Toronto FC, always eager for a cheap promotion, see Okotoberfest, Cinco de Mayo and more, got fully into the swing of things in their game against Montreal.
The crowd, the atmosphere that had previously been one thing you could count on, has been slowly dying for years now. Management's attempts to revive it by going back to 2007 prices will hopefully have an effect next season, if only to stop the bleeding, but yesterday, it was another unenergetic crowd for most of the game, in stark contrast to the loud Impact contingent that made their way down the 401. There was a smoke bomb in the south end which did energise things briefly, there was some half hearted booing at the end, and there were at least a few people who still cared enough to stick around and clap the players as they did the least enthusiastic end of season lap of honour ever, but undead is a good way to generalise the crowd.
It was the same on the pitch, including the sudden reanimation of two players long feared dead. Suspensions and injuries meant Eric Avila was finally restored to the starting lineup, and things got even more surprising and desperate in defence. Darren O'Dea missed the game with injury, and his replacement Logan Emory went down injured in the first half. Who's that on the sideline taking off his jacket and making a rare appearance, why it's Adrian Cann! He's alive! Though they didn't make it into the game, the bench featured Oscar Cordon and Nicholas Lindsay, in what is more than likely the last of their once promising careers with the Reds.
The game itself was a drab listless affair, there were some minor moments of excitement, Reggie Lambe had some good runs, Eric Hassli made his first appearance in a while, and his return gave the attack a bit more of a threat, and they actually got some shots on goal, though Troy Perkins didn't have one hard save to make, maybe from Eric Avila's long shot towards the end of the first half, but even that was hardly spectacular.
Montreal got into the act as well. While they didn't bother getting zombie Alessandro Nesta into the game (be sure to read this look at his Impact in Montreal, did TFC dodge a bullet there?), zombie Marco di Vaio certainly played his part, looking nothing like his former Serie A star self. He had two great chances to win the game in injury time as TFC comedic late defending once again gave the opposition all they needed. Fortunately, he wasted them both, and that combined with a good Freddy Hall save from a Sanna Nyassi shot meant the game ended 0-0.
Di Vaio's best contribution came close to the 70th minute as Montreal broke down the pitch with numbers. He made a good run down the right, and was wide open, but was ignored by (I think) Justin Mapp who messed up the chance magnificently. Di Vaio was furious and spent a long time berating and gesturing, to his colleagues and to the bench. He kept it up long enough for the Impact to launch another attack and when this time the ball came towards him, he was still too busy moaning to react in time and the chance was gone, this time all his own fault. A spectacularly amusing bit of petulance, quite possibly the best, most blatant display yet of the frustration DP's can feel to be all of a sudden plunked into a team operating at a much lower level than they're used to.
The biggest zombie out there of course was TFC's 2012 season as a whole, and at least the home portion of that is now mercifully put out of it's misery. It was dead a long time ago, but everyone's had to just keep going, out of an obligation to the fixture list and with planning for next season in mind.
The supporters have been performing their own zombie walk for months now, out of some morbid responsibility to whatever personal code they may have of not giving up on a team. Some supporters once again brought banners and protested after the game outside gate 4, kudos to them for still having the energy and passion to do that. For myself and I suspect many others, it's a relief that it's over, I need a break. 5 months is a long time, hopefully enough for resentment to fade and with enough good news for enthusiasm to be renewed.
As always with any sport in Toronto, 'there's always next year'. For now, 2012 is almost dead, just one more week to lumber and groan our way through. Thank the footie gods for that.